Hours after China announced its proposal regarding the situation in Ukraine, NATO’s chief, Jens Stoltenberg, rejected it saying by invoking the lack of trust.
“First of all, there is not much trust in China since they could not condemn Russia’s invasion. And they signed an agreement on unlimited friendship with Russia before the invasion.”
The obvious question is whether the Chinese leaders seriously thought that their proposal would be accepted by the Western allies. The quick answer from NATO suggests that it was the most obvious answer and as such the Chinese leaders must have known that that will be the West’s answer. Why would they then want to go ahead and put their prestige on the line for something that will go nowhere? The answer is simple: the Chinese leaders want to take a more open role in the ward in Ukraine and that role is most likely to be in support of Russia to help it ensure that its operation achieve the goals it was set to achieve.
By proposing a path to settling the conflict in a way that will preserve the independence of Ukraine and the security of Russia, China is also thinking about its own standoff with the Western in relations to Taiwan. There, China has made its position clear: There was no independent Taiwan and there will never be an independent Taiwan, according to a series of recent statements by Chinese officials. That stands in contrast with the US and other Western governments’ position of vagueness about the “one-China” stance. The Chinese military buildup and continued drills on the edge of the Island state, including many flyover instances by tens of Chinese war planes is clear signal that China will go to war if necessary to bring Taiwan under Chinese full political and military control. The logic, then, is this: if China reserves the right for itself to intervene militarily to protect its security and territorial integrity, why would Russia be prevented from doing the same? The Chinese answer is now clear: Russia is entitled to security reassurances and if NATO is unable or unwilling to provide such security guarantees, then Russia is free to enhance its national security the safety of Russian speaking peoples. This means that China wants to inoculate itself against criticism when it starts to provide open support for its strategic partner, Russia.
This reasoning can be supported by recent statements coming out of the Western bloc. Just hours before the Chinese official announcement of plans to release a “peace plan”, Western media reported that there US officials have told Chinese officials that US is aware that China is “actively thinking about” providing lethal assistance to Russian forces.
Just today, Friday February 24, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken echoing President Biden, warned China, saying:
“From Day One, President Biden warned President Xi not to provide material lethal assistance to Russia for use against Ukraine or to engage in the systematic evasion of sanctions. And the information we have suggests that they’re now actively thinking about it, which is why we’ve been public about warning them not to.”
It is no coincidence, also that Western countries, around the same time, pushed for UN General Assembly vote on the war in Ukraine, knowing that such a vote is meaningless, since UNGA resolutions are not binding. They just wanted to force nation-states to go on the record on this matter. Interestingly, comparing the Feb. 23, 2023, UNGA vote with the same event that took place on Oct. 12, 2022, the “In-favor” side lost 2 votes and the “Against” gained 2 votes. Also 13 countries did not vote at all. Importantly, and to make the point about the sponsors’ intent to force governments, especially weaker ones, to take a public position on the war, they rejected a procedural vote proposing that the Ukrainian draft resolution be voted on by secret ballot, not through an open recorded vote. With this trend in mind, where support for forcing Russia to stop the war and go back to pre-war border is slipping, and should other world governments, especially African governments (15 of them refused to support the resolution) receive no significant aid from the West but more aid from China and Russia, even holding these toothless resolutions will be abandoned. At which point, China will be more comfortable taking an open and public stance in support of Russia, which will be a hugely significant development.