第五，俄方重申恪守「一個中國」原則，承認台灣是中國不可分割的一部分，雙方同意在戰略安全磋商和執法安全合作機制框架下展開互信對話，加強在防範「顏色革命」、 打擊包括「東伊運」在內的三股勢力、跨國有組織犯罪、經濟犯罪、毒品犯罪等執法領域合作。 此外，雙方高度重視維護兩國海外人員和機構安全及權益，將不斷拓展海外公民、項目、機構安全保護合作方式和領域。
事實上，中國對日本首相岸田文雄訪問烏克蘭的反應不冷不熱。中國外交部長發言人汪文斌 3 月 21 日表示，中國希望日本能做更多事情來緩和烏克蘭危機中的緊張局勢──暗示中日雙方可能會坐下來討論，兩國如何在俄烏衝突問題上進行斡旋。 汪文斌 還說，國際社會應該「為政治解決烏克蘭危機創造條件」。 如此一來，中國和日本成為潛在和真正的調解人的機會就會持續存在。 儘管中國和日本在其他問題上存在分歧，例如釣魚島（日方稱「尖閣諸島」）的領土爭端及即將從福島向太平洋釋放放射性污染水，但兩個亞洲大國藉鼓勵俄烏雙方互動來解決烏克蘭危機，已經取得重要進展 。
Will China and Japan be the mediators in the Russo-Ukrainian Crisis?
On March 21, 2023, while the President of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) Xi Jinping signed a Joint Declaration with the Russian President Vladimir Putin on the deepening of their strategic partnership, the Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida made a surprise visit to meet the Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. Judging from how China and Japan interacted with Russia and Ukraine, a new window of opportunity has suddenly and arguably emerged for the Sino-Japanese involvement in the Ukrainian crisis as double mediators.
The Joint Declaration on the Sino-Russian comprehensive strategic partnership is politically and diplomatically significant in its content.
First, the Joint Declaration asserts that the Sino-Russian relations are not a military-political alliance as with the Cold War situation; instead, it transcends the model of state relations by having the three features of non-alignment, non-confrontation and non-targeted at the third country – an implication that both states are not really targeted at any other third country while forging a special relationship. The Joint Declaration says that while Russia needs a prosperous China, China also needs a strong Russia.
Second, both China and Russia establish their cooperative partnership on the basis of mutual respect and equality and in the midst of a multipolar world.
However, they both reject hegemonism, unilateralism and protectionism – an implicit criticism of their perceived hegemonic power the United States although the Joint Declaration apparently does not target at any third country.
Third, on the basis of protecting their core interests, both China and Russia ensure the continuous development of Sino-Russian relations by protecting their own sovereignty, territorial integrity, national security and development and by promoting multipolarity, economic globalization, democratization of international relations, and the need for fair and just global governance.
Fourth, both sides affirm that each country has its history, culture and tradition and thereby each has its right to select the developmental path, while opposing any country to impose its values and ideology onto others through the so-called “democracy versus authority” conceptual description. Both sides oppose the usage of democracy and freedom as a political tool of exerting pressure on other countries. As such, Russia supports China’s global civilization advocacy. While Russia supports China-style modernization, China also supports Russia to realize its national developmental objectives in 2030.
Fifth, while Russia supports the one-China principle and recognizes that Taiwan is an inseparable part of China, both sides agree to engage in mutual dialogue based on mutual trust and to engage in security dialogue through the security and interior ministries to prevent “colour revolution” and the third forces that engage in terrorism and cross-border crimes in economic and drugs spheres. Furthermore, both sides attach great importance to the safety of their diplomatic staff and organizations in overseas countries by engaging in protective cooperation and projects.
Sixth, both sides enhance bilateral trade, e-commerce, economic cooperation, logistics supply chain safety, mutual investment, innovative cooperation, digital economy, green and sustainable development, monetary and financial collaboration, gas and fuel cooperation, coal and energy and nuclear supply as well as the development of renewable energy and climate change. Other areas of cooperation include aviation, automobile manufacturing, shipping manufacturing, transport facilities, port capacity, railway and marine transport, agricultural products supply, and the promotion of Belt and Road initiatives which cut across Asian and European continents.
Seventh, both sides promote the development of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, enhance cultural and education and human exchanges, including alliances between universities, vocational and secondary schools and talent exchanges so that artificial intelligence, Internet, 5G, digital economy and low carbon economic techniques will be promoted and explored with progress in the future.
Eighth, other areas of collaboration embrace scientific research, health facilities and health studies, museum and libraries, the prevention and tackling of infectious diseases, sports, maritime and ecological research, marine rescue and exercises, the mass media and publications, and archival records and arts. The available international organizations such as the World Health Organization, BRICS, Shanghai Cooperation Organization, G20 and Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation will be fully utilized to strengthen mutual cooperation.
Ninth, Russia supports China’s idea of constructing a common destiny for the mankind to enhance international social solidarity, while China supports Russia in the promotion of a fair and multipolar international relations system.
The message above entails an important implication that China is advocating an ideology of peaceful and international socialism and that Russia is determined to establish a new multipolar world with “fairness.”
Tenth, both sides enhance the international forums in the regions involving both countries and India, both countries and Mongolia, East Asia and ASEAN. China and Russia will strengthen coordination in the ASEAN region.
