China reiterates ceasefire, peace talks ‘only way’ to end Ukraine war

Vice President Han Zheng, a second-tier official, repeats familiar talking points in speech to 78th UNGA.

China has reiterated its position that a ceasefire and peace talks are the “only way” to end the war in Ukraine, which began with Russia’s full-scale invasion in February 2022.

“Cessation of hostilities and the resumption of peace talks is the only way to settle the Ukraine crisis,” Vice President Han Zheng told the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) at its annual meeting.

China has tried to position itself as a peacemaker and neutral arbiter in the conflict, although it has refused to condemn Moscow over the invasion.

In February, on the first anniversary of the war, it released a position paper on how to bring about an end to the fighting, but the proposals received a lukewarm response in Moscow and Kyiv.

China, one of five permanent members of the UN Security Council, wants to “continue playing a constructive role”, Han added. He did not elaborate.

Visiting Moscow this week, China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi told his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov that China would uphold an independent and impartial position on Ukraine as it tried to find a political settlement to the issue.

Beijing’s efforts at mediating a resolution to the conflict have made little progress amid scepticism about its professed neutrality given its deepening ties with Russia. Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Moscow in March, where he met Vladimir Putin and toasted a “new era” of cooperation, while Putin has accepted an invitation to visit China next month.

Han, a second-tier official, also used his UNGA speech to reiterate China’s vision for an alternative world order free from what it has long called “Western hegemony”.

Appealing to the world’s developing nations, he said China, the world’s second-biggest economy, considered itself part of the Global South.

“As the largest developing country, China is a natural member of the Global South. It breathes the same breath with other developing countries and shares the same future with them,” Han said.

He also said China supports those nations’ development path “in keeping with their national conditions”.

The loosely defined term “Global South” has come up frequently at the UN this year and is usually used to refer to countries from Africa, Asia and Latin America.

China has cast itself as a leader for the developing world, stepping up its claim with the launch more than a decade ago of Xi’s Belt and Road Initiative to drive Chinese development, infrastructure and influence mainly in developing economies.

China is the world’s second-largest economy after the United States with a GDP of $18 trillion.

Xi was one of four leaders from the permanent members of the Security Council who did not attend this year’s meeting.

French President Emmanuel Macron, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Russia’s Putin also skipped the event, leaving US President Joe Biden the only leader of a permanent Security Council member to address the assembly.

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