U.S.–China Week: Chinese banks and NK assets, ‘Javanka’ trip cancelled, Apple sued by Chinese app developers, Guo Wengui and asylum (2017.09.11)

>Welcome to Issue 112 of U.S.–China Week. As always: Please encourage friends and colleagues to subscribe to U.S.–China Week. Here is the web version of this issue, ideal for sharing on social media, and you can follow me on Twitter at @gwbstr. Please send your comments, quibbles, and suggestions to [email protected].

NORTH KOREA 
Major Chinese banks ban new North Korean accounts as UN Security Council to vote on ‘watered-down’ U.S. resolution

FT reported that “branches of [China’s big five banks] in China’s north-eastern border towns, where trade with North Korea is concentrated, said they had been instructed to stop opening new bank accounts for North Korean individuals or companies. Branches of three of the banks said they were in the process of cleaning out existing accounts, while the remainder did not comment on procedures for existing accounts. Although some bank branches said they had received notice of the freeze on North Korean accounts last month, others said they had been told as early as January.” Still, sources told FT many transactions use accounts belonging to Chinese nationals living in North Korea. The UN Security Council (UNSC) meanwhile was reportedly expected to vote today on new sanctions on North Korea in a resolution based on a U.S. draft but “weakened, apparently to placate Russia and China,” Reuters reported. “It no longer proposes blacklisting Kim and relaxes sanctions earlier proposed on oil and gas, a draft reviewed by Reuters shows. It still proposes a ban on textile exports.” Earlier, Reuters reported the UNSC was considering a U.S. proposal to freeze assets and ban travel for North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, as well as to impose an oil embargo on North Korea. President Donald Trump, in a press conference, said, “Military action would certainly be an option. Is it inevitable? Nothing’s inevitable.” As expected last week, Trump and President Xi Jinping held a phone call in which a White House readout said North Korea’s nuclear test was the topic.

THE PRESIDENT’S MEN
Tillerson said to be quietly working with China on Korean situation; Rumored ‘Javanka’ Beijing trip ‘cancelled’

  • In an unsourced “opinion” piece thick with phrases like “appears to” and “seems to,” WaPo‘s David Ignatius wrote that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has made quiet efforts with Chinese counterparts, aiming to build a cooperative approach to the North Korea situation. “Tillerson wants China standing behind Kim at the negotiating table, with its hands figuratively at Kim’s throat,” Ignatius wrote. One of the article’s most remarkable claims was that: “The Sino-American strategic dialogue about North Korea has been far more extensive than either country acknowledges. They’ve discussed joint efforts to stabilize the Korean Peninsula, including Chinese actions to secure nuclear weapons if the regime collapses.” / ANALYSIS: Contingencies for a North Korean collapse are a long-acknowledged barrier in U.S.–China talks over the Korean Peninsula, so if they have happened it would be both a big deal and no surprise that they’d been kept quiet. Yet Ignatius offers no sourcing or details of who was allegedly at the table in such “Sino-American” dialogue, and Tillerson’s credibility as representative of the U.S. government is questionable at best under a president who remains vocally fickle.
  • A rumored visit to Beijing by Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner and daughter Ivanka Trump (“Javanka”), both White House advisers, was cancelled, The Guardian reported. Trump administration officials reportedly said that since no visit had been scheduled, no visit was cancelled—a line Bill Bishop called “BS… They were definitely talking about it.” NYT reported that Kushner’s “involvement in China has waned; he did not accept an invitation from the Chinese to go to Beijing this month for a visit that some expected would be in preparation for Mr. Trump’s state visit in November.” / ANALYSIS: If Chinese officials believed they had a consistent line to Trump through “Javanka,” they were no doubt disappointed. I suspect the Chinese government approach to the Trump administration is more diversified than a focus on Tillerson or Kushner would suggest. This doesn’t mean, however, that Chinese officials would not prefer to work with a “point person” for China ties as discussed in the NYT piece. On the U.S. side, a “diversified” approach toward policy in the Asia-Pacific is a charitable way to put it.

