China Repeats Call for Cease-Fire in Ukraine and Peace Talks

After a drum roll of diplomatic activity suggesting that China was poised to play a more energetic role in seeking peace in Ukraine, Beijing has issued a position paper that reprises its established views on the war, calling for an end to fighting while avoiding demands — or words like “invasion” — that could hurt its ties with Russia.

The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs released the paper on Friday, the anniversary of Russia’s invasion, and after China’s most senior diplomat, Wang Yi, had visited Europe, telling a security forum in Munich that the document would lay out China’s positions for a “political settlement" of the crisis. But the document was not the blueprint or bold initiative that some in European capitals appeared to expect.

“The sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of all countries must be effectively upheld,” states the first of the 12 points given in “China’s Position on the Political Settlement of the Ukraine Crisis.” It does not explain how Beijing believes that principle should apply to Russia’s claims to Ukrainian territory, or to Ukraine’s demand that Russian forces leave.

The paper calls for ending the fighting and launching peace negotiations. “The safety of civilians must be effectively protected, and humanitarian corridors should be set up for the evacuation of civilians from conflict zones,” it says.

Mr. Wang, the senior Chinese diplomat, laid out similar principles in March.

President Vladimir V. Putin’s invasion of Ukraine has created predicaments for China ever since he sent troops pouring across the Ukrainian border. Chinese leaders see Russia as a vital counterweight to American power, even if they may quietly wish that Mr. Putin would pull back from military belligerence.

About three weeks before the invasion, Mr. Putin and China’s leader, Xi Jinping, met in Beijing and declared a “no limits” friendship between their countries. In a joint statement at that summit, Mr. Xi also endorsed Russian opposition to the possibility that the North Atlantic Treaty Organization would expand farther into Eastern Europe, including — by implication — into Ukraine.

European governments wanted Mr. Xi to do more to rein in Mr. Putin. After the opening weeks of the invasion, China sought to show that it was seeking peace in Ukraine and felt pained by the carnage and destruction there. Even so, Mr. Xi and Chinese diplomats have continued to praise their broader relationship with Russia and have largely avoided calling Mr. Putin’s actions an invasion or war.

The new position paper sticks to that stance and euphemistic wording, and suggests some continued sympathy with Mr. Putin’s underlying grievances with the United States and its allies. Countries should abandon a “Cold War mentality,” the paper says, a criticism that Beijing largely directs at Washington. It also restates Chinese opposition to economic sanctions that have largely cut Russia off from Western markets and goods.

“Unilateral sanctions and maximum pressure cannot solve the issue; they only create new problems,” the paper says.

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