President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping are scheduled to meet on Friday, as the White House warns Beijing that providing military or economic support to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine will result in serious retaliation from Washington and others.
The discussion has been in the works since Biden and Xi conducted a virtual summit in November, but the call is anticipated to concentrate on tensions between Washington and Beijing over Russian President Vladimir Putin’s handling of his three-week-old conflict against Ukraine.
Biden will challenge Xi about Beijing’s “rhetorical backing” for Putin and the “lack of denunciation” of Russia’s ruthless invasion of Ukraine, according to White House press secretary Jen Psaki.
Psaki stated, “This is an opportunity to judge where President Xi stands.”
China emphasized its appeals for diplomacy and humanitarian relief on Friday, accusing the United States of aggravating Russia and stoking the war by delivering armaments to Ukraine.
“China has consistently advocated for every effort to minimize civilian losses,” Zhao Lijian, a spokeswoman for the Foreign Ministry, told reporters at a regular briefing. “Which is more important to Ukrainian civilians: food and sleeping bags or machine guns and artillery?” It’s simple to respond.”
The long-troubled relationship between the United States and China has only become worse since Biden took office. Biden has regularly chastised China for military provocations towards Taiwan, human rights violations against ethnic minorities, and efforts in Hong Kong to silence pro-democracy activists.
The Russian incursion, though, may have brought the relationship to a new low.
Xi’s government sought to distance itself from Putin’s attack in Ukraine in the days following his deployment, but avoided condemning Moscow. At other times, Beijing’s actions have been confrontational, such as reinforcing Russian assertions that Ukraine was running chemical and biological weapons facilities with US help.
The US notified Asian and European partners earlier this week that American intelligence had assessed that China had signaled to Russia that it would be prepared to give both military and financial support to help Russia avoid the effect of harsh sanctions imposed by the West.
On Thursday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken underlined the Biden administration’s worry that China is considering selling military hardware to Russia. He said Biden will make it plain to Xi that “any steps China takes to encourage Russia’s aggressiveness will be held accountable, and we will not hesitate to impose penalties.”
Jake Sullivan, the White House national security advisor, and Yang Jiechi, the senior Chinese foreign policy adviser, met in Rome earlier this week for a seven-hour discussion about the Russian invasion and other matters.
Prior to the Rome discussions, Sullivan stated that the US will not tolerate China or any other nation assisting Russia in evading the economic sanctions imposed by the US and its allies since the Feb. 24 incursion.
According to Sullivan, the US decided that China knew Putin “was preparing something” before the invasion of Ukraine, but that the Chinese government “may not have recognized the full depth” of what Putin had in mind.
Xi and Putin met in early February, only weeks before the invasion, when the Russian president was in Beijing for the Winter Olympics. During Putin’s visit, the two leaders published a 5,000-word statement declaring their “friendship” to be endless.
According to a Western person familiar with current intelligence assessments, Beijing’s leadership would like to be supportive of Russia, but it also realizes how badly the Russian military assault is going, as an outmatched Ukrainian force has put up fierce opposition.
Beijing is contemplating the possible “reputational fallout” of being connected with the Russian camp, according to the official, who was not allowed to talk and spoke on the condition of anonymity. The official said that China’s answer to Russia’s request for assistance is “in the process of being developed.”
China has reached out to Ukraine, despite being regarded as siding with Russia, with its ambassador to the nation declaring on Monday, “China is a friendly country for the Ukrainian people.” As an ambassador, I can confidently state that China will continue to be a positive economic and political force for Ukraine.”
“We have observed how big the Ukrainian people’s solidarity is, and that signifies their power,” Fan Xianrong told regional officials in the western city of Lviv, where the Chinese Embassy has relocated, according to Ukraine’s state news source Ukrinform.
Despite concerns in US-China relations, Biden and Xi have strived to maintain open leader-to-leader interaction and have gotten acquainted through their respective careers.
When they were both vice presidents, Biden and Xi first met on journeys around the United States and China, and their discussions made an indelible mark on both leaders. The call on Friday will be the fourth between the two presidents since Biden took office.