Home » Beijing’s Limited Success in Mediating the Russia-Ukraine War: A Closer Look at Shuttle Diplomacy in Europe

Beijing’s Limited Success in Mediating the Russia-Ukraine War: A Closer Look at Shuttle Diplomacy in Europe

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Chinese Shuttle Diplomacy in Europe Faces Criticism

Vienna — Following the “shuttle diplomacy” efforts in 2023, Chinese special representative Li Hui has been touring Europe to mediate the ongoing Russia-Ukraine conflict. However, his efforts have been met with skepticism and criticism from observers.

Shuttle diplomacy involves a third party acting as an intermediary between conflicting parties in international disputes. In this case, Li Hui’s visits to Russia, the EU, Poland, Ukraine, Germany, and France have been seen as a way to try and mediate the Russia-Ukraine war, which has been ongoing since 2022.

Before Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in 2022, Western intelligence agencies had predicted the conflict and attempted to prevent it. French President Macron even went to Moscow to meet with Russian President Putin in an attempt to avoid war through diplomacy, but to no avail.

Critics have questioned Beijing’s qualifications to mediate the Russia-Ukraine war. Yu Maochun, director of the China Center at the Hudson Institute, believes that China’s biased stance in favor of Russia and its support for Moscow’s war efforts make it unsuitable as a neutral mediator.

On his visit to Moscow, Li Hui referred to the conflict as “the comprehensive escalation of the Ukrainian crisis,” which was seen as a pro-Russia stance by Western countries. This, along with China’s economic support for Russia’s war efforts, have raised doubts about Beijing’s ability to play a constructive role in mediation.

Ukraine, too, has expressed doubts about China’s role in mediating the conflict. According to Oleksiy Melnyk of the Ukrainian think tank Razumkov Centre, while China may have the capacity to play a role in peacebuilding due to its geopolitical status, its lack of understanding of Ukraine’s position and interests hinders its effectiveness as a mediator.

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In Brussels, Li Hui’s talks with EU officials did not yield any meaningful consensus. The EU reiterated its support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and emphasized that Russia’s actions posed a threat to European security. The EU’s stance on the conflict differed from China’s, further complicating Beijing’s attempts at mediation.

Critics believe that China’s real motives in mediating the conflict may be to test whether Ukraine and Europe are willing to make compromises that take into account Russia’s security concerns. However, Europe remains wary of China’s role in the mediation process, citing its lack of neutrality and constructive engagement in resolving the conflict.

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