A month ago, Chinese President Xi Jinping declared there was “no limit” to Beijing’s newly strengthened relationship with Russia.
He and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin had a face-to-face meeting in Beijing, culminating in a joint document – and then they went off to see the opening of the Winter Olympic Games. Days after the Games ended, Russia invaded Ukraine.
China’s government has neither condemned nor condoned the attack and has even refrained from calling it an “invasion” in the first place. It has always said that it does not interfere in the internal affairs of others, a core principle of its foreign policy.
But earlier this week, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi signalled that it was ready to play a role in mediating a ceasefire.
State media here reported that Mr Wang “reaffirmed China’s unwavering support for Ukraine’s sovereignty” and assured his counterpart of China’s readiness to make every effort to end the war… through diplomacy”.
Governmne of China also recently expressed “regret” over the military action, saying it was extremely concerned about the harm to civilians.
China has also done one other thing of note. Alongside India, it was one of 34 nations that abstained from voting on a United Nations resolution condemning Russia’s invasion – something analysts say has come as a surprise. International observers had expected China to vote alongside Russia.