Category Archives: U.S.–China Week

U.S.–China Week: Korea sanctions deal, PACOM’s ‘bad cop’?, CFIUS in context, Kurt Campbell’s Pekingology (2016.02.29)

Welcome to issue 42 of U.S.–China Week. I’d like to say that a trip to Beijing has spared me from conversations about the U.S. election, but that has not been the case. Friends here, Chinese and international, have been watching the Republican contest and are trying to understand what a Donald Trump candidacy or presidency might mean. Everyone I have spoken to was shocked by former U.S. Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman’s suggestion that he would likely support Trump if he became the Republican nominee. Still, no one knows how a nominee or president Trump might approach China policy, and everyone seems convinced a Hillary Clinton presidency would represent continuity (though not everyone in China likes that idea). The U.S. government may operate in a more transparent way than the Chinese party-state, but this U.S. election season shows that both sides can produce their share of uncertainty.

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 please send your comments, quibbles, and suggestions to [email protected].

NORTH KOREA
U.S. and China back new UN sanctions as FM Wang Yi visits Washington; South Korea’s ties in flux

After several rounds of U.S.–China meetings and other consultations, the United States reportedly circulated a draft UN Security Council resolution with Chinese support. A Chinese spokesperson said “we hope and believe that the new resolution can effectively limit further progress of the DPRK’s nuclear and missile program” but said a “fundamental solution” will require “dialogue and negotiation.” Foreign Minister Wang Yi, in a press conference with Secretary of State John Kerry, said “we want to pursue in parallel tracks the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and the replacement of the Korean armistice with a peace agreement.” A White House spokesperson described recent U.S.–North Korea discussions this way: “There was interest expressed by the North Koreans in discussing a peace treaty. We considered their proposal, but also made clear that denuclearization had to be part of any discussion. And the truth is the North Koreans rejected that response.”

Wang, in a wide-ranging speech in Washington, clarified that the “parallel tracks” suggestion meant that there would be no peace agreement without denuclearization, but that “without a peace agreement and without addressing the legitimate concerns of the parties, including those of the DPRK, then denuclearization cannot be achieved in a sustainable way.” In the same speech, Wang reiterated Chinese concern about U.S.–South Korea discussions about deploying the advanced THAAD missile defense system, saying China’s “legitimate national security interests may be jeopardized or threatened” and that “a convincing explanation must be provided to China.” China’s ambassador to South Korea had warned that installing the system could “destroy” their bilateral ties. Assistant Secretary of State Daniel Russel visited Beijing and met with China’s envoy for North Korea.

ANALYSIS: In the careful diplomatic language around the “parallel” or “dual” track approach, we can see the possibility of a return to dialogue with the United States and North Korea at the same table, whether or not under the Six Party Talks framework. Thinking creatively, the armistice could theoretically be replaced by a peace agreement without lifting sanctions, meaning such an agreement could be seen as an intermediate and largely symbolic step toward denuclearization. But so far there is no sign the North Korean leadership would be interested.

BAD COP?
U.S. admiral: ‘China seeks hegemony,’ U.S. ‘freedom of navigation’ activities to continue

Asked during a Congressional hearing about China’s intentions, the top U.S. military commander in the Pacific, Adm. Harry Harris, said, “I believe China seeks hegemony in East Asia. Simple as that.” Separately, at a Pentagon press conference, Harris said the U.S. military would not recognize an air defense identification zone (ADIZ) if China declared one in the South China Sea. “We would ignore it, just like we’ve ignored the ADIZ that they’ve put in place in the East China Sea,” Harris said. In the press conference, Harris labeled Chinese objections to a THAAD deployment in South Korea “interference” and “preposterous, especially when you consider that THAAD is not a threat to China.” In a separate Congressional hearing, Harrispromised more “freedom of navigation” (FON) operations and said they would be more complex. / Meanwhile, a Chinese Defense Ministry spokesperson said China will join the multinational “RIMPAC” military exercises near Hawaii this summer.

ANALYSIS: The debate over whether China is “militarizing” the South China Sea continues, and it continues to be a distraction. Actions by both the United States and China already resemble tit-for-tat escalation of deployments and shows of force. Speaking of the region as if it were not already a realm of military jockeying obscures the importance of confronting the underlying issues, something that will be unavoidable when the Philippine arbitration decision is released in the coming weeks. / China’s RIMPAC participation was actually announced in September, as Inoted at the time, so mentioning it again may have been an effort to inject some positivity on military ties during a generally oppositional news cycle.

INVESTMENT
Report: U.S. reviews more Chinese deals for security because there are more, and more tech-focused, Chinese deals

China again was the country whose deals in the United States produced the most reviews by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), which assesses foreign acquisitions of U.S. firms for national security implications, according to the latest CFIUS report covering 2014. Rhodium Group’s Thilo Hanemann and Daniel Rosen argue that this is not a reflection of greater scrutiny of Chinese deals, but rather of the greater volume of deals from China and a shift to technology sectors that draw greater scrutiny.

