1683968310 China is strengthening its mediating role by sending a special

China is strengthening its mediating role by sending a special representative to Kiev and Moscow

Vladimir Putin and Li Hui, in Moscow in May 2019.Vladimir Putin and Li Hui, in Moscow in May 2019.Xinhua/Zuma Press/ContactoPhoto

On Friday, China announced another step in its strategy for mediating the war in Ukraine. The Foreign Ministry has announced a date for the first visit to Ukrainian soil by a senior Chinese official since the Russian invasion began in February 2022. Li Hui, the Chinese government’s special envoy for Eurasian affairs (and former ambassador to Moscow). ), will travel to Europe next Monday, visiting Russia, Ukraine, Poland, France and Germany to “communicate with all parties about a political solution to the crisis”.

The Chinese executive announced that it intends to send a special envoy “to maintain in-depth communications” at the end of April after the only phone call between Chinese President Xi Jinping and his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelensky since the conflict erupted.

“The visit of Chinese officials to relevant countries is further evidence of China’s commitment to promoting peace and dialogue and shows that China stands firmly on the side of peace,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said on Friday during his daily press conference . “Since the outbreak of the Ukraine crisis, China has maintained an objective and impartial stance and promoted peace negotiations,” Wang reiterated, in line with official discourse.

From the West, it’s not so clear: Beijing avoids calling the conflict a “war,” it didn’t condemn the invasion, and President Xi didn’t speak to Zelenski until a year and two months after it began, though he did . several times with the Russian Vladimir Putin. Nonetheless, in recent months China has tried to convey that it has a significant role to play in the geopolitical theater and offers an alternative to US global leadership.

In February he presented a position paper – not a peace plan – to find a “political solution to the crisis”. The text was coldly received by Washington and Brussels. But Spanish Government President Pedro Sánchez, French President Emmanuel Macron and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said during their recent visits to China that some of the points were “interesting”, such as the ” respect for territorial integrity” and the clear rejection of nuclear war.

During his appearance this Friday, spokesman Wang noted that “the international community is calling for a ceasefire and a reduction in tensions.” “China stands ready to continue to play a constructive role and promote international consensus to start peace talks,” he said. “China is ready to contribute to a political solution to the Ukraine crisis,” Wang said.

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“Friendship Without Borders”

International analysts believe Xi may be the only one who can convince Putin to end the war. The two “good old friends” – as the Russian defined his relationship with his Chinese counterpart at the last meeting – signed an “unlimited friendship” days before the invasion began, and their countries maintain an important strategic partnership. At the same time, however, these close ties in the West have more than once raised alarm bells about the possibility that Beijing would provide military assistance to Moscow.

With this in mind, anticipation is high for Li Hui’s visit to Ukraine and Russia next week. Li, 70, is a senior official who has become intimately knowledgeable of the Asian giant’s modus operandi over the past several decades. From 2009 to 2019, he was ambassador to Russia, a position he was given under the Hu Jintao government for the past five years and held under the Xi government. This career diplomat belongs to the generation of Chinese born when their parents idolized the Soviet system, raised when political relations began to deteriorate after Stalin’s death in 1953, and encouraged a new rapprochement between Moscow and Beijing because of China’s plight experienced to boost its exports when its status as the world’s leading exporter was still in its infancy.

Li was also ambassador to Kazakhstan from 1997 to 2000. Despite his extensive knowledge of the countries that were part of the former Soviet Union, his status as an impartial mediator in Kiev can inspire suspicion: Li has never hidden his stance from Kremlin supporters in various publications in Russian and Chinese media. In July 2019, when his post in Moscow ended, he wrote a farewell article for the Russian news agency TASS entitled “Eternal friendship like evergreen mountains”. In the text, he stated, “Regardless of where I am or what position I hold, I will, as always, devote myself to the cause of Sino-Russian friendship and continue to use my 44 years of experience in diplomatic work with Russia to develop.” contribute to bilateral relations.

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