A well-reasoned essay from a couple of weeks ago explains why China is key to brokering peace in Ukraine. The writer, Peter Kuznick, is a professor of history and Director of the Nuclear Studies Institute at American University in Washington, D.C.
Since political tensions between the US/Europe and Russia impede constructive dialog, China’s economic interest in the region presents the strongest leverage for changing Putin’s behavior. The following linked article is worth reading, especially since China has more to lose and much more to gain than any other trading partner with strong ties to both Russia and Ukraine.
Why Beijing should help mediate to end the Russia-Ukraine crisis
Xi is the only leader who can exercise meaningful leverage over Vladimir Putin. It’s up to the U.S. and the rest of the international community to convince and even incentivize Xi to play that role. While not officially an ally, China is Russia’s closest partner. It is also Russia’s lifeline at a time when not only NATO and the EU, but most of the world has united against Russia’s… invasion of Ukraine…
On March 7, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi stated that, “China is willing to continue playing a constructive role in urging peace talks and is willing when necessary to work together with the international community to launch required mediation.”
…China has friendly relations with both Ukraine and Russia. By 2019, it had replaced Russia as Ukraine’s biggest trading partner, importing corn, barley, iron ore, and arms, among other things. China has also invested heavily in Ukraine, which represents a crucial leg in its Belt and Road Initiative, having already signed nearly $3 billion worth of BRI-related construction contracts. In their first phone conversation in 2021, Zelensky told Xi that China was “Ukraine’s no. 1 trade and economic partner” and expressed hope that his country would become “a bridge to Europe for Chinese business.”
That dream would be lost if Russia bombs Ukraine back into the Stone Age. China has also said it respects Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, effectively rejecting Putin’s claims to the contrary… Seizing this opportunity to improve relations with the U.S. and Europe will be much more beneficial for China if it is serious about a “win-win” cooperative approach rather than the hostile competition that many in the West have been pursuing in what is often referred to as the “new cold war.”
China has both the leverage and the incentive to convince Putin to negotiate to end the war against Ukraine. The US and other Chinese trading partners ought to be working tirelessly to convince China to broker peace.