WASHINGTON (NewsNation) — Key figures for a war half a world away, President Joe Biden and China’s Xi Jinping spoke for nearly two hours on Friday as the White House looked to deter Beijing from providing military or economic assistance for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
China’s Foreign Ministry was the first to issue a readout of the video conversation, deploring “conflict and confrontation” as “not in anyone’s interest,” without assigning any blame to Russia.
Ahead of the call, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Biden would question Xi about Beijing’s “rhetorical support” of Putin and an “absence of denunciation” of Russia’s invasion.
Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying pushed back, calling the U..S. administration’s suggestions that China risks falling on the wrong side of history “overbearing.”
NewsNation’s Leland Vittert warned of treating China like Russia when dealing with Ukraine since it backfired for the White House.
“We’ve heard this word consequences a couple of times from Psaki, as it relates to the Chinese helping the Russians. What’s interesting is if you play the sound of the warnings to China, about helping Russia, they’re almost identical to the language in the verbiage that is used when the White House was trying to tell Vladimir Putin not to invade Ukraine,” Vittert said on “Morning in America.” “So it’s unclear why the White House thinks that the same threats have consequences, severe consequences prices, and the like, is going to work with the Chinese when it clearly did not work with the Russians.”
China on Friday again sought to highlight its calls for negotiations and donations of humanitarian aid, while accusing the U.S. of provoking Russia and fueling the conflict by shipping arms to Ukraine.
China on Friday also sought to highlight its calls for negotiations and its donations of humanitarian aid, while accusing the U.S. of provoking Russia and fueling the conflict by shipping arms to Ukraine. Xi also renewed China’s criticism of sanctions imposed on Russia over the invasion, according to Chinese State Media. As in the past, Xi did not use the terms war or invasion to describe Russia’s actions.
“As leaders of major countries, we need to consider properly resolving global hotspot issues, and more importantly, global stability and the production and life of billions of people,” he was quoted as saying.
In an attempt to show international support for China’s position, state broadcaster CCTV said Xi also discussed Ukraine in phone calls with South African President Cyril Ramaphosa and Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, contending the leaders’ views were “extremely close.”
The U.S.-China relationship, long fraught, has only become more strained since the start of Biden’s presidency. Biden has repeatedly criticized China for military provocations against Taiwan, human rights abuses against ethnic minorities and efforts to squelch pro-democracy advocates in Hong Kong.
But the relationship may have reached a new low with the Russian invasion.
However, Vittert warned that the U.S. could not afford to impose potentially dramatic sanctions against China like it did with Russia.
“There’s no way to do to the Chinese economy, what we’ve done to the Russian economy, even the sanctions against Russia, as ineffective as they have been against Russia aren’t practical for the United States to do to China,” Vittert said. “That’s been the White House’s strategy so far, both with China and with Russia to not say what these consequences will be. It’s like a don’t test me kind of thing. They’re going to be so bad, you don’t want to find out. But so far, the Russians have been willing to take that risk, and they haven’t found anything that made them stop.”
Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Thursday reiterated that the Biden administration remains concerned that China is considering providing military equipment to Russia. He said Biden would make clear to Xi “that China will bear responsibility for any actions it takes to support Russia’s aggression, and we will not hesitate to impose costs.”
Xi and Putin met in early February, weeks before the invasion, with the Russian leader traveling to Beijing for the start of the Winter Olympics. During Putin’s visit, the two leaders issued a 5,000-word statement declaring limitless “friendship.”
Beijing’s leadership would like to be supportive of Russia but also recognizes how badly the Russian military action is going as an overmatched Ukrainian military has put up stiff resistance, according to a Western official familiar with current intelligence assessments.
The official, who was not authorized to comment and spoke on the condition of anonymity, said Beijing is weighing the potential “reputational blowback” of being associated with the Russian camp. The Chinese response to Russia’s request for help “is in the process of being formulated,” the official added.
Though seen as siding with Russia, China has also reached out to Ukraine, with its ambassador to the country on Monday quoted as saying, “China is a friendly country for the Ukrainian people. As an ambassador, I can responsibly say that China will forever be a good force for Ukraine, both economically and politically.”
“We have seen how great the unity of the Ukrainian people is, and that means its strength,” Fan Xianrong was quoted by Ukraine’s state news service Ukrinform as telling regional authorities in the western city of Lviv, to where the Chinese Embassy has relocated.
Despite tensions in U.S.-China relations, Biden and Xi have sought to keep the leader-to-leader dialogue open and have become familiar with each other through their political rise.
You can watch the full interview with Leland Vittert on “Morning in America” below.