As the call between US President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping gets underway, here's why it's important amid all the ongoing flurry of telephone diplomacy.
- It comes at a critical moment in the Russia-Ukraine war: According to US officials, China is weighing whether to provide military or financial assistance to Russia, which has requested it as its military sustains major losses in Ukraine. If China agrees, it could dampen its relationship with the West for decades to come.
- China could provide Russia with a range of support: On their phone call, Biden hopes to make clear to Xi the downsides of assisting Russia's war, either through military or financial assistance.
- US must manage a "cold-blooded" partnership: Even before Russia invaded Ukraine, US officials were watching warily as Russian leader Vladimir Putin and Xi grew closer. CIA Director Bill Burns said last week the partnership was rooted in "a lot of very cold-blooded reasons." Since then, the partnership without limits has been tested as Xi weighs how to respond to Russia's war in Ukraine.
- American allies in Asia are watching closely: Russia's invasion has sent ripples of anxiety across the world. One place watching closely is Taiwan, the self-governing island claimed by China. Beijing has recently stepped-up military flights close to the island and warned against American support.
- Biden and Xi have very different worldviews: Before the conflict in Ukraine, Biden appeared intent on refocusing American foreign policy toward Asia, where he views the competition between the US and China as a defining challenge of the next century. And while the Ukraine crisis has preoccupied the White House in recent weeks, officials insist they are still able to maintain their overriding vision.