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Asia-bound Biden gets welcome news on Russia-China trade

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Welcome to The Daily 202! Tell your friends to sign up here. Via the Associated Press: On this day in 1981, the New York Native, a gay newspaper, carried a story concerning rumors of “an exotic new disease.” It was the first published report about what came to be known as AIDS.

The Sino-Russia relationship will surely be on Biden’s mind during Asia trip

It’s good news for President Biden as he heads Thursday on his first trip to Asia since taking office: It appears the “no-limits” friendship Moscow and Beijing proclaimed weeks before Russia’s new war in Ukraine may, in fact, have limits. 

Since the Feb. 24 expansion of the conflict, the Biden administration has worriedly watched and wondered to what extent China might help its fellow autocracy, either by providing direct economic and military support or helping to skirt U.S. and allied sanctions.

By one measure, Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said Tuesday, Beijing seems to be complying: In March, after the retaliatory sanctions against Moscow took effect, Chinese technology exports to Russia slumped.

My colleague Jeanne Whalen reported: “Chinese shipments of laptops to Russia fell by 40 percent in March compared with February, while exports of smartphones were off by two-thirds, Raimondo told reporters, citing the most recently available China trade data. Exports of telecommunications network equipment fell by 98 percent, she said.”

“The sanctions on Russia require companies worldwide to abide by the ban if they use U.S. manufacturing equipment or software to produce computer chips. Most chip factories around the world, including those in China, use software or equipment designed in the United States, analysts say.”

  • “‘I’m often asked, you know, are these export controls working? And I think the answer is an unmitigated, unqualified yes,’ Raimondo said. ‘I think they’re working because we have such a strong coalition of countries around the world participating in enforcing.’”

“The United States and 37 other countries designed the trade restrictions to cripple Russia’s military and high-tech economy after the country’s invasion of Ukraine. The rules ban the sale of computer chips, telecommunications equipment, lasers, avionics and maritime technology to many Russian buyers.”

Worries over the Sino-Russia relationship

There are obviously caveats: It’s one sector, for one month. But U.S. officials have told The Daily 202 that Russia is struggling to replace the weapons it has used or lost in Ukraine because of the export-control regime starving Moscow of high-tech components.

The Sino-Russia relationship will surely be on Biden’s mind as he heads for Seoul, and Tokyo, and a meeting of the so-called “Quad” (United States, India, Japan and Australia) widely seen as a counterweight to Chinese influence in the Indo-Pacific region.

  • His concerns mirror those of the U.S. public. In late April, a Pew Research poll found 62 percent of Americans see the China-Russia partnership as a “very serious” problem, and another 30 percent say it’s at least a “somewhat serious” problem. Sixty-two percent say China is a competitor, 25 percent say an enemy. In January, those numbers were 54 percent and 35 percent, respectively.

This past weekend, the Group of Seven rich democracies plus the European Union pressed China “to resolutely urge Russia to stop its military aggression against Ukraine.” The G-7 comprises Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States.

We call on China not to assist Russia in its war of aggression against Ukraine, not to undermine sanctions imposed on Russia for its attack against the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine, not to justify Russian action in Ukraine, and to desist from engaging in information manipulation, disinformation and other means to legitimise Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine,” the G-7 said.

Rhetorical, not material, support

Beijing has certainly provided rhetorical support — in mid-March, White House press secretary Jen Psaki noted an “absence of denunciation” of the invasion, and China has blamed the West for the conflict. The material support issue is something of an open question.

But Raimondo’s comments aren’t the first time U.S. officials have cautiously assessed China isn’t undermining the coalition pressuring Russia.

In early May, Steve Holland, Trevor Hunnicutt and David Brunnstrom of Reuters reported “senior U.S. officials say they have not detected overt Chinese military and economic support,” though they remained wary of the relationship in general.

  • “‘We have not seen the PRC provide direct military support to Russia’s war on Ukraine or engage in systematic efforts to help Russia evade our sanctions,’ a Biden administration official told Reuters, referring to the People’s Republic of China.”

