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China’s Russia Risk

By Michael Schuman

09 Mar 2022 · 8 min read

Prior to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Chinese President Xi Jinping was likely adding up the benefits of his warming relationship with Vladimir Putin. His Russian counterpart was pushing back against U.S. power, straining American alliances in Europe, and harassing a young democracy next door in Kyiv—all at almost no cost to China. Maybe, just maybe, Putin would even pave the way for Xi to achieve his paramount foreign-policy objective: claiming Taiwan.

Since the war began, however, the pitfalls of China’s partnership with Putin have revealed themselves all too clearly. A revitalized U.S. alliance network has collectively imposed damaging sanctions on Russia. Beijing has tried to do what it usually does—tap dance between all sides and pretend to be neutral—but finds itself an outlier among the world’s major powers. No one’s fooled about where Xi’s sympathies lie, and his stand is further alienating a strengthened transatlantic alliance.

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