Ambassador Li Hui's mission. Between Moscow and Kiev



The nervous state of Ukrainian leaders has recently increased because of China’s position on the problem of settling the Ukraine-Russia conflict. Rushing with his idea of a so-called peace summit, President Zelensky found that his plan — to gather as many major world players as possible in one place and present their solution to Russia — ran into Beijing’s reluctance to participate in such an event without Russia’s participation.

And this approach was once again confirmed by China’s Special Representative for Eurasian Affairs, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the People’s Republic of China Li Hui. During a press conference following his second tour of the capitals of the states involved, he stressed that China supports the convening of an international peace conference recognized by both Russia and Ukraine, with equal participation of all parties.

As we recall, Li Hui traveled to Russia, Belgium, Poland, Ukraine, Germany and France in March this year, where he held talks with officials. Later, Politico wrote that China may boycott future peace talks on Ukraine if Russia is not present. And without China, such a summit would be an absolute nothing. In addition, China is important to Kiev not only as a state that maintains special strategic relations with Russia, but also as a potential investor in the future reconstruction of the country.

Meanwhile, there appears to be such discord in the Ukrainian top brass that the secretary of Ukraine’s National Security Council, Danilov, allowed himself to comment undiplomatically on Ambassador Li Hui’s mission.

«As for Li Hui, I want to remind you that no one will decide our fate without us… If someone thinks that we should lose our territories, lose our sovereignty, lose something else — give yours away», Danilov said on TV channel «Rada». According to Danilov, this issue can not be solved by «some» special representative of the People’s Republic of China. At the same time, Danilov pretended that he did not remember «what was his (Li Hui’s — ed.) surname» and, as the Russian media wrote, profanely mangled the diplomat’s name.

Official Beijing actually made it look like nothing happened at all.

«Special Representative Li Hui recently visited Ukraine and had fruitful meetings with the head of the Ukrainian president’s office, the first deputy prime minister, the foreign minister and other officials. Ukraine attaches great importance to China-Ukraine relations, highly appreciates the «shuttle» mediation of Special Representative Li Hui, and sincerely hopes that China will continue to play a constructive role in promoting peace», said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lin Jian. This is understandable: it is difficult to offend a person by calling him by his first and last name.

However, there is still a disrespectful tone in Danilov’s words. Although Kiev functionaries are not known for their high level of diplomacy, Danilov, after his unflattering remarks about Ambassador Li Hui’s mission, was fired and sent as ambassador to Moldova. After all, the Chinese peacekeeping mission is currently the only diplomatic link between Moscow and Kiev. It is possible that at some point the parties will decide to use this very channel to start negotiations. After all, all the others are spontaneous and less reliable.

There is another nuance here. Li Hui’s official mission started in Moscow, and after visiting the Western capitals, it ended in Kiev. But few people know that Li Hui came to Moscow again after that. He was an observer at the Russian presidential election. And in general, for Ambassador Li, Russia is a second home. After all, before his appointment as special envoy, he headed the Chinese diplomatic mission in Moscow for 10 years and was awarded the Order of Friendship for his work to strengthen Sino-Russian relations. His current competence does not include promoting Russia’s interests, but he will not allow to diminish them either.

China has different points of view on the Russian-Ukrainian conflict and its relations with Russia. Contrary to the perception of China as a totalitarian society, there are serious experts who believe that it is necessary to stop supporting Russia and curtail all economic relations with Moscow that could harm China. There are also those who call, on the contrary, for a military alliance with Russia. However, China’s position is determined by its leader Xi Jinping, who maintains good personal relations with the Russian president. This position is balanced and comes down to taking into account the interests of all parties. According to Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Li Jian, «with regard to the Russian-Ukrainian hostilities, China will continue to take a responsible stance, promote peace and facilitate negotiations, and work with the parties to the conflict to achieve a political settlement of the crisis». China will not sacrifice its interests or enter into alliances; it is interested in maintaining normal ties with the West. As for the relations between China and Russia, Chinese Foreign Minister and member of the Political Bureau of the CCP Central Committee Wang Yi has repeatedly spoken on this issue. These are relations of strategic partnership and they will remain so despite Western pressure. Do not meddle in our contacts with third countries, Wang Yi has repeatedly warned Westerners.

Beijing’s policy itself is aimed at maintaining stability in Europe as, among other things, an important market for China. And Russia occupies a crucial place in this policy. Therefore, China will do everything possible to resolve the conflict. At the same time, Beijing has a full understanding of Russia’s position and concerns.