“As well as steering clear of directly backing Russia’s war effort, China has avoided entering new contracts between its state oil refiners and Russia, despite steep discounts. In March its state-run Sinopec Group suspended talks about a major petrochemical investment and a gas marketing venture in Russia.”

Biden himself took up the issue in a March 18 phone call with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

“I made no threats,” the president told reporters a week later. “But I made it clear to him, make [sic] sure he understood the consequences of him helping Russia.”

Pennsylvania GOP Senate primary still undecided, Oz, McCormick neck and neck

Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Idaho, Kentucky and Oregon held their midterm primaries on May 17. (Video: Blair Guild/The Washington Post)

“Pennsylvania’s bitterly fought Republican Senate race remained unresolved, with TV personality and heart surgeon Mehmet Oz, who has the backing of former president Donald Trump, and former hedge fund CEO and Army veteran David McCormick locked in a contest that could be headed to a recount. Kathy Barnette, a conservative media personality, was out of the running,” John Wagner and Mariana Alfaro report for Post Politics Now.

Yellen warns of ‘stagflationary’ risk from high gas, food prices

“Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen said on Wednesday that Americans should not expect immediate relief from high gas prices but maintained that increases in global supply are eventually likely to provide long-term relief for motorists at the pump,” Jeff Stein reports.

How the Biden administration let right-wing attacks derail its disinformation efforts

“Just three weeks after its announcement, the Disinformation Governance Board is being ‘paused,’ according to multiple employees at DHS…On Monday, DHS decided to shut down the board, according to multiple people with knowledge of the situation,” Taylor Lorenz reports.

U.S. women’s and men’s national soccer teams close pay gap with ‘game-changing’ deal

“The U.S. men’s and women’s national soccer teams struck a labor deal that closes the contentious pay gap between the squads, an unprecedented step that will equalize both salaries and bonuses, providing a substantial boost to the decorated women’s team,” Steven Goff and Molly Hensley-Clancy report.

Russia expels French, Italian and Spanish diplomats

“Moscow said Wednesday it was expelling a total of 85 French, Spanish, and Italian diplomats, in a tit-for-tat move following the expulsion of Russian diplomats from France as part of joint European action over Russia’s campaign in Ukraine,” Le Monde reports.

Follow our live coverage of the war here

Lunchtime reads from The Post

China draws North Korea closer than ever as Biden visits region

“As President Biden makes his first presidential trip to South Korea and Japan in the next week, he faces shifting dynamics in Northeast Asia that pose steep challenges to U.S. efforts to shore up alliances to counter China’s rise. A key challenge is North Korea’s thawing relationships with China and Russia, aimed at reducing U.S. influence in the region,” Michelle Ye Hee Lee reports.

In particular, China’s strategic overture to North Korea since the collapse of U.S.-North Korea diplomatic talks in 2019 has drawn the two countries closer. With tensions rising over the U.S.-China competition and a new South Korean conservative government that vows to take a harder line on North Korea and China, Beijing has more incentive to keep Pyongyang close, experts say.”

In West Virginia, the clean-energy transition rests on Joe Manchin III

“Renewable energy has just begun to gain a foothold in West Virginia, accounting for 6 percent of the state’s electricity in 2020 compared with coal plants’ 88 percent. Residents’ deep skepticism about the transition to clean energy — even among those working on the new Black Rock wind farm — has complicated President Biden’s push to wean America off fossil fuels,” Maxine Joselow reports.

No figure in the country has more influence over the president’s effort than Sen. Joe Manchin III, the powerful West Virginia Democrat who chairs the Senate Energy and Natural Resources panel.”

‘Beware what you wish for’: 5 takeaways from a key primary night

“The blockbuster Republican Senate primary in Pennsylvania is too close to call, and returns from Oregon are still filtering in. But regardless of what else happens, progressives had a winning night, Madison Cawthorn revealed something new about the ‘Big Lie’ and Pennsylvania Democrats might want to be careful what they wish for,” Politico‘s David Siders writes.

  • Trump was also unelectable
  • The limits of ‘Big Lie’ politics
  • Forget party loyalty. It’s all about Trump.
  • Progressives have a big night
  • Governors are sticky

With plunging enrollment, a ‘seismic hit’ to public schools

“All together, America’s public schools have lost at least 1.2 million students since 2020, according to a recently published national survey. State enrollment figures show no sign of a rebound to the previous national levels any time soon,” the New York Times‘s Shawn Hubler reports.

