Xi, Biden Preparing to speak as mistrust between the United States and China increases
Xi, Biden Preparing to speak as mistrust between the United States and China increases

Xi, Biden Preparing to speak as mistrust between the United States and China increases

President Biden and Chinese leader Xi Jinping plan to hold conferences while the United States works to deter China from deepening its involvement with Russia during its invasion of Ukraine.

The call, scheduled for Friday, comes as Beijing tries to present itself as eager to help prevent Ukraine crisis from deteriorating further – without giving up in line with Moscow.

Mr. Biden is preparing to deliver a message to Mr. Xi said there would be consequences if Beijing’s support moves beyond words to action, administration officials said. Foreign Minister Antony Blinken said on Thursday that Mr. Biden “will make it clear that China will take responsibility for any action it takes to support Russia’s aggression, and we will not hesitate to impose costs.”

It’s a message similar to the one that US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan handed to Mr. Xi’s top foreign affairs official, Yang Jiechi, during what was described by U.S. officials as an intense day-long meeting in Rome on Monday.

U.S. Security Adviser Jake Sullivan, on the right, met with Xi Jinping’s top foreign affairs official, Yang Jiechi, on the left in Rome earlier this week.


Jin Mamengni / Associated Press

Mr. Xi is likely to present China as a neutral party to the conflict during Friday’s call with Mr. Biden – and one who can facilitate negotiations to resolve the Ukraine crisis, according to foreign policy experts close to the Chinese government.

The Ukraine crisis further erodes the already low level of trust between the world’s two largest economies and major military powers, exacerbating their rivalry over global influence. Mr. Xi has formed a close partnership with the Russian president

Vladimir Putin

aimed at undermining US dominance, and some in the Biden administration would like to use the Ukraine war, which has aroused widespread condemnation of Russia, to pry Beijing away from Moscow.

“This is an opportunity for President Biden to assess where President Xi stands,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Thursday. “The fact that China has not condemned what Russia is doing speaks for itself a lot.”

Meanwhile, the Chinese leader is likely to urge Mr Biden to honor a commitment that Chinese officials say he made during the leaders’ last phone call in November not to try to change China’s system, people said. While Washington continues to build alliances to pressure China, Beijing sees this assurance as crucial to preventing a direct conflict between the two superpowers.

“We are in a delicate moment” in relations between China and the United States, said Evan Medeiros, a former national security official in the Obama administration, on Thursday at an event sponsored by the German Marshall Fund.

Mr. Medeiros, now at Georgetown University, said the Biden administration is likely to pave alternative paths for relations, including “some darkness” if Beijing intensifies its support for Moscow, or a more moderate course where the two powers deal with tensions.

Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping have become close in the past decade, toasting with vodka and exchanging friendship medals. As the West sanctions Russia over its invasion of Ukraine, China could help, but only to a certain extent. Photo illustration: Sharon Shi

After being taken by surprise in the early days of Russian aggression, foreign policy experts close to the Chinese government say, Beijing has now embarked on a clearer strategy: It will not oppose Russia and it will support Ukraine – what is described in China as “charitable neutrality”.

The stance reflects that Mr Xi is sticking to his strategic focus on creating common cause with Russia to guard against the US-led West while still trying to present China as a responsible world leader.

At the Thursday event, Mr. Medeiros Beijing’s position as “pro-Russian neutrality.”

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Sir. At a summit just weeks before the invasion, Xi and Mr Putin issued a declaration of solidarity outlining a vision for a changed world order, which led many in the West to label China and Russia as a new “axis” and to be about a major battle for China’s international reputation. Beijing has denied knowing of Mr Putin’s plans to invade in advance.

For the Chinese leadership, foreign policy experts say, the United States remains its biggest strategic competitor, and retaining Russia as its partner will give Beijing some influence over Washington.

This means that China is likely to try to maintain its economic ties with Russia, but will continue to refrain from helping Moscow evade economic and other sanctions imposed by the United States.

Before Russia invaded Ukraine, Beijing had agreed to buy oil and gas from Russia in deals worth an estimated $ 117.5 billion. Chinese foreign analysts say Beijing is likely to continue these agreements as long as they do not violate sanctions against Russia, but are unlikely to provide Russia with weapons and other military assistance.

In Beijing, the planned Biden-Xi call is seen as a sign that the United States needs China to help stop the fighting. Some government officials have said China could do more to help the United States de-escalate the situation if the Biden administration lets go of its tough policies.

Chinese leaders have been frustrated that the Biden administration has largely left Trump-era tariffs in place and expanded the list of Chinese companies blacklisted for their alleged support for the Chinese military and Beijing’s campaign to forcibly assimilate Uighurs in the western region Xinjiang.

“The United States can probably influence the degree of China’s partnership with Russia, but not the direction,” said Yun Sun, director of the China program at the Stimson Center, a Washington-based think tank.

Kyiv remains under heavy fire

Ukraine’s capital imposes a 36-hour curfew, while Russian forces push against the city limits

Firefighters worked to put out a fire after a bomb attack on an apartment building in Kiev. The city imposes a 36-hour curfew starting late Tuesday.

Vadim Ghirda / Associated Press

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Beijing has so far refused to criticize Russia or even to label its actions in Ukraine as an invasion, and to express sympathy with the security concerns Moscow has cited as one of the causes of the military attack. China has also been shown to coordinate with Russia on what the United States says is disinformation, with Chinese Foreign Ministry officials reinforcing Russian claims that the United States supports biological weapons research in Ukraine.

U.S. officials have said Moscow has asked Beijing for economic and military assistance. On Thursday, Mr Blinken said: “We are concerned that they are considering assisting Russia directly with military equipment for use in Ukraine.” China has denied that it has provided support for Russia’s war of any kind. Moscow has denied that it has asked China for military assistance.

“Let me say this responsibly: Allegations that China knew about, agreed to or tacitly supported this war are pure disinformation,” China’s US Ambassador to Qin Gang said in a comment to the Washington Post this week. “All these allegations serve only the purpose of shifting the blame to and throwing mud at China.”

The White House ‘Ms. Psaki declined to elaborate on the current US assessment of any Chinese aid to Moscow and did not outline what actions Washington would take if that were to happen.

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