The reference to the triangular relations between China, Russia and India is important in light of the ongoing border disputes and tensions between China and India. The implication of the Sino-Russian Joint Declaration is that Russia may play a crucial role in mediating any serious border dispute and possible conflicts between China and India in the future. Ideologically, India is close to the US and Japan, but India appears to maintain its relative neutrality over the Russo-Ukrainian conflicts.
Eleventh, both China and Russia affirm the importance of reducing the risks of nuclear war and avoiding the usage of nuclear weapons. Both sides agree that states with nuclear weapons should withdraw such weapons from the regions outside their territories.
This reference to the avoidance of nuclear war is arguably an important part of the Joint Declaration neglected by most Western observers. At a time when the Russo-Ukrainian war is proceeding in a prolonged way in which concerns were raised on the prospects of utilizing nuclear weapons, the Sino-Russian Joint Declaration is arguably a significant move that may prevent the further deterioration of the Russo-Ukrainian war.
Twelfth, both China and Russia express their deep concern about AUKUS which is composed of the US, UK and Australia, while emphasizing that Japan’s move of releasing radioactive water from Fukushima to the Pacific Ocean this year is a matter of serious concern. Both sides hope that Japan can be more transparent and scientific in the process of releasing radioactive water into the ocean.
Both China and Russia also aim at creating a world without biochemical weapons – an ideal which may be difficult to be realized from an objective standpoint, however.
Thirteen, both China and Russia oppose the moves of changing the outer space into a place where military action and confrontation become a phenomenon. Legal restraint and multilateral dialogue and documents will be necessary to prevent the militarization of the outer space – a common ideal that is arguably important given the rivalries of more countries to use the outer space as an arena of satellite surveillance and military contests.
Fourteen, while Russia actively affirms the “objective and fair position” of China on the Ukrainian issue, Russia also wants to initiate peace talks. Russia affirms positively China’s position paper on the Ukrainian crisis, while both sides express the hope that all countries should avoid “adding any oil onto the flame” of the Ukrainian issue.
Here, the crux of the problem is that while China attempts to act as a mediator in the Ukrainian crisis, it is perceived by the US and its Western allies as being biased in favour of Russia, which appears to occupy the Donbas region in a militarily advantageous position at a time talks and dialogue are mentioned in not only China’s position paper but also this Sino-Russian Joint Declaration.
The impasse, however, can be tackled if more middlemen can perhaps be involved, such as China and Japan.
The Japanese Prime Minister Kishida projected an image of protecting and favouring the Ukrainian side during his meeting with Zelensky.
Perhaps the way forward for China and Japan are to explore how the conditions for ceasefire in the Russo-Ukrainian war can be reached in the first place, like the exchange of prisoners. Then other issues, like whether Ukraine would adopt neutrality without joining NATO in exchange for Russia’s possible withdrawal from at least parts of the eastern territories, may be bargained further.
If so, the recent responses from China and Japan to the Russo-Ukrainian conflicts may open a door of opportunity for both Beijing and Tokyo to explore how the war between Russia and Ukraine can be stopped. The PRC’s position on the Ukrainian crisis was a positive step, but the conditions for ceasefire need to be hammered out by middlemen such as China and Japan in a constructive, collective and concrete manner.
What is significant in the Sino-Russian Joint Declaration is that while Russia agrees to the prospect of dialogue and peace in the Ukrainian crisis, China has already secured Russia’s agreement to avoid the usage of nuclear weapons. As such, some Western observers with bias against China and with their deep perception of the “China threat” and the “Russian threat” should perhaps read the Sino-Russian Joint Declaration in a more neutral and objective way.
In fact, China’s reaction to Japanese Prime Minister Kishida’s visit to Ukraine was lukewarm. The Chinese Foreign Minister spokesman Wang Wenbin said on March 21 that China hopes Japan can do more things to deescalate tensions in the Ukrainian crisis – an implicit message that both China and Japan may sit down and discuss how both countries can mediate in the Russo-Ukrainian conflicts. Wang also added that the international society should “create the conditions of solving the Ukrainian crisis politically.” If so, the opportunities for both China and Japan to become potential and real mediators persist. Despite the fact that China and Japan have their differences over other matters, such as territorial dispute over the Diaoyu (Senkaku) Island and the forthcoming release of radioactive water from Fukushima to the Pacific Ocean, both Asian powers have already made important inroads in the Ukrainian crisis by interacting with the two main parties – Russia and Ukraine.
In conclusion, the Sino-Russian Joint Declaration came at a time when Japanese Prime Minister Kishida also interacted with the Ukrainian President Zelensky. It signalled the development of a special relationship between China and Russia at a time a new Cold War is developing in the world. Observers who superficially view China and Russia as the “threats” to the Western world have perhaps played down the significance of the Sino-Russian Joint Declaration. However, the Joint Declaration is diplomatically very significant in two aspects: Russia is willing to have dialogue over the Ukrainian crisis and it has signed a document that affirms the avoidance of utilizing any nuclear weapons. If two important bottom lines have been met, then the conditions for ceasefire over the Ukrainian crisis can be explored collectively by not only China but also Japan. Given the fact that China and Japan are good neighbours for almost forty-five years after both sides established diplomatic relations in October 1978, it is perhaps the ripe time for both Asian powers to act as real mediators in the Russo-Ukrainian conflicts. It remains to be seen, however, how China and Japan can and will perhaps explore the necessary conditions for ceasefire in the Ukrainian crisis.