“No overriding explanation has emerged yet for the widespread drop-off. But experts point to two potential causes: Some parents became so fed up with remote instruction or mask mandates that they started home-schooling their children or sending them to private or parochial schools that largely remained open during the pandemic. And other families were thrown into such turmoil by pandemic-related job losses, homelessness and school closures that their children simply dropped out.”

How big is the latest U.S. coronavirus wave? No one really knows.

“Experts say Americans can assume infections in their communities are five to ten times higher than official counts,” Fenit Nirappil, Katie Shepherd and Dan Keating report.

Watchdog report says Trump and Biden administration decisions drove collapse of Afghan security forces

“The interim report from the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction called the US decision to withdraw —  conceived by the Trump administration in 2020 and implemented by the Biden administration in 2021 — the “single most important factor” behind the collapse of the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces,” CNN‘s Oren Liebermann, Natasha Bertrand and Jeremy Herb report.

Biden, in Buffalo, promises that ‘hate will not prevail’

“Invoking the racist ‘great replacement theory’ that has been legitimized by some conservative commentators and GOP lawmakers and was allegedly embraced by the Buffalo suspect, Biden said that more leaders need to speak out against it and that tolerating it amounts to complicity. ‘I call on all Americans to reject the lie,’ the president said. ‘And I condemn those who spread the lie for power, political gain and for profit,’” Matt Viser and Tyler Pager report.

Behind Biden’s decision to not name names over the Buffalo shooting

“Biden’s aides say that his reticence is deliberate, and that it underscores just how delicate he and his administration view the current tinderbox that is American politics. They have been reluctant to call out individuals by name precisely out of fear that it would distract from the “substance” of the problem and give more attention to the conspiracy, which holds that white Americans are being replaced by nonwhite immigrants orchestrated by a cabal of elites eager to see Democrats win office,” Politico‘s Jonathan Lemire and Eugene Daniels report.

Your congressional district, visualized

Redistricting has become a highly politicized process as parties jockey for advantage in the midterms to determine control of the narrowly divided House. Do you know which district you are in? Check in our interactive map. 

Fed nominee Michael Barr discloses 82 different fintech investments

Michael Barr has been nominated as vice chair of supervision for the Federal Reserve, responsible for regulating the top financial institutions in the country, and he will face senators on Thursday. In preparation for that, Barr submitted his financial disclosure form on Monday, revealing investments in 82 separate financial technology, or fintech, startups, including several directly related to cryptocurrencies,” the American Prospect‘s David Dayen writes.

“You would think this might be a problem. But while Barr has struggled to obtain other top positions in financial regulatory circles under Biden, and was opposed by progressives for a separate Fed position in 2014 (which he did not receive), this time no real opposition to his nomination has emerged. Despite the timing, despite the importance of crypto regulation to financial stability, despite the demonstrated hazards of financial innovation in the housing bubble’s collapse, financial reformers in Congress have been content this time to give Barr a pass, regardless of his ties.”

Victories by Mastriano, Budd show potency of Trump’s false stolen election claims in GOP

“Republican candidates who sought to overturn the 2020 election won statewide primaries in Pennsylvania and North Carolina on Tuesday, reflecting the lingering influence in the GOP of former president Donald Trump’s false claims that the vote was rigged against him,” Annie Linskey and David Weigel report.

“Their primary victories, projected by the Associated Press, came on a day when the effect of Trump and his far-right movement on the midterm elections faced its biggest test to date. Incomplete results showed that Trump’s influence over the movement he started was uneven, winning some but not all the races where he backed a candidate.”

The Bidens will leave for Joint Base Andrews at 1:15 p.m.

At 1:45 p.m., Biden will get a briefing on how the United States is preparing for hurricane season.

Biden will leave for the White House at 2:50 p.m., and he’ll arrive at 3 p.m.

Pay 👏 the 👏 dogs 👏

Thanks for reading. See you tomorrow.

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