ANALYSIS: A real measure of the effect of U.S. national security reviews would have to account for acquisitions that are not even attempted because the parties believe they would be blocked. Given the chance, for instance, a Chinese defense firm might be eager to acquire parts of Boeing or Northrop Grumman—but they don’t try because they would very likely be blocked. But it’s not just Chinese companies who would be blocked in that way. In an effort to explain CFIUS reviews, Hanemann and Rosen are right to ask what kinds of transactions are being attempted.

XI WATCHING
Kurt Campbell co-authors report anticipating Chinese foreign policy driven by nationalism and domestic instability

Former Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell, seen as an adviser to Hillary Clinton on Asian affairs, co-authored a new Council on Foreign Relations report with Robert Blackwill on China’s foreign policy under President Xi Jinping: “Economic growth and nationalism have for decades been the two founts of legitimacy for the Communist Party, and as the former wanes, Xi will likely rely increasingly on the latter.” They emphasize Xi’s personalization of rule, arguing that U.S. officials have less access than before: “Familiar interlocutors at the State Council and Foreign Ministry, who once provided much-needed insight into an often mysterious policymaking process, are no longer central within it.” Blackwill and Campbell say containment “has no relevant application in East Asia today” and advocate for a “grand strategy” designed to “use a variety of instruments of statecraft to incentivize China to commit to a rules-based order but impose costs that are in excess of the gains Beijing would reap if it fails to do so.” They call for, among other things: doubling down on the “pivot” or “rebalance”; efforts “to maintain U.S. primacy in Asia”; avoiding a “fourth communique” with China or other policies that would put China at the center of U.S. Asia ties; and greater engagement with Xi and the Chinese government. Blackwill was also co-author of a widely read previous CFR report that called for an stern approach to China.

ANALYSIS: Much like the previous CFR report, the authors do little to examine the interactive nature of U.S. and Chinese actions. They diagnose in Xi the behaviors of a strongman who is ultimately weak and therefore lashes out abroad to deflect domestic criticism. In examining Chinese government actions, they fail to adequately consider the influence of U.S. policies—including the “rebalance” efforts. In contrast, when prescribing a focus on primacy and strengthened regional ties, they recognize that U.S. priorities are affected or driven by Chinese actions. Why not, at least in part, the other way around?

THIS WEEK IN 1966
Sen. Fulbright proposes ‘accommodation’ with China in Vietnam, appears further at odds with Johnson

“As long as China and America are competitors in Southeast Asia, there can be no lasting peace or stability in that part of the world,” Senator J. W. Fulbright said in what The New York Times called a “major Senate speech.” Fulbright called for “neutralization” of the region—essentially a deal in which both the United States and China would pull out. He added: “The policy of growing involvement that the United States is now following in the apparent belief that it will persuade the Chinese of our determination to remain in Southeast Asia may in fact have the opposite effect: It may persuade them, however wrongly, that the American people and their government will sooner or later withdraw their support from an insupportable commitment and abandon Southeast Asia to the hegemony of China.” In advocating “neutralization,” Fulbright explicitly advocated “accommodation” over “expanded military action.” In the view of a Times reporter, the speech put the Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman “more at odds than ever with the Administration’s policy in Vietnam.”

(This entry is part of a new feature of U.S.–China Week, following 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 China Center at Yale Law School, where he specializes in U.S.–China diplomatic, security, and economic relations through research and Track II dialogues. His website is gwbstr.com.

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

Subscription to U.S.–China Week by clicking here or e-mailing me is free and open to all, and an archive of past editions appears at my long-running website on East Asia and the United States, Transpacifica.

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

U.S.–China Week (2016.02.23)

Welcome to issue 41 of U.S.–China Week. I’m publishing from Beijing this week, one day late because of transit. Publishing may be off the usual rhythm next week as well.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi begins a three-day visit to the United States today, likely in part to prepare for President Xi Jinping’s reported visit to Washington for the Nuclear Security Summit at the end of March. (The two governmentscommitted in September to hold a bilateral meeting on nuclear security before the summit, but I haven’t seen reports of one taking place yet.)

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 please send your comments, quibbles, and suggestions to [email protected].

SOUTH CHINA SEA
Anti-aircraft weapons spotted near site of last U.S. FON operation; Chinese spokesperson denies ‘militarization’

Citing satellite imagery apparently provided by the private remote sensing firm Imagesat, Fox News reported that the Chinese military had deployed surface-to-air missile launchers on Woody Island in the Paracels. A New York Times editorial called the move “unwise” but also noted potential “legitimate” purposes for the weapons. The deployment coincided with the U.S.–ASEAN meeting in California hosted by President Barack Obama. Before the deployment made the news, Obamacriticized China for “resorting to the old style of might makes right, as opposed to working through international law and international norms.” Bonnie Glaser drew a line between the different but connected situations in the Paracels, where China’s installations are more established, and the Spratlys, where Chinese land reclamation has caused recent outcry: “If you look at what’s going on in the Paracels, that gives us a good sign of what’s going to happen in the Spratlys.” Sen. John McCain said the United States should escalate its pressure with “policies with a level of risk that we have been unwilling to consider up to this point,” according to FP. A Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson said China “has been deploying various kinds of national defense facilities [in the Paracels] for several decades. It is nothing new and has nothing to do with the so-called militarization of the South China Sea.” The commander of U.S. Pacific Command agreed at least on the first point, saying “this isn’t exactly something new.” / Meanwhile, Japan and Vietnam conducted joint exercises in and around Vietnam. And a U.S. admiral acknowledged “we lost control of the message” for the first “freedom of navigation” (FON) operation in October.

