WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden made a phone call for about two hours Friday morning with Chinese President Xi Jinping discussing Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The call was seen as a critical test on whether Biden could persuade China to stay on the sidelines of the Ukrainian conflict, and reject Russia’s requests for military or economic assistance.
Both Biden and Xi agreed on the need to promote peace and support the humanitarian crisis. But they strongly disagree on who is responsible for the suffering in Ukraine, and the Chinese leader who refuses to allow Russia to respond on its own by an illegal attack.
Instead, an official reading from Beijing made it clear that Xi’s position was that the US and Europe provoked Russian President Vladimir Putin to invade Ukraine by increasing NATO in Eastern Europe.
Biden’s warning to Xi
During the call, Biden “explained the impact and consequences if China provides tangible assistance to Russia,” the White House said.
Pentagon officials say last week Moscow requested military and economic assistance in Beijing to fight Ukraine, and that initial intelligence reports have suggested China have agreed.
After Friday’s call, no Chinese or American officials will say whether Biden has changed Xi’s thinking about Russia in any way.
The White House has stressed that Biden ‘s intention has never been to get direct confirmation from Xi that China will not help Russia, just to clarify the decisions facing Beijing.
“The president has described in detail the unified response, not only from governments around the world but also from the private sector, in Russia’s brutal violence in Ukraine,” a senior administration official told reporters on Friday afternoon.
Biden “made it clear that there may be consequences for those who will step in to support Russia at this time,” said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Beijing’s Vision of Ukraine
According to a telegram study from China’s Foreign Ministry, Xi told Biden that the United States and China have a responsibility to promote peace in Ukraine.
“The Ukraine crisis is not something we want to see,” Xi told Biden.
But as he criticized the cost to the people in Ukraine of the Russian invasion, Xi refused to blame Putin or the Kremlin directly for what happened there.
Instead, Xi suggested that Europe and the United States force Putin’s hand – echoing one of the points raised in Moscow.
“The one who tied the leopard must release it,” Xi told Biden, according to a lengthy report on a telephone call issued by the Foreign Ministry.
The Chinese saying is one that Xi has used before, and it means that anyone who has created a problem must solve it. In Xi’s view, Putin was enticed and NATO tied the knot.
Meanwhile, however, China said Xi had told Biden that the key priorities were “to keep the dialogue and negotiations going on, to prevent genocide, to prevent humanitarian crises, and to end hostilities as soon as possible.”
To that end, Beijing is “ready to provide humanitarian assistance to Ukraine and other affected countries,” a state report said.
The Chinese government said Xi also mentioned “a six-point plan on the humanitarian situation in Ukraine,” but the Foreign Ministry did not provide details on what that would include.
However, the fact that China will provide humanitarian assistance to Ukraine is a sign that, at the very least, the ironclad alliance of Xi and its ally Putin may be under pressure.
The partition of Russia
Proponents of her case have been working to make the actual transcript of this statement available online.
But unprecedented economic sanctions imposed on Russia by NATO members and G-7 countries in response to the attack left the Kremlin alone and, some analysts say, wishing for financial and military assistance.
Security officials said China appeared open to provide Russia with military equipment, but few indications were that China would go too far to help Moscow escape economic sanctions.
Beijing has little interest in engaging in economic warfare between Russia and other developed countries.
“China is not involved in the crisis, and does not want sanctions to affect China,” Foreign Minister Wang Yi said in a telephone call on Monday with Spanish Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Albares.
The call between Biden and Xi started just after 9 a.m. in the East and lasted just two hours. That’s an unusually long time for a call from the president and leader of the American enemy.
Xi and Biden “are of the view that China and the US need to respect each other, live in peace and avoid conflicts, and that both sides should increase communication and dialogue at all levels and in all spheres,” said the Chinese study.