Xi Jinping 'unsettled' by Vladimir Putin's difficulties in Ukraine - for the Telegraph - 08.03.22

The Chinese leader has been surprised by the strength of the Western response, according to US intelligence


By Sophia Yan in Beijing ; Nick Allen, US Editor and Simina Mistreanu


Xi Jinping has been "unsettled" by Russia's difficulties invading Ukraine, and by how the war has brought the United States and Europe together, according to the head of the CIA.


William Burns, the CIA Director, said the Chinese leader's aspirations over Taiwan should not be underestimated, but he believed there had been "an impact on the Chinese calculus".


Mr Burns told a congressional hearing into global threats: "I do think that they [China] have been surprised and unsettled to some extent by what they've seen in Ukraine over the last 12 days - everything from the strength of the Western reaction, to the way in which Ukrainians have fiercely resisted.


"I think they're a little bit unsettled about the impact on the global economy. And third, I think they're a little bit unsettled by the way in which Vladimir Putin has driven Europeans and Americans much closer together. They [China] did not anticipate the significant difficulties the Russians were going to run into."


However, Mr Burns added: "I would just say, analytically, I would not underestimate President Xi and the Chinese leadership's determination with regard to Taiwan."


The Russian invasion of Ukraine has caused particular alarm in self-ruled Taiwan, which China claims as its own, and has vowed to reclaim by force if necessary.


Taiwan has upped its alert level amid fears China could take advantage of the West's focus on Ukraine to move against it.


Mr Xi, in a joint call with the leaders of France and Germany, said the situation in Ukraine was “worrying” and “seriously deplored” what was happening there.


He also called for “maximum restraint to prevent a massive humanitarian crisis” and stressed the need to encourage peace talks between Russia and Ukraine.


According to Chinese state media, he said: “The priority is to avoid escalating tensions from getting out of control.''


They were the first public remarks by Mr Xi since Russia invaded Ukraine nearly two weeks ago.


China has refused to denounce Russia’s actions and has stopped short of calling it an invasion. Mr Xi has bolstered ties with Vladimir Putin over the last decade in efforts to counter the West.


A month ago, they declared a “no limits” friendship between Beijing and Moscow when Mr Putin was in China to attend the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics in Beijing.


Mention of the war has been heavily censored in China, and a number of foreign embassies in Beijing showing support for Ukraine are under watch by increased security personnel.


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