China's Russian Problem - The New York Times

As China has risen to power over the past decade, it has taken advantage of political disarray among its global rivals. The United Stat...


As China has risen to power over the past decade, it has taken advantage of political disarray among its global rivals.

The United States organized a Pacific trade pact intended to counter the rise of China – then refused to ratify that same pact, because of domestic politics. The United States has also alienated longtime allies in Europe with Donald Trump’s “America First” policy. The European Union has been even more chaotic, with the departure of one of its largest members, Great Britain.

All the while, China has strengthened its economic ties with countries around the world. Chinese leaders were delighted to the contrast between their apparent competence and the disorganization of the West. This seemed to augur a new international order, in which China would vie with the United States for supremacy.

This scenario still seems likely. But Russia’s invasion of Ukraine complicated it. The war is arguably the most problematic international development for China in years.

He unified much of the rest of the world – including the US, EU, Britain and Japan – in favor of Ukraine, with diplomatic audacity which these countries have often lacked in recent years. China’s leaders, on the other hand, are in partnership with the world’s new villain, Vladimir Putin. “This is both a crisis and an opportunity,” Ryan Hass, who oversaw China policy on the Obama administration’s National Security Council, told me.

The crisis part is obvious: a brutal invasion kills Ukrainians and Russian soldiers and potentially destroys Ukraine as a country. As horrific as the war is, the opportunity is real: the relative isolation of Russia and China offers a chance to help defeat Russia in the short term – and to stem the rise of an authoritarian China in the longer term. long term.

China and Russia share major interests. They would both like to see American influence diminished, so that they would have more freedom to dominate their regions and wield global influence. These shared interests explain why Xi Jinping and Putin issued a joint statement last month, professing the friendship of their countries and harshly criticizing the United States

“Both share a belief that the United States is determined to impede their country’s rise,” Amy Qin, who covers China for The Times, told me. “And they signaled a desire to see a world order in which Washington’s influence is significantly reduced.”

But the Sino-Russian relationship also has its limits and tensions. The two countries compete for influence, in Asia and elsewhere, and have fundamentally different diplomatic strategies.

China is trying to shape and lead the existing world order. “He benefits enormously from international stability,” said Fareed Zakaria, a foreign policy journalist. pointed out. As Thomas Friedman of The Times wrote“Peace has been very good for China.”

Russia is both weaker and less happy with recent developments. “Putin can dream of restoring the greatness of the Soviet era”, Paul Krugman wrote yesterday, “but China’s economy, which was about the same size as Russia’s 30 years ago, is now 10 times larger.” Today, Russia’s economy largely revolves around energy exports, prompting it to foment political instability; oil prices often rise when the world is unstable.

“Putin is kind of a system arsonist,” Hass said. “China’s interests are not advanced by this.”

The war in Ukraine obviously surprised Chinese officials, at least in its scale. “They didn’t plan for a full-scale invasion,” said Yun Sun, China program director at the Stimson Center, a think tank. This helps explain why China has been moving away from Russia over the past two weeks, as my colleagues Chris Buckley and Steven Lee Myers write:

He softened his tone, expressing his grief over the civilian casualties. He presented himself as an impartial party, calling for peace talks and an end to the war as soon as possible.

These subtle changes are a sign that China is not entirely comfortable with Putin’s chaos. This risks solidifying the “alliance of democracies” that President Biden has called for. This risks reminding the United States and its allies that they have more similarities than differences.

“Xi’s growing alignment with Moscow presents something of a catch-22 for China”, Jude Blanchette and Bonny Lin wrote in Foreign Affairs. “By competing with the West on the global order, Russia becomes a more attractive security partner. But by elevating the relationship with Russia — and choosing to do so amid a Putin-induced crisis — Beijing is inviting a pushback it cannot afford.

And how could that help Ukraine?

Recent sanctions against the Russian economy have damaged it and made it dependent on China – to buy Russian goods, sell goods to Russian consumers and businesses, provide loans to Russian banks and more. If Xi came to believe that the war in Ukraine was hurting China, he could do something about it.

“China doesn’t need to loudly condemn Russia,” Hass said. “They can just choose to be judicious about what they trade and invest in.” Xi is one of the few people in the world to exert influence over Putin. Xi also has reason to be wary of the uncertainty and disarray that Putin’s war has created.

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Stories of tech titans and corporate greed often get the Hollywood treatment – the 2010 Facebook movie “The Social Network” might be the poster child for the genre. Now it seems like every streaming service has its own headline snatch takes on struggling entrepreneurwrites Amanda Hess in the Times.

There’s Showtime”super pumpedwhich documents the rise and fall of Uber founder Travis Kalanick. Hulu’s”The stallstars Amanda Seyfried as Elizabeth Holmes, the turtleneck-wearing founder of Theranos, and Apple TV+’s “WeCrashed” follows WeWork’s oft-barefoot founder Adam Neumann, played by Jared Leto.

The shows’ central characters share upward and downward trajectories and “self-aggrandizing comparisons to Steve Jobs,” writes Hess. Often companies cross paths on screen. In “WeCrashed,” for example, Neumann watches on TV as Kalanick is ousted from Uber’s board.

The appetite for tech disaster stories goes beyond streaming: Holmes’ case has been recreated in a book, various podcasts and an HBO documentary. A film with Jennifer Lawrence is in preparation.

“Even as these shows cast skepticism on speculative tech bubbles, they strive to inflate their own bubble,” Hess writes. They too follow a formula: “Secure intellectual property tested on a recent scandal, recruit very famous people to impersonate the players… then hope that the subscribers do not cancel after the final.”

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