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China’s peace plan shot down by Western propaganda machine

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Left-right: Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky, Chinese President Xi Jinping, Russian President Vladimir Putin (Screenshots via YouTube)

The Chinese attempts to help resolve the Ukraine war via a 12-point plan for negotiations have been met with hostility from the USA and its allies, writes Dr William Briggs.

CHINA’S 12-point position paper for a political solution to the war in Ukraine is one of those documents that ought to be hard to argue against. It is a paper that is a beginning point that would allow for an end to hostilities and for the combatants to begin the process of restoring peace and security.

This simple fact did not deter NATO secretary-general, Jens Stoltenberg, from dismissing the document out of hand. The peace plan was yawned away with the glib comment that China “doesn’t have much credibility” because it has “not been able to condemn the illegal invasion of Ukraine”. Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission, was just as dismissive.

Von der Leyen’s remark was infantile. She simply said that China had already “taken sides” in the conflict. This is quite a statement. China, along with a number of other nations has been at great pains to remain detached. The European Commission, on the other hand, along with NATO and the rest of America’s allies in all parts of the world, has shown on a daily basis that it has indeed taken a side.

But, if the European Commission president’s comments were puerile, they were simply following a pathetic pattern set by the U.S. President. Biden, we are told, leads the “free world”.

The leader of the “free world” responded to China’s 12-point plan in these statesman-like words:

“Putin is applauding it, so how could it be any good? I’m not being facetious. I’m being deadly earnest.”

While the ink was still drying on China’s proposal, the UN issued an almost impossible demand for a settlement. The UN statement effectively calls for a Russian surrender, which is hardly likely to happen. Poland’s response was to send the first of the promised Leopard tanks into Ukraine. The USA, Japan and Australia issued a call that further sanctions were to be imposed on Moscow. Weapons shipments continue to flow.

The actual points of the Chinese proposal are simple ones:

  1. Respecting the sovereignty of all countries.
  2. Abandoning the cold war mentality.
  3. Ceasing hostilities.
  4. Resuming peace talks.
  5. Resolving the humanitarian crisis.
  6. Protecting civilians and prisoners of war.
  7. Keeping nuclear power plants safe.
  8. Reducing strategic risks.
  9. Facilitating grain exports.
  10. Stopping unilateral sanctions.
  11. Keeping industrial and supply chains stable.
  12. Promoting post-conflict reconstruction.

Sanity would suggest that none of these points can do anything but save lives, halt the destruction and allow the two states, the region and the world an opportunity to step back and get on with the job of securing a just and lasting peace. Sanity would demand every effort to see these proposals bear fruit. Will this happen? That is in the hands not only of the combatants but of the backers of Ukraine. The question is, do they want peace?

Speaking immediately after the Chinese proposal was made public, Ukraine’s President Zelensky said:

“I believe that the fact that China started talking about Ukraine is not bad but the question is what follows the words. The question is in the steps and where they will lead to.”

This is very much the point, but equally important is who determines what happens next. Zelensky, it must be remembered was, along with Putin, open to finding a negotiated way out, before former UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s “diplomacy” brought an abrupt turnaround that lead to a year of slaughter.

It is impossible not to feel pessimistic when EC spokesperson Nabila Massrali pushes the line that the proposal applies a “biased” interpretation of international law and that China is using the document to justify Russian aggression.

Lost long ago in the propaganda war that has been waged alongside the actual war, are some salient truths. Whether these truths justify Russian military tactics is altogether another issue, but it is never a bad thing to look back in order to move forward.

The trouble in Ukraine had been brewing long before the invasion. A pivotal date is perhaps 1991. The USSR was in its last days. U.S. President Clinton despatched his envoy to Moscow and the famous – now infamous – pledge not to have NATO move one inch eastward was given. The Warsaw Pact as a counterbalance to NATO was dismantled but NATO simply became stronger. That act of betrayal had a profound strategic and psychological impact.

The expansion of NATO to include so many former Soviet allies and Soviet republics was seen as a direct threat to the security of post-Soviet Russia. That, coupled with the coming to power of an avowedly Right-wing and nationalist government in Ukraine, the lauding of past Nazi collaborators, America’s involvement in the internal politics of Ukraine in and around the time of the Maidan movement of 2014, and the very real potential for a formal entry of Ukraine into NATO, was such that it was not difficult to predict the future.

This has all been well documented. It is not repeated here as a justification or vindication of Russian policy, but to remind us that things are never black or white, regardless of how our collective governments and media may wish to present them. The relentless propaganda war has clouded the past and distorted the present.

The Chinese efforts to bring the warring parties to the negotiating table are positive ones. The potential for success relies not simply on the responses from Russia or Ukraine, because Ukraine’s actual sovereignty has been hijacked in the service of the U.S. and its allies. Peace negotiations can only be achieved if the proxy nature of the war is acknowledged and the United States' role in promoting and prolonging the suffering is recognised. Given that simple fact, the people of Ukraine and the armed forces of Russian and Ukraine can expect much more bloodshed and suffering.

Dr William Briggs is a political economist. His special areas of interest lie in political theory and international political economy. He has been, variously, a teacher, journalist and political activist.

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