The European Commission believes China's 12-point plan is built on "misplaced" ideas of security interests and implicitly justifies Russia's invasion.
The 12-point plan proposed by China to bring Russia's invasion of Ukraine to an end is "selective," builds upon "misplaced" ideas of security interests and blurs the roles of the aggressor and the victim, the European Commission has said in reaction to Beijing's paper.
The plan, released on Friday morning as the international community marked the war's one-year anniversary, calls for a cessation of hostilities, the resumption of peace talks, the protection of nuclear power plants and the preservation of food and supply chains.
The paper, however, also demands the abandonment of the so-called "Cold War mentality," a coded language that Beijing often uses to describe its fraught geopolitical rift with the United States, and the lifting of Western sanctions.
"Unilateral sanctions and maximum pressure cannot solve the issue; they only create new problems," the paper reads.
At no point does China use the words "war" or "invasion" to describe the situation in Ukraine and instead speaks of a "crisis." Crucially, the plan fails to weigh in on the future of the Ukrainian territories that have been occupied by Russia since February 2022.
"The security of a country should not be pursued at the expense of others," the plan says. "The security of a region should not be achieved by strengthening or expanding military blocs."
Kyiv has treated the proposal with caution, insisting that all occupied land should be freed.
Meanwhile, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen expressed her reservations about China's stated neutral stance.
"It's not a peace plan but principles that they share," von der Leyen, during a visit to Estonia.
"You have to see them against a specific backdrop. And that is the backdrop that China has taken sides by signing an unlimited friendship right before Russia's invasion of Ukraine started."
Speaking by her side, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg noted that "China doesn’t have much credibility because they have not been able to condemn the illegal invasion of Ukraine."
The aggressor and the aggressed
From Brussels, the European Commission dismissed the Chinese plan as a "political initiative" that applies a biased interpretation of international law and implicitly justifies Russia's aggression.
The plan "emphasises certain principles of the UN Charter but is selective and insufficient about their implications for Russia's war of aggression against Ukraine," European Commission spokesperson Nabila Massrali told reporters.
"China's position builds on the misplaced focus on the so-called legitimate security interests and concerns of parties, implying a justification for Russia's illegal invasion and blurring the roles of the aggressor and the aggressed. The position paper doesn't take into account who is the aggressor and who is the victim of an illegal, unjustified war of aggression."
The spokesperson urged Beijing to engage with Moscow, one of its closest allies on the world stage, to use its diplomatic leverage to stop the invasion.
But China made its position clear on Thursday when it became one of the 32 countries that abstained from a UN General Assembly resolution calling for a Russian withdrawal from Ukraine.
The vote was supported by 141 nations across the world and just seven against.
"Any meaningful peace proposal must be consistent with the UN Charter in its entirety, including the principles of sovereign equality and territorial integrity of states, as well as the right of self-defence which Ukraine is currently exercising," Massrali added.
The spokesperson also asked China to refrain from providing lethal aid to support Moscow's war machine, a possibility that Beijing denies but which the US warns is becoming increasingly likely.
"Clear military assistance to help Ukraine defend itself against the Russian aggression is fully legitimate under the UN charter," Massrali said.
"By contrast, arming the aggressor would be a clear violation of international law. And of course, any illegal military assistance to Russia has been and will be met with a strong reaction."