ANALYSIS: If the U.S. conference with ASEAN leaders (see next item) was designed in part to stem China’s influence and maintain opposition to Chinese activities in the South China Sea, it would make sense for Chinese officials to have made sure that effort did not go unanswered. Thus deploying (or redeploying) some missiles in an area that the U.S. Navy recently transited, in opposition to Chinese positions, makes that point while also suggesting there are costs for U.S. FON operations. This makes sense if you assume Chinese decision makers in this arena engage in tit-for-tat behavior to deter U.S. interference with Chinese goals. The “militarization” issue is really a sideshow, given that both the United States and China are already making points with military hardware.

SOUTHEAST ASIA IN SOUTHWEST U.S.
Little is new in U.S.–ASEAN joint position on maritime security

In a press conference concluding the U.S.–ASEAN meeting at Sunnylands, Obamasaid: “the United States and ASEAN are reaffirming our strong commitment to a regional order where international rules and norms—and the rights of all nations, large and small—are upheld. We discussed the need for tangible steps in the South China Sea to lower tensions, including a halt to further reclamation, new construction and militarization of disputed areas. Freedom of navigation must be upheld and lawful commerce should not be impeded.” (Then the U.S. reporters asked him about the Supreme Court.) Chinese observers might note that the U.S.–ASEAN joint statement also affirmed “mutual respect for the sovereignty, territorial integrity, equality and political independence of all nations,” and everyone would love to see the “shared commitment” to “non-militarization and self-restraint in the conduct of activities” in maritime affairs be a reality.

ANALYSIS: The U.S.–ASEAN meeting need not have been “about China” to be relevant to the U.S.–China relationship, but it’s not all about balancing Chinese influence. U.S. bilateral security ties with ASEAN members are probably more important in that respect. In fact, the non-maritime security issues discussed in the U.S.–ASEAN context, including disaster response and counterterrorism, are natural areas for all countries involved to cooperate with China. In terms of statements about the South China Sea, the Sunnylands ASEAN summit was nothing new.

RIGHTS AND SPEECH
U.S. Congressman gives detailed human rights speech at NYU Shanghai, emphasizes Christian faith

Rep. Chris Smith, chairman of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC) delivered a speech at NYU Shanghai criticizing Chinese human rights conditions across several areas and describing his Christian faith-based motivation for frequently speaking out on rights issues in China. According to “excerpts” of Smith’s remarks, published by his office, he addressed freedom of religion, forced abortion and involuntary sterilization, sex-selective abortion, human rights lawyers, civil society regulations, and prominent individual rights activists, saying that “deteriorating human rights conditions not only hurt the Chinese people but are a barrier to closer U.S.–China relations. Smith’s office said he was on a five-day “human rights mission” to China and that the speech was open to NYU faculty and students.

ANALYSIS: Smith’s speech is noteworthy not for its content, which echoes dozens of other statements he has made, but for its setting at the NYU campus in Shanghai. That campus was jointly established with a Chinese university, and the extent of academic freedom there has been a question since before it was established. So it is interesting that the speech did not include discussion of academic freedom, something Smith held a hearing on in June. Smith is undoubtedly right that human rights is a barrier to closer bilateral ties, though he offers little in the way of a realistic mechanism to improve rights conditions or bilateral cooperation.

THIS WEEK IN 1966
Top U.S. diplomat on U.S.–PRC opposition in Asia, and detailed response from Chinese press

Assistant Secretary of State William P. Bundy gave a long speech on “The United States and Communist China” at Pomona College on Feb. 12, 1966. Excerpt: “The unfortunate fact is that the kind of world that we seek and the kind of world our Asian friends seek is totally antithetic to the kind of Asia and the kind of world that Communist China seeks. What we seek is a situation where small as well as large nations are able to develop as free and independent countries, secure from outside aggression or subversion. We look toward their economic, political, and social development and growth; we hope their development will be in the direction of increasingly democratic institutions, but we recognize that these nations must develop as they themselves see fit, in accordance with their own traditions and customs.”

Bundy’s speech made repeated reference to a contemporaneous essay on “How to Deal with the Chinese Revolution” by John K. Fairbank, published in The New York Review of Books and available at ChinaFile.

The English-language Peking Review carried a translated People’s Dailycommentary (here in pdf) called “Refuting Bundy,” saying in part: “U.S. imperialism sees in China the biggest obstacle in the way of its world domination. Its inveterate hatred for and implacable enmity towards the Chinese people is itself evidence that the Chinese people are among the most revolutionary and most progressive. Otherwise, U.S. imperialism would not be opposing us as it is doing now. … Posing as a historian, this creature of imperialism, Bundy, said that China has now sought ‘to restore’ itself to ‘its past position of grandeur’ under the old emperors. This is the ‘valid evidence of [China’s] Asian ambitions,’ he offered.”

