NATO and the United States should hold talks with Russia to resolve the “causes of the war” in Ukraine, Chinese President Xi Jinping told his American counterpart, Joe Biden, in the almost two-hour telematic meeting that both have held this Friday to discuss the invasion.
The long-awaited call, preceded by tension after Washington announced that Biden would warn his counterpart against any temptation to help Russia in the war in Ukraine, had a “constructive” and “sincere” character, according to the Chinese statement of the meeting. , distributed by the Xinhua news agency. The almost two-hour meeting began at 2:03 p.m., Spanish peninsular time (9:03 a.m. in Washington; 9:03 p.m. in Beijing) and ended at 3:52 p.m. Washington has not yet offered its version of the content of the call.
“The crisis in Ukraine has deteriorated to a point that we do not like to see,” said Xi, who considered that the immediate priorities to tackle the conflict should be the continuation of dialogue and negotiations, “avoid civilian casualties, prevent humanitarian crises and end the war as soon as possible. According to the Chinese version of the meeting, the Chinese president used the word “war”, which his government has avoided – as well as the term “invasion” – to refer to the Russian attack on Ukraine. China, said its head of state, “plays a constructive role” in resolving the crisis and is willing to continue humanitarian aid to Ukraine and other countries in need.
As he had indicated in his conversation, also online, with French President Emmanuel Macron and German Foreign Minister Olaf Scholz earlier this month about the conflict, the Chinese leader called for international support for the peace talks taking place between kyiv and Moscow. . “The more complicated the situation is, the more necessary it is to remain calm and rational,” he said, after calling for “political courage.”
“Again, events show us that relations between states cannot reach the level of confrontation. Conflict and confrontation are in no one’s interest,” the Chinese president said on Friday.
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Xi also demanded the lifting of the sanctions that the West has imposed against Russia as punishment for the invasion, and that the Chinese government considers that, “if they increase”, they will harm the global economic recovery. “They will trigger serious problems in global trade, finance, the energy sector, the food sector and supply chains, which will worsen the difficulties of the world economy and cause irreparable losses.”
The solution to the crisis, in the opinion of the Chinese leader, must also go through the opening of talks between NATO and the United States on one side and Russia on the other, “to resolve the origin of the Ukrainian crisis and address security concerns both from Russia and from Ukraine. Since the beginning of the invasion, Beijing has avoided condemning Moscow, its strategic partner, and has blamed Washington and the Atlantic Alliance for the conflict, for not having responded to the “legitimate security concerns” of the Government of Vladimir Putin.
To resolve the conflict in the long term, Xi said, it is necessary to “show mutual respect among the great powers, abandon the Cold War mentality, avoid confrontation, and gradually build a regional and global security architecture that is balanced, effective and sustainable”.
In their conversation, the two leaders also addressed the tensions in their bilateral relationship, increasingly that of two rivals. Biden, according to the Chinese version, assured that he does not want a confrontation with China nor does he support “Taiwan independence.” The situation of the self-governed island is one of the great stumbling blocks in the bilateral relationship: Beijing considers the island an inalienable part of its territory and accuses the United States of encouraging independence sentiment in that democracy.
Following Biden’s statement, Xi struck a conciliatory tone. “There have been differences in the past and today. The key is to manage those differences. A stable and well-developed Sino-US relationship is beneficial for both parties”, declared the leader of the Asian giant.
The statement distributed by Xinhua does not allude to what was anticipated as one of the main axes of the meeting, Biden’s intention to try to dissuade Beijing from aligning itself with Russia in the Ukrainian war.
Washington had announced hours before the conversation that it would warn Beijing of “serious consequences” if it tangibly supported Russia’s “unjustified” attack. This week the Biden Administration accused the Asian giant of being favorable to providing aid to Moscow, which in turn would have asked Beijing for economic and military assistance for the war. “We are concerned that they are considering giving direct support to Moscow with military equipment that would be used in Ukraine. Biden will clearly tell Xi that China will be held responsible for any act aimed at supporting Russian aggression and we will not hesitate to impose a cost on it,” said US diplomat Antony
Blinken. “We view with concern that China contemplates giving Russia direct military aid,” she added.
But the US government is not only afraid of defense assistance. He is also concerned about the possibility that the world’s second largest economy could try to help its strategic partner dodge sanctions imposed by the United States and its allies. Blinken’s is the most direct warning that Washington has issued to the Xi government since the beginning of the Russian invasion of Ukraine on February 24.
White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki explained in her daily appearance on Thursday that the two leaders “have a lot to discuss” and that the tone of the conversation was expected to be “frank and direct.” He also stated that the call, the fourth exchange held and, without a doubt, the most tense, was prepared during the face-to-face meeting in Rome between the White House National Security Adviser, Jake Sullivan, and the Chinese State Councilor. , Yang Jiechi, which lasted seven hours and was described by Psaki as “extraordinarily intense”.
Biden and Xi’s conversation comes amid rising tensions between two increasingly rival countries. China has steadfastly denied US accusations about its aspirations to assist Russia, calling it “disinformation.” This Friday, Wendy Sherman, Undersecretary of State, Washington’s second diplomatic authority, warned on CNN morning that Beijing must decide whether or not it wants to place itself on the right side of history or not.
The two leaders spoke directly for the last time in November, in a telematic meeting that the two countries carefully avoided calling a “summit.” Xi then called Biden an “old friend”; the American did not return the compliment. Xi said this Friday, according to the Xinhua agency, that since then “the international situation has changed enormously.”
So far it is not clear what kind of “consequences” Washington has in mind to punish Beijing if it concludes that this government helps Moscow with something more than passive complicity, which it has been demonstrating since the beginning of the invasion. The approval of sanctions against the second largest economy in the world could have serious effects on the global board. And in the United States: despite the tariffs, with which both countries have punished each other since 2018, the commercial relationship between the two giants is the largest in the world.
The gradual estrangement between Washington and Beijing has been matched by ever closer relations between China and Russia, two countries united by the perception of the United States as the common rival, a common vision of human rights, the desire for a new world order that gives them a central role and almost perfectly complementary economies and spheres of influence.
Xi and Russian President Vladimir Putin sealed this rapprochement with a joint declaration in which they assure that cooperation between their two countries “has no limits”, during their meeting on February 4 in Beijing. China is Russia’s main trading partner. Its bilateral exchanges set a record in 2021, the year in which they grew by 36% to 147,000 million dollars. In addition, the two powers have recently agreed to intensify the supply of coal and wheat, two of the products that are being crucial in the current war.
Neutral position leaning towards Moscow
Since the beginning of the Russian invasion, 20 days after that meeting and just after the Winter Olympics in Beijing, China has adopted a position of leaning neutrality towards its strategic partner. He has not condemned the war and avoids calling the Russian attack an “invasion.” Instead, he accuses NATO and the United States of precipitating the conflict by ignoring Russia’s “legitimate security concerns”.
But he has also made gestures towards Ukraine, to whose refugees he has sent a shipment of humanitarian aid worth five million yuan or 717,000 euros. He assures that he respects the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the States and his ambassador in the ex-Soviet country promised this week in Lviv, where the staff of the diplomatic legation has moved during the conflict, that China “will never attack”.
And, although he opposes international sanctions against Russia, which he considers “illegal” and “unilateral”, he has so far shown signs of respecting them. He has also declared his support for the peace talks between kyiv and Moscow and has expressed his willingness to play a role with the international community “in his own way” to prevent “tensions from escalating and even getting out of control.” .
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