Rapprochement between Beijing and Kyiv?

The presidents of China and Ukraine, Xi Jinping and Volodymyr Zelensky, spoke on the phone for approximately an hour on Wednesday. It was the first direct contact between the two leaders since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Beijing issued a renewed warning about nuclear escalation and announced plans to send special envoys for Eurasian affairs to Kyiv. Europe’s press offers various interpretations of the signals.

BBC (GB) /

Xi relishing role of mediator

The BBC is not surprised by the phone call:

“Xi Jinping has had recent diplomatic success by persuading Iran and Saudi Arabia to restore ties. While it is possible he may have developed a taste for the role of a key international stakeholder, there may also be an economic element to his intervention. China’s flagging economy is still fragile after years of tight Covid-19 restrictions. It is dependent on export trade and cannot fully bounce back as the war in Ukraine drags on.”

Celia Hatton
Vladimir Fesenko (UA) /

As peace broker the lesser evil

Kyiv is not pinning its hopes on China, political analyst Volodymr Fesenko states frankly on his Facebook page:

“I do not believe that Ukraine expects China to contribute to a just peace. ... Beijing regards Ukraine as a US ally and therefore will not act in our favour. For Ukraine, on the other hand, it is better to have China in the role of peace broker rather than military ally of Russia. This is the main rationale behind Kyiv’s negotiations with Beijing.”

Wolodymyr Fessenko
Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (DE) /

China as new regulatory power

For the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Xi’s phone call shows two things:

“Clearly the Chinese head of state and party does indeed want to play a more active role in the conflict. Perhaps he is feeling emboldened by his recent successes in the Middle East, where he has managed to undermine America’s status as an external regulatory power. Moreover, Xi is not longer only putting his money on the Russian horse. He can easily afford this because Putin is so dependent on him.”

Nikolas Busse
Corriere della Sera (IT) /

Concern about nuclear conflict

The phone call could be an indication of how serious China considers the situation to be, says Corriere della Sera:

“But why now? Why did it take Xi Jinping so long to finally speak to the president of Ukraine, which is under attack from Russia? The Chinese president is shrewd and one possibility is that he chose the timing of his initiative with the maps of the Ukrainian generals in mind, which all the West’s military analysts are currently discussing. In less than a month, Kyiv is poised to launch a counter-offensive that could trigger a harsh response from Russia — one in which the use of a nuclear bomb cannot be ruled out.”

Guido Santevecchi
Echo (RU) /

Cold shoulder for Putin

The conversation highlights Putin’s weakness, says journalist Alexander Plyushchev in a Telegram post republished in Echo:

“Zelensky’s conversation with Xi is a huge foreign policy coup for the Ukrainian president. ... Ukraine is literally thumbing its nose at Putin, because Putin sees Zelensky as nothing but a puppet and makes it very clear that if he talks to anyone it will be with the US. Now Zelensky is holding up a mirror to Putin and showing him to be Xi’s puppet. But unlike Putin, he is now talking to ‘the boss’, whereas Putin is still waiting for the call from the US, when even Europe no longer has the patience to call to him.”

Alexander Pljuschtschew