(CNN) –– President Joe Biden tried to use a 110-minute video call to dissuade his Chinese counterpart from helping Russia in its bloody war against Ukraine, a pivotal moment that could determine the course of the bloody conflict.
Biden “outlined the implications and consequences if China provides material support to Russia” in his call with President Xi Jinping, the White House said.
“The president underscored his support for a diplomatic resolution of the crisis,” the White House added.
Biden was “blunt,” “substantive” and “detailed,” a senior administration official said in a call with reporters Friday afternoon.
The bulk of their conversation focused on the war in Ukraine and the implications the crisis would have for both US-China relations and the “international order,” the official said. Biden offered an assessment of Putin’s actions in his conflict with Ukraine and “made clear” the implications and consequences of China helping Russia in its war.
The administration did not immediately detail what those consequences would be in either the written reading of the meeting or the call with reporters.
Biden’s goal in speaking directly to Xi was, in part, to find out exactly where he stood. China’s statements about the war in Ukraine have stopped short of denouncing the invasion, but neither have they offered explicit support. Xi has offered nominal backing for Russia-Ukraine mediation efforts, but China has also encouraged Russian disinformation about the conflict.
All this left Xi in a murky position, which the United States hoped to clear up with Biden’s call.
The United States had already warned its European and Asian allies that China had been willing to provide Russia with military and financial aid, which Moscow had requested as the invasion headed into its third week. Officials said Beijing was still formulating how to respond, raising the stakes for Biden’s intervention on Friday.
China’s view of the so-called
Chinese state media reported shortly after the conversation ended that Xi told Biden that conflict and confrontation are in no one’s interest. “State-to-state relations cannot reach the stage of military confrontation. Conflict and confrontation are in no one’s interest. Peace and security are the most precious treasures of the international community,” Xi said on the call, according to he cited CCTV.
In this sense, Xi maintained that China and the United States have a responsibility to work for peace, according to the state media. “As permanent members of the UN Security Council and the world’s two largest economies, we should not only lead the development of China-U.S. relations on the right track, but also shoulder our international responsibilities and make efforts for peace. and the tranquility of the world,” he continued.
“The world is not peaceful or calm,” Xi acknowledged. “The Ukraine crisis is something we don’t want to see.”
The first conversation in months
This is the first conversation between the two leaders in months, according to the White House. Furthermore, it comes just days after US diplomatic information suggested that China has expressed some openness to providing Russia with requested military and financial aid in its war against Ukraine. It is not yet clear whether China intends to provide Russia with such assistance, US officials familiar with the information told CNN earlier this week.
Precisely, the call comes at a possible turning point for ties between the United States and China. White House officials are watching with growing concern the budding partnership between Xi and Russian President Vladimir Putin, and China’s response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has left Western observers concerned. Beijing appears to be neither fully supportive nor outright opposed, creating an uncertain stance that Biden was aiming to figure out, and which he hoped to influence, when he spoke with Xi.
Biden and Xi have a long history, and very different worldviews
Biden likes to cite the long hours he spent with Xi when they were both serving as vice presidents of their country. He has claimed to have spent more time with Xi than any other world leader.
However, they have not seen eye-to-eye since Biden took office and Xi has not left China during the covid-19 pandemic. That has left them meeting in web conferences or talking on the phone, which a dynamic Biden says he doesn’t find ideal.
He and his team have worked to establish a targeted competition policy with China. They maintained the tariffs imposed by former President Donald Trump and criticized China for failing to honor its commitments in a Trump-era trade deal.
Before the conflict in Ukraine, Biden seemed intent on reorienting American foreign policy toward Asia, where he sees the competition between the United States and China as a defining challenge of the next century.
And while the Ukraine crisis has preoccupied the White House in recent weeks, officials insist they can still uphold their overriding vision.