President Joe Biden spent two hours Friday trying to bend Chinese President Xi Jinping to his will, only to have China issue a statement after the video call criticizing any sanctions America might impose against China if that nation helps Russia.
Biden “described the implications and consequences if China provides material support to Russia as it conducts brutal attacks against Ukrainian cities and civilians,” a White House summary of the call said.
“Sanctions are certainly one tool in the tool box,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said in a media briefing, according to Reuters.
But a statement from China’s Foreign Ministry indicated China was not happy with that possibility, according to The Washington Post.
“Implementing all-round and indiscriminate sanctions, it is the common people who suffer,” the statement said.
Sanctions will “also trigger serious crises in the global economy, trade, finance, energy, food, industrial chain and supply chain, making the already difficult world economy even worse and causing irreparable losses,” the statement said.
2. The Chinese readout said US & NATO should talk to Russia to try to resolve the crisis and address the security concerns of Russia & Ukraine. It also emphasized the tensions between China & US over Taiwan before it mentioned Ukraine. Here it is: https://t.co/wZNEnmZiEI
— Edward Wong (@ewong) March 18, 2022
“Xi Jinping pointed out that the situation in Ukraine has developed to such a point that China does not want to see it,” the statement said. “China has always advocated peace and opposed war, which is a Chinese historical and cultural tradition.”
China has not condemned Russia’s war in Ukraine or called it an invasion.
Although the call was billed as the White House’s effort to keep China from helping Russia during Russia’s war against Ukraine, “the President really wasn’t making specific requests of China,” a U.S. senior administration official later said on a background call for media outlets, according to a White House transcript of the call.
“You know, I think our view is that China will make its own decisions, and so I’d describe that as sort of the nature of the call,” said the senior official, who was not identified.
“The call is unlikely to produce any substantive changes to China’s position,” Amanda Hsiao, senior China analyst at the International Crisis Group, said, according to The Washington Post.
“It will not pressure Moscow into a settlement or (to) openly support sanctions, because Beijing likely calculates that its relationship with Washington will not improve even if it does so.”
The Biden administration has been hoping China will urge Russia to end the war.
“We believe China in particular has a responsibility to use its influence with President Putin and to defend the international rules and principles that it professes to support,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Thursday.
If the #US had honored its assurances, refrained from repeatedly expanding #NATO and pledged that NATO would not admit #Ukraine, and had not fanned the flames by supplying weapons and ammunition to Ukraine, the situation would have been very different.
— Hua Chunying 华春莹 (@SpokespersonCHN) March 17, 2022
One expert said China’s lack of action reflects its inability to see which step works to its advantage.
“This war is a massive disruption at a terrible time for China,” said David Shullman, senior director of the Atlantic Council’s Global China Hub.
“Beijing doesn’t know how this will end. … They don’t see an opportunity right now — they’re in a bind and trying to find their way through it.”
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