Observations of an expat: A Chinese peace

The Chinese Ukrainian peace kite is unlikely to remain aloft for long for several reasons:

  • Neither the Russians nor the Ukrainians are prepared – yet – to throw in the towel.
  • Vladimir Putin cannot afford failure.
  • Neither Ukraine nor its NATO backers can afford failure.
  • A Chinese brokered peace is unacceptable to the US because it increases Beijing’s position in the world at Washington’s expense.

However, both Volodomyr Zelensky and Vladimir Putin will meet President Xiping, foreign minister Wang Yi and any other Chinese emissaries. Zelensky needs to be seen to be willing to talk to keep Beijing from supplying Putin with weapons and Putin must do the same to secure the weapons.

In one sense, the Chinese are the ideal peace brokers. Putin is the aggressor. He is the one who must be persuaded to stand down. The Chinese are the only ones with sufficient leverage over the Russian leader. The Turks have tried and failed. So have the Israelis. The US and its allies have ruled themselves out by supplying weapons to Ukraine.

In the best diplomatic traditions, Beijing’s 12-point proposal manages to annoy both sides in the conflict while at the same time projecting lofty aspirations with the minimum of detail.

The proposal calls for respecting sovereignty. Russia has clearly breached Ukraine’s sovereignty. Abandon the Cold War mentality. This is a state of mind for which both Russia and NATO could be blamed. Protect civilians and POWs. Great, and remember Bucha, Kharkhiv, Mariupol and Kherson. Resolve the humanitarian crisis, which has created 6.8 million Ukrainian refugees. Promote post-war reconstruction which so far is estimated to cost Ukraine $1 trillion. Stop threatening to use nuclear weapons; a threat which only Putin has used. And end unilateral sanctions which means sanctions not approved by the UN and would undermine Western sanctions against China.

The proposals won’t be a total failure in Chinese terms. They will allow Xi Jinping to take a star turn on the world stage in the role of number one peacenik. This will only enhance his reputation among developing counteies who are is sceptical of American claims that Ukraine is fighting for democracy against autocracy.

But the Chinese are unlikely to make much progress in their wider aim of driving a wedge between Europe and America. As developing countries start to renege or at least renegotiate their Chinese debts, Beijing is looking increasingly towards Europe as a more stable long-term alternative.

Xi’s peace proposals have left Europeans unimpressed. More importantly, the Ukraine War has reinforced Europe’s reliance on America’s nuclear umbrella; a protection which China will never be able to offer.


* Tom Arms is foreign editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and author of “The Encyclopedia of the War” and the recently published “America Made in Britain". He has a weekly podcast, Transatlantic Riff.

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  • Steve Trevethan 4th Mar '23 - 12:40pm

    If, as we seem to be told, China is such a threat to the U S A and the U K, why do we persist in paying them money to make things for us that we could make for ourselves?

    Might the money paid to China for making things we could make for ourselves be used to develop better and more Chinese weaponry?

  • Realpolitik or pragmatic politics is ultimately what determines International relations rather than ideological notions or moral and ethical premises.
    Sergey Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister was complaining to the G20 this week that Russia was being castigated for pursuing the same policies that the USA has adopted in Kosovo, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria. He might have had a point in the case of US/UK invasion of Iraq at least. However, when he tried to tell the assembled audience that Russia had preempted an attack by the West in February 2022 using Ukraine as a foil he was effectively laughed off the stage.
    China’s 12-point proposal may not be a serious one, but it is a good reason for the UN secretary general to assemble a meeting of the P5, Ukraine and the EU representative for talks. Little may come off it until military efforts have been exhausted on the battlefield, but some mitigation of the impact on Russian and Ukrainian grain and fertiliser exports to the developing world might be achieved.
    Putin seems to be all in with his ambition to dismember Ukraine and betting that over time the USA and Europe will become tired off supporting the country and lose interest in the conflict. That’s not an implausible strategy, so I think the Chinese proposal should at least be discussed at the UN.
    Putin and XI won’t be with us for too many more years. Russia and China will be and we all need to find way’s to live together peacefully without invading our neighbours or destroying the planet and the whole of humankind with it. Listening to and debating the Chinese proposals might be a path to one of those way’s.

