March 15, 2022

China and Russia

“President Joe Biden’s national security adviser warned a top Chinese official on Monday about China’s support for Russia in the Ukrainian invasion, even as the Kremlin denied reports it had requested Chinese military equipment to use in the war… Sullivan was seeking clarity on Beijing’s posture and was warning the Chinese anew that assistance for Russia — including helping it avert sanctions imposed by the U.S. and Western allies — would be costly for them…

“Meanwhile, two administration officials said the U.S. had determined that China had signaled to Russia that it would be willing to provide both military support for the campaign in Ukraine and financial backing to help stave off the impact of severe sanctions imposed by the West. The officials said that assessment had been relayed to Western and Asian allies and partners earlier Monday.” AP News

Here’s our recent coverage of China and Ukraine. The Flip Side

Many on both sides argue that in the end China is unlikely to rescue Russia militarily or economically:

“Xi and other top Chinese officials have in the past indicated a desire for China to be acknowledged as a leader within the international community. But by throwing its lot in with Putin—already a global pariah who each day compounds past war crimes with new ones—the Chinese leadership not only risks the status it seeks, but is making three other grave errors. That’s because as the war continues, Russia’s international standing will not only suffer, it will be weakened economically and militarily. As a result, China’s partnership with that country has to be seen as a wasting asset—less valuable to China with each passing day…

“By the same token, if China is seen as providing military aid to Russia or helping Russia evade international sanctions, China will be putting its own economy at risk because it, too, will become the target of U.S.-led Western sanctions… It would be a tragic irony for China. After decades of remarkable economic development, on the verge of claiming a leading role in helping to define the future for the entire planet, they have put all that in jeopardy to ally themselves to a man, Vladimir Putin, who is desperately clinging to a long lost, unlamented past.”
David Rothkopf, Daily Beast

“China may be gambling that the western appetite for punishing Beijing if it sends military aid to Moscow will be weak at a moment of high inflation and sky-high gas prices… But here’s the question: Is China in a position to risk that at the moment? They’re hurting economically already… And they’re on the brink of a long-delayed COVID catastrophe if their lockdown strategy can’t contain the new Omicron outbreak… Does China want to roll the dice that it won’t be hit surprisingly hard too at a moment when the U.S. and EU are in a mood to de-globalize?…

“When China and Russia announced their ‘no limits’ partnership against the west just six weeks ago, Beijing hoped that the alliance would be a force multiplier that gained each of them a sphere of influence at the expense of the U.S. Suddenly, to its horror, China is learning that Russia is a paper tiger not just economically but militarily. The partnership is worth nothing — essentially what the ruble is worth — apart from ensuring Chinese access to Russian wheat and oil. And since Russia has few other global clients for those commodities anymore, they’d have to sell to China even if Beijing threw in with the west here.”
Allahpundit, Hot Air

Can China provide Putin with an economic lifeline? I’d say no, for four reasons. First, China, despite being an economic powerhouse, isn’t in a position to supply some things Russia needs, like spare parts for Western-made airplanes and high-end semiconductor chips. Second, while China itself isn’t joining in the sanctions, it is deeply integrated into the world economy. This means that Chinese banks and other businesses, like Western corporations, may engage in self-sanctioning — that is, they’ll be reluctant to deal with Russia for fear of a backlash from consumers and regulators in more important markets. Third, China and Russia are very far apart geographically… Beijing is 3,500 miles from Moscow…

“Finally, a point I don’t think gets enough emphasis is the extreme difference in economic power between Russia and China… Putin may dream of restoring Soviet-era greatness, but China’s economy, which was roughly the same size as Russia’s 30 years ago, is now 10 times as large. For comparison, Germany’s gross domestic product was only two and a half times Italy’s when the original Axis was formed. So if you try to imagine the creation of some neofascist alliance — [and] that no longer sounds like extreme language — it would be one in which Russia would be very much the junior partner, indeed very nearly a Chinese client state. Presumably that’s not what Putin, with his imperial dreams, has in mind.”
Paul Krugman, New York Times

China won’t save Russia’s economy… Russia’s exports are mainly oil, natural gas, and petroleum. This is what makes the already gargantuan supply chain issues virtually insurmountable: Oil and gas are transported through pipelines. There are no spare pipelines running from Russia to China, just lying there waiting to be used in case Russia ever found itself unable to trade with Europe… While Russia may be able to sell a bit more oil and gas to China, it won’t nearly offset the lost exports to Europe and North America…

“Russia has been effectively isolated economically, with few major countries left that it can trade with. China is aware of this, and will almost certainly increase their imports of Russian goods and services—only now, they will pay a fraction of what the West, or indeed they themselves as late as last month paid. After all, what is Russia to do about it? At this point they will be desperate to sell anything at all, just to keep the lights on… China has done this before. When Iran and Venezuela were sanctioned, China swooped in to import vast quantities of oil from them—at bargain prices.”
John Gustavsson, The Dispatch

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