Diplomats Call on China in Ukraine Peace Process at Davos

Diplomats Call on China in Ukraine Peace Process at Davos
Davos Conference Center seen in 2022. Photo: OlyaSolodenko via iStock

The Lede:  At a meeting on Sunday ahead of the upcoming World Economic Forum (WEF), Ukraine’s presidential chief of staff Andriy Yermak and Swiss Federal Councilor Ignazio Cassis mentioned China as a crucial player in future discussions to end the war with Russia as Kyiv courts support from the Global South for its peace formula.

What We Know:

  • The Ukrainian and Swiss officials spoke at the 4th Meeting of the National Security Advisors on Ukraine’s Peace Formula, in Davos, Switzerland. Eighty-three representatives, including 18 from Asian countries and 12 from Africa, participated in the talks. In October, 65 representatives attended the previous round of talks in Malta.
  • Yermak noted that it would be important for China, as an important Russian ally, to be at the table for meetings on its peace formula moving forward. Cassis said that countries at the Davos discussions that had a dialogue with Russia, including BRICS partners Brazil, India, and South Africa, could play an important role.
  • The World Economic Forum (WEF) officially began on Monday evening. Chinese Premier Li Qiang led a delegation in Davos this week.  
  • National security adviser Jake Sullivan and Secretary of State Antony Blinken addressed the WEF.

The Background: Although Global South partners have generally expressed empathy with Ukraine, many also highlight the need to engage with Russia’s position. In the past year, China has floated the idea of mediating peace talks between the two countries. Zelenskyy and Chinese President Xi Jinping spoke over the phone in April regarding China’s role in resolving the conflict. Beijing has also been on a campaign to push itself as a leader among the Global South. Ukraine’s 10-point peace plan calls for the withdrawal of Russian troops and the end of hostilities as well as the restoration of Ukraine's 1991 state borders with Russia. Russia currently controls about one-fifth of Ukraine’s territory in the east and southeast of the country. 

Likely Outcomes:

  • While Ukraine’s Western partners have supported Kyiv’s peace plans, Global South countries in Africa, Latin America, the Middle East, and Asia have remained mostly nonaligned with ambiguous stances thus far regarding the reclamation of all Russian-occupied territories. From this perspective, there may be a space for China to play a leading role among the Global South countries in anchoring the terms of peace between Russia and Ukraine.  
  • The U.S. position on Ukraine has remained highly supportive, but the conflict has become somewhat stale in Washington as the military’s attention has turned toward the Middle East in the wake of the Israel-Hamas War. China’s involvement in bringing the Russia-Ukraine War to an end may help shift responsibility away from the U.S. and wind down the violence. An agreement on borders and conditions of peace may still be out of reach. 


"Countries from the Global South are increasingly getting involved in our work. It shows understanding that this European conflict is, in fact, a challenge for all humanity." - Andriy Yermak, presidential chief of staff of Ukraine

"The participation of the BRICS alliance is very important because these countries have a relationship with Russia ... All this can create this collective movement to bring in countries that are far from the conflict but can play a role in influencing China and Russia. 

Good Reads:

Ukraine says China needed for peace process after Davos meeting (Nikkei)

Ukraine peace talks end without agreement as Kyiv insists China must be involved (The Independent)