Beijing-led talks on Ukraine a ‘trap’ for the West: Analysts

PARIS: China and Ukraine’s leaders speaking this week raises the unflattering prospect of Kyiv and the West having to reject a Chinese proposal to end the Ukraine war, analysts say.

The one-hour conversation between Xi Jinping and Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Wednesday (Apr 26) was the first since Russia invaded its pro-Western neighbour more than a year ago.

Xi, who has refused to condemn President Vladimir Putin’s invasion and maintained cordial ties with Moscow, advocated peace negotiations.

Beijing claims that Zelenskyy initiated the call, after China published a 12-point position paper on Ukraine in February and the Ukrainian leader said he would be open to dialogue with Xi.

“Despite Russia’s stumbling invasion, the status quo is untenable,” said Can Kasapoglu of the US thinktank Hudson Institute.

“Ukraine needs to attempt to fundamentally change the political and military dynamics of the conflict.”

Ukrainian forces have said they are preparing for a spring operation to further push back Russians in the east of the country.

But “even if it conducts a successful counter-offensive that secures large swathes of land, Ukraine can only solidify the reacquisition of its occupied territories via diplomatic means”, Kasapoglu said.


Kyiv has relied heavily on Western weaponry to defend itself, and a high-ranking European official this month said Ukraine was “in dire need of munitions”.

The United States alone has spent billions in economic and military aid since the February 2022 invasion.

But 26 per cent of Americans think that aid to Ukraine has been excessive, according to a Pew Research Centre poll published in January.

Marlene Laruelle of George Washington University said this trend would probably increase pressure for a diplomatic solution.

“This decline in popular support for Ukraine is likely to become more pronounced in the coming months regardless of how the conflict evolves,” she wrote recently.

“If the Ukrainian counteroffensive is successful, calls for diplomatic negotiations will intensify, while if it fails, calls for concessions to achieve a ceasefire will grow.”


The timing of Wednesday’s phone call could possibly signal a go-ahead from Putin, after Singaporean diplomat Chan Heng Chee last week said that no contact had been made between Xi and Zelenskyy until then because the Russian leader had likely told Xi he was “not ready to negotiate”.

Jean-François Di Meglio, a French researcher based in Taiwan, said China was hoping to position itself as a key mediator.

“China is really entering the great diplomatic game, pursuing its agenda of a new global governance,” he said.

He said any peace negotiations were likely to follow Beijing’s February 12-point plan.

“Whatever Xi proposed cannot be very different,” he said, and would include “territorial integrity”.

“But what does Ukrainian integrity mean for the Chinese? We have no idea,” he said.

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