US – China Relations

U.S. Department of State
Date: November 11, 2019
By: Morgan Ortagus, Dwepartment Spokesperson


The United States is watching the situation in Hong Kong with grave concern.  ‎We condemn violence on all sides, extend our sympathies to victims of violence regardless of their political inclinations, and call for all parties— police and protestors— to exercise restraint.‎  We repeat President Trump’s call for a humane resolution to the protests.

The increased polarization within Hong Kong society underscores the need for a broad-based and sincere dialogue between the government, protestors, and citizenry writ large.  The United States urges the Hong Kong government to build on its dialogue with the Hong Kong public and begin efforts to address the underlying concerns driving the protests.  We also urge the protestors to respond to efforts at dialogue.

The United States believes that Hong Kong’s autonomy, its adherence to the rule of law, and its commitment to protecting civil liberties are key to preserving its special status under U.S. law, as well as to the success of “One Country, Two Systems” and Hong Kong’s future stability and prosperity.  We urge Beijing to honor the commitments it made in the Sino-British Joint Declaration, including commitments that Hong Kong will “enjoy a high degree of autonomy” and that the people of Hong Kong will enjoy human rights the freedoms of expression and peaceful assembly— core values that we share with Hong Kong.    [FULL  STORY]

The Washington Post
Date: Oct. 17, 2019
By:Josh Rogin 

For years, the Chinese government has become accustomed to doing things in our country that it

Chinese Vice Premier Liu He listens during a meeting with President Trump in the Oval Office on Oct. 11. (Andrew Harnik/AP)
doesn’t let us do in its. But those days may now be coming to an end. The Trump administration is focusing on the concept of “reciprocity” to pressure China to compete fairly or suffer consequences. The implications for the U.S.-China relationship are huge.

On Wednesday, the State Department announced that Chinese diplomats inside the United States are now required to notify the U.S. government before visiting state or local officials as well as academic or research institutions. David Stilwell, assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, said Thursday that the goal was not to constrain such interactions but to respond to Beijing’s severe and unfair restrictions on U.S. diplomats inside China.

“We’re not going to say no; we just want to have an idea who they are talking to,” he said. “Our goal is also a relationship with China that is fair and reciprocal with China living up to its many commitments.”

And as a side benefit, the U.S. government will now have far more information about how Chinese government officials are working to spread Chinese influence here. Stilwell said the United States must realize that Beijing has a long-term, deliberate strategy to take advantage of our open systems and manipulate them to advance the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) strategy and ideology.

Turns out “phase one” was only a done deal in Trump’s head.

Vanity Fair
Date: October 14, 2019
By: Bess Levin

Donald Trump speaks to reporters outside the White House on October 3.WIN MCNAMEE/GETTY IMAGES

Last week, amid reports of ISIS prisoners escaping in northern Syria, the president’s defense attorney being criminally investigated, and the continued fallout from Ukraine/Biden/“do us a favor”-gate, markets received a rare bit of good news when Donald Trump announced that the United States had reached a “very substantial phase-one deal” with China. “The deal I just made with China is, by far, the greatest and biggest deal ever made for our Great Patriot Farmers in the history of our Country,” the president tweeted. “Other aspects of the deal are also great – technology, financial services, 16-20 Billion in Boeing Planes etc., but WOW, the Farmers really hit pay dirt!” Given the negative impact Trump’s never-ending trade war has had on the economy, such news would of course be thrilling to investors, companies, consumers, and the farmers the dealmaker in chief cares so deeply for, but, as it turns out, the “greatest and biggest deal ever” doesn’t actually appear to have any basis in reality. Which is another way of saying it sure sounds like the president lied about negotiations with China, again.

Bloomberg reports that China wants another round of talks before even thinking about signing “phase one” of the trade deal, according to people familiar with the matter. Despite Trump’s all-caps claim on Sunday that “CHINA HAS ALREADY BEGUN AGRICULTURAL PURCHASES FROM OUR GREAT PATRIOT FARMERS & RANCHERS!,” Beijing’s state-run media said only that the two sides had “agreed to make joint efforts toward eventually reaching an agreement.” An op-ed that ran in China Daily over the weekend cautioned, “Let’s nail down ‘phase one’ before moving to the next. As based on its past practice, there is always the possibility that Washington may decide to cancel the deal if it thinks that doing so will better serve its interests.” In a statement, Geng Shuang, a foreign ministry spokesman, said that while progress had been made, there is still work to be done, and that he hoped “the U.S. will work with China and meet each other halfway.” Stocks opened lower on Monday after surging on Friday.

