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Wake Up To Politics - March 4, 2022

Wake Up To Politics: What the war in Ukraine means for China
Wake Up To Politics - March 4, 2022

by Gabe Fleisher

Good morning! It’s Friday, March 4, 2022. Election Day 2022 is 249 days away. Election Day 2024 is 977 days away.

WUTP global contributor Miles Hession is leading off today’s newsletter with a look at what Russia’s invasion of Ukraine portends for the country President Biden views as America’s main global adversary: China.

But first, a note about balance: If you read Wake Up To Politics every morning, I hope it comes across just how much I enjoy writing this newsletter. Being able to play a role in informing you all on the political scene — and then hearing feedback from so many of you over email — really is the best part of my day. I truly wouldn’t do it if I didn’t love it.

But I’m also a full-time college student, and if there’s one thing I’ve been very careful about over the years, it’s trying to make sure writing WUTP doesn’t overwhelm those other parts of my life. Longtime readers know that one of the ways I do that is by periodically taking brief pauses from writing, generally when my school goes on break.

It’s always hard to step away, even more so in the midst of important news cycles like this one — but especially after losing a year of college to Covid, I’m conscious of wanting to take advantage of this time in my life, including by doing things like going away with some friends during our Spring Break next week.

I remain committed as ever to the newsletter, but I think it’s important to continue maintaining a careful balance while I’m still in college — and I also think the newsletter is at its best if I’m well-rested and able to occasionally step away.

So this has been a long way of saying there will be no issues of Wake Up To Politics sent out next week. I will see you back in your inbox on March 14, and I promise: the news will still be here when I get back. I appreciate your understanding — and hope you have a good week.

But before I go, here’s the news you should know to start your day:

Russia’s war shines spotlight on China
By Miles Hession

As the war in Ukraine rages on, cracks in China and Russia’s alliance with “no limits” have begun to emerge.

In recent days, China has upped its support of Ukraine’s territorial sovereignty and has sought a role as a mediator to ensure a diplomatic agreement is reached to end the war. While not a complete about-face, the country’s current posturing is a notable change from its February declaration that there were “no forbidden areas of cooperation” between China and Russia.

Prior to the invasion, Chinese president Xi Jinping had been moving lockstep with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin. Xi joined Putin’s condemnation of NATO expansion, and rejected calls from the U.S. to intervene before the invasion took place.

Intelligence reports have emerged that China even went so far as to urge Russia to delay any action until after the Winter Olympics, meaning there was some coordination between the two on military action.

After Putin ordered troops into the Donbas region and a tranche of sanctions followed, the Chinese government criticized those punishments as ineffective and threw Russia a series of economic lifelines to endure the fallout.

Chinese leader Xi Jinping and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin. (Photo via the Kremlin)

However, China’s wider ambitions — and those of its leader — could be hampered as the conflict drags on and Russia grows increasingly isolated from the rest of the world.

China has expressed sympathy towards Russia’s argument of “cultural and historical affinities” as a pretext for annexation of Crimea and the Donbas separatist regions. The stance reflects China’s parallel desire to annex Taiwan, which would be pursued under similar reasoning. Taiwan is an island off the coast of mainland China; like Russia with Ukraine, it has an independent government, but China views it as its own.

But Russia’s increased targeting of civilian centers, and wider invasion of non-separatist Ukraine, undercuts those more limited cultural arguments. And as the war continues and Russia faces harsh sanctions, China could be forced into isolation as well — while witnessing a preview of the potential blowback an invasion in Taiwan could spark.

Parallels between Ukraine and Taiwan are already being drawn. The U.S. sent a delegation to Taiwan this week — a reflection of the renewed attention Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has brought to the conflict over Taiwan.

“If the Western powers fail to respond to Russia, they do embolden the Chinese thinking regarding action on Taiwan,” Lai I-ching, the president of the Taiwanese Prospect Foundation said in early February.

