After twelve grinding months, China appears no more capable of influencing the outcome of Russia’s war in Ukraine than it was at the conflict’s inception. Largely reduced to spectator status, Beijing’s primary role has been to provide Moscow with a financial lifeline by ramping up purchases of heavily discounted Russian crude oil and coal, while reaping an unexpected windfall from surging exports to Russia. But these and other Chinese half-measures appear aimed, for now, at ensuring Russia has what it needs to sustain its wartime economy—not actually win the war.
In a similar twist, China’s 12-point peace plan for Ukraine is not geared toward restoring peace in Europe. Indeed, China’s dead-on-arrival missive has little to do with ending the war in Ukraine and everything to do with setting the conditions to win a future war over Taiwan. Put differently, China recognizes the causes of Russia’s failure in Ukraine are the same that threaten its eventual reunification plans.