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 China Center at Yale Law School, where he specializes in U.S.–China diplomatic, security, and economic relations through research and Track II dialogues. His website is gwbstr.com.

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

Subscription to U.S.–China Week by clicking here or e-mailing me is free and open to all, and an archive of past editions appears at my long-running website on East Asia and the United States, Transpacifica.

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

U.S.–China Week: First Anniversary Edition (2016.02.15)

Welcome to the special first anniversary edition of U.S.–China Week.

One year ago this week, I sent out the first “beta” issue of U.S.–China Week to 10 friends and colleagues. Today, after 49 issues and only three weeks off all year, this issue goes out to more than 800 subscribers. You are diplomats and journalists, scholars and defense professionals, think tankers and businesspeople. About three-quarters are from the United States and China, with at least 20 other countries represented. My sincere thanks to all of you for reading. I am grateful for the dozens of thoughtful and informative comments readers have sent. It has been a special pleasure to meet new friends and colleagues through this work, and I look forward to meeting even more of you as I travel to Beijing and Washington in the coming days.

To celebrate this anniversary, I am introducing a new series of U.S.–China flashbacks, with the first appearing as the last item below. This material is based on a reading of the week’s news from both countries—from exactly 50 years ago. Since I have the rare privilege of access to a great library, I’ve been reading publications from early 1966 on both sides of the Pacific in under-loved bound periodicals and some electronic archives. In the coming weeks, I’ll feature some of what people reported and argued at the time. As time goes on, I may shift to other decades, but early 1966 was very rich, and history ensures there will be plenty to discuss in the coming weeks.

Again, thanks for reading.

As always, but especially on this one-year anniversary: 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 please send your comments, quibbles, and suggestions to [email protected].

ASEAN CENTRALITY
Obama hosts Southeast Asian leaders at Sunnylands in bid to solidify ‘rebalance’ as regional legacy

President Barack Obama is to welcome the leaders of the 10 member countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) today at the Sunnylands estate where he hosted President Xi Jinping for their first in-depth meeting in June 2013. Michael Fuchs, who has just returned to the Center for American Progress (CAP) after most recently serving as a deputy assistant secretary of state responsible for multilateral affairs in East Asia, writes that “ASEAN-centered institutions are the most effective mechanisms through which the United States can forge solutions to Asia’s biggest threats.” At CAP, Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes previewed the trip, and the top East Asia officials from the White House and State Department both told reporters the Sunnylands U.S.–ASEAN summit is “not about China.” Reporters disagree, framing China issues as “an underlying goal” and ASEAN as “increasingly sandwiched between Washington and Beijing.” In a seeming fight to emphasize the “not about China” point, the White House took the unusual step of issuing a “fact sheet” before the meeting even started, detailing the substantive policy areas on the agenda.

ANALYSIS: As I write today at The Diplomat, and as Obama’s initial top Asia adviser Jeff Bader has publicly lamented, the U.S. press is going to make any East Asia story into a China story. By hosting ASEAN leaders at Sunnylands, Obama is hardly avoiding that impression. Despite persistent suggestions that the Obama administration has not delivered on the promise of the “pivot” or “rebalance” rhetoric, U.S. engagement in the region, with ASEAN and the related East Asia Summit meetings as a hub, has increased. Holding this summit helps cement those efforts on the U.S. side and makes it harder for a future president to deemphasize ASEAN.

CYBERSECURITY
Top U.S. intelligence officials tell Congress Chinese commercial hacking may be down

Speaking to the Senate Intelligence Committee, the U.S. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said “I think there has been a decline” when asked about whether China was adhering to the September 2015 joint declaration against state-sponsored commercial espionage online. NSA Director Michael Rogers, in the same hearing, said “we have seen some lessening in activity, but we’re not yet prepared to say that that’s a result of the systematic policy choice on the part of our Chinese counterparts.” Clapper described the remaining uncertainty as determining “whether this is a case where these … cyber actors that are under the control of the state have actually reduced their activity or if they were told, ‘Don’t get caught.’ … And of course, there’s also the challenge of determining whether, per the agreement, that any information that was purloined is actually used for economic advantage.”

ANALYSIS: These statements are pretty clearly hedged, but it is certain at minimum that the administration has not decided to sustain its public shaming tactics that led up to (and may have helped produce) the September declaration. It is always important to remember that Xi never agreed to stop national security-related spying, and the meaning of “knowingly support” is pretty vague.

