US Response to China-Russia Axis: Building Alliances and Extending Sanctions

Part 3 of the 3-part series 'The New Cold War'
March 2, 2022 Updated: March 4, 2022

News Analysis

As the world’s most influential countries unite in a harsh response to the Ukraine invasion, imposing crippling economic sanctions on Russia, the United States is attempting to break up the Beijing-Moscow axis, with possible sanctions on Chinese companies that continue to support Russia.

The United States has responded to the growing threat from communist China by establishing a China Mission Center and by enlisting allies to contain the People’s Liberation Army (PLA).

The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), Department of Defense, and Congress are unified in their stance against China and Russia. CIA Director William Burns identified China as the agency’s top challenge and priority, warranting the establishment of a new China Mission Center. Last year’s U.S. defense policy bill of $768 billionthe largest in history—specifically targets the threats from these two countries. The bill also underscores the need to combat disruptive technologies, particularly those being developed by China, such as hypersonic missiles, artificial intelligence (AI), and quantum computing.

The bill also includes $7.2 billion for the Pacific Deterrence Initiative, which is consistent with the U.S. strategy of geographically isolating the Chinese military. “Containment,” “partnerships,” and “alliances” are words frequently used by U.S. lawmakers when discussing the need to cultivate allies to stand against the Chinese regime.

Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan are beefing up their security to defend against Chinese aggression. The U.S. defense budget allocated money for joint training and patrols with these nations as well as Australia, the United Kingdom, New Zealand, India, and other European countries.

The threat of the old USSR gave rise to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Today, NATO’s mandate has expanded to cover China. Other U.S.-led alliances focused on containing China include the Five Eyes, the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (the Quad), and AUKUS.

Moving forward, the Biden administration plans to promote even “greater connectivity” between Western democracies, further expanding the U.S. network of allies.

Washington is also prohibiting investment in many Chinese tech firms, while banning certain Chinese technology from the United States. A more comprehensive crackdown on Chinese technology could have several positive effects. First, it would hamper Beijing’s propaganda efforts, particularly through apps and social media. And second, it would decrease China’s income, which would provide Beijing less money for military expansion. Moreover, halting technological investment between the two countries would prevent the regime from obtaining U.S. technology, stymying China’s advancement.

The White House has called China to condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. So far, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has refused to refer to it as an invasion, and even abstained from a U.N. vote to force Russia to withdraw from Ukraine. The CCP has called on both parties to act with restraint and to reach a negotiated solution. In a recent statement, Beijing went so far as to say that it respects Ukraine’s sovereignty.

In the beginning of the Ukraine crisis, it appeared that the CCP would support Russia and that economic sanctions against Russia would drive Moscow deeper into Beijing’s orbit. Now, however, the CCP seems to be backpedaling a bit, but remains to be seen how far it would go.

Washington is expected to ask Beijing to join in sanctions against Russia. The White House on Feb. 24 banned U.S. chip sales to Russia and is preparing to put pressure on China to do the same. Cutting off Russia’s access to chips will severely hamper its ability to wage a modern war.

China is Russia’s largest supplier, providing Russia with 70 percent of its chips through such firms as Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corp. (SMIC) and Lenovo Group Ltd. The U.S. ban extends to technology made with U.S. inputs, regardless of where the actual components are manufactured, impacting a wide array of Chinese companies. SMIC could potentially be targeted for U.S. sanctions if it continues to export to Russia.

SMIC office
A security officer stands outside a building of Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corporation (SMIC) during its grand opening in Shanghai, China, on Nov. 22, 2001. (Reuters)

President Joe Biden warned that “Putin will be a pariah on the international stage. Any nation that countenances Russia’s naked aggression against Ukraine will be stained by association.” Although Biden did not name China, his meaning was clear. If the CCP refuses to back away from its support of Russia, the United States will prepare additional sanctions that would squeeze China out of its lucrative trading arrangements with Europe and other Western countries.

China remains the unknown factor in what may be a NATO versus Russia war. Consequently, the release of a U.S. national defense strategy document has been delayed, until it becomes clear if the United States will be fighting a war on one or two fronts.

Analysts believe that the U.S. response to Russia will impact the CCP’s behavior regarding Taiwan. At the same time, some believe that this Ukraine crisis will strengthen Western resistance toward China’s rise. And while the CCP may be looking at the U.S. reaction to Russia to decide its next move, the United States can look at Moscow’s response to predict the CCP’s behavior if similar sanctions and economic isolation are imposed on China.

Read part I here and part II here.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.

Antonio Graceffo, Ph.D., has spent more than 20 years in Asia. He is a graduate of the Shanghai University of Sport and holds a China-MBA from Shanghai Jiaotong University. Graceffo works as an economics professor and China economic analyst, writing for various international media. Some of his books on China include "Beyond the Belt and Road: China’s Global Economic Expansion" and "A Short Course on the Chinese Economy."