China will send a special envoy to Ukraine, Russia and other countries to discuss a “political settlement of the Ukrainian crisis”, the Chinese Foreign Ministry announced on Friday.
Li Hui, former Chinese ambassador to Moscow, will visit UkrainePoland, France, Germany and Russia from Monday, spokesman Wang Wenbin said at a press conference.
“Sending a representative. . . is another way for China to demonstrate its commitment and efforts to promote peace talks, and fully shows that China firmly stands on the side of peace,” Wang said.
Li’s visit comes as Ukraine prepares its spring counter-offensive, the results of which will influence the shape of any peace talks between Kyiv and Moscow, and as the EU start talking a new policy towards China.
It also follows a phone call of almost an hour between Presidents Xi Jinping of China and Volodymyr Zelenskyy of Ukraine last month which the latter described as “long and significant”. Xi told Zelenskyy on the call that he would soon send a special representative to talk to “all parties” to seek a “political settlement”.
Xi has called Russian President Vladimir Putin at least five times since the start of the war in Ukraine, and the two leaders met in Moscow in March.
Beijing has presented a 12-point proposal to end the war. It calls on the warring parties to resume peace talks and to respect national sovereignty, but does not include many of Ukraine’s key peace demands, including that Russian forces must first withdraw from Ukrainian territory before any negotiation.
Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Li’s upcoming visit.
Yu Jie, senior China researcher at Chatham House, said Li’s visit “aims to send a signal that China wants to play a mediating role rather than putting substantive proposals on the table.”
Yu said ChinaThe audience was not the West but “the great part of the developing world that does not view this war with one eye as the collective West does”.
China’s ambivalence over the war in Ukraine, which it does not call an invasion, has troubled its relations with European countries. Beijing’s ambassador to France caused an uproar last month by questioning of sovereignty of the post-Soviet states, in remarks that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs later denied.
During a chilling meeting with his counterpart in Berlin on Tuesday, Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang threatened countermeasures if the EU goes ahead with its proposal to impose sanctions on Chinese companies that allegedly supply dual-use military components to Russia.
“The Ukraine crisis continues to escalate, fallout continues to emerge, and calls from the international community for a ceasefire and de-escalation are growing louder,” Wang said Friday.
Li served as China’s ambassador to Russia for 10 years until 2019. He is a vice minister in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and is its special representative for Eurasian affairs.
Additional reporting by Maiqi Ding