SOUTH CHINA SEA
Debate and conflicting reports over whether U.S. ‘freedom of navigation’ program may gain partners

U.S. and Indian officials have held talks about the possibility of conducting joint naval patrols, potentially in the South China Sea, Reuters reported. A State Department spokesperson said “at this time, I can say there’s no plans for any joint naval patrols.” Mira Rapp-Hooper writes that Australia was conducting surveillance flights and was considering operations that would challenge Chinese claims, that Japan announced an intention to patrol the South China Sea by air, and that the Philippines has expressed a desire to conduct joint patrols with U.S. forces. / Meanwhile, reports emerged that a decision is expected from the arbitral tribunal in the Philippine case against China in May, and the Philippine foreign minister said the Philippines should engage in bilateral talks with China if the award favors the Philippines.

ANALYSIS: Significant sectors of regional governments have apparently come around to the idea that demonstrating objections to Chinese activities through patrols is a desirable course of action. Introducing joint patrols or “freedom of navigation” operations would significantly change the equation. For one, a U.S. partner that has ratified the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea might use the convention’s dispute settlement mechanisms to challenge Chinese practices the U.S. government considers illegal. On the other hand, such activities with U.S. allies would reinforce the perception that U.S. alliances are directed against China. Any joint patrols, therefore, should target excessive claims made by multiple countries.

NORTH KOREA
U.S. Congress passes new sanctions; Chinese official calls on U.S. and North Korea to return to talks

The U.S. Congress passed a new package of sanctions against North Korea by wide margins and there was no sign Obama would veto the bill, which requires the president to investigate and designate individuals or entities that do business with North Korea in ways that benefit the country’s military and nuclear weapons programs. Also targeted are those who “imported, exported, or reexported significant luxury goods to or into North Korea,” potentially including Chinese people or businesses not directly related to proliferation or weapons. / Meanwhile, a Chinese spokesperson, echoing the readout from Foreign Minister Wang Yi’s meeting in Munich with Secretary of State John Kerry, urged the United States and North Korea “to be seated, talk and discuss how to address each other’s reasonable concerns.” This is consistent with the Chinese position favoring a return to the six-party talks.

ANALYSIS: In an engaging panel at the Munich Security Conference, Senate Foreign Relations Chair Robert Corker and National People’s Congress Foreign Affairs Chair Fu Ying reenacted the persistent difference of perspective between the two governments, with Corker asking why Chinese authorities won’t exert more pressure (and Fu suggesting he meant starve the North Korean people), and Fu asking why the U.S. government won’t pledge not to invade (and Corker saying it’s a non-issue, “unless”). It seems unlikely the U.S. position will change. Will China’s?

THIS WEEK IN 1966
Accusations of imperialism as U.S.–Taiwan military agreement enters force; NYT reporter describes ‘the new China experts’

» A commentary declared a new “status of forces” agreement between the United States and the Republican government in Taiwan “illegal, null, and void.” “According to the agreement,” read a recap of the Beijing Da Gong Bao commentary, “the U.S. can station its invading troops in Taiwan without limit and can arbitrarily occupy Taiwanese territory. This way, the American imperialists are free to turn Taiwan into a base for invasion and war in Asia. The U.S. invaders also threaten to use Taiwan as a transit station to ‘support the Vietnam War’ and as the ‘closest large base’ to the mainland.” A short New York Times report on the agreement when it was signed in August 1965 saw things differently, saying “the agreement details criminal jurisdiction to be applied against American personnel charged with violating Chinese Nationalist laws,” but the United States could opt to prosecute its own personnel for “death, rape, robbery, security offenses against the Chinese Nationalist Government, narcotics, and arson.”

» “Who are the experts who sit in on the great decisions and calculate China’s reaction,” asked the journalist James Reston in The New York Times. “Most of the ‘old China hands’ of the Bohlen-Thompson generation—John Paton Davies, John Carter Vincent, Edmund Clubb, etc.—were shunted aside in the McCarthy raids on the State Department, and the new China hands are not invited to the critical White House policy sessions.” Reston identified “a new generation,” whether or not out of the loop, in then-Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Edward Earl Rice, the diplomats Oscar Vance Armstrong, John H. Holdridge, Assistant Secretary William P. Bundy, and others. Reston argued that “the people who know the most about China in this Government are not in touch with the President personally, and at least some of them certainly do not share his confidence that the war in Vietnam can be enlarged without bringing China into the struggle.” Reston speculated that the new generation remembered “the fate of the old China hands” and “do not want to get caught between President Johnson and Senator Fulbright, and who can blame them?” (Stay tuned in the coming weeks for more on Fulbright and Bundy.)

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 China Center at Yale Law School, where he specializes in U.S.–China diplomatic, security, and economic relations through research and Track II dialogues. His website is gwbstr.com.

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

Subscription to U.S.–China Week by clicking here or e-mailing me is free and open to all, and an archive of past editions appears at my long-running website on East Asia and the United States, Transpacifica.

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

U.S.–China Week: North Korea, a key ‘defector,’ ivory’s uncertain progress, internal affairs and detention, what FON? (2016.02.08)

Welcome to Issue 39 of U.S.–China Week, and Monkey’s Greetings to all those celebrating the Lunar New Year.

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 please send your comments, quibbles, and suggestions to [email protected].

