How China Can End the War in Ukraine

How China Can End the War in Ukraine

Chinese President Xi Jinping is probably best placed to rein in Russian President Vladimir Putin and help bring peace to Ukraine. But that will require Xi to walk a diplomatic tightrope while also mitigating the collateral economic damage caused by the war and Western-led sanctions on Russia.

In this Big Picture, Yale University’s Stephen S. Roach notes that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine clearly violates principles that China has long held sacrosanct, and proposes three ways Chinese policymakers can take the lead in restoring peace and stability. And MIT’s Yasheng Huang argues that playing the role of mediator effectively will require China to retain its credibility as an honest broker and avoid explicitly condemning Russia’s actions.

The Monetary Consequences of Vladimir Putin

Likewise, Nancy Qian of Northwestern University thinks that, while the additional war-induced spike in food and energy prices could be devastating for China, the country’s neutral political stance toward the conflict may also yield economic benefits. In that regard, Columbia University’s Shang-Jin Wei explains why China’s non-participation in the economic blockade of Russia will not make a huge difference to its overall effectiveness.

But others are less sanguine. Barry Eichengreen of the University of California, Berkeley, doubts whether the sweeping financial sanctions on Russia will prompt other countries to seek a safe haven for their foreign reserves in China – not least because Xi’s personalistic and largely unchecked regime resembles Putin’s. And Orville Schell of the Asia Society fears that the Russian and Chinese leaders’ shared Leninist narrative of victimization, which fuels both countries’ nationalism, will continue to reshape the post-Cold War global order.

Putin and Xi’s Imperium of Grievance

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is in clear violation of principles that China has held sacrosanct for almost 60 years. There is no room for China to finesse that conclusion while remaining true to its core values.

NEW HAVEN – My recent commentary, “Only China Can Stop Russia,” stirred up strong arguments on both sides of the increasingly contentious debate over the horrific war in Ukraine. While most in the West recognize the need for extraordinary actions in extraordinary times and agree that China has an important role to play in resolving the conflict, those sympathetic to Russia’s concerns over border security and NATO enlargement argue that China has no reason to weigh in. But both posed the obvious and important follow-up question: What exactly can China do to restore peace and stability to Ukraine?

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China can take the initiative in three key areas. For starters, Chinese President Xi Jinping should call for an emergency summit of G20 leaders, focused on achieving an immediate and unconditional ceasefire in this conflict and developing an agenda for a negotiated peace. The G20 is now the recognized forum for global action in the midst of crisis, having galvanized support among the world’s leading economies in late 2008 for a coordinated response to the global financial crisis. Both China and Russia are members, so the G20 can play a similar role today. As a demonstration of his personal commitment to this effort, Xi should break his post-pandemic lockdown protocol (he has not left China in 24 months) and attend the meeting in person – as should Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Second, China can contribute substantially to humanitarian assistance. With children comprising at least half of the more than two million refugees from Ukraine (a number projected to rise quickly to at least four million), the need for humanitarian support directed at neighboring host countries is unquestionably acute. China should make a no-strings-attached donation of $50 billion to UNICEF – the United Nations Children’s Fund – the world’s largest relief agency for children in distress.

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