President Joe Biden will speak with Chinese leader Xi Jinping on March 18 by telephone to discuss a range of urgent issues, including China’s stance on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and economic competition between Washington and Beijing, White House press secretary Jen Psaki announced on March 17.
Psaki described the call as “part of our ongoing efforts to maintain open lines of communication between the United States and the PRC [People’s Republic of China].”
The announcement follows warnings from Biden officials that the regime in Beijing would face consequences if it chooses to help Russia evade Western sanctions for its aggression against Ukraine.
It also follows more than seven hours of talks between U.S. national security adviser Jake Sullivan and China’s top diplomat, Yang Jiechi, in Rome on March 14, when the topics of discussion included Taiwan and North Korea, as well as the Ukraine crisis.
A senior administration official described the meeting as “intense.”
“They had an extensive conversation on Russia/Ukraine, with the national security adviser laying out where we are, how we got there, and what the risks are that we see lying ahead,” the official said.
“We do have deep concerns about China’s alignment with Russia at this time, and the national security adviser was direct about those concerns and the potential implications and consequences of certain actions.”
The meeting in Rome was in response to reports that U.S. officials believed that Moscow had asked Beijing for military and economic aid, and that the regime had signaled its willingness to help. Both Russia and China have denied the report.
Less than three weeks before Russia’s invasion, Xi and President Vladimir Putin met in Beijing, during which the two leaders declared a “no limits” strategic partnership.
Since the attack, Beijing has refused to condemn Russia’s actions or join Western sanctions, a stance widely viewed as tacitly supporting Moscow, which has drawn growing international criticism.
Russian Finance Minister Anton Siluanov this week said the country was counting on China to help it contain the fallout from the unprecedented economic sanctions leveled by Western nations. Siluanov said sanctions had deprived Moscow of access to $300 billion of its $640 billion in gold and foreign exchange reserves, and added that there was pressure on Beijing to shut off more.
“We have part of our gold and foreign exchange reserves in the Chinese currency, in yuan. And we see what pressure is being exerted by Western countries on China in order to limit mutual trade with China. Of course, there is pressure to limit access to those reserves,” he said.
“But I think that our partnership with China will still allow us to maintain the cooperation that we have achieved, and not only maintain, but also increase it in an environment where Western markets are closing.”