Speaking during a video call held between the two leaders, President Xi reportedly said: “All efforts must be made to avoid the intensification and expansion of the Ukraine conflict, which could lead to an unmanageable situation.” The Chinese premier also invited Germany to participate in the Global Security Initiative.
Put forward by President Xi last month, the initiative is a broad and vague framework that upholds the principle of “indivisible security” – a concept invoked by Russia to justify its attack on Ukraine.
Beijing has so far refrained from condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and has said Moscow’s “legitimate security concerns” should be taken seriously.
China abstained from a United Nations Security Council vote condemning the invasion after President Vladimir Putin launched his offensive on February 24.
The People’s Republic also voted to keep Russia as a member of the United Nations Human Rights Council earlier this month, sparking international condemnation.
Several countries have urged China to do more to stop Russia’s invasion.
In her speech last week, UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss singled out China for its silence on the war in Ukraine, warning the country to “play by the rules”.
She said: “China is not impervious. They will not continue to rise if they do not play by the rules.
“China needs trade with the G7. We represent around half of the global economy. And we have choices.
“We have shown with Russia the kind of choices that we’re prepared to make when international rules are violated.”
President Xi and President Putin held a high-profile meeting during the Winter Olympics in Beijing shortly before the invasion began.
A statement issued by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) afterwards stated there was “was no limit to the two countries’ co-operation”.
The countries share a common enmity for NATO and the West, with the Chinese government having parroted Moscow’s anti-NATO expansion narrative since the conflict began.
Putin has long accused NATO members of using the alliance to undermine Russia and demanded the group reverse its expansion eastward shortly before he launched his invasion of Ukraine.
The expansion of the alliance has been one of Moscow’s key justifications for its “special military operation” ever since, with Putin accusing the West of using Ukraine to fight a proxy war with Russia.
In a joint statement released by President Putin and President Xi after their meeting in February, the two leaders accused NATO of espousing a Cold War ideology, though it stopped short of naming Ukraine.
China has frequently clashed with Western governments over issues such as the Chinese military expansion into the South China Sea and the crackdown on democracy in Hong Kong.
Beijing has also come to loggerheads with Western nations over its condemnation of the CCP’s alleged human rights violations against its Uighur population and its vow to “return Taiwan to the fold”, by force if necessary.
However, despite repeating Russia’s accusations against NATO since the start of the invasion, Beijing has at the same time expressed “unwavering support” for Ukraine’s sovereignty.
It has also called for peace and said it is ready to help end the war through diplomacy.
Speaking this weekend, CIA director Bill Burns said President Xi had been “unsettled” by the war in Ukraine, which demonstrated the friendship between Beijing and Moscow had “limits” at a time when western alliances were becoming stronger as the Ukraine conflict continues to rage.
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Addressing an event in Washington on Saturday, Mr Burns said the “bitter experience” of the past 11 weeks of the invasion had come as a surprise to China’s leadership.
He said: “It strikes us . . . that Xi Jinping is a little bit unsettled by the reputational damage that can come to China by the association with the brutishness of Russia’s aggression against Ukrainians [and] unsettled certainly by the economic uncertainty that’s been produced by the war.”
He added that China was dismayed by “the fact that what Putin has done is driving Europeans and Americans closer together” and was looking “carefully at what lessons they should draw” for Taiwan.
Mr Burns continued that President Xi’s China was the “biggest geopolitical challenge we face over the long term as a country”, although the threat from Putin’s Russia could not be underestimated.
He said: “[Putin] demonstrates in a very disturbing way that declining powers can be at least as disruptive as rising ones.”