China calls for Russia and Ukraine ceasefire and peace talks with 12-point plan on war anniversary

China has refused to criticise Russia’s invasion of Ukraine

China has called for a ceasefire between Ukraine and Russia and the opening of peace talks.

China has said it has a neutral stance on the war, while also stating that it has a “no limits" relationship with Russia. The country has also refused to criticise Russia’s invasion of Ukraine or even refer to it as such.

It has accused the West of provoking the conflict and “fanning the flames” by providing Ukraine with defensive arms. The US has also said China may be preparing to provide Russia with military aid - something Beijing says lacks evidence.

Given China’s positions, there are doubts over whether its proposal has any chance and whether the country can be seen as an honest broker. But while China has not been openly critical of Moscow, it has said that the present conflict is “not something it wishes to see”, and has repeatedly said any use of nuclear weapons would be completely unacceptable.

China has called for a ceasefire between Ukraine and Russia (Photo: Getty Images)China has called for a ceasefire between Ukraine and Russia (Photo: Getty Images)
China has called for a ceasefire between Ukraine and Russia (Photo: Getty Images)

The 12-point plan issued on Friday morning (24 February) by China’s Foreign Ministry urges the end of Western sanctions imposed on Russia and includes measures to keep nuclear facilities safe, establish humanitarian corridors for civilians and ensure the export of grain after disruptions inflated global food prices. Other points call for protection for prisoners of war and stopping attacks on civilians.

It mainly elaborated on long-held Chinese positions, including that all countries’ “sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity” be guaranteed. Dialogue and negotiation are the only viable way out to resolve the Ukraine crisis,” the proposal said.

The peace-plan covers the following 12 points:

  • Respecting the sovereignty of all countries
  • Abandoning the Cold War mentality
  • Ceasing hostilities
  • Resuming peace talks
  • Resolving the humanitarian crisis
  • Protecting civilians and prisoners of war (PoWs)
  • Keeping nuclear power plants safe
  • Reducing strategic risks
  • Facilitating grain exports
  • Stopping unilateral sanctions
  • Keeping industrial and supply chains stable
  • Promoting post-conflict reconstruction

The plan offers no details on what form peace talks should take, any preconditions or which countries should be involved, but said “China is willing to continue to play a constructive role in this regard”.

It also called for an end to the “Cold War mentality” — China’s standard term for what it regards as US hegemony, interference in other countries’ affairs and maintenance of alliances such as Nato.

Before the proposal was released, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky had called it an important first step to have China involved. Speaking at a news conference on Thursday with Spain’s Prime Minister, he said: “I think that, in general, the fact that China started talking about peace in Ukraine, I think that it is not bad. It is important for us that all states are on our side, on the side of justice.”

China and Russia have increasingly aligned their foreign policies to oppose the US-led liberal international order and Foreign minister Wang Yi reaffirmed the strength of their bilateral ties when he met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow this week.

State Department spokesman Ned Price said earlier on Thursday (23 February) that the US would reserve judgment on the proposal but China’s allegiance with Russia meant it was not a neutral mediator. He said: “We would like to see nothing more than a just and durable peace… but we are sceptical that reports of a proposal like this will be a constructive path forward.”

Mr Price added that the US hopes “all countries that have a relationship with Russia unlike the one that we have will use that leverage, will use that influence to push Russia meaningfully and usefully to end this brutal war of aggression. (China) is in a position to do that in ways that we just aren’t.”

China abstained on Thursday when the UN General Assembly approved a non-binding resolution that calls for Russia to end hostilities in Ukraine and withdraw its forces. It is one of 16 countries that either voted against or abstained on almost all of five previous resolutions on Ukraine.

The resolution, drafted by Ukraine in consultation with its allies, passed 141-7 with 32 abstentions, sending a strong message on the eve of the first anniversary of the invasion that appears to leave Russia more isolated than ever.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky marked the sombre first anniversary of the Russian invasion on Friday by pledging to push for victory in 2023.

As dawn broke on a day of commemorations and defiance, he said Ukrainians had proven themselves to be “invincible” in what he called “a year of pain, sorrow, faith and unity”. He wrote in a tweet: “We know that 2023 will be the year of our victory!”