NORTH KOREA
U.S. and China differ on responses to North Korea rocket launch

North Korea launched a rocket that reportedly put a satellite in orbit and was part of the country’s program to develop a long-distance nuclear missile system. The launch came on the eve of Lunar New Year and days after China’s top diplomat for North Korea affairs, Wu Dawei, travelled to Pyongyang in a effort to, reportedly, stop the launch. President Barack Obama and President Xi Jinping spoke on the phone before the launch to discuss responses to last month’s nuclear test, and “they agreed that North Korea’s planned ballistic missile test would contravene multiple UN Security Council resolutions and represent another provocative and destabilizing action,” according to a White House readout. The Xinhua readout was less firm, saying Xi called the situation “complicated and sensitive.” Before the launch, Congress was already working on new unilateral sanctions, while the UN Security Council debated its response. After the launch, South Korea’s government said it would begin talks with the United States about installing the THAAD missile defense system. A Chinese spokesperson said “moving ahead with deployment of anti-missile systems in the region will further raise tensions.”

ANALYSIS: In contrast to the episodic and calculated interplay among governments in the South China Sea, developments in the North Korea situation reveal strategic differences between the United States and China and the paralysis that stems from them. Both governments are advocating solutions that have so far failed in either denuclearizing the peninsula or otherwise stabilizing the situation—in the U.S. case stronger international pressure, and in the Chinese case a return to direct talks. It seems contrary to both governments’ priorities to spin their tires in these opposing and uncharted directions. U.S. officials should try to avoid thinking of the Chinese government as merely an obstacle to a preordained solution, and the Chinese side should pursue new thinking with each of the key parties.

INTELLIGENCE
Reports: Chinese ‘defector’ Ling Wancheng shared nuclear secrets with U.S. officials

Reports by Bill Gertz and Financial Times journalists Jamil Anderlini and Tom Mitchell say U.S. intelligence officials have been interrogating Ling Wancheng, the brother of the key Hu Jintao deputy Ling Jihua. Chinese efforts to repatriate Ling have not been successful, the reports say. Gertz writes that U.S. officials believe Ling Wancheng was holding a cache of secrets as leverage to prevent the Chinese government from taking action against his brother, who was accused of corruption over the summer. The FT report cites “two people familiar with some of the intelligence he has provided” and suggests that part of the purpose for Politburo Member Meng Jianzhu’s visit to Washington in September was to attempt to recover Ling.

ANALYSIS: Without knowing more about the sources for these stories, it is impossible to know what elements, if any, are true. If the U.S. government has indeed gained access to sensitive national security secrets from Ling, this is one link in a chain of events suggesting the U.S. and Chinese security establishments already treat each other as Cold War–style adversaries. At what point might it be better for strategic stability to acknowledge that dynamic rather than silently living it?

SOUTH CHINA SEA
U.S. needs to seriously debate goals, not just details, of ‘freedom of navigation’ program

In a ChinaFile Conversation about the second U.S. “freedom of navigation” (FON) operation in the South China Sea since October, I argue in part: “The Chinese reaction in this case seems to be about as measured as could be expected. The U.S. government should not, however, assume Chinese authorities will show the same restraint in all cases. If, as expected, the FON program continues in the South China Sea, U.S. officials should expect intercepts and the possibility of unsafe encounters. This risk is increased because, despite the military-to-military work on safety in unplanned encounters, not every Chinese ship in the area is part of the Navy.

“This second FON operation sent a far clearer message than the October transit near Subi Reef. A U.S. spokesperson promptly described the legal point the mission was to demonstrate. It remains an open question, however, whether the U.S. government needs to send warships to make its legal point. If the United States would ratify the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea, it could use dispute resolution mechanisms under the convention. Even without ratification, consistent diplomatic statements and documentation can make a strong representation.

“It is clear, however, that the U.S. missions are not just about making a legal point. They are also a show of force, and they help satisfy a constituency inside the U.S. policy community pushing for the White House to ‘do something’ about China’s island construction. But what do FON operations ‘do’? Their goals and effects should be debated just as ferociously as the legal positions they advocate.”

MEANWHILE: Australia debates conducting similar operations. The United States is to upgrade five military installations in the Philippines. The U.S. ambassador to the Philippines said the possibility of joint patrols with Philippine forces has been discussed.

RIGHTS + SOVEREIGNTY
State Department spokesperson calls on China to clarify status of recent cross-border detainees

State Department spokesperson John Kirby said: “We remain deeply concerned by the disappearance of five Hong Kong residents associated with Mighty Current Media and the Causeway Bay bookstore. We continue to follow closely the developments of these cases. They – these cases, including two involving individuals holding European passports, raise serious questions about China’s commitment to Hong Kong’s autonomy under the ‘one country, two systems’ framework as well as its respect for the protection of universal human rights and fundamental freedoms. We urge China to clarify the current status of all five individuals and the circumstances surrounding their disappearances and to allow them to return to their homes.” Reuters reports Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lu Kang said China’s law enforcement officials would not act illegally, but the ministry’s transcripts do not apparently include the remark. / Meanwhile, Kerry Brown argues China’s “domestic repression has a strong international dimension” and questions whether the Chinese government’s longstanding commitment to non-interference in internal affairs has changed shapes.

