Wang Li

Recently, at an emergency special session of the UN General Assembly on Ukraine, UN Secretary-General Guterres sincerely requested that the military operations in Ukraine must stop immediately and thoroughly.

Since the war started seven days ago, it has not only raged across the country but with a potential spillover leading to a significant regional crisis with unprecedentedly disastrous implications for the world.

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As usual, though, it is never too late to engage in good-faith negotiations and address all issues peacefully because the only proper solution is peace.

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From the very beginning, when Russian troops moved into Ukraine, China has reiterated that any actions taken by the UN should help cool the situation and facilitate diplomatic solutions, and restrain from aggravating tensions.

Given that one country’s security cannot be assured at the expense of the others’ needs, common security concerns of both Ukraine and Russia ought to be taken seriously and adequately addressed. This reveals that China’s stance on the Ukraine-Russian crisis has been responsible and consistent with what Harvard scholar Stephen Walt has said of the “Geopolitics of empathy.”

In a world system of many sovereign actors, states react upon each other with a deep memory of the past and the current strategic scenario. It requires them to approach each other with the geopolitics of empathy. Empathy refers to the ability to see problems from another person’s (or country’s) perspective.

As Walt argued, “To do this does not require agreeing with their view; it is about grasping how others see a situation and understanding why they are acting as they are.” In a geopolitical arena, the reason to do this is eminently practical because it is harder to persuade a rival to alter its behavior if states do not understand the origins mutually.

If we make efforts to parse China’s foreign policy generally and its position on the current Ukraine-Russian crisis, it is clear that China has acted and approached international issues in line with the geopolitics of empathy.

As one of the most dynamic economic powers of the world today, China has watched the evolution of the Ukrainian issue closely, and the present scenario in the country is not what China wants to see.

Prior to the breakout of the war, China put it clear that the potential crisis was avoidable if the U.

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S.-led European allies had not succumbed to the mentality of the Cold War and the wishful thinking of the advocated rules-based world order instead on the U.N.-centered authority and international law.

However, the U.S. and NATO openly rejected Russia’s legitimate guarantee that they would never, ever expand farther to the east. In contrast, the U.S-led allies have contemplated how they would make Russia pay should it press forward with an invasion. With the war raging on the country, it seems apparent to lead to far-reaching consequences for multi-parties involved, especially Ukraine’s people.

With the war going on, China has appealed to all diplomatic efforts conducive to the peaceful settlement of the crisis. That means the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all countries should be respected and assured in light of the principles of the UN Charter.

In the case of Ukraine and Russia, one country’s security cannot come at the expense of harming others, and regional security cannot be guaranteed through unilateral expanding military blocs. This is the reason why China appeals to actions taken by the Security Council should reduce the tension rather than add fuel to the flames.

Accordingly, the UNSC is expected to play a constructive role in resolving the Ukrainian issue and regional peace and stability, as well as the security of all countries, should be the priorities. Due to this, the Ukrainian foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba is aware of China’s constructive role on the issue and expects China to carry out its good offices to achieve a ceasefire.

In a long run, a sovereign and stable Ukraine will have the full right to play a bridge of connectivity between the East and the West, instead of being the pawn on the grand game of power politics. China has reiterated its respect for Ukraine’s sovereignty and its legitimate rights to pursue national identity.

Meanwhile, China calls on Europe and Russia in their efforts to hold a dialogue on an equal footing over the European security issue, and eventually form a balanced, effective, and sustainable European security mechanism.

As the cradle of modern diplomacy, Europe needs to focus on bolstering its strategic sovereignty and internal cohesion rather than pursuing unlimited expansion without concerning other European states’ legitimate interests.

*The writer is a Professor of Security and Diplomacy at the School of International and Public Affairs at Jilian University as well as the author of several books on the world order and Chinese foreign and security policy.

*The views expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not necessarily represent those of institutions.  

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