World

China President Xi Jinping speaks out against 'conflict' in call with US President Joe Biden on Russia

Chinese leader Xi Jinping said war is "in no one's interest" during a phone call on Friday (Mar 18) with Joe Biden in which the US president aimed to pressure Beijing into joining Western condemnation of Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

The 1.5 hour-long phone call ended at 10.53am in Washington (10.53pm, Singapore time), the White House said.

State broadcaster CCTV reported Xi saying during the call that "state-to-state relations cannot go to the stage of military hostilities".

China and the United States should "shoulder international responsibilities", Xi was quoted as saying, as well as declaring that "peace and security are the most valued treasures of the international community".

"The international situation has undergone new and significant changes" since the duo's last call in November, Xi said, according to CCTV.

"The theme of an era of peaceful development is facing severe challenges, and the world is neither very peaceful nor secure," Xi said, adding the Ukraine crisis "is not something we want to see".

It was not immediately clear if Xi made any direct criticism of Russian President Vladimir Putin's onslaught against Ukraine or expressed willingness to assist the US-led pressure campaign on the Kremlin.

Biden had hoped to persuade Xi to at least give up any idea of bailing out Russia.

China should "understand that their future is with the United States, with Europe, with other developed and developing countries around the world. Their future is not to stand with Vladimir Putin", Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman told CNN earlier on Friday.

So far, Beijing has refused to condemn its fellow authoritarian ally, and Washington fears China could deliver financial and military support for Russia, transforming an already explosive transatlantic standoff into a global dispute.

If that happened, not only could Beijing help Putin to weather sanctions and continue his war, but Western governments would face the painful decision of how to strike back at the world's second biggest economy, likely prompting turmoil on international markets.

The White House was tight-lipped on whether Biden would threaten China with economic sanctions during his call, but some sort of response was on the table.

Biden "will make clear that China will bear responsibility for any actions it takes to support Russia's aggression and we will not hesitate to impose costs", Secretary of State Antony Blinken said ahead of the call.

Blinken urged China to use its "leverage" on Moscow.