Since the days of Zhou Enlai in the mid-1950s, China has been steadfast in its commitment to the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence, including respect for national sovereignty and territorial integrity, mutual non-aggression, and non-interference in other countries’ domestic affairs. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is in clear violation of these sacrosanct principles. There is no room for China to finesse that conclusion while remaining true to its core values.
To be sure, as underscored in its recent partnership accord with Russia, China has expressed concerns over NATO expansion and Russia’s border security. Again, this is where China can take the lead in arguing these concerns in an emergency G-20 forum. In assuming a leadership position, China will have ample opportunity to play the role of honest broker in weighing the risks and resolving this debate. But the war must end first.
Xi has been determined and methodical in charting a new path for China over the past ten years. At times his rhetoric has soared, steeped in aspirations of rejuvenation after a century of humiliation, great-power status for a “modern socialist nation” by 2049, and, more recently, “common prosperity” for the world’s largest population. Yet at some point, rhetoric starts to ring hollow.
That may well raise tough questions for the rest of the world. But that’s our problem. After all, we in the West have not done a particularly good job in preventing this tragedy. The message bears repeating: Only China can stop Russia.
Stephen S. Roach, a faculty member at Yale University and former chairman of Morgan Stanley Asia, is the author of “Unbalanced: The Codependency of America and China” (Yale University Press, 2014) and the forthcoming “Accidental Conflict”. Copyright: Project Syndicate, 2022.
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
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. But both posed the obvious and important follow-up question: What exactly can China do to restore peace and stability to Ukraine?
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.
This crisis calls for more than slogans and promises: It is China’s opportunity to demonstrate that it is willing to step up and act on its long-sought goal of a responsible global leadership
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.