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This week’s Monday Briefing turns the spotlight on the Xi-Zelensky phone call. In other news, Israel’s Remembrance Day is marked by political tensions, at least 55 people have drowned after a boat sank in the Mediterranean, Biden’s re-election bid has Democrats divided (check out our weekly cartoon on this), and much, much more in our latest issue.

Spotlight: Xi Jinping, the mediator? 

On Wednesday, President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine held a one-hour long phone call with China’s leader Xi Jinping. The call is reportedly the first known contact between the two leaders since the start of the war in Ukraine. But it should not have come as a surprise. 

The efforts to reconstruct China-Ukraine relations – which before the invasion of Ukraine had been 30 years in the making and economically thriving – fall entirely under Xi’s ongoing, and relatively successful, plan to frame himself as a mediator figure in the Russo-Ukrainian conflict. A role that has been increasingly acknowledged by other major political figures like French President Emanuel Macron. For example, during his state visit to China, Macron said he would count on Xi “to bring back Russia to reason and everyone back to the negotiating table.” In February, Beijing released its 12-point proposal plan for peace in Ukraine. The proposal called for a ceasefire, but did little to advocate for the Ukrainian side in the war, and was therefore scrapped as a non-starter by Ukraine’s Western allies. However, the plan did exactly what it was, at least partly, meant to do: bring back the idea that matters between the diametrically opposed positions of Ukraine and Russia could be settled at the negotiating table. President Zelensky, recognising the strategic role of Xi, has been requesting for direct calls with him since August, and has even put forward his openness to discussing Beijing’s peace proposal.  

It is necessary to make one point clear: China plays in the grey area. And arguably it does so very well. During Wednesday’s call, in fact, there was the pretty magical omission of what most would define quite important words in matters of peacemaking in Ukraine: “war” and “Russia.” Xi, instead, talked of the “political settlement of the Ukrainian crisis,” and warned against nuclear escalation. This is in line with what Xi’s ongoing attitude about the war in Ukraine has been like. China still has to condemn Russia’s invasion, and Xi has yet to acknowledge that his “dear friend” Putin is wanted for war crimes by the ICC for his role in the abduction of Ukrainian children. On the latter point, it was Zelensky who, on Wednesday, asked for support from the Chinese leader to help bring back Ukrainian children deported by Russia. 

While Beijing’s stance continues to be that it will not militarily engage in the conflict, recent US intelligence leaks have revealed China was willing to send weapons to Russia; there is no evidence proving that such weapons have ever been sent. Even more recently, last week, China’s ambassador to France made a remark that questioned the sovereignty of ex-Soviet states like Ukraine. The statement was soon revoked by the Chinese government. But really is such a statement not inherent in China’s refusal to condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine? The question continues: can China’s murky diplomatic position ever be construed as true neutrality? Maybe that’s not the point. 

Related:  Monday Briefing 06/12/2022

Around the World 

Biden Announces Re-election Bid. In a video message published on Tuesday, the current U.S. President has announced he will run for re-election in 2024. Biden invoked the need to continue his “fight for our democracy” as the main reason behind him seeking a second term, alluding that a Trump presidency would endanger human rights. In a speech, later on that same day, in Wahington DC, Biden also talked about some of his other achievements, mentioning the creation of jobs or the building of roads and other forms of infrastructure. 

Ukraine Has Nearly All Combat Vehicles Allies Promised, NATO Says. NATO’s top military commander, Gen. Christopher G. Cavoli, revealed that out of the combat vehicles Ukraine’s Western allies had promised to deliver “over 98 percent” are already in Ukraine, in time for Kyiv’s expected spring counteroffensive. In a drastic change from two months ago, when fears were circulating that artillery and ammunition would soon run out in Ukraine, Cavioli recently stated: “I am very confident that we have delivered the matériel that they need, and we’ll continue a pipeline to sustain their operations as well.”

China widens ‘already breathtaking’ scope to arrest foreigners for espionage. On Wednesday afternoon, the Chinese Parliament passed laws broadening the scope and authorities’ power in anti-espionage. These amendments have increased concerns among foreign companies who work in key technologies and potentially sensitive sectors. The new version of the law would allow state functionaries to examine any item of a person whose identity is not ascertained or is suspected of espionage activities; “security agents may read or collect relevant documents, data, materials or items, and relevant individuals and organizations shall cooperate.”

In Israel, a Memorial Day Marked by Political Divisions. Typically, a day of remembrance of those who lost their lives due to war and terrorism, this year’s celebration was tainted by political tensions. For example, during a commemoration at a military cemetery in Beersheba, confrontations broke out between nationalist minister of national security Itamar Ben-Gvir and the mourning families who opposed his presence at the ceremony. For several weeks, Israelis have been protesting against their government- the most right-wing and religiously conservative in the country’s history.

U.S. Begins Overland Evacuation of American Civilians From Sudan. On Friday a US convoy left Khartoum with 300 evacuated citizens on board, and demands have risen as to why it took so long for the US to organize to evacuate non-diplomatic citizens compared to other countries like France and the UK which have already started to see the demand for seats decline. The US has organized a website which can be accessed by US citizens to express their willingness to either stay or leave the country. For those seeking assistance to leave, the platform will then try to link them to a possible method of transit and illustrate available seats.

