China is calling for a ceasefire on the anniversary of the invasion of Ukraine. In a 12-point paper, Beijing also calls for the start of peace negotiations. What role China itself could play in such a process is not in the paper. Since the Munich Security Conference last week, there had been speculation about a Chinese "peace plan". According to the Italian government, China's top foreign policy chief Wang Yi had even announced a "peace speech" by state and party leader Xi Jinping. There is no mention of this on Friday in Beijing. Instead, the State Department merely publishes a paper on its website that contains little more than China's well-known positions and platitudes. Phrases like: "There are no simple solutions to complex problems."

Friederike Böge

Political correspondent for China, North Korea and Mongolia.

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From the Russian point of view, the paper should be welcome. There is not much that can be read even between the lines as a condemnation of Russian aggression. While China calls for "refraining from attacks on civilians and civilian facilities," it does not mention that it is Ukrainian civilians who are being attacked by Russian soldiers. Beijing is committed to protecting the territorial integrity of all states and opposes the use of nuclear weapons or a threat to do so, without mentioning that Russia has violated Ukraine's sovereignty and threatened to use nuclear weapons. This is "a little strange" and "disturbing," commented the European Union's ambassador to China, Jorge Toledo, at a press conference on Friday. Instead, the document contains the well-known Chinese speaking points that the war was allegedly caused by America and was being kept going.

China is ready to "continue to play a constructive role" in providing "a platform for the resumption of negotiations," the paper said. The Wall Street Journal, citing Beijing sources, has reported that Xi Jinping wants to travel to Vladimir Putin in Moscow with the proposal of multi-party talks in the spring. This could serve to dampen criticism of the visit in the West. If Putin is open to it, while Ukraine rejects the proposal as disingenuous, that would be a win from China's point of view. For war-weary Europeans, in the Global South and at home, it would stand as a supporter of peace.

Does Beijing produce kamikaze drones for Moscow?

By saying that it wants to "continue" to play a constructive role, Beijing is also continuing the myth that Xi Jinping has successfully promoted talks between Russia and Ukraine in the past, but these have been stopped by "some people." So Wang Yi had claimed last week in Munich. He spoke of people who "don't care about the life and death of Ukrainians and the damage Europe is suffering." This refers to the United States.

Beijing is also aware that a ceasefire and peace negotiations are out of the question for Ukraine as long as Russia does not withdraw from the occupied territories. This raises the question of what the Chinese leadership is trying to achieve with its initiative. The paper marks the provisional end of a diplomatic offensive that China's top foreign policy expert Wang Yi has brought to France, Italy, Hungary, the Munich Security Conference and finally Russia in recent days. His visit to Moscow shortly before the anniversary of the invasion thus took on the veneer of supposed shuttle diplomacy. However, Wang Yi did not travel to Kiev, but met Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba only in Munich. The chargé d'affaires of the Ukrainian embassy in Beijing, Zhanna Leschynska, said on Friday at a press conference at the European Union representation that requests were being made to Beijing "all the time" for talks between Xi Jinping and President Volodymyr Zelenskyi. So far in vain.

Meanwhile, a report by the magazine "Der Spiegel" makes you sit up and take notice. It talks about alleged negotiations between the Russian military and the Chinese company Xi'an Bingo Intelligent Aviation Technology for mass production of kamikaze drones for Russia. It would be the first known arms supply contract between China and Russia, which was negotiated after the beginning of the Russian war of aggression. The magazine does not name a source, but speaks of "information" it has received.

Accordingly, the company has allegedly committed to deliver a hundred prototypes of a ZT-180 drone by April and to equip Russia with knowledge and components so that the country can produce the drones itself. The authors quote military experts as saying that the aircraft can carry warheads weighing up to 50 kilograms. The Chinese Foreign Ministry denied the information without giving details. The report highlights the warning signals that the American government, as well as NATO, the EU and European countries such as Germany, have sent to Beijing in recent days. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken had said Washington had information that China was considering supplying weapons and ammunition to Russia. He spoke of "serious consequences for our relationship". German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said in the program "Maybrit Illner" that he had "clearly said" to China that arms deliveries to Russia would not be accepted.