Americans conveyed intelligence over Russia’s military escalation to Chinese officials on a frequent basis, hoping for intervention from the Chinese government, but they were also refused. According to US sources, senior Biden administration officials held a half-dozen urgent discussions with top Chinese officials so over period of a few months, wherein the Americans shared intelligence revealing Russia’s troop buildup near Ukraine and pleaded with the Chinese not to attack.
Every time, Chinese officials, including the foreign minister and the ambassador to the United States, rebuffed the Americans, insisting that no invasion was taking place. Following a diplomatic exchange in December, US officials learned that Beijing had shared the data with Moscow.
Negotiations between American and Chinese officials, previously undisclosed, show how the Biden administration tried to persuade a superpower it sees as a growing adversary to avoid a war with Ukraine, and how that country’s government, led by Xi Jinping, sided with Russia even as evidence of Moscow’s plans for a military offensive grew over the winter.
China is Russia’s most powerful ally, and the two countries’ political, economic, and military ties have been growing for many years. Some US officials believe that Mr. Xi is the only foreign leader who can persuade Mr. Putin to rethink invading Ukraine.
According to some American officials, connections between China and Russia appear to be stronger than at any time since the Cold War. Even while Mr. Putin conducts an invasion of Ukraine, whose sovereignty China has acknowledged for decades, the two now present themselves as an ideological front against the US and its European and Asian allies.
According to American sources, during recent private meetings on Ukraine, American officials heard language from their Chinese colleagues that was consistent with stronger stances the Chinese had been adopting in public, indicating that a more hostile attitude had been established.
The Biden administration’s diplomatic outreach to China to attempt to avoid conflict began on November 15, when President Biden and Mr. Xi had a video conference.
The two leaders acknowledged obstacles in their relationship, which is at its lowest point in decades, but agreed to attempt to collaborate on matters of mutual interest, such as health security, climate change, and nuclear weapons proliferation, according to White House officials at the time.
Following the discussion, American officials agreed that the Russian army buildup surrounding Ukraine was the most pressing issue that China and the US could work together to resolve. Some officials believed the conclusion of the video summit signaled the possibility of improved US-China ties.
Others were suspicious, but one official stated that it was critical to leave no stone uncovered in efforts to deter Russia from invading.