March 4, 2022

China and Ukraine

“China on Thursday denounced a report that it asked Russia to delay invading Ukraine until after the Beijing Winter Olympics… The article in The New York Times cited a ‘Western intelligence report’ considered credible by officials… Russian President Vladimir Putin met with his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, in Beijing on Feb. 4, hours before the Olympics opening ceremony. The two countries issued a joint statement in which they declared ‘friendship between the two states has no limits, there are no ‘forbidden’ areas of cooperation.’…

“China is the only major government that hasn’t criticized Moscow’s attack on Ukraine and has also ruled out joining the United States and European governments in imposing financial sanctions on Russia… China abstained in Wednesday’s U.N. General Assembly emergency session vote to demand an immediate halt to Moscow’s attack on Ukraine and the withdrawal of all Russian troops.” AP News

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From the Left

The left urges diplomatic efforts to counter both Russia and China.

“Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin—the world’s two most powerful autocrats—have a showy, if fraught, friendship. They are men of the same vintage (Putin, at sixty-nine, is eight months older), united in their grief for the collapse of the Soviet Union. Each styles himself a defender of manliness, and a bulwark against decadent democracy. Xi, in an unusually effusive mood, by his standards, once offered Russian reporters a list of treasured moments that he and Putin had shared…

“And yet, for all the chumminess, the decision to draw close to Putin has forced Xi into an awkward balancing act, because he hopes to establish China as a trusted steward of global power and security—an alternative to the chaos and infighting in Washington… Ukraine is one of China’s economic partners, with more than fifteen billion dollars in bilateral trade flows. It is also part of the Belt and Road Initiative, Xi’s signature infrastructural program, which is intended to project a spirit of magnanimous investment in the world’s improvement… The attempt to balance a commitment to Russia with China’s larger bid for global credibility is becoming more difficult by the hour.”
Evan Osnos, New Yorker

“Despite the war in Ukraine, China is still America’s — and thus NATO’s — most pressing problem… China has four times the population of the United States, its economy will soon exceed that of the United States and its military is larger than the US military and growing more technologically capable by the day. It is more integrated into the global economy than the Soviet Union or Russia ever has been, placing itself at the heart of many critical supply chains that the United States and its allies depend upon. It has defined itself in cultural and ideological opposition to the United States and to the idea of democracy…

“[NATO] will need [to] use its newfound unity to ‘globalize’ the alliance to include Asian democracies, coordinating policy and even force dispositions across both regions. It will also require a difficult conversation within the U.S. government and with allies about how to prioritize efforts between what may become the Pacific and European theaters of a global cold war.”
Jeremy Shapiro, Politico

“These simultaneous strategic challenges in two distant theaters are reminiscent of the 1930s, when Germany and Japan sought to overturn the existing order in their respective regions. They were never true allies, did not trust each other and did not directly coordinate their strategies. Nevertheless, each benefited from the other’s actions…

“Long ago, American defense strategy was premised on the possibility of such a two-front conflict. But since the early 1990s, the United States has gradually dismantled that force. The two-war doctrine was whittled down and then officially abandoned in the 2012 defense policy guidance…

“Whether that trend will be reversed and defense spending increased now that the United States genuinely faces a two-theater crisis remains to be seen. But it is time to start imagining a world where Russia effectively controls much of Eastern Europe and China controls much of East Asia and the Western Pacific. Americans and their democratic allies in Europe and Asia will have to decide, again, whether that world is tolerable.”
Robert Kagan, Washington Post

From the Right

The right argues that the invasion will harm China’s interests in the long run.

The right argues that the invasion will harm China’s interests in the long run.

“Putin’s war is providing Xi with an invaluable case study, a kind of dry run for what the Western response to some outrage perpetrated by Beijing — say, the invasion of Taiwan — might look like. And what the Chinese have learned already must be very useful: There is more unity within Europe and between Europe and the United States than many had expected; the allies have been effectively unanimous in their approach to economic sanctions; the SWIFT system was quickly and easily weaponized; private actors ranging from the biggest oil companies to the London Stock Exchange have been powerful forces in their own right, going beyond what is required of them under the law…

“If Washington was pleasantly surprised by Germany’s decision to make a serious investment in rearming itself, both Moscow and Beijing must have been positively shocked. A reinvigorated and possibly expanded NATO buoyed by a revivified Germany — and an energized Europe that has seen players such as Sweden and even Switzerland come off the sidelines — is a nightmare for Vladimir Putin…

“It also frees up American resources — financial, military, political, moral, and intellectual — to support Washington’s turn to the Indo-Pacific. Putin’s war will be a setback for Moscow, but it will also be, in that respect, a real loss for Beijing.”
Kevin D. Williamson, National Review

Little about Mr. Putin’s invasion of Ukraine is going right for Beijing… In Japan, former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on the weekend became the most senior politician ever to call for Japan to host American nuclear weapons on its soil…

“President Biden this week dispatched a delegation of former defense officials to Taiwan to demonstrate American support for the island, a major irritant for Beijing. One lesson the West should learn from events in Ukraine is the importance of selling defensive weapons early and often to endangered smaller partners. Mr. Xi’s pal in the Kremlin may trigger a new round of weapons sales to Taipei…

“Having positioned himself as Mr. Putin’s closest friend, the Chinese leader now is under immense pressure from the rest of the world to talk Mr. Putin out of the war. If he can’t do so, and signs so far aren’t encouraging, it will highlight the limits of last month’s strategic alignment. The Ukraine war is exposing other limits to Chinese power. Beijing has refused to impose financial or other sanctions of the sort Western governments have placed on Russia. But Chinese companies may have no choice but to comply with the Western sanctions anyway.”
Editorial Board, Wall Street Journal

Putin is reminding the world that an authoritarian sphere of influence is different from a system overseen by liberal democracies… Nothing prepares and focuses the strategic mind more than the illegitimate use of force and watching the loss of innocent lives in real-time…

“Putin is prompting China’s neighbors to recall that revisionist authoritarian states pose the greatest threat to world order, and we are no longer living in the same benign post-Cold War world of the 1990s. For those countries in China’s sights, America has become even more indispensable — and the only way to deter China from starting a fight is to properly prepare for one in the first place.”
John Lee, New York Post

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