Thinking the Unthinkable: Are American Organizations in China Ready for a Serious Crisis?

US President Trump has brought uncertainty to Sino-American ties, ‘If a serious bilateral crisis develops, [foreigners] in China may become unacceptably vulnerable to expulsion or detention,’ said Matthew Brazil.

The News Lens
Date: 2017/05/13
By: Matthew Brazil

Since the 2016 General Election, American relations with the People’s Republic of China

Photo Credit: Reuters/達志影像

(PRC) have followed a rollercoaster-like trajectory. Days before his inauguration, President Trump briefly reversed decades of predictable American conduct in a telephone conversation with Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) and hinted a departure from the “one China policy,” (, Dec. 3, 2016; Reuters, Jan. 12). During his confirmation hearings, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson proposed blocking access to China’s artificial islands in the South China Sea and triggered an outraged response from Beijing (C-SPAN, Jan. 11, Global Times, Jan. 13).

Then came the public reversals. With little explanation, Trump endorsed “One China” during his call with Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) in early February. (Xinhuanet, Feb. 10). PRC Prime Minister Li Keqiang subsequently expressed optimism about the U.S.-China relationship in the lead up to the Xi-Trump meeting in early April (XinhuaNet and New York Times, March 15).

During Secretary of State Tillerson’s visit to Beijing a week later, he adopted Chinese phraseology to describe the bilateral relationship, something that previous U.S. administrations had carefully avoided (Xinhuanet and Washington Post, March 19).

If this was solace for some who seek signs of stability in this important bilateral relationship, the events that followed betrayed potential for future instability. The new American president appears committed to punishing China for its trade surplus, and the U.S. Navy plans to enhance “freedom of navigation operations” near China’s artificial islands in the South China Sea (Navy Times, Feb. 12).

Meanwhile, early Chinese objections to American THAAD anti-missile defenses in South Korea became a hotter topic with their rushed deployment in March, and April brought disquiet to Chinese policymakers in the form of the U.S. missile strike against Syria and the deployment of the USS Carl Vinson strike group to Northeast Asia (Hangzhou Military television, July 11; China Daily, March 15; Navy Times, April 9). Trump now views Chinese assistance with North Korea as essential.    [FULL  STORY]