Biden presses Xi Jinping on China’s support for Russia

US President Joe Biden expounded on Friday during a video call with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping the consequences that China could face from the United States if it gives economic or military aid to Russia for its invasion of Ukraine.

There was no indication that he got any collateral in response.

In a statement issued after the nearly two-hour-long conversation, China’s Foreign Ministry deplored the “conflict and provocation” that “does not benefit anyone,” but did not directly blame Russia or comment on next steps. .

“China has to make a decision for itself, about where it wants to be and how it wants history to look at it and see its actions,” said White House press secretary Jen Psaki.

He declined to detail the possible consequences Biden outlined to the Chinese president if his country supports the Russian invasion.

But a senior administration official who briefed reporters after the call between the leaders said Biden brought up the economic isolation Russia has faced — including sanctions that have hit the economy and the suspension of operations of major Western companies — while trying to underscore the costs that China could incur.

Before the conversation, Psaki pointed to Beijing’s “rhetorical backing” for Putin and “lack of condemnation” of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Hua Chunying, a spokesperson for China’s Foreign Ministry, responded by calling the US government “high-handed” for implying that China risks falling on the wrong side of history.

The two leaders also discussed differences over Taiwan. On Friday, hours before the meeting between Biden and Xi, the Chinese aircraft carrier Shandong passed through the Taiwan Strait, a reminder of China’s threat to assert its claims by force. The United States is legally bound to ensure the self-governing island can defend itself and treats threats against it with “serious concern.”

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The discussion between the leaders had been brewing since Biden and Xi held a virtual summit in November, but differences between Washington and Beijing over the war in Ukraine were at the center of the conversation on Friday.

China also sought to highlight its calls for negotiations and humanitarian aid donations to Ukraine, while accusing the United States of provoking Russia and fueling the conflict by sending weapons to Ukraine. Xi also reiterated his criticism of the sanctions imposed on Russia over the invasion, according to Chinese state media. As on previous occasions, Xi did not use the terms “war” or “invasion” to refer to Russia’s actions.

“As leaders of major countries, we should think about properly solving global problems and, more importantly, global stability and the production and lives of billions of people,” Xi said, according to Chinese media.

In an attempt to show international support for China’s position, state broadcaster CCTV said Xi discussed Ukraine on the phone with South African President Cyril Ramaphosa and Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, adding that the two leaders’ positions were ” extremely close.”

The long-tense relationship between the United States and China has worsened since the start of the Biden administration, who has repeatedly criticized Beijing for military provocations against Taiwan, human rights abuses against ethnic minorities and efforts to silence activists. pro-democracy in Hong Kong.

But ties may have dropped to their lowest level now with the Russian invasion.

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