(Reuters) – CIA Director William Burns said on Saturday that China is closely watching the Russian conflict in Ukraine and that it is affecting Chinese leaders’ calculations on Taiwan, the self-governing island claimed by Beijing.
Burns, speaking at a Financial Times event in Washington, said the Chinese government was shocked by Ukraine’s fierce resistance to the Russian invasion and the economic costs to Russia.
“I think the Chinese leadership is looking very carefully at all of this — the costs and consequences of any effort to use force to gain control of Taiwan,” Burns said.
However, he warned that this would not change Chinese leader Xi Jinping’s long-term goals on Taiwan.
“I don’t think for a moment that this has weakened Xi’s determination over time to take control of Taiwan,” Burns said. “But I think it’s something that affects their calculations about how and when they do it.”
China has refused to condemn Russia’s war in Ukraine and has criticized Western sanctions against Moscow.
Beijing and Moscow announced a “borderless” strategic partnership several weeks before the invasion on February 24, and have deepened energy and security ties in recent years to fend off the United States and the West.
But Burns said the United States believes China is unstable due to reputational damage due to its association with the “brutality” of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s military action.
“I think the bitter experience, in many ways, of Putin’s Russia in Ukraine over the past 10 or 11 weeks is to prove that friendship actually has some limitations,” Burns said.
(Reporting by Michael Martina and Christopher Bing in Washington; Editing by Daniel Wallis and Matthew Lewis)
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