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Xi, Biden To Discuss Ukraine But Can US Force China To Quit Its ‘Benevolent Neutrality’ Stance

Joe Biden and Xi Jinping are set to speak on Friday. In this file picture both are seen in Los Angeles when both served as vice-presidents of their respective nations (Image: Reuters)

Joe Biden and Xi Jinping are set to speak on Friday. In this file picture both are seen in Los Angeles when both served as vice-presidents of their respective nations (Image: Reuters)

Xi may ask Biden to rethink the Trump-era tariffs that his administration still imposes even though US will force Beijing to reduce its support for Russia

The United States believes that the discussion between Chinese president Xi Jinping and his American counterpart Joe Biden will be held on Friday and will help the latter to assess where China stands. White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Russian president Vladimir Putin’s so-called ‘military operation’ will be the main issues that Xi and Biden will discuss.

“This is an opportunity for President Biden to assess where President Xi stands. The fact that China has not denounced what Russia is doing, in and of itself speaks volumes,” Psaki said at a briefing earlier.

“This is part of our ongoing efforts to maintain open lines of communication between the United States and the PRC. The two Leaders will discuss managing the competition between our two countries as well as Russia’s war against Ukraine and other issues of mutual concern,” Psaki was further quoted as saying by news agency CNN.

The Biden administration’s national security adviser Jake Sullivan and top Chinese diplomat Yang Jiechi earlier this week held a meeting in Rome where the former informed China that ‘potential implications and consequences’ will follow if China chooses to support Russia in its military operation. Some US news agencies reported earlier that Russia is planning to seek Chinese support as its war on Ukraine draws condemnation and sanctions from the US and the western nations.

Speaking to news agency the Wall Street Journal (WSJ), Evan Medeiros, a former national-security official in the Obama administration told the news agency that due to the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine ties between both nations are currently at a delicate situation.

Medeiros told the WSJ that Chinese foreign policy experts close to the Chinese Communist Party say that the nation is likely to follow a policy of ‘benevolent neutrality’ where it doesn’t oppose Russia and also supports Ukraine.

The WSJ report citing Chinese foreign-affairs analysts said that Chinese-Russian trade will continue ensuring that sanctions imposed are not violated while military support and weapons supply will not be provided. China earlier agreed to a $117.5 billion deal to purchase oil and gas from Russia and Xi and Putin in a summit issued a statement of solidarity citing a vision for a changed world order weeks ahead of the invasion creating speculations of a new ‘axis’. Experts told the WSJ, however, that China will stick to a position where it is seen as a responsible world power.

Trump-era tariffs, blacklisting of Chinese companies over allegations of forced labour in Xinjiang and allegations of using Uyghurs to work in subhuman conditions and being unpaid are concerns China may raise in talks with the US when both leaders speak.

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first published:March 18, 2022, 08:03 IST