China’s Ukraine conundrum, with Evan Feigenbaum


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This week on the Sinica Podcast, Kaiser chats with Evan Feigenbaum, vice president for studies at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, former vice-chairman of the Paulson Institute, and (during the second George W. Bush administration), Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs under Condoleeza Rice. Evan offers a very compelling analysis of the difficult position that Beijing now finds itself in after Putin’s invasion of Ukraine — caught on the horns of a dilemma and unable to resolve conflicting commitments to, on the one hand, territorial sovereignty and, on the other, opposition to American unipolar hegemony. Meanwhile, Beijing is fearful of the repercussions of siding with Russia, fearing that sanctions may have a real bite. Evan also shares his thoughts on how China and Russia differ significantly in their posture toward the “rules-based international order,” on misguided thinking about Taiwan and the “strategic triangle,” and on the reshaping of the geopolitical and geoeconomic order that the Russian invasion of Ukraine will usher in.

4:48 – The basic contradictions in China’s competing objectives

25:58 – Did Xi know about Putin’s intention to invade?

31:34 – Are the U.S. and NATO pushing China into the Russian embrace?

35:15 – The economic impact of the war: China and sanctions

40:30 – Taiwan takes and why straight-line thinking doesn’t cut it

48:53 – Does Beijing have an accurate sense of its ability to affect outcomes here?

50:26 – China and Russia: the differences in their international behavior

57:44 – The geopolitical and geoeconomic impact of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine

A transcript of this interview is available at


Evan: Summer Kitchens, a Ukrainian cookbook by Olia Hercules

Kaiser: Fareed Zakaria on the Ezra Klein Show from March 4, 2022; and the new Steven Spielberg remake of West Side Story