The Biden administration has long made clear it would rather expend diplomatic capital confronting China — which they view as their primary adversary — than Russia. The larger focus on annexations amid the Ukraine conflict could lead to a heightened global response on Taiwan: former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, for example, cited Ukraine to call on Biden to recognize Taiwan as a “free and sovereign country” on Thursday.

The American and Taiwanese flags. (Photo by Adam Fagen)

China has ties to both sides of the Russia-Ukraine war. In addition to its alliance with Moscow, Xi inked a lucrative deal with Ukraine last year as part of an effort to expand its economic influence in Europe.

Ukraine has now called for China to mediate peace talks in the war; if Xi ignores Ukraine’s request, he runs the risk of losing a significant European trading partner.

Xi’s personal ambitions could also be jeopardized by an extended conflict. Xi has been laying the groundwork to pursue a norm-breaking third term as China’s leader, which requires support from party officials. While much of the Chinese public have been supportive of the war, many have expressed fierce opposition, as the legacy of the Cold War-era conflict between the Soviet Union and China lingers.

As global financial institutions quietly cease doing business with Russia, Xi may face sanctions of his own if he continues to aid Moscow economically.

While China has still maintained its concerns over NATO expansion and support for Russia’s security concerns, its push for a diplomatic solution underscores its desire to end the conflict quickly to pursue its own goals.

If the war drags on, and the world continues to lump Russia and China together, China risks joining Russia as an international pariah.

The Rundown

The latest from Ukraine: Russian forces attacked the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in Ukraine this morning, causing a fire to break out an an adjacent facility. The fire has since been extinguished — but Russia has seized control of the plant, which is the largest nuclear power plant in Europe.

  • A second round of peace talks between Russia and Ukraine ended on Thursday without any agreement on a cease-fire. The two sides did agree to “humanitarian corridors” to aid the evacuation of civilians in zones of conflict. More talks are set to take place soon.
  • President Biden also announced new sanctions on several Russian oligarchs, as the West continues its efforts to isolate Moscow. Lawmakers from both parties — including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) — are urging Biden to go further and cease all oil imports from Russia, but the White House has resisted the idea so far due to concerns over gas prices.

Midterm update: “Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R) announced Thursday that he will not run for the Senate this year, dealing a blow to national Republican leaders’ efforts to regain control of the chamber.” Washington Post

Iran talks: “An agreement to restore the 2015 Iran nuclear deal could be just days away, with negotiators from Europe and Iran making clear that they've reached the final hurdles.” Axios

In the states: “A Kentucky jury on Thursday acquitted a white former detective of endangering neighbors of Breonna Taylor during a botched raid that killed the Black woman in her home, clearing law enforcement of all criminal liability in a case that rocked the United States in 2020.” Reuters

A memorial for Breonna Taylor in Louisville. (Photo via Wikimedia Commons)


All times Eastern.

White House

— President Joe Biden will receive his daily intelligence briefing at 10 a.m. Then, at 12:25 p.m., he will make an announcement on boosting domestic manufacturing, as part of his “Made in America” initiative. At 2:30 p.m., he will meet with President Sauli Niinistö of Finland. At 5:35 p.m., Biden will depart the White House for his home in Delaware. He will arrive at 6:40 p.m. and spend the weekend there.

— Vice President Kamala Harris will meet with Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, the Crown Prince and Prime Minister of Bahrain, at 1:10 p.m.

— First Lady Jill Biden will attend memorial services in both Boston, Massachusetts and San Francisco, California today.

— White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki will hold her daily press briefing at 1:15 p.m.


— The House and Senate are not meeting today.


— The Supreme Court will announce opinions at 10 a.m. The justices will also meet for their weekly conference.

That’s it for today. If you enjoy Wake Up To Politics, it’s always appreciated if you donate to support the newsletter or buy some merch. Or if you tell your friends and family to sign up at wakeuptopolitics.com.

If you have any questions or feedback, feel free to email me: my inbox is always open.

Thanks for waking up to politics! Have a great day.

— Gabe