White House spokesman John Kirby said on Thursday that the US wants China to side with Washington and its allies in opposing Russia and its military operation in Ukraine.
“Our message to China has been consistent: this is not the time for any kind of business as usual with [Russian President Vladimir] Putin,”Kirby told CNN. Failing to condemn Russia, he continued, is leaving China “isolated from the rest of the international community which has largely condemned what [Putin] has done in Ukraine.”
China has refused to condemn or sanction Russia over its offensive in Ukraine, and Chinese officials have highlighted the role played by NATO and the US in fomenting the conflict there. However, Beijing has called on Russia and Ukraine to find a diplomatic solution to the conflict and, according to Kirby, has not sold weapons to Russia or violated any US sanctions on Moscow.
Nevertheless, Kirby said that Washington wants China to pick its side on Ukraine. “We don’t think that this is the time for anybody to be on the sidelines,” he said. “The whole world should be lined up against what Mr. Putin is doing.”
Kirby’s words will likely go unheeded. China has shown no indication that it intends to sanction or condemn Russia, even before relations between Beijing and Washington took a nosedive following US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s controversial visit to Taiwan last month.
As Kirby spoke, Chinese President Xi Jinping met with Putin at the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit in Samarkand, Uzbekistan. There, Xi pledged to work with Russia “to assume the role of great powers,”with Chinese media adding that Xi also promised to deepen cooperation in agriculture, trade and connectivity.
Putin expressed hope that bilateral trade between the two nations could increase from $140 billion in 2021 to $200 billion by the end of 2022. Thanking China for its “balanced approach” to the situation in Ukraine, he condemned “ugly” US-led efforts to create a “unipolar world.”
Despite Kirby’s insistence that the “international community” stands in opposition to Putin, none of the SCO’s eight member states – encompassing nearly half of the planet’s population and more than half of its territory – have condemned or sanctioned Russia.