China Is Not the Mediator You Want on Ukraine

News Analysis America and Europe are falling for it again—asking China for help to stop the Russian invasion, and humiliating themselves with their own foolishness in the process. Moscow will listen to force and economic pain, not to persuasion. Providing Beijing with a leading role in negotiations would give the authoritarian regime a triple win, and make possible the victory of its junior partner: Russian President Vladimir Putin. First, Beijing would obtain critical insider knowledge to help its ally Russia with the Ukraine invasion, and help itself with its planned Taiwan invasion. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) would learn more about our negotiation breaking points, and could then approach them with greater precision in the future, better knowing exactly what Chinese leader Xi Jinping and Putin can demand without falling off the brink into war with the United States and allies. Second, Beijing will gain additional bargaining power with the United States and Europe by linking its cooperation during the Ukraine negotiations to other issues, most importantly, Taiwan, trade, and genocide against the Uyghurs and other minority groups like Tibetans and the Falun Gong in China. Third, Beijing will be in a position to obtain concessions from the Ukrainians, who are currently desperate for any help they can get. China already has massive commercial interests in Ukraine, including 9 percent of the country’s arable farmland as far back as 2013. Since then, China has only expanded its business interests in the country. Soybeans imported from Ukraine being unloaded at the port in Nantong, in China’s eastern Jiangsu Province, on May 10, 2019. – Imports of soybeans from the U.S., once China’s biggest supplier, have dropped massively since a trade war between the U.S. and China began in 2018. (STR/AFP via Getty Images) Holding influence as a lead mediator over negotiations in which Ukraine’s very sovereignty is at stake, will provide the Chinese regime with opportunities to wrest yet more business and political opportunities from Kyiv, under the ultimate form of duress for a government: a threat to its existence. Ignoring all of these negotiation giveaways, the European Union’s foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, said on March 4 that diplomacy to stop the invasion must include China. “There is no alternative […] it must be China, I am sure of that,” he said. “Diplomacy cannot only be European or American. Chinese diplomacy has a role to play here.” The European Commission spokesman sounded desperate as he called for “contacts and engagements” from Beijing with Moscow, saying on March 7, “As for the form, it is not really up to us to say how, but anything would do as long as it makes Putin to stop the reckless bombing out of Ukrainian cities and villages and targeting of the Ukrainian population.” Before the invasion, the Biden administration held multiple meetings with Chinese officials, including one between President Joe Biden and Xi, in which Washington begged for Beijing’s help to stop the invasion before it started. The administration even shared U.S. intelligence with Beijing officials, who promptly and secretly (or so Beijing must have thought) shared it with Moscow. In answer to the West’s many requests for help, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi played it cool. He was noncommittal, promising unspecified aid to Ukraine but confirming China’s “rock solid” friendship with Russia. The Global Times, a state-controlled nationalist news outlet, went one step further to moot the idea of a quid pro quo. On March 6, the paper quoted a Nanjing University professor as saying that the United States and Europe “continue to criticize China on Xinjiang- and Taiwan-related affairs. However, they want China to play a bigger role in peace-building. Why should China listen to them and do as they say?” The implication is that China’s help on Ukraine is available, but only if the West gives up on the Uyghurs and Taiwan. “The US and the EU have nearly used up their ‘sanction cards,’” the Global Times reporter wrote. “They want to have China by their side but they must be aware that it is impossible.” What the Global Times, the Biden administration, and the EU do not acknowledge is that Putin is losing the war in Ukraine. Just two weeks in, the Ukrainians, with shoulder-fired weapons supplied by the West, are destroying Russian military planes, drones, tanks, supply vehicles, and armored personnel carriers at unsustainable rates for Moscow. The Russian advance has ground to a near-halt. By Ukrainian estimates, over 10,000 Russian soldiers have already died. That gives Ukraine most of the bargaining leverage. Luckily, Ukraine is on NATO’s side, and not the other way around. Rather than begging Beijing for assistance, the United States and Europe should follow the example of the Ukrainians and grow a spine. Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has done exactly this. On March 7, he called on Beijing to end its

China Is Not the Mediator You Want on Ukraine

News Analysis

America and Europe are falling for it again—asking China for help to stop the Russian invasion, and humiliating themselves with their own foolishness in the process.

Moscow will listen to force and economic pain, not to persuasion. Providing Beijing with a leading role in negotiations would give the authoritarian regime a triple win, and make possible the victory of its junior partner: Russian President Vladimir Putin.

First, Beijing would obtain critical insider knowledge to help its ally Russia with the Ukraine invasion, and help itself with its planned Taiwan invasion. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) would learn more about our negotiation breaking points, and could then approach them with greater precision in the future, better knowing exactly what Chinese leader Xi Jinping and Putin can demand without falling off the brink into war with the United States and allies.

