- TIME - IAN BREMMER - MAR 2, 2023 -
With its 12-point plan to end the war in Ukraine, China has taken a significant step toward center stage in international politics. In the past, it has avoided the risks and responsibilities that come with a leadership role on foreign policy questions that aren’t directly relevant to China’s national security.
Now that Xi Jinping has consolidated vast power at home, he’s ready to assert his country’s influence in new ways. Yet, direct intervention in Russia’s war on Ukraine is fraught with risk for China, its relations with America and Europe, and the entire global economy.
What’s in China’s peace plan? Despite Western suspicions the proposal is designed mainly to help Russia, it calls for formal respect for Ukraine’s sovereignty, protections for Ukrainian civilians, an end to interference with the flow of humanitarian aid into the country, and condemnation of the possible use of nuclear weapons. The plan also reflects the views of those around the world whose primary interest in the war is economic, by calling for a ceasefire, an end to sanctions, and the opening of peace talks that might help ease pressure on food and fuel prices.
Though Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky pledged to consider the plan, it has no chance of moving forward, because it does not require Russia’s invading army to leave Ukraine, does not promise a return of Ukrainian land now illegally occupied by Russian forces, and provides nothing tangible for reconstruction of the country. An immediate ceasefire would freeze Russian gains in place, forcing Ukraine to try to persuade Vladimir Putin to voluntarily give back land. In truth, no peace plan is likely to succeed at this stage of the war because neither the Russian nor Ukrainian governments can afford to lose.