Xi to Ze
by Timothy Ash
27 April 2023
Interesting move for President Xi to finally bother to make the call to President Ze.
Encouraging if this is actually an effort by the Chinese to broker peace, after the release of its 12 point peace plan. But why has it taken Beijing two months to get its act together in calling Kyiv, after first publishing this plan in February and then the Xi – Putin summit earlier this month?
The timing looks very suspicious, coming after that incredible diplomatic faux pas/catastrophe by the Chinese ambassador to Paris, by commenting to the effect that post Soviet states have not right to exist. These may have been his actual views about Ukraine but in one interview I think he offended all of the 14 non-Russian states that secured independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. And this includes the states in Central Asia and Transcaucasia that China relies on for critical commodities.
They must be absolutely furious, as is most of the post Communist space, ex Russia, in Emerging Europe. This one comment has undermined 30-odd years of oh so careful Chinese diplomacy in the region. Actually it shows that Chinese officials fundamentally don’t understand Europe – damning indeed.
So Xi was on damage limitation exercises today. If ever Xi eats some humble pie, I think that was today. What is that in Mandarin?
Xi’s call might also have been all about stalling Ukraine’s looming spring offensive – Xi may be afraid that the Ukrainians might actually win. Ironically both China and the US have an interest in the war dragging out, if only to weaken Russia. From the Chinese perspective a weaker Russia would become more dependent/reliant on China – understanding exactly who the junior partner/brother in the relationship is.
But not too weak from China’s perspective to risk regime chance in Russia – they would hate a scenario where Putin falls and some more pro-Western administration emerges, leaving China isolated/surrounded. So this latest call might just be about buying time for Putin – would Zelensky want to launch the counteroffensive so soon after the call with Xi, talking peace?