Chinese President Stands up to U.S. Pressure on Sanctions and Taiwan

On March 18 Chinese President Xi Jinping and US President Joe Biden held a two-hour phone call, their first since November, long before the Russian military operation was launched in Ukraine. In the meantime, many of the consensus items agreed upon by the two Presidents in November have not been followed up in practice by Washington. The call this time was initiated by the White House explicitly for the purpose of putting pressure on China to support the strong-arm measures the U.S. has placed on Moscow. And Joe Biden, according to the U.S. readout following the meeting, did indeed threaten his counterpart with similar measures if the Chinese should attempt to provide “material support” to Russia or even help them avoid the sanctions.

The Chinese readout of the presidential discussion, which was considerably more extensive, did not mention the threats from the U.S. side at all. It noted, on the other hand, that President Xi clearly indicated to President Biden that China would like to see the military operations in Ukraine ended as soon as possible and that it was fully involved in providing humanitarian assistance to those who had been displaced. He went a step further in indicating  that all sides should promote peace efforts. (An implicit criticism of Washington’s duplicity in talking peace, while at the same time providing Ukraine with more and more military equipment, thus prolonging the war.)

Xi furthermore made clear that China was not in favor of the imposition of the bilateral sanctions imposed by the U.S. and the  NATO countries as they lacked UN authorization, and would only exacerbate the situation in Ukraine. In addition, he said they could lead to devastating consequences for the world economy and the people’s livelihood. If President Biden thought he would succeed in getting China to support the sanctions, he was seriously mistaken.

The Chinese President also pointed to the need for the U.S. and NATO to conduct a dialogue with Russia “to address the crux of the Ukraine crisis and ease the security concerns of both Russia and Ukraine.” Using a pointed Chinese saying, he said, “He who tied the bell to the tiger must take it off,” a not-so-subtle jab at the moves to expand NATO, which were an underlying cause for the Russian reaction. Xi called for a rejection of “bloc confrontation” and, more importantly, for the need to “build step by step a balanced, effective and sustainable security architecture for the region and for the world,” a demand which is central to the Schiller Institute’s international campaign.

Chinese officials have repeatedly made clear that while they are not at all happy with the continued conflict in Ukraine, and will make independent efforts to put an end to it, they will not break their relationship with Russia nor will they cease conducting legitimate trade with their important neighbor.

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