President Joe Biden sought to use a 110-minute video call on Friday to deter his Chinese counterpart from assisting Russia in its war on Ukraine, a pivotal moment that could determine the trajectory of the bloody conflict.
President Xi Jinping told Biden that both the US and China have a responsibility for ensuring peace, according to state media, an oblique suggestion he is uninterested in escalating the conflict. Afterward, however, the White House said its concerns over Beijing’s possible intervention have not been assured.
“We have that concern,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said. “The President detailed what the implications and consequences would be if China provides material support to Russia as it conducts brutal attacks against Ukrainian cities and civilians. And that is something we’ll be watching and the world will be watching.”
Senior administration officials described the call as “direct,” “substantive” and “detailed,” but would not offer many details about the lengthy conversation. The bulk of the leaders’ discussion centered on the war in Ukraine and the implications the crisis would have for US-China relations and the “international order,” an official said. But the administration refused to publicly detail what those consequences would be.
Biden’s goal in speaking with Xi directly was partly to ascertain where exactly the Chinese President stood, and he remained unclear afterward whether he’d gained much clarity. He did not make any specific requests of Xi, the White House said, choosing instead to offer a broader view of the international situation.
“China has to make a decision for themselves on where they want to stand and how they want the history books to look at them and view their actions,” PSAKI said. “That is a decision for President Xi to make.”