ANALYSIS: It does not require any special knowledge of the cases at hand to see that domestic events can have a strong influence on international opinions. When Chinese authorities target individuals outside China, however, sensitivities are far greater, as in the reported Obama administration warning against Chinese agents operating illegally in the United States. The many unanswered questions include: At what level are these apparent cross-border renditions authorized? Should we take it from the absence of Lu Kang’s remarks in the published transcripts that the central government has not yet decided how to play this issue?

PROGRESS
U.S. diplomat wrestles with whether China’s commitments on ivory have translated into action

In a House Appropriations subcommittee meeting, Assistant Secretary of State William Brownfield answered lawmakers’ questions about actions taken after U.S.–China joint commitments to fight the ivory trade. Those commitments, announced in September when Xi visited Washington, included a pledge from both governments to “take significant and timely steps to halt the domestic commercial trade of ivory.” Brownfield, who co-chairs the U.S.–China Joint Liaison Group on Law Enforcement,said “we got the Chinese…to agree that we would form a working group to develop details on how we would work to make this happen. Now, with many countries in the world you would say this sounds laughably little to have accomplished. With China it is I would say a step in the right direction.” Later, Brownfield also said “I would describe [China’s new draft wildlife protection law] as I have read it and understood it so far is it moves in the right direction in some ways, in the wrong direction in some ways. And it unquestionably does not go as far as we wish it would go.” Brownfield called the China “issue” the “800-pound gorilla who’s actually not in the room” and said four years of work had “moved from something that they are not willing to talk about at all to something that they are willing to acknowledge is an issue, and that they have taken some ownership of.”

ANALYSIS: Brownfield is cautious in assessing progress on this issue, though he does highlight a public “ivory crush” in which Chinese authorities made a show of destroying a large amount of ivory to publicize the government’s stated policy. The public rarely gets a clear vision of how successful, or on the other hand how pro forma, individual lines in the U.S. or bilateral “fact sheets” that come out of major diplomatic events turn out to be. When, as in cybersecurity, success is partially measured in just getting both sides to talk about an issue, it is clear that more substantial progress will be a long time coming.

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 China Center at Yale Law School, where he specializes in U.S.–China diplomatic, security, and economic relations through research and Track II dialogues. A full bio is available here.

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

Subscription to U.S.–China Week by clicking here or e-mailing me is free and open to all, and an archive of past editions appears at my long-running website on U.S.–East Asia politics, Transpacifica.

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

U.S.–China Week: A clearer ‘freedom of navigation’ op., Kerry frustrated in Beijing, an uncertain rebalance, Clinton on women’s rights (2016.02.01)

Welcome to Issue 37 of U.S.–China Week. Readers in New York City may be interested in attending a talk I am giving Tuesday evening at the CUNY Graduate Center, in which I will offer a preliminary assessment of U.S. policy toward Asia in the Obama administration. The talk will be in Midtown from 6–7:30 p.m., and details are available here.

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 please send your comments, quibbles, and suggestions to [email protected].

SOUTH CHINA SEA
With new ‘freedom of navigation’ operation, U.S. claims to challenge rule requiring permission for ‘innocent passage’

A U.S. statement said the U.S. guided missile destroyer USS Curtis Wilbur “transited in innocent passage within 12 nautical miles of Triton Island” in the Paracel Islands. “This operation challenged attempts by the three claimants, China, Taiwan, and Vietnam, to restrict navigation rights and freedoms around the features they claim by policies that require prior permission or notification of transit within territorial seas.” A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson (English/中文) cited Chinese domestic law requiring foreign military ships to gain approval before entering Chinese territorial seas. A Defense Ministry spokesperson said the U.S. operation was “unprofessional and irresponsible,” that the Chinese law concerned was in accordance with international law, and that many other states have comparable laws.

The Defense Ministry statement also cited a 1996 Chinese declaration of “straight baselines” (boundaries from which territorial seas and other maritime zones would be measured) around the Paracels. Those baselines are considered incompatible with the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) by the U.S. government. Speaking days earlier, U.S. Pacific Command chief Admiral Harry Harris said more freedom of navigation (FON) operations would be forthcoming “and you will see them increasing in complexity and scope and in areas of challenge.” This operation won the praise of Senator John McCain, who had been calling for further FON operations. / Meanwhile, a U.S. spokesperson said Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou’s trip to Taiping Island in the Spratlys was “extremely unhelpful and does not contribute to the peaceful resolution of disputes in the South China Sea.”

ANALYSIS: This FON operation sent a much clearer message compared with October’s transit by the USS Lassen near Subi Reef in the Spratly Islands. Last time, the U.S. ship followed the conventions of innocent passage when no territorial sea had been explicitly declared. That left Chinese officials with plenty of room tomaintain ambiguity about the nature of their objection, and they settled on language accusing the U.S. ship of threatening security and sovereignty interests, but not necessarily violating China’s sovereignty. This time, since China has declared straight baselines, Chinese officials complained specifically of U.S. entry within a Chinese territorial sea.

