China has repeatedly called for peace talks in Ukraine. What it has not done is press Russia to negotiate an end to a war that has already cost thousands of lives, displaced millions and threatened to disrupt the world’s economy and even food security.

Despite calls from other world leaders to play a more proactive role, China has instead tried to keep its distance. It has urged peace but not stepped up to mediate or organize talks, leaving such efforts to far smaller powers, including France, Turkey and Israel.

Intervening more forcefully, in the view of officials in Beijing, is fraught with political and economic risks that the country’s leader, Xi Jinping, appears reluctant to take. Instead, it has sought to walk a careful line between the international outrage over Russia’s invasion and support for one of its most powerful partners.