Of course, this is far from the first time Trump has lied through his caps when it comes to a trade deal. Back in December 2018, he boasted to reporters that he’d struck an “incredible” trade deal with Chinese President Xi Jinping that blew up in his face a mere 24 hours later. In August, a breakthrough call with China turned out to actually have never happened. So you can kind of see how there might be some distrust there.    [FULL  STORY]

The N.B.A. is the latest entertainment giant to incite nationalist anger in China, where political submission has become the price of admission to a market of 1.4 billion.

The New York Times
Date: Oct. 13, 2019
By: Steven Lee Myers and Chris Buckley

LeBron James of the Los Angeles Lakers going to the basket against the Brooklyn Nets in a preseason match in Shanghai on Thursday.CreditCreditHector Retamal/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

BEIJING — Back in the Cold War, the sclerotic Soviet system proved no match for the lure of American soft power: bluejeans, jazz, rock ’n’ roll, Coca-Cola, Hollywood. All became symbols of American freedom and prosperity that no amount of communist prohibitions could stop.

Today, China poses a far more formidable yet lucrative challenge for some of the most famous icons of American culture — Apple, Disney, Lady Gaga, and lately the National Basketball Association. Selling the best of American creativity and talent increasingly demands submission to the views of the Communist Party as the price of admission.

A recent furor that began with a single tweet by an N.B.A. executive in support of the Hong Kong protests has underscored the consequences of China’s willingness to use its vast economic clout to police any political values that threaten the party’s legitimacy or its policies.

It is the soft power of cultural vitality — as opposed to the hard, coercive power of military might — that makes the United States admirable in the eyes of much of the world, including China. The companies and organizations that produce much of this culture, however, have had to increasingly bend to China’s political will under its leader, Xi Jinping, whose ambition is to make his country a counterweight, if not an alternative, to the United States.

Amid this new world order, the expectation that American music, movies and entertainment will coax China closer toward the liberal values of its Western rival — or at least build good will, as it did in the Soviet Union — has dimmed.    [FULL  STORY]

As the N.B.A. defers to Beijing, a little more Western paranoia might be advantageous.

The New York Times
Date: Oct. 12, 2019
By: Ross Douthat
, Opinion Columnist

Images of President Xi Jinping loomed over an Oct. 1 parade in Beijing for the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China.CreditCreditNg Han Guan/Associated Press

“I have seen the future, and it works,” the left-wing journalist Lincoln Steffens famously declared, after observing Bolshevik Russia in its infancy. What was intended as a utopian boast soon read as a dystopian prediction — but then eventually, as Stalinist ambition gave way to Brezhnevian decay, it curdled into a sour sort of joke. By the time the Soviet Union dissolved, even the people inclined to defend the “ideals” of Marxism tended to acknowledge that as a system for managing an advanced economy and running an effective government, the one thing Soviet Communism definitely didn’t do was work.

Today, though, there is a palpable fear in the liberal West that Beijing is succeeding where Moscow failed, and that the peculiar blend of Maoist dogmatics, nationalist fervor, one-party meritocracy and surveillance-state capitalism practiced in the People’s Republic of China really is a working alternative to liberal democracy — with cruelty sustained by efficiency, and a resilience that might outstrip our own.

This fear is stoked by a growing realization that the “Chimerica” project, our great integration of markets and supply chains, has had roughly the opposite effect to the one its American architects anticipated. Instead of importing liberal ideas into China and undermining the Politburo’s rule, the Chimerican age has strengthened Beijing’s policy of social control and imported totalitarian influences into the officially free world.

A crucial mechanism for both trends is the internet, once hailed as a great liberator and now revealed as something rather different — a surveillance engine that the N.K.V.D. could only dream about, a machine that induces its users to trade privacy for entertainment and distraction, and a panopticon whose global expanse exposes anyone who wants to do business in China to the manufactured consensus of Chinese nationalism, the grievance politics of the Politburo.

China’s influence within American industry is evident well beyond the online realm, of course. But its successful censorship of U.S. businesses generally involves websites, app stores, social media. It’s not a coincidence that the National Basketball Association’s supine behavior toward China in the past week — from what is supposedly the most progressive and politically engagé of the American professional sports leagues — followed from a general manager fleetingly expressing support for the Hong Kong protesters on Twitter. Likewise when China induced Marriott to fire a luckless $14-an-hour worker recently, it was for seeming to endorse Tibetan independence by “favoriting” a tweet. Having figured out how to tame their internet, the Chinese are intent on using commercial power to tame ours.

