China is likely to offer some support to Russia's economy amid Moscow's invasion of Ukraine, but will engage in a "dance" to maintain economic ties with Europe and the United States, a senior White House official said on Friday.
The United States has warned of significant consequences if Beijing offers material support to Russia for its war in Ukraine, or provides an economic lifeline to Moscow in the face of large-scale Western sanctions.
Mira Rapp-Hooper, director for the Indo-Pacific at the White House National Security Council, told an online panel discussion that driving a wedge between Russia and China would be easier said than done, but that Beijing would remain uncomfortable with Russian President Vladimir Putin's war.
"We're unlikely, I think, to see a fully and publicly unified Moscow and Beijing in which China is totally comfortable being saddled with the burden of Vladimir Putin's brutal and ill-begotten war," Rapp-Hooper said.
"That is to say that we are likely to continue to see some amount of Chinese support for the Russian economy, but a dance that Beijing tries to do to keep up its economic ties to the European Union in particular, but also to the United States," she said.
In February, China and Russia declared a "no limits" partnership, with a promise to collaborate more against the West.
But Western governments are shutting off Russia's economy from the global financial system, pushing international companies to halt sales, cut ties and dump tens of billions of dollars' worth of investments.
China has repeatedly voiced opposition to the sanctions, calling them ineffective and insisting it will maintain normal economic and trade exchanges with Russia.
U.S. President Joe Biden, who spoke with China's leader Xi Jinping last week, said on Thursday that China understands its economic future is more closely tied to the West than to Russia.
Moscow calls its actions in Ukraine a "special military operation" to demilitarise and "denazify" Ukraine. Ukraine and the West say Putin launched an unprovoked war of aggression.