Related:  Monday Briefing 08/05/2023

Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó ejected from Colombia. On Monday, Juan Guaidó, Venezuela’s top opposition leader, announced that he had entered on foot neighboring Colombia in order to escape “persecution” from Venezuela’s authoritarian leader, Nicolás Maduro. Guaidó said he was planning to attend an international summit which Colombia’s president, Gustavo Petro, was hosting in an effort to solve Venezuela’s political crisis. However, it did not go according to plan when, on the same day, Guaidó was unceremoniously removed from the country by migration officials and sent to the US, where he landed in Miami on Tuesday. 

Portugal should apologise for role in slave trade, says its president. On Tuesday, speaking at Portugal’s annual commemoration of the 1974 “Carnation” revolution, which toppled the country’s dictatorship, Portugal’s president, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, said the country should “assume responsibility” for its past role in the transatlantic slave trade. It was the first time a Portuguese leader suggested the need for a national apology over the country’s large role in the slave trade. 

U.N. Security Council Unanimously Condemns Taliban’s Treatment of Women. On Tuesday, the security council unanimously adopted a resolution condemning human rights violations in Afghanistan restricting women’s freedoms and in particular the introduction of the ban on female UN workers. The Council also urged “all States and organizations to use their influence” to “promote an urgent reversal of these policies and practices.” In the resolution it was stressed the fundamental role played by UN humanitarian aid to avoid the collapse of the Afghan economy and to limit extreme poverty in the country, but this cannot go on if the Talibans ignore fundamental human rights. 

Boat Sinks in Mediterranean, and at Least 55 People Drown. The boat left Tuesday morning from a small town next to Lybia’s capital Tripoli and was supposed to reach European shores before it sank in the Mediterranean. Only 5 people could be saved by rescue guards. This tragedy happens just days after 33 migrants died in four similar accidents near the Italian island of Lampedusa. Since the start of the year, 661 people have drowned in the Mediterranean while trying to reach European countries’ coasts. 

Italian News 

A Napoli sbarcano 75 migranti con la nave Geo Barents e i primi a scendere sono donne e bambini. La nave di ricerca e soccorso di Medici Senza Frontiere Geo Barents con 75 migranti a bordo è arrivata a Napoli in mattinata, con 41 minori, di cui 34 non accompagnati. “Ci hanno assegnato subito il porto di Napoli” – dice Juan Matias Jil – “ma non era il porto più vicino, abbiamo dovuto navigare per altre 72 ore con persone già provate dalla traversata.”

La Camera boccia il Def, corsa contro il tempo per rivotarlo. Via libera della commissione Bilancio della Camera alla nuova relazione al Def sullo scostamento di bilancio, che oggi tornerà in Aula a Montecitorio per il voto. “L’inserimento della misura che innalza i fringe benefit per le famiglie con figli non riduce l’ammontare delle risorse destinate al cuneo”, ha detto il ministro dell’economia Giorgetti. Sono mancati 6 voti al centrodestra alla Camera, dove è stata così respinta la risoluzione di maggioranza sullo scostamento di bilancio, i 3,4 miliardi per il 2023 a copertura del taglio del cuneo nel decreto da varare nel Consiglio dei ministri del primo maggio. 

Related:  Monday Briefing 27/02/2023

Ucraina: Corrado Zunino, inviato di Repubblica, ferito a Kherson. Ucciso il suo fixer Bogdan Bitik. L’inviato di Repubblica, Corrado Zunino, e il suo fixer Bogdan Bitik sono stati vittime di un agguato, molto probabilmente di cecchini russi, alle porte di Kherson. I due viaggiavano facendosi chiaramente riconoscere come giornalisti, con il giubbotto con la scritta Press. Corrado, ferito a una spalla, è ricoverato all’ospedale civile di Kherson, mentre Bitik purtroppo non ce l’ha fatta ed è morto. “Era un mio grande amico, è una sofferenza atroce”, racconta Corrado. 

Bocconi news

From the intense debates and celebrations in front of Velodromo, to the posters that have invaded every empty wall, our campus was in full-on election mode this past week. We congratulate all the candidates, and we thank our students for contributing to making our student life better by casting their vote!

But don’t be fooled, exciting events await us for next month. Within the Broaden Your Frame series, three seminars on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion will be organized on campus in May. Students can register by completing the form sent on their Outlook emails. 

And don’t miss out on the chance to attend the Tra i Leoni “Artificial Intelligence & Journalism” event on Wednesday 3rd at 6:30pm in Classroom E (Via Sarfatti, ground floor) with guests: Emanuela Girardi, founder of Pop AI and member of the executive board of AIXIA, Luca Zorloni, digital area coordinator at Wired.it, and Marco Pratellesi, Vice President of ASC27 and deputy editor of Oggi. To sign up click here.

Finally, exam and graduation session calendars have been released for the 2023-2024 cohort. More information can be found on the Bocconi website, or on students’ You@B accounts.

Cartoon of the Week: President Biden announces he will run for re-election

In case you missed it

Gabriele Bernard risponde alla domanda: quando si pensa al Romanticismo, nel contesto musicale i compositori che vengono in mente sono vari, ma qualcuno può definirsi più romantico degli altri?

Chiara Pedroli, con l’associazione studentesca Keiron, esamina come la bloodstain pattern analysis (BPA) possa fornire importanti indizi per formulare un’ipotesi circa la dinamica delittuosa di un evento. 

Author profile

Every week, your TiL Monday Briefing 🗞: you better read it with a cup of coffee! ☕️

Current members of the team are Bojan Zeric, Elisa Latora, Dragos Ile, Olimpia Vitali, Marco Visentin, Federica Di Chiara, Chiara Binello and Chiara Todesco

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