Chinese Envoy in Ukraine Lectures Zelensky to ‘Build Up Trust’ with Russia

Communist China’s special representative for Eurasian Affairs, Li Hui, held a series of meetings on Thursday in Kyiv with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and his top cabinet members, urging the country to “build up trust” with Russia, which has been staging a prolonged invasion of Ukraine for nearly a decade.

Li departed this week for a tour of Eastern Europe that began in Ukraine and is expected to end in Russia, with stops in Poland, Germany, and France along the way. His visits are the product of a conversation between Zelensky and genocidal Chinese dictator Xi Jinping last month, the first between the two leaders since Russia launched a “special operation” to oust Zelensky in February 2022.

China is one of Russia’s closest geopolitical allies but has also enjoyed growing economic ties to Ukraine in the past decade. Ukraine is a member of China’s predatory Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), a scheme in which Beijing offered predatory loans to poor countries to erode their sovereignty, and Zelensky has enthusiastically encouraged the Communist Party to invest in rebuilding the parts of Ukraine Russia has destroyed. After ignoring him for a year, the Chinese government agreed to restore contact with Zelensky and involve itself in the ongoing conflict. On the anniversary of the “special operation,” China published a “peace plan” to instruct Moscow and Kyiv on how to end the war with vague suggestions such as “calm down as soon as possible.”

The Chinese Foreign Ministry confirmed that Li and his team met with Zelensky and several other high-ranking officials on Thursday, most prominently Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba. Li reportedly offered encouragement for Ukraine to “build up trust” with its invader and other parties involved in the conflict to “create conditions for ceasefire.”

“Special Representative Li Hui laid out China’s position and proposals on the political settlement of the Ukraine crisis,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin told reporters during his regular press briefing on Thursday. “He noted that the four principles, joint efforts in four areas and three observations proposed by President Xi Jinping are China’s fundamental approach to the political settlement of the crisis.”

There is no panacea for defusing the crisis. All parties need to do their part to build up trust and create conditions for ceasefire and peace talks,” Wang said, adding China was ready to “contribute [its] part to an early ceasefire and restoration of peace.”

Wang claimed that Ukrainian officials considered it a “pleasure” to meet the Chinese delegation and told Li Beijing was “welcome to play a positive role in ending hostilities.”

In its official statement on the meeting, the office of the presidency of Ukraine emphasized that the country’s diplomats insisted on China aiding in the implementation of Zelensky’s peace plan, not China’s “calm down as soon as possible” proposal.

Zelensky debuted the initial version of his peace formula at the United Nations General Assembly in September, beginning with demands for “punishing” the Russian government and all individuals found guilty of war crimes.

“Andriy Yermak and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine Dmytro Kuleba spoke in detail about the ten points of Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s Peace Formula,” Zelensky’s office said, quoting Yermak as saying, “We are interested in China being involved in the implementation of the Ukrainian Peace Formula.” The statement did not discuss the Chinese version of the “peace plan.”

File/China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin speaks at a briefing about the phone call between Chinese President Xi Jinping and Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky, at the Foreign Ministry in Beijing on April 26, 2023. (GREG BAKER/AFP via Getty Images)

Kuleba reportedly told the Chinese delegation, according to a statement from his ministry separate from Zelensky’s office, that Ukraine would not cede any territory in the name of a peace agreement. The Chinese plan does not offer any specifics on how to resolve Russia’s now nine-year colonization of Ukrainian Crimea or its illegal annexation of four regions of eastern Ukraine: Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson, and Zaporizhzhia.

Yermak reportedly emphasized in the meeting with Li that Ukraine “respects the inviolability of the borders of other countries,” both a rebuke of Russia’s colonization of parts of Ukraine and an apparent nod to China’s illegal claim to sovereignty over the nation of Taiwan.

The Chinese Communist Party refuses to maintain any diplomatic ties to countries that recognize the reality that Taiwan is a country.

The Russian government has welcomed China’s involvement in the war, given its stance as a close ally of Moscow. Top Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov described China in April as having “impressive potential for mediation,” though expressed pessimism at the prospects of Ukraine agreeing to the concessions that Russia is seeking. At press time, Russian officials have made no significant comments on Li’s stop in Ukraine, likely waiting for his arrival in Russia.

Prior to visiting Russia, where he served as China’s ambassador prior to leading the current mission, Li is expected in Poland for negotiations on Friday. China’s state-run Global Times newspaper explained this week that Beijing appears to be seeking information from Ukraine to help Russia respond to the current atmosphere in Kyiv.

“China’s special envoy for Eurasian affairs Li Hui is set to visit Ukraine, Poland, France, Germany and Russia as part of China’s efforts to help find a political solution to the Russia-Ukraine crisis,” the propaganda outlet noted. “Judging from the order of the five stops, [Chinese research fellow] Cui [Heng] believes that Li will learn the demands and opinions of Ukraine first, then communicate those opinions with other main parties related to the crisis and, in the final stop, seek response from Russia to all these information.”

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