Stephen Roach talks about Russian-Chinese relations in the midst of the Ukraine war

Economist Stephen Roach said the “best thing” China could do now was broker a peace deal between Russia and Ukraine.

“There is only one person in the world who, I think, has influence over Vladimir Putin – and that is [Chinese President] Xi Jinping,” Roach told CNBC’s “Squawk Box Asia.”

“I mean, China really holds the trump card here and I think it’s up to Xi to seize the moment,” he added.

Fighting has intensified in many cities in Ukraine and Putin has shown no signs of backing down.

The United States, the United Kingdom, and the European Union were quick to hit Russia with sanctions after it invaded Ukraine. However, China said it would not participate in the sanctions and refused to describe Russia’s attack on Ukraine as an invasion.

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China also abstained from voting on a UN resolution reprimanding Russia for invading Ukraine.

Instead, Beijing strengthened the negotiations And he moved further away from Russia than was filmed in early February during a high-level meeting between Xi and Putin. During that meeting on the opening day of the Beijing Winter Olympics, Leaders Announced “Without Borders” Partnershippromising further cooperation against the West.

Instead, Roach said, China should “threaten to pull the rug out” if Putin does not play ball. He said it would be wrong for Beijing to double down on its partnership with Moscow when the world is putting extraordinary pressure on Russia. Doing so, Roach said, would characterize China as guilty of being associated “for a long, long time.”

“He cannot afford to continue on this path—that would be a huge mistake of historical proportions for Xi Jinping,” Roach said.

CNBC’s Evelyn Cheng contributed to this report.

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