Chinese President Xi Jinping arrived in Moscow Monday for a three-day state visit to meet with Russian leader Vladimir Putin, with Russia's war in Ukraine and China's peace proposal part of the agenda.
Last month, China floated a 12-point plan designed to end the Russia-Ukraine war, which began on February 24, 2022.
On Monday, Xi wrote in Rossiiskaya Gazeta, a daily published by the Russian government, that the Chinese proposal represents 'as much as possible the unity of the world community's views," according to an English translation of the article issued by the Chinese Mission to the United Nations.
'The document serves as a constructive factor in neutralizing the consequences of the crisis and promoting a political settlement. Complex problems do not have simple solutions," Xi said.
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In the People's Daily, the newspaper of the Chinese Communist Party's Central Committee, Putin said on Monday: "We are grateful for the balanced line (of China) in connection with the events taking place in Ukraine, for understanding their background and true causes," according to The Associated Press.
"We welcome China's willingness to play a constructive role in resolving the crisis," Putin said Sunday.
White House National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby told VOA on Friday, "We know that China and Russia have been improving and increasing their relationship in many different ways, both sides have been. ... What we are concerned about is that President Xi hasn't talked to [Ukrainian] President [Volodymyr] Zelenskyy and we believe it's important that he do that as well - that he doesn't just get the Russian perspective here on this war, but that he gets President Zelenskyy's perspective."
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Kirby also said of the peace plan proposed by Beijing, "We'd be concerned if coming out of this meeting there was some sort of a call for a cease-fire, because right now, while a cease-fire sounds good, it actually ratifies Russia's gains on the ground. It actually serves Russia's purpose for a cease-fire to basically call a stop right now without any acknowledgement that Russia is illegally inside Ukraine."
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the two leaders were to have informal, one-on-one talks Monday, with broader meetings on Tuesday.
Xi's Moscow visit is the latest sign of the Chinese leader's growing diplomatic ambition, following last week's announcement of a Beijing-brokered deal that allowed Iran and Saudi Arabia to reestablish diplomatic relations after seven years of hostility.
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China is signaling that it wants to be involved in a future peace process, said Moritz Rudolf, a fellow at Yale Law School's Paul Tsai China Center.
"Part of it is to be perceived as an 'international responsible great power,'" he told VOA.
By proposing a cease-fire, the Chinese appear to be trying to "salvage something for Putin," said David Kramer, executive director of the George W. Bush Institute.
"The Russian forces are not doing well," he told VOA. "And we don't need the Chinese intervention at this point."
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Not all observers are quick to dismiss Beijing's diplomatic overtures.
Given that Putin has burned his bridges with the West and become more dependent on China, Xi may have a decent chance of brokering peace, said George Beebe, director of Grand Strategy at the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft, a think tank that advocates restraint in U.S. foreign policy.
"He has limited room for maneuver[ing] in rejecting the Chinese involvement altogether," Beebe told VOA.
Xi and Putin last met in China last year when Putin attended the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics and again in September at a regional conference in Uzbekistan.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said Friday that Xi's Russian visit will 'promote strategic coordination and practical cooperation between the two countries and inject new impetus into the development of bilateral relations."
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Ukrainian President Zelenskyy is to speak with Xi by phone after the Chinese president's meeting with Putin in Moscow.
Xi's visit to Moscow will be his first since Russia invaded Ukraine nearly a year ago. China has publicly remained neutral in the Ukraine conflict, while criticizing Western sanctions against Russia, Reuters reported.
White House Bureau Chief Patsy Widakuswara and Paris Huang of VOA's Mandarin service contributed to this report. Some material for this report came from The Associated Press and Reuters.