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Don’t Believe Beijing’s ‘Peace Plan’ As It Builds Up Its Military

China’s accelerated military buildup is the latest evidence that anyone who counts on the Chinese Communist Party to bring peace to Ukraine is delusional.

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At the opening of its annual People’s Congress last Sunday, the Chinese government announced a 7.2 percent increase in its military budget, bringing China’s total military spending this year to $224 billion. China’s actual military expenditures will undoubtedly be much higher. Still, the timing of Beijing’s announcement is interesting because only a week ago, at the first anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Beijing cast itself as a peacemaker by issuing a 12-point “peace plan.”

But China’s accelerated military buildup is the latest evidence that anyone who counts on the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to bring peace to Ukraine is delusional. Beijing’s actions always speak louder than its words. 

We shouldn’t take Beijing’s “peace plan” too seriously for three reasons. First, it lacks details and actionable items. For example, it calls for resolving the humanitarian crisis and protecting the supply chains but offers neither concrete steps nor a timetable. China does not commit to taking any specific actions to foster peace in its plan. 

Second, Beijing repeated the same talking points. It called for “abandoning the Cold War mentality,” which sounds nice on paper, but it has been Beijing’s go-to criticism of Washington on almost everything the U.S. does, from the investigation of the origin of Covid-19 to establishing a security pact with Australia and the United Kingdom.

Additionally, it seems China has already embraced a Cold War mentality. Last February, China’s leader Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin issued a joint statement, claiming their “relationship has no limit” and opposing the U.S.-led world order and value system. At the CCP’s 20th Congress, Xi warned his comrades that “external attempts to suppress and contain China may escalate at any time.” Last Sunday, when China’s Premier Li Keqiang announced the military budget increase, he called on the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) to “carry out military operations, boost combat preparedness and enhance military capabilities to accomplish the tasks entrusted to them by the Party and the people.” It sounds like a nation that is ready for war.

Third, Beijing has a credibility issue since it often doesn’t live up to its own rhetoric. For instance, its peace plan calls for respecting the sovereignty of all countries because “all countries, big or small, strong or weak, rich or poor, are equal members of the international community.” It sounds good, except Beijing often does the opposite. Ask China’s neighbors in Southeast Asia. 

Actions in the South China Sea

Multiple countries, including the Philippines, Vietnam, and China, have overlapping historical claims over the South China Sea. These international waters are one of the busiest trading routes in the world and are rich in natural resources. In 2010, at a conference hosted by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), China’s foreign minister declared that “China is a big country, and you are all small countries,” meaning Beijing gets to decide what’s happening in the South China Sea because of China’s size and power. Other smaller countries should get in line and bend to China’s wishes.

Since then, China has claimed more than 90 percent of the South China Sea as its territory, a claim no other country accepts. Yet, Beijing has used this claim to justify building artificial islands, interrupting other countries’ normal commercial activities in their own waters. The Chinese coast guard’s aggressive patrols in the region were responsible for several serious accidents that endangered the lives and properties of citizens of other nations. Given this history, Beijing’s call for respecting other nations’ sovereignty sounds duplicitous. 

Ukraine War

Besides these contradictory talking points, Beijing’s behaviors have discredited it from being a neutral peacemaker in the Russia-Ukraine war. 

Since Russia invaded Ukraine last February, China has refused to criticize Putin. Domestically, China’s state and social media embraced and spread misinformation from Moscow, claiming Russia’s war was justified and a fascist faction ran Ukraine. On the international stage, China has abstained from U.N. votes on Ukraine-related resolutions that called on Russia to cease hostilities, according to The Wall Street Journal. Beijing also voted against removing Russia from the U.N.’s Human Rights Council over its Ukraine invasion. Even in its “peace plan,” Beijing never used “invasion” to describe Putin’s military aggression and instead called it the “Ukraine Crisis.”

After the United States and its Western allies imposed severe economic sanctions on Russia, China quickly offered support to Putin’s aggression through financial means by increasing agricultural and energy imports from Russia. Voice of America reported that “China’s overall imports from Russia spiked 80 percent in May [2022] compared with a year ago, to $10.3 billion… Beijing’s purchases of Russian liquefied natural gas surged 54 percent from a year ago to 397,000 tons, even as overall imports of the fuel fell.”

Even before the U.S. imposed sanctions on Russia’s central bank and several large Russian financial institutions and restricted some Russian state-owned enterprises from raising money in international markets, China offered its currency and the China International Payment System as alternatives. The Wall Street Journal reported, “Russia’s sovereign-wealth fund, a war chest to support government spending burdened by battlefield costs in Ukraine, is using the Chinese currency to store its oil riches. Russian companies have borrowed in yuan, also known as the renminbi, and households are stashing savings in it.” As the world’s second-largest economy, China’s economic support to Russia has helped Putin blunt the effects of sanctions by the West and sustained Russia’s war in Ukraine. 

Right before China released its “peace plan,” the Biden administration announced it might release intelligence showing that Beijing is considering whether to supply weapons to Russia. Some suspected that by sending Moscow weapons, Beijing probably hoped to “increase the costs of the conflict for the West and give China a measure of leverage in proposing options to end it.” Rather than denying Washington’s accusation, a Chinese foreign ministry spokesman blamed the U.S. “as the biggest source of weaponry for the battle in Ukraine” instead. 

Xi has reportedly spoken to Putin multiple times since last February but hasn’t talked with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. After making public its “peace plan,” Beijing announced that Xi plans to visit Russia sometime in April or May but with no visit to Ukraine. Recently, Chinese leader Xi welcomed Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko to Beijing. Lukashenko endorsed Putin’s invasion of Ukraine and he praised Xi for China’s support to Russia throughout last year. 

It is obvious which side of the Russia-Ukraine war Beijing is on. Thus, China’s actions render its so-called “peace plan” meaningless. So don’t count on China to bring peace to Ukraine. 


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