CYBERSPACE + TECHNOLOGY

  • Facebook is hunting for office space in Shanghai, NYT reported, in part to help manage its hardware development efforts. The company also hired William Shuai away from LinkedIn to help manage government relations, WSJ reported. Before LinkedIn, which is relatively successful in China for a foreign social media platform (perhaps as a function of controversial decisions the company made regarding censorship), Shuai worked at Baidu and the government’s National Development and Reform Commission.
  • Apple is being sued in two collective action antitrust lawsuits brought by China-based firms on behalf of developers unhappy with Apple removal of apps from its App Store, FT reported. The research firm ASO 100 reportedly said more than 1 million Chinese apps were removed from the store this year—a number Apple disputes despite not offering its own number.
  • Sina-backed Chinese startup Tusimple “plans to test a fleet of self-driving trucks in Arizona and Shanghai next year,” Bloomberg reported.
  • Google and Xiaomi plan to partner with a new device for the India market under the Android One brand, Bloomberg reported.

THE LONG ARM
Chinese billionaire Guo Wengui applies for political asylum in the United States

NYT reported: “The billionaire, Guo Wengui, who is in the United States on a tourist visa that expires later this year, is seeking asylum status because his public charges against Chinese officials have made him ‘a political opponent of the Chinese regime,’ Thomas Ragland, a Washington-based lawyer representing him, said in a telephone interview late Wednesday. Asylum — even a pending asylum application — would give Mr. Guo more protection because he could stay in the United States while the application was being considered, a process that can take years, Mr. Ragland said. ‘Asylum offers a level of protection that is different from having a visa status,’ Mr. Ragland said. ‘Visas can be canceled or revoked.'” China’s government considers Guo a fugitive, reportedly resulting in an Interpol “red notice” for him back in April.

#USChinaWeek1967
‘The Joy of Chinese Cooking’

“When it was announced in Paris some months ago that the 23-year-old great-granddaughter of Georges Auguste Escoffler was producing a book on Chinese cooking, there was scarcely an eyebrow raised. If the descendent of the world’s most celebrated French chef was concerning herself with ‘the best in Chinese food,’ she was merely following a trend that is to all appearances international. Chinese cookbook sales may someday surpass the sales of the sayings of Chairman Mao in this country. New Yorkers, who once contented themselves with menus largely dedicated to chop suey and chow mein, now flock to Chinatown restaurants and casually commandeer such exotics as shredded chicken and abalone, vegetables with tree ears and sea slugs. They speak knowingly of the shades of difference between various schools of Chinese cooking—including Cantonese, Mandarin, Szechuan and Shanghai—and the wok, the traditional cooling utensil of Chinese cooks, is no longer a novelty in American kitchens. … There are scores of reasons for this upsurge of interest in Chinese cooking. It has always been, of course, one of the ultimate cuisines of the world, matched, perhaps, only by that of the French. Chinese culture is, of course, the oldest continuous civilization in the world, dating back 4,000 years, and the art of Chinese cooking is said to be equally long-lived. … Chinese cooking is not so difficult as many people seem to believe. One New Yorker recently said, ‘In order to make some of those recipes, you have to have the whole damn family chopping for hours.’ It simply isn’t true.”

(Source: The New York TimesThis entry is part of an ongoing feature of U.S.–China Week that follows U.S.–China relations as they developed in another era of change and uncertainty, 50 years ago.)

ABOUT U.S.–CHINA WEEK

U.S.–China Week is a weekly news and analysis brief that covers important developments in U.S.–China relations and features especially insightful or influential new policy analysis.

Graham Webster is a senior research scholar, lecturer, and senior fellow of the Paul Tsai China Center at Yale Law School, where he specializes in U.S.–China diplomatic, security, and economic relations through research and Track II dialogues. He is also a fellow for China and East Asia with the EastWest Institute. His website is gwbstr.com, and he is based in Oakland, California.

Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are my own (and I reserve the right to change my mind).

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Contact: Follow me on Twitter at @gwbstr. Send e-mail to [email protected].