An even greater difference lies in the fact that the U.S. government explained the legal rationale for the operation immediately. In October, silence from the U.S. government led to days of reports based on anonymous sources and great confusion about the operation’s legal significance. This time, the operation was declared to be targeting “permission or notification” requirements for military vessels traveling through territorial seas. Despite some commentary, the operation did not appear designed to challenge China’s legally questionable straight baselines. To do so, one might have a ship enter within the straight baselines but not within 12 nautical miles of a land feature, meanwhile ensuring that the ship did not follow the conventions of innocent passage.

DIPLOMACY
Friction over North Korea on display as Kerry visits Beijing

In a visit just before the latest FON operation, Secretary of State John Kerry traveled to Beijing and met with Foreign Minister Wang Yi, State Councilor Yang Jiechi, and President Xi Jinping. The international response to North Korea’s recent nuclear test was the most-watched aspect of the visit, and the two governments appeared in only partial agreement. In their joint press conference, Wang said “sanctions are not an end in themselves” but agreed that “the Security Council need to take further action and pass a new resolution.” There was no indication the two governments were in agreement about the content of that resolution, however. Kerry said “it’s good to agree on the goal, but it’s not enough to agree on the goal” and called for “a strong resolution that introduces significant new measures to curtail North Korea’s ability to advance its proscribed nuclear and ballistic missile programs.” / On the South China Sea, Kerry revealed some of the content of his discussions with Wang, saying “we had a good discussion about what is the definition of militarization and what began first, who began what, et cetera”—language that doesn’t suggest any progress but rather a repetition of conflicting views. / In a rhetorical shift, both Kerry and Xi included cybersecurity not in their list of differences but in their list of areas where the governments have “made progress in cooperation” (Xi) or “made progress and discussed the issues” (Kerry).

ANALYSIS: It seems likely that Kerry hoped his visit would make more headway on the North Korea issue. Agreement that something ought to be done at the UN Security Council is a bare minimum. Reading the Kerry-Wang press conference gives the impression Kerry had previously held high, perhaps unrealistic hopes for a breakthrough, and that those hopes were dashed. It seems likely the FON operation was delayed until after Kerry’s visit to increase the chance of a breakthrough. I don’t see the cost in holding off, but those favoring a more active FON program could reasonably ask whether a delay helped anything.

REBALANCE
Congressionally mandated report finds ‘rebalance’ incoherent and calls for it to be strengthened; My take at ‘The Diplomat’

A team from the Center for Strategic and International Studies published an extensive report on the U.S. rebalance to the Asia-Pacific, finding “consistent confusion about the rebalance strategy and concern about its implementation” and recommending that the administration “develop and then articulate a clear and coherent strategy.” At The Diplomat, I discuss the report in greater depth.

CAMPAIGN 2016
Hillary Clinton again turns to Twitter to criticize China over women’s rights

Last April, former Secretary of State and presidential candidate Hillary Clintontweeted a link to a New York Times story on the detention of feminist activists in China, saying, “This is inexcusable.” In September, she called Xi “shameless” in a tweet linking to another NYT article on women’s rights. This week, in a tweet signed with a “-H,” indicating it was a statement from Clinton herself, the campaign linked to yet another NYT story, about the closing of a women’s legal aid group run by the prominent public interest lawyer Guo Jianmei. “True in Beijing in 1995, true today: Women’s rights are human rights. This center should remain—I stand with Guo -H,”Clinton wrote.

ANALYSIS: Clinton has not often discussed China during the 2016 campaign so far, but her criticism of women’s rights in China goes back to her 1995 speech at the UN World Conference on Women, and she made reference to that speech in the 2008 campaign, saying she “stood up to the Chinese government on human rights, women’s rights.” (See my cub analyst take on that November 2007 remark here.) These periodic tweets may serve as a way to inoculate the campaign against criticism that, as secretary of state, she explicitly prioritized economic crisis, climate change, and security above rights issues.

TRADE
Noah Smith: Economics research shows trade with China has a long-lasting negative effect on U.S. jobs

Bloomberg View columnist Noah Smith cites a paper by economists David Autor, David Dorn, and Gordon Hanson in arguing that a common assumption among economists that “free trade is good” is not necessarily true when it comes to U.S. workers and trade with China. Smith writes: “Autor, et al. show powerful evidence that industries and regions that have been more exposed to Chinese import competition since 2000—the year China joined the World Trade Organization—have been hit hard and have not recovered. Workers in these industries and regions don’t go on to better jobs, or even similar jobs in different industries. Instead, they shuffle from low-paid job to low-paid job, never recovering the prosperity they had before Chinese competition hit. Many of them end up on welfare. This is very different from earlier decades, when workers who lost their jobs to import competition usually went into higher-productivity industries, to the benefit of almost everyone. In other words, the public might have been wrong about free trade in the 1980s and 1990s, but things have changed. Popular opinion seems to be exactly right about the effect of trade with China—it has killed jobs and damaged the lives of many, many Americans.” / Meanwhile, Senator Bernie Sanders has repeatedly pointed out