March 23, 2023 at 13:02 JST
Russian President Vladimir Putin shakes hands with Chinese President Xi Jinping during a meeting at the Kremlin in Moscow on March 20. (Pool via Reuters)
As Chinese President Xi Jinping headed to Moscow, many people around the world harbored a faint hope that he would urge Russian President Vladimir Putin to stop his war against Ukraine.
During the two days of meetings, however, the two leaders reaffirmed the unity between their countries. Xi has clearly failed to fulfill his responsibility for international order as the leader of a major power.
Before Xi’s visit to Russia, Beijing issued a document calling on both Russia and Ukraine to seek a cease-fire and peace talks. In the joint statement issued after the summit, Russia welcomed the proposal as a constructive opinion, while China praised Russia’s readiness to reopen dialogue with Ukraine.
But Moscow made no promise to withdraw its troops from Ukraine.
Nor did the joint statement refer to the status of the four Ukrainian regions Putin has unilaterally declared to be part of Russian territory, the principal obstacle for the resumption of peace negotiations between the two nations.
Instead, Putin stressed in a news conference that the West and Ukraine were not ready to engage in dialogue, speaking as if the West had begun the war.
His attempt to shift the blame for the war onto the West was obviously aimed at taking advantage of fatigue about the war among developing and emerging nations to wiggle out of international isolation.
The statement also called for expansion of economic cooperation between China and Russia and enhancement of bilateral military exchanges. China’s commitment to siding with Russia blatantly contradicts its pledge to maintain a “neutral” position on the war.
One fact that overshadows Beijing’s diplomacy with Moscow is that Putin is now a war crime suspect. The International Criminal Court (ICC) last week issued an arrest warrant for Putin over the alleged “unlawful deportation” of children from Ukraine to Russia.
It has been reported that children abducted to Russia have been given Russian citizenship and received pro-Russia patriotic and military-related education at re-education camps.
During his meeting with Putin, however, Xi expressed his desire to see the Russian president re-elected next year and even invited Putin to visit China by the end of this year.
China, like Russia, is not an ICC member country. But Beijing has ratified the international treaty banning war crimes including those that Putin has allegedly committed.
In an extremely unreasonable move, Beijing has overlooked Putin’s possible war crimes instead of questioning him about the allegations.
China has also upheld the policy of complying with the U.N. Charter, which requires respect for the integrity of sovereignty and territory.
China is also supposed to share the principle that the international order should not be undermined by aggression or nuclear threats against countries with different political systems.
China’s behavior seems to be driven by its parochial national interests reflected in its strategic goals of establishing an axis of partnership to counter the United States, with which it is locked in an increasingly acrimonious rivalry, and secure natural resources from dependable suppliers.
Beijing is acting in an extremely indiscreet and irresponsible manner.
China should change its stance in trying to broker peace between Russia and Ukraine, starting by denouncing Moscow’s war of aggression.
--The Asahi Shimbun, March 23
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