What to expect from the phone call between Biden and Xi about the war in Ukraine

Of Guido Santevecchi

China and the US will return to talk to each other tomorrow at the highest level. The two presidents have already met 11 times in the past, and Xi has called him an old friend. But does Beijing really want to distance itself from the embrace with Putin?

They hadn’t spoken since November: now Joe Biden has decided to call Xi Jinping to keep the communication channels between the United States and China open, discuss the war in Ukraine and economic competition between the two superpowers, the White House spokesperson said announcing that the talks will take place tomorrow, Friday, March 18.

clear that Joe Biden is trying to speed up his policyto try to overtake the inevitable advance of the Russian tanks.

It is unclear whether Xi Jinping, who has hitherto been involved in a balancing act, will be interested in giving him a foothold. to intercede with Vladimir Putin (provided that the Russian leader wants and can go back).

Behind the war fog of US intelligence revelations on military supplies requested from Moscow to Beijing, there is always Washington’s key request: Does Xi really think it pays him in the long run to align himself with Vladimir Putin?

There would be serious consequences for ChinaNational security adviser Jake Sullivan told Communist foreign policy strategist Yang Jiechi on Monday in Rome. Perhaps the answer was possibleif the two presidents have decided to talk to each other tomorrow, or maybe Biden has decided it’s time to try it all out before China makes a final choice: US intelligence revealed that Moscow has also asked for military support from Beijing and claims that the Chinese could at least grant non-lethal supplies of combat food rations and radio communications material in the field battle (the Chinese responded by denouncing the disinformation with wicked intentions).

The Biden-Xi remote summit, however, a positive signindicates that the two superpowers have an interest in dialogue.

There are two opposing theories of thinking on the Chinese attitude: that pessimist argues that having declared an unlimited partnership with Vladimir Putin on February 4, receiving him with full honors in Beijing, he will not be able to make a U-turn, so as not to lose face in front of the comrades of the Communist leadership.

The front optimistic noted course adjustments: on the first day of the Russian aggression, the Chinese refused to call it an invasion, using the Russian expression special military operation; then they went ahead with the situation in Ukraine that we didn’t want to see; but when Xi spoke to Macron and Scholz made up his mind to see the flames of war in Europe. And at the United Nations, China showed that there is a limit to supposed brotherhood with Russia, when it abstained in the condemnation vote on aggression, without using the power of veto. Just yesterday, the Chinese ambassador to the United States wrote in the Washington Post that China is the largest trading partner of both Russia and Ukraine and the largest importer of oil and natural gas in the world. The conflict between Russia and Ukraine is not good for China and if we had known in advance we would have done our best to avoid it … our impartial position. It seems like a distancing from the limitless embrace promised to Putin. Or perhaps just a tactical maneuver to take more time, to wait for the Russian Army to reach its objectives in Ukraine and take advantage of them, perhaps entering the field at the last moment to broker a ceasefire which at that point Moscow would be willing to grant.

Biden evidently wants to listen to Xi to try to decipher his thinking. And Xi will want to understand if a contribution to extinguishing the flames in Ukraine could open up to him a new political credit line in Washington.

The two leaders know each other well: Barack Obama in 2009 had delegated the then Vice President Biden to deepen the relationship with Xi Jinpingever since Xi was still the number two in the Chinese nomenklatura and then later when in the fall of 2012 he became general secretary of the Communist Party.

Biden is the American politician who has spent the most time with Xireceiving him in America and visiting him in China for a total of 11 times.

The last time they spoke via videoconference in November 2021, the Chinese leader greeted the American president with a broad smile calling him lao peng youold friendan important expression: in Mandarin etiquette it is reserved for authoritative personalities with whom a relationship of respect has been established over the years.

But the form is not always substance. The United States and China have slipped into an ideological confrontation, after the commercial competition launched by Donald Trump. Biden’s arrival confirmed that the choice to contain the rise of China by now consolidated in Washington politics, regardless of which party controls the administration, Republican or Democrat. Before the Ukrainian crisis erupted, Biden had indicated in China (with its expansionism in the South China Sea, the repression of Hong Kong, the aims on Taiwan, the violation of human rights in Xinjiang), the main foreign policy problem of the United States. And he had worked to forge new alliances and containment arrangements in the Indo-Pacific.

According to analysts, the real magnet that pushed Xi to embrace Putin is precisely the distrust and common resentment towards the United States, the fear of NATO (which for the Chinese are called Quad and Aukus, the two structures of political cooperation- military involving rival powers of China, from Australia to India).

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