Second, Beijing will gain additional bargaining power with the United States and Europe by linking its cooperation during the Ukraine negotiations to other issues, most importantly, Taiwan, trade, and genocide against the Uyghurs and other minority groups like Tibetans and the Falun Gong in China.

Third, Beijing will be in a position to obtain concessions from the Ukrainians, who are currently desperate for any help they can get. China already has massive commercial interests in Ukraine, including 9 percent of the country’s arable farmland as far back as 2013. Since then, China has only expanded its business interests in the country.

Epoch Times Photo
Soybeans imported from Ukraine being unloaded at the port in Nantong, in China’s eastern Jiangsu Province, on May 10, 2019. – Imports of soybeans from the U.S., once China’s biggest supplier, have dropped massively since a trade war between the U.S. and China began in 2018. (STR/AFP via Getty Images)

Holding influence as a lead mediator over negotiations in which Ukraine’s very sovereignty is at stake, will provide the Chinese regime with opportunities to wrest yet more business and political opportunities from Kyiv, under the ultimate form of duress for a government: a threat to its existence.

Ignoring all of these negotiation giveaways, the European Union’s foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, said on March 4 that diplomacy to stop the invasion must include China.

“There is no alternative […] it must be China, I am sure of that,” he said. “Diplomacy cannot only be European or American. Chinese diplomacy has a role to play here.”

The European Commission spokesman sounded desperate as he called for “contacts and engagements” from Beijing with Moscow, saying on March 7, “As for the form, it is not really up to us to say how, but anything would do as long as it makes Putin to stop the reckless bombing out of Ukrainian cities and villages and targeting of the Ukrainian population.”

Before the invasion, the Biden administration held multiple meetings with Chinese officials, including one between President Joe Biden and Xi, in which Washington begged for Beijing’s help to stop the invasion before it started. The administration even shared U.S. intelligence with Beijing officials, who promptly and secretly (or so Beijing must have thought) shared it with Moscow.

In answer to the West’s many requests for help, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi played it cool. He was noncommittal, promising unspecified aid to Ukraine but confirming China’s “rock solid” friendship with Russia.

The Global Times, a state-controlled nationalist news outlet, went one step further to moot the idea of a quid pro quo. On March 6, the paper quoted a Nanjing University professor as saying that the United States and Europe “continue to criticize China on Xinjiang- and Taiwan-related affairs. However, they want China to play a bigger role in peace-building. Why should China listen to them and do as they say?”

The implication is that China’s help on Ukraine is available, but only if the West gives up on the Uyghurs and Taiwan.

“The US and the EU have nearly used up their ‘sanction cards,’” the Global Times reporter wrote. “They want to have China by their side but they must be aware that it is impossible.”

What the Global Times, the Biden administration, and the EU do not acknowledge is that Putin is losing the war in Ukraine. Just two weeks in, the Ukrainians, with shoulder-fired weapons supplied by the West, are destroying Russian military planes, drones, tanks, supply vehicles, and armored personnel carriers at unsustainable rates for Moscow. The Russian advance has ground to a near-halt. By Ukrainian estimates, over 10,000 Russian soldiers have already died.

That gives Ukraine most of the bargaining leverage. Luckily, Ukraine is on NATO’s side, and not the other way around. Rather than begging Beijing for assistance, the United States and Europe should follow the example of the Ukrainians and grow a spine.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has done exactly this. On March 7, he called on Beijing to end its “chilling silence” on the invasion. He did not beg for help. He did not say that Beijing is the only capital that can save Ukraine.

Morrison accurately noted the de facto alliance between Beijing and Moscow, including China’s relaxation of wheat tariffs on Russia after the invasion, and the potential opening of its UnionPay system to Russian businesses to compensate for Visa and MasterCard suspending operations in the country. Morrison denounced the Moscow-Beijing relationship, in no uncertain terms, as an “arc of autocracy” that threatens to reshape the world order in an illiberal direction.

The response from Beijing?

More chilling silence.

That should tell us all we need to know about whether Beijing would be interested in a good faith mediator role to end the Ukraine crisis. The answer should have been obvious beforehand: of course not.

China and Russia are de facto allies, and the longer the war drags on, the more Russia is dependent on China economically. The war has taken the attention of the West away from the CCP’s egregious human rights and trade abuses, and given it American intelligence, and good press from EU officials.

The future of democracy is in the strength of the Ukrainians. Keep supporting them. Give them what they want, including jet fighters and assistance with enforcing a no-fly zone. Increase sanctions on Russia. Ukraine will win this fight, if the more cowardly of the West’s politicians do not get in the way.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.


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Anders Corr has a bachelor's/master's in political science from Yale University (2001) and a doctorate in government from Harvard University (2008). He is a principal at Corr Analytics Inc., publisher of the Journal of Political Risk, and has conducted extensive research in North America, Europe, and Asia. His latest books are “The Concentration of Power: Institutionalization, Hierarchy, and Hegemony” (2021) and “Great Powers, Grand Strategies: the New Game in the South China Sea" (2018).