Chinese President Xi Jinping’s (習近平) plans to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow next week highlighted China’s aspirations for a greater role on the world stage, but they also revealed the perils of global diplomacy.
Hours after Friday’s announcement of the plan, an international arrest warrant was issued for Putin on war crimes charges, taking at least some wind out of the sails of China’s big reveal.
The flurry of developments — which followed China’s brokering of an agreement between Saudi Arabia and Iran to resume diplomatic relations, and its release of what it calls a “peace plan” for Ukraine — came as the administration of US President Joe Biden watches warily Beijing’s moves to assert itself more forcefully in international affairs.
Photo: REUTERS / Sputnik
Asked about the Xi-Putin meeting, Biden said: “Well, we’ll see when that meeting takes place.”
The Biden administration believes China’s desire to be seen as a broker for peace between Russia and Ukraine might be viewed more critically now that Putin is officially a war crime suspect, two US officials said.
The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the matter publicly, said the administration hopes the warrants will help mobilize heretofore neutral countries weigh in on the conflict.
The visit to Russia would be Xi’s first foreign trip since being elected to an unprecedented third term as president. It comes as Beijing and Moscow have bolstered ties in steps that began shortly before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine with a meeting between the two leaders in Beijing at which they declared a “no limits” partnership.
Since then, China has repeatedly sided with Russia in blocking international action against Moscow over the Ukraine conflict.
US officials say Bejing is considering supplying Russia with weapons to support the war.
However, it has also tried to cast itself in a more neutral role, offering a peace plan that was essentially ignored.
The meeting in Moscow is likely to see the two sides recommit to their partnership, which both see as critical to countering what they consider undue and undeserved influence exerted by the US and its Western allies.
The arrest warrant, issued by the International Criminal Court (ICC) on Friday, is unlikely to have a major influence on the meeting or China’s position toward Russia.
Neither China nor Russia — nor the US or Ukraine — have ratified the ICC’s founding treaty.
Washington, beginning with the administration of former US president Bill Clinton, has refused to join the court, fearing that its broad mandate could result in the prosecution of US troops or officials.
That means that none of the four countries is bound by the court’s orders, although Ukraine has consented to allowing some ICC probes of crimes on its territory and the US has cooperated with ICC investigations.
In addition, it is highly unlikely that Putin would travel to a country that would be bound by obligations to the ICC. If he did, it is questionable whether that country would arrest him. There is precedent for those previously indicted, notably former Sudanese president Omar Bashir, to have visited ICC members without being detained.
THE US’ VIEW
US officials have not minced words when it comes to Xi’s planned visit to Moscow.
US National Security Council spokesman John Kirby called Beijing’s push for an immediate ceasefire in Ukraine a “ratification of Russian conquest” and said that Russian forces could use a truce to regroup their positions “so that they can restart attacks on Ukraine at a time of their choosing.”
“We do not believe that this is a step towards a just, durable peace,” he said.
Speaking before the ICC warrant was issued, Ukrainian analysts cautioned against falling into a potential trap ahead of the Xi-Putin meeting.
“We need to be aware that such peace talks are a trap for Ukraine and its diplomatic corps,” said Yurii Poita, who heads the Asia section at the Kyiv-based New Geopolitics Research Network.
“Under such conditions, these peace talks won’t be directed toward peace,” said Nataliia Butyrska, a Ukrainian analyst on politics related to Eastern Asia.
She said the visit reflects not so much China’s desire for peace, but its desire to play a major role in whatever post-conflict settlement might be reached.
Even if China stops short of providing military assistance to Russia, Moscow sees Xi’s visit as a powerful signal of Chinese backing that challenges Western efforts to isolate Russia and deal crippling blows to its economy.
Kremlin spokesman Yuri Ushakov said that Putin and Xi have “very special friendly and trusting personal ties,” and hailed Beijing’s peace plan.
“We highly appreciate the restrained, well-balanced position of the Chinese leadership on this issue,” Ushakov said.
Chinese officials have been boasting about their newfound clout in the international arena as their country’s foreign policy has become increasingly assertive under Xi.
In announcing Xi’s visit to Moscow, Chinese Minister of Foreign Affairs Qin Gang (秦剛) said Beijing’s ties with Moscow are a significant world force.
“As the world enters a new period of turbulence and change, as a permanent member of the UN Security Council and an important power, the significance and influence of China-Russia relations go far beyond the bilateral scope,” he said, calling the visit “a journey of friendship, further deepening mutual trust and understanding between China and Russia.”
EMBASSY TRAP? A missionary said that the group had been told they needed to report to the Chinese embassy, but added if they were to walk in, ‘they are gone’ More than 60 members of a Chinese Christian church have been detained in Thailand, supporters said yesterday, raising fears they might be returned to their home country, where they face possible persecution. Deana Brown, one of two American supporters detained along with the church members, said that Thai authorities in the coastal city of Pattaya on Thursday detained the 63 church members, many of whom are children. Thirty-two adult Chinese nationals were charged with overstaying their visas, said Colonel Tawee Kutthalaeng, chief of the Pattaya-area Nong Prue police station. The children were not charged, Kutthalaeng said. The two US citizens were not placed under
China and Brazil have reached a deal to trade in their own currencies, ditching the US dollar as an intermediary, the Brazilian government said on Wednesday, Beijing’s latest salvo against the greenback. The deal would enable China, the top rival to US economic hegemony, and Brazil, the biggest economy in Latin America, to conduct their massive trade and financial transactions directly, exchanging yuan for reals and vice versa instead of going through the US dollar. “The expectation is that this will reduce costs ... promote even greater bilateral trade and facilitate investment,” the Brazilian Trade and Investment Promotion Agency said in a
India yesterday summoned Canada’s high commissioner in India to “convey strong concern” over Sikh protesters in Canada and how they were allowed to breach the security of India’s diplomatic mission and consulates. Canadian media reported that hundreds of protesters gathered in front of the Indian consulate in Vancouver on Saturday over demands for an independent Sikh state, a simmering issue for decades that was triggered again in the past few weeks. Canada has the highest population of Sikhs outside their home state of Punjab in India. “It is expected that the Canadian government will take all steps which are required to ensure the
The Japanese government has made tackling its falling birthrate a top priority, but with few women involved in official debate on the issue, some are making themselves heard on social media. Japan recorded fewer than 800,000 births last year, the lowest in the nation of 125 million since records began. Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has warned the trend threatens “whether we can continue to function as a society,” and fresh focus on the issue has sparked countless articles. However, one in particular, which said Japan has the highest ratio in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development of women aged 50