  • Peter Chambers 4th Mar '23 - 2:20pm

    Who says that we can make the things that are currently made in the PRC?

    I read yesterday that the UK is said to be “toxic” for satellite launch, and there is no UK semiconductor strategy. This is typical of many sectors. To be capable of competing with the PRC on manufacture we would have to reverse decades of rentier policy on not having an industrial strategy. That would involve the levels of state aid the the US and the EU are planning with their Chips Acts. Experts have advised that in our current poor state we cannot compete in that game. If we wanted to compete in tech, we would need a clever strategy designed for middle-ranking countries, plus decades of sacrifice.

    Quick money is available in real estate,, wealth management, influence peddling, PR, tax efficient investing, and support services for the above. People from the regions and nations need not apply.

  • Tom, notes in his article that the Chinese proposals call for an end to unilateral sanctions which means sanctions not approved by the UN and would undermine Western sanctions against China. At first glance this might appear implausible. However, as a quid pro quo for some relaxtion of non-military use sanctions the representatives might seek Chinese (and Indian) support for the creation of a special tribunal. This is another of those way’s that we might find for living together peacefully without invading our neighbours or destroying the planet.
    Lord Owen is among a cross-party group of senior UK politicians demanding a special tribunal to investigate Russia for a “crime of aggression” against Ukraine. The move is designed to “show Vladimir Putin and his generals that they will be held to account.”
    In a joint statement figures including the Labour leader Keir Starmer, the former Nato secretary general George Robertson, the former foreign secretary David Owen, and former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith say the tribunal should be set up to look into the “manifestly illegal war” on the same principles that guided the allies when they met in 1941 to lay the groundwork for the Nuremberg war crimes trials of Nazi leaders.” STATEMENT CALLING FOR THE CREATION OF A SPECIAL TRIBUNAL FOR THE PUNISHMENT OF THE CRIME OF AGGRESSION AGAINST UKRAINE
    This is form of realpolitik. Showing that crime does not pay especially International crime on this scale.

  • Martin Gray 5th Mar '23 - 7:02am

    “Lord Owen is among a cross-party group of senior UK politicians demanding a special tribunal to investigate Russia for a “crime of aggression” against Ukraine. The move is designed to “show Vladimir Putin and his generals that they will be held to account.”

    The international criminal court seems to be exclusively for African tin pot dictators & Balkan warlords …
    While the real criminals – are lauded as international statesman….
    The Chances of Putin and his Generals entering being entertained in the above establishment – is virtually next to zero ..

  • Steve Trevethan 5th Mar '23 - 8:11am

    Might a root cause of our industrial dependency be an unstated/submerged policy/strategy of going from industrial capitalism to financial capitalism?

    Might this be the reason for our industrial weakness as pointed out by Mr Chambers?

    Might our media and political parties to do more to keep the electorate better informed about what is happening and planned beneath the presented surface?

    What might be the democratic dimensions of “Realpolitik”?

  • Martin,

    the ICC does not currently have jurisdiction over the crime of aggression. It is a permanent tribunal to prosecute individuals for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.
    The London Agreement and Charter 1945 established the tribunal for the Nuremburg trials and was signed by the United States, England, France and the Soviet Union.
    The legal team that developed the agreement and International law was led by Robert H. Jackson. While the London agreement did not solve the enormous problems that would arise in the years to come; Jackson, in 1947, explained its importance:
    “Of course, it would be extravagant to claim that agreements or trials of this character can make aggressive war or persecution of minorities impossible, just as it would be extravagant to claim that our federal laws make federal crime impossible. But we cannot doubt that they strengthen the bulwarks of peace and tolerance. The four nations through their prosecutors and through their representatives on the Tribunal, have enunciated standards of conduct which bring new hope to men of good will and from which future statesmen will not lightly depart. These standards by which the Germans have been condemned will become condemnation of any nation that is faithless to them.”

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