Prof. ST Hsieh
Director, US-China Energy Industry Forum
March 18, 2022
The Biden-Xi virtual summit was barely 24 hours ago, there are already many analyses and comments. We are sure that more details will be made public than the official readouts. Here we look at one typical analysis from the US media.
The main theme of the virtual summit, from the US perspective, has been clear even before the summit: Beijing would face consequences if it provides “material support” to Russia amid its invasion of Ukraine.” But the US is much more concerned that the Ukraine war will facilitate a stronger Russia-China strategic partnership against the US.
China has denied that she received any request from Russia for material support and she advocates a peaceful ending of the Ukraine war, so it does not make sense for Biden to warn Xi personally that China would face (so far unknown) consequences from the US if it provides “material support” (also undefined) to Russia. Xi has been in direct contacts with major European leaders including Marcon on ending the Ukraine war. It is not clear that the US waring of facing “consequences” would be fully endorsed by US allies.
If Biden is focused on ending the bloody war in Ukraine, he could prod Xi to take an active role for cease fire talk. Because it is well known that China has special influence on Russia now. Obviously, Biden did not make such request: “The president really wasn’t making specific requests of China,” the official said.”
Further, “Biden this week announced a total of $1 trillion in aid that will be used to supply anti-aircraft defense systems, anti-tank weapons and other arms to Ukraine.” It is not clear when all the US promised arms will reach Ukraine, but US$1 trillion is a very significant sum: the 20 year of Afghan war cost the US around US$2.3 trillion. Should we expect the Ukraine war will last another 10 years? Fortunately, there will be no US boots on the ground of Ukraine!
It also should be pointed out that “Under the Taiwan Relations Act of 1979, the U.S. is committed to providing Taiwan with arms for its defense. The law does not commit the U.S. to sending troops to Taiwan to defend it.” The Taiwan Relation Act is a US domestic law, it has now international status. For example, before the US sending any troops to Taiwan anytime, the US should specifically request permission from the people of Taiwan. Otherwise, the US will be committing the same war crime as US is charging Russia invading Ukraine right now.
Biden warns Beijing: No ‘material support’ to Russia
President Biden warned Chinese President Xi Jinping that Beijing would face consequences if it provides “material support” to Russia amid its invasion of Ukraine, the White House said Friday.
“President Biden detailed our efforts to prevent and then respond to the invasion, including by imposing costs on Russia,” said a White House readout of the call published hours after it concluded. “He described the implications and consequences if China provides material support to Russia as it conducts brutal attacks against Ukrainian cities and civilians.”
The White House has not detailed what those consequences would be. Biden administration officials also repeatedly declined to characterize Xi’s comments on the call.
The two leaders spoke for nearly two hours on Friday morning on a secure video call, which a senior administration official described as “direct,” “substantive” and “detailed” and largely focused on Russia’s war in Ukraine.
“We’re concerned that they’re considering directly assisting Russia with military equipment to use in Ukraine,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken told reporters on Thursday, the day the White House announced plans for the phone call.
The senior administration official told reporters that Biden did not make “specific requests” of Xi when questioned if Biden asked China to intervene to stop the Russian assault.
“The president really wasn’t making specific requests of China,” the official said. “He was laying out his assessment of the situation, what he thinks makes sense and the implications of certain actions.”
Asked why that was the case later Friday, White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters: “Because China has to make a decision for themselves about where they want to stand.”
Psaki said that, following the call, the administration was still concerned about the possibility of China aiding Russia militarily.
“That is something we will be watching and the world will be watching,” she said.
A Chinese readout of the call said that Xi told Biden “that China does not want to see the situation in Ukraine to come to this.” Xi also affirmed support for peace negotiations between Russia and Ukraine, according to the readout, which also indicated he did not condemn Russia’s actions in Ukraine.
“All sides need to jointly support Russia and Ukraine in having dialogue and negotiation that will produce results and lead to peace,” the readout posted by China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said. “The US and NATO should also have dialogue with Russia to address the crux of the Ukraine crisis and ease the security concerns of both Russia and Ukraine.”
Both readouts indicated the two leaders tasked their teams to follow up on the conversation in the days ahead.
China, which has deepened relations with Russia in recent years, has tried to portray itself as a neutral party in the Ukraine conflict. U.S. officials have urged China to condemn Russia’s behavior while raising concerns about China’s ties to Russia.
Reports surfaced earlier this week that Russia was seeking military assistance from China as it continues its invasion.
During a lengthy meeting with China’s top diplomat earlier this week in Rome, Biden’s national security adviser Jake Sullivan said that Beijing would face consequences if it helped Russia with the invasion financially or militarily.
White House officials have also raised concerns about China amplifying Russian claims that the U.S. is developing biological weapons in Ukraine, which the U.S. has called disinformation meant to lay the foundation for a possible Russian chemical attack.
The senior administration official told reporters Friday that Biden directly expressed concerns to Xi about China echoing Russian disinformation about bioweapons labs in Ukraine during the call.
Russia has escalated its attacks on Ukraine since it first launched its invasion three weeks ago, despite officials and experts saying the Russian advance has not moved as quickly or as effectively as the Kremlin had hoped.
Russia has launched missiles targeting hospitals and civilian areas, prompting Biden and Blinken to call Russian President Vladimir Putin a “war criminal.”
The U.S. has provided Ukraine with billions of dollars in humanitarian and security assistance. Biden this week announced a total of $1 trillion in aid that will be used to supply anti-aircraft defense systems, anti-tank weapons and other arms to Ukraine.
Separate from talks on Ukraine, Biden reiterated that the U.S. has not changed its policy on Taiwan and “emphasized that the United States continues to oppose any unilateral changes to the status quo,” according to the White House readout.
The senior administration official said Xi was the one who raised the issue of Taiwan.
Taiwan has been a source of some tension between the U.S. and China, and Russia’s aggression in Ukraine has prompted concerns among some international watchdogs that China may try to invade or lay claim to the island.
Biden has previously told Xi the U.S. is committed to the “One China” policy, under which the U.S. does not recognize Taiwan as a separate state from China, but had also mistakenly said the U.S. had an obligation to send troops to Taiwan if it were attacked by China.
This story was updated at 5:00 p.m.