When President Joe Biden speaks Friday with China's Xi Jinping, it won't be just another phone call in an ongoing flurry of telephone diplomacy. This call comes at a potential turning point for ties between the United States and China. White House officials are watching with growing concern the budding partnership between Xi and Russian President Vladimir Putin, and China's response to Russia's invasion of Ukraine has proved troubling to western observers. Beijing appears to be neither fully supportive nor directly opposed, making for an uncertain stance Biden hopes both to decipher and influence when he speaks to Xi on Friday.
White House officials said they expected the call could turn intense; a preliminary meeting between the two leaders' aides stretched for seven hours earlier this week. And Biden upped the stakes when he alluded to his call a day beforehand, declaring his Chinese counterpart "does not believe democracies can be sustained in the 21st century."