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Beijing's efforts seen as key to resolving crisis

By ZHOU JIN | chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2024-03-12 23:09

Ukrainian national flags flutter in front of a heavily damaged apartment building in the frontline town of Orikhiv, in Zaporizhzhia region, Ukraine Feb 28, 2024. [Photo/Agencies]

Despite the stalemate in the Ukraine crisis and the gloomy prospects for peace, efforts to build consensus through face-to-face dialogue, as well as ending hostilities through political means, remain crucial, as highlighted by China's recent diplomatic practices.

Li Hui, the Chinese government's special representative on Eurasia affairs, concluded on Tuesday an 11-day shuttle diplomacy trip that took him to Russia and the European Union headquarters in Brussels, as well as Poland, Ukraine, Germany and France.

It was the second time within a year that the Chinese diplomat made such a trip to the region. The latest trip came at a time when the conflict between Russia and Ukraine has headed into its third year, and global expectations are high for an early achievement of peace.

Paving the way for ending the conflict and starting peace talks was the focus of Li's shuttle diplomacy, and he reiterated during the trip China's support for hosting, at a proper time, an international peace conference that would ensure the equal participation of all parties.

China's mediation endeavor is timely and significant, as the crisis has caused global damage and is very likely to escalate, observers said.

They also said that the visit has shown China's responsibility as a major country and its willingness and ability to play a balanced and rational role regarding the crisis, and that such a role is what Europe expects.

Zhao Huirong, a researcher at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences' Institute of Russian, Eastern European and Central Asian Studies, said Li's trip reflects that China hopes to hear the voice of various parties involved in the conflict and address their concerns, in order to bridge differences.

It also shows an open attitude as well as a continuity of China's policy concerning the crisis, she said.

When giving a briefing on Li's visit, Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said on Tuesday that great importance was attached to the visit, and "China's efforts to promote peace talks were appreciated by various parties".

China sincerely hopes that all parties concerned will demonstrate the political will to cool down the situation and make joint efforts toward an early cease-fire and the establishment of a balanced, effective and sustainable European security framework, he said.

The prolonged conflict has brought multiple impasses and challenges for Russia and Ukraine and other countries regarding military, politics, energy and food prices.

Zhao, the researcher, said the crisis has severely undermined global security, adding that security has become a major concern for many countries, especially those in Europe.

There is a trend that various forces are engaged in bloc confrontation, she said, warning that accelerated arms races and increased defense budgets are not conducive to regional and global stability and peace.

Such a trend is the result of the security balance between Europe and Russia being destabilized, and the security threat to Europe has risen sharply, said Jian Junbo, deputy director of the Center for China-Europe Relations at Fudan University's Institute of International Studies.

As more people begin to worry about a possible lose-lose outcome, they are ready to create conditions to explore a reliable way out of the crisis, Jian said.

With Beijing's ongoing efforts, such as helping to resolve the humanitarian crisis, issuing an impartial and objective position paper and sending its diplomats for mediation, the EU has gradually realized that Beijing is actually playing a "unique and irreplaceable" role regarding the crisis, he said.

Stefan Wolff, a professor of international security at the University of Birmingham, wrote in a recent article that the West is increasingly in need of an "offramp" from the conflict. He told The Paper.cn, a Shanghai-based news portal, in an interview that while Europe and China may not see eye-to-eye on all issues regarding the Ukraine crisis, they share a sense of urgency about ending the conflict.

It is important for dialogue between Europe and China to continue, he said, adding that Li's visit is an important element of keeping this dialogue alive and allowing China, the EU and its member states to explore possible ways forward.

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