How afraid should this make us? One possibility is that just as Chimerican optimism was once delusional, so now Chimerican fears are overblown. The Chinese regime has capabilities that outstrip Soviet Russia, but deep weaknesses as well.    [FULL  STORY]

Former US Air Force pilot Todd Hohn unable to leave China until investigation complete

Taiwan News
Date: 2019/09/20
By  Associated Press

(By Associated Press)

A FedEx pilot who was detained in southern China is under investigation on suspicion of “smuggling weapons and ammunition” after air gun pellets were found in his baggage, a foreign ministry spokesman said Friday.

The pilot was detained Sept. 12 in Guangzhou while boarding a flight to Hong Kong, said the spokesman, Geng Shuang. He said customs inspectors found a box holding 681 air gun pellets in his bag.

The pilot was questioned and released on bail on “suspicion of smuggling weapons and ammunition,” Geng said at a regular news briefing. “The case is under investigation.”

The Wall Street Journal identified the pilot as Todd A. Hohn. It said he was told he can’t leave mainland China until the investigation is finished.    [FULL  STORY]

Looking back, the great-power generalists were warier about Beijing’s threat. Looking ahead, a grasp of Mandarin will come in handy.

Date: September 15, 2019
By: Hal Brands

The more things change … Photographer: Greg Baker/AFP/Getty Images

What is the best sort of knowledge for understanding the world: detailed expertise on individual countries and key issues, or a broader grasp of strategy and the patterns of great-power rivalry? This is the deeper epistemological question at stake in recent arguments about who was right and who was wrong about China in the decades after the Cold War. The answer is complicated, but it matters a lot in terms of forging the right approach to China in the future.

The great-power gurus, those with less specific knowledge about China itself, were better at predicting the emergence of the disruptive rising power we see today. Yet the China hands – those who know that country, its language and its politics intimately – will be the critical assets in the new competition. 

As U.S.-China relations have worsened, experts have approached a consensus in favor of some toughening of the American posture. Still, opinion on China is hardly monolithic.  The Washington Post recently described one split, between an older generation that came of age during the heyday of U.S.-China engagement and wants to prevent the relationship from entering an inescapable downward spiral, and a younger generation that is more willing to risk higher tensions as the price of protecting U.S. interests.

Yet this split is not the first major divide in America’s China-watching community. Since the 1990s, there have been two types of U.S. experts on China. The first group – the “China hands” – is composed of individuals who possess deep subject-matter expertise and have devoted their careers to understanding China. The China hands can be found in U.S. universities, think-tanks, and government (particularly the Foreign Service); they possess formidable Chinese-language skills and enviable contacts within the Chinese power structure and society. They can speak with great authority and nuance about Beijing politics; they are well attuned to the unique aspects of China's history and strategic culture. 

Imagine visiting a country and being unable to leave. That scenario, a reality for many Americans visiting China, subject to a so-called “exit ban.” Buzz60, Buzz60

USA Today
Date: Sept. 15, 2019
By: Deirdre Shesgreen, USA TODAY

WASHINGTON – Two young Americans, Victor and Cynthia Liu, are “trapped” in China, increasingly desperate and despondent because Chinese authorities have blocked them from leaving for more than a year.

“They are trapped. They are alone. They are desperate to come home,” David Pressman, the siblings’ New York-based attorney, told USA TODAY. “They are literally breaking down.”

The Lius are subject to a so-called “exit ban,” and they’re not they only ones.  

Another American citizen, Huang Wan, says Chinese officials are using a “fake” legal case to prevent her from returning to the United States. An Australian resident, Yuan Xiaoliang, has been barred from leaving China for more than eight months, and her husband, an Australian citizen, has been arrested on suspicion of spying, according to Australia’s foreign minister.

The State Department has warned Americans about China’s growing use of exit bans – stating in a Jan. 3 travel advisory that Chinese authorities have sometimes used exit bans to keep Americans in China for years.

“China uses exit bans coercively,” the State Department cautioned, “to compel U.S. citizens to participate in Chinese government investigations, to lure individuals back to China from abroad, and to aid Chinese authorities in resolving civil disputes in favor of Chinese parties.”    [FULL  STORY]

​Hint: it involves these missiles. 

The National Interest
Date: September 11, 2019
By: Michael Peck

Key Point: Here’s another American solution to China’s claims over the South China Sea: offer long-range rockets to the Philippines.

The United States and the Philippines have been discussing whether the Filipino military should buy the High-Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS), a multiple rocket launcher used by the United States and other nations, according to the South China Morning Post.

“If deployed, the long-range, precision-guided rockets fired by the system would be able to strike Chinese man-made islands on reefs in the Spratly chain,” the newspaper said. HIMARS is a lighter, more mobile six-barreled version of the U.S. Army’s M270 multiple rocket launch system (MLRS). It can shoot rockets out to 70 kilometers (43 miles) and GPS-guided ballistic missiles out to 300 kilometers (186 miles).

However, funding from the cash-strapped Philippines is a hurdle. “The two sides have been unable to reach a deal because HIMARS could be too expensive for Manila given its tight defense budget,” said the newspaper.

Exactly how much does HIMARS cost? Manufacturer Lockheed Martin refused to give cost estimates, instead referring queries to the U.S. Army’s Aviation and Missile Command, which didn’t respond to questions from TNI. The cost of HIMARS is split between the launcher itself and separate contracts for various munitions including guided and unguided rockets, the longer-range Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS) missiles, and weapons under development such as extended-range rockets and the Precision Strike Missile.

Some estimates put the cost of a HIMARS guided rocket at $100,000 to $200,000 apiece, or an ATACMS at more than $700,000 apiece. Another clue is that Poland recently signed a $414 million contract for eighteen launchers plus support and training. With the 2019 Philippines defense budget at only $3.4 billion, a big HIMARS purchase would be a strain.

Yet HIMARS is still a cheaper option than, say, a $1.4 million Tomahawk cruise missile. And the Philippines had already had a taste of HIMARS. The weapon was deployed there by U.S. Marines in 2016 during the joint U.S.-Philippines Balikatan exercises. Collin Koh Swee Lean, a Singaporean defense analyst, told the South China Morning Post that “there were two possible locations for the system: Palawan province in the Philippines and Thitu, or Zhongye in Chinese—the largest island held by Manila in the disputed Spratly chain. From Palawan, HIMARS could launch a missile at its maximum range to hit China’s man-made island at Mischief Reef, Koh said. But Thitu island would also be vulnerable to PLA air and missile strikes because it is only about 22 kilometers (14 miles) from China-occupied Subi Reef, and within striking range of missiles originating from the Paracel Islands and Hainan.”

The cheaper price tag of HIMARS compared to other weapons does make it attractive. “The idea of purchasing HIMARS systems may be one of the few viable options in response to China's artificial islands and continuing and increasingly provocative actions in the SCS [South China Sea],” says Jay Batongbacal, director of the Philippines-based Institute for Maritime Affairs and Law of the Sea.    [FULL  STORY]

We must avoid it at all costs.

The Natxional Interest
Date: September 6, 2019
By: Robert Farley Follow drfarls on TwitterL

In any case, ending the Sino-American War of 2030 would require careful diplomacy, lest the war become only the first stage of a confrontation that could last for the remainder of the century.

What would the War of 2030 between China and the United States look like?

The People’s Republic of China (PRC) and the United States appear ready to plunge off the precipice of a trade war. This war could have far-ranging effects on the economies of both countries, as well as the future of the global economic order. But as of yet, it does not seem likely to involve the flight of actual bombs and missiles. While the U.S. and China have a variety of minor conflicts, none rise to the level of a casus belli.

But things could change over the next decade. Conflicts that now seem remote can take on urgency over time. As China’s relative power increases, the United States may find that small disputes can have big consequences. China, on the other hand, may see windows of opportunity in America’s procurement and modernization cycle that leave the United States vulnerable.

(This first appeared in June 2018.)

By 2030, the balance of power (and the strategic landscape) may look very different. What would the War of 2030 between China and the United States look like?

How Would War Begin?

The core of the conflict remains the same. China and the United States might well fall into the “Thucydides Trap,” however misunderstood the ancient Greek historian may be. Chinese power seems to grow inexorably, even as the United States continues to set the rules of the global international order. But even if the growth of Athenian power and the concern this provoked in Sparta really was the underlying cause of the Peloponnesian War, it required a spark to set the world aflame. Neither the PRC nor the United States will go to war over a trivial event.    [FULL  STORY]