China’s President Xi Jinping’s birthday was on June 15, during which he had a call with Russian leader Vladimir Putin. According to the Kremlin, the two leaders discussed working together more economically and militarily. But Russia’s recount of the conversation also seemed to imply that Xi supported Putin’s reasoning for invading Ukraine, saying that expanding cooperation was agreed on “taking into account the situation in the global economy that has become more complicated due to the unlawful sanctions policy of the West.” The Kremlin’s readout of the call also said that Xi noted the “legitimacy of Russia’s actions in protecting its fundamental national interests in the face of security challenges created by external forces.”
But when Chinese state media recounted its version of the conversation, there was no mention of expanded cooperation. It said that Xi “actively promoted world peace and the stability of the global economic order” and encouraged “a proper settlement to the Ukraine crisis in a responsible manner.” CCTV’s report recounted that Xi said, “China is willing to continue mutual support with Russia on issues related to sovereignty, security and issues of major concern.”
Regardless, though, the US wasn’t impressed, saying that although China says it’s neutral, it still seemed to be investing in its relationship with Russia.
“It was agreed to expand cooperation in the energy, financial, industrial, transport and other areas, taking into account the situation in the global economy that has become more complicated due to the unlawful sanctions policy of the West,” the Kremlin said after the phone call between Xi and Putin.
China is “willing to continue to offer mutual support [to Russia] on issues concerning core interests and major concerns such as sovereignty and security,” reported state broadcaster CCTV after the call.
“China claims to be neutral, but its behavior makes clear that it is still investing in close ties to Russia,” a US State Department spokesperson said.