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The call between Xi and Zelensky: China’s move to become a mediator between Russia and Ukraine?

The call between Xi and Zelensky: China’s move to become a mediator between Russia and Ukraine?

The call between Xi and Zelensky: China’s move to become a mediator between Russia and Ukraine?

Through a telephone call made this Wednesday the 26th, Xi Jinping and Volodymyr Zelensky They talked for the first time since Russia began its invasion about Ukraineon February 24, 2022.

READ ALSO: Chinese President Xi Jinping spoke by phone with Volodymyr Zelensky

It was a long-awaited conversation, as the Chinese leader had been criticized for officially declaring himself neutral in the conflict, even though his country has become Moscow’s main trading partner and Xi himself has met five times – personally and virtually – with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin.

When Xi visited Putin, speculation began as to whether China wanted to be a mediator and why not talk to him. Ukraine. That moment has come. China It says it is the only one that can mediate because it does not officially take any position, although its commercial relationship with Russia is known.”, he explains to Trade Carlos Aquino, director of the Center for Asian Studies at the Universidad Nacional Mayor de San Marcos.

In hindsight, China always officially remained neutral. I say officially because we know that Russia directed its trade towards China after the sanctions. However, the appointment of ambassadors shows that they seek to strengthen their bilateral ties (with Ukraine), which could lead to positive consequences in this case, such as the resumption of the truncated negotiations with Moscow”, comments the international analyst Francesco Tucci.

On Thursday the 27th, Chinese state media highlighted that in the call, which lasted for an hour, both leaders agreed to raise their diplomatic relations. Indeed, after the conversation, kyiv appointed former Minister of Strategic Industries Pavlo Rabikin as Ukraine’s new ambassador to Beijing, a position that had been provisionally held by a business manager since February 2021.

Rabikin’s appointment comes in response to the Chinese Foreign Ministry’s announcement naming Li Hui as Beijing’s special representative for Eurasian affairs. Hui had been ambassador of China in Russia from 2009 to 2019, work for which he received the Order of Friendship from Putin himself four years ago.

Despite officially maintaining a neutral stance during the conflict, China has become Russia’s main trading partner in the face of historic sanctions against it.

THE NEW MEDIATOR?

In its editorial on Thursday the 27th, the official Chinese daily Global Times assured that with the so-called Beijing “wishes to promote a political solution from sincerity and selflessness”.

China it has always adhered to an objective and fair position, and has demonstrated its responsibility as a great power. This role, this influence, cannot be replacements in today’s world.”, added the medium.

The news was also celebrated in Moscow, where the spokeswoman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Maria Zakharova, assured that “We take note of the willingness of the Chinese side to make efforts to establish the negotiation process”.

But,China Could you really act as a mediator in this conflict?

Aquino doubts that Beijing can fully comply with this position because “China is on the Russian side”.

A year ago (China and Russia) signed an association without limits, Xi confirmed it a month ago during his visit to Putin and his foreign minister ratified it two weeks ago when he went to Russia. China has become the main buyer of gas, oil and other Russian products, but it is also convenient for it to USA be distracted in that confrontation because it takes away your interest in the Asia Pacific region“, Explain.

Chinese President Xi Jinping met with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin on March 20.

Chinese President Xi Jinping met with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin on March 20.

Despite the improvements in their relations, Tucci remembers that Moscow and Beijing are experiencing a true paradox.

I consider that China he is very concerned about Putin’s situation. He now seeks to show him a way out rather than a defeat, because that could lead to a change of regime and nothing guarantees that whoever enters will keep his business. On the other hand, let’s remember that Russia and China are only temporary allies because their common rival is the United States. Geographically, however, China and Russia are historical rivals. That is the paradox, it could be convenient for China that Russia weakens but only up to a certain point because otherwise it could become a problem for them.”, he assures.

Aquino believes that the next few weeks will be key to find out if the conversation between Xi and Zelensky really had an effect on the conflict or if it was a mere political gesture.

I think that in the coming weeks we will see if the conversation has really had an effect. Ukraine has been preparing for a counteroffensive, if it is carried out the Chinese efforts will have had no effect because the conflict would continue”, he comments.

AN ECONOMIC BACKGROUND

What both experts agree on is how important China’s economic interests are to understand its desire to mediate in the conflict.

Aquino highlights, for example, how the war endangers the investments of the Asian giant in the region. “As China’s economic influence increases, it is obvious that its political influence will also increase, because it will touch its interests.”, he assures.

In addition, China is very interested in peace because this year marks a decade since the announcement of the Silk Road and the Silk Belt that seeks to cross all of Central Asia. If there were no war, for example, the train that sought to connect China and Europe through Russia would operate, the war has caused the route to be modified and it is expected to pass through Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Iran and Turkey”, adds the analyst.

Tucci, for his part, considers that with the arrival of peace in Ukraine, a new competition – albeit commercial – between China and the United States would begin.

Probably in the telephone conversation another sensitive topic will have been touched on: the reconstruction of Ukraine. China will clearly want to be directly involved in the reconstruction. Let us remember that the US is very interested in the debt that this reconstruction will represent, as happened in Iraq and Afghanistan.”, analyzes the expert.

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At the end of March, the World Bank estimated that $411 billion will be needed for the reconstruction of Ukraine.

THE ROLE OF THE WEST

Despite the fact that the United States has publicly praised the call between Beijing and Kiev, and that French President Emmanuel Macron traveled a week ago to speak directly with Xi about his role in the conflict, would Washington and Brussels be prepared to lose the opportunity? to present themselves as those who resolved the conflict in favor of Beijing?

If Xi Jinping really manages to mediate and bring the two sides to the negotiating table, it would clearly be a blow to the US and Europe.”, considers Aquino.

During Macron's visit to Xi, the leaders discussed China's role in the conflict.  This provoked criticism from the US and the European Union towards the French leader, assuring that he was being too accommodating towards China.

During Macron’s visit to Xi, the leaders discussed China’s role in the conflict. This provoked criticism from the US and the European Union towards the French leader, assuring that he was being too accommodating towards China.

Tucci, for his part, believes that the European bloc has shown an inability to fulfill its role as peacemaker. “Europe is conspicuous by its absence in the negotiations, it has not had coherent initiatives due to a lack of a common foreign policy among the members of the European Union. Now the initiative belongs to China”, he comments.

The analyst also considers that Europe reached this place due to the historic sanctions imposed on Moscow. “The countries of the European Union are the main states that have sanctioned Russia. In the eyes of Moscow, this takes away their ability to mediate. In addition, Europe provides weapons to the Ukrainians. That is why we have repeatedly heard from Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov that in the face of a further escalation they are going to consider the European countries as part of the conflict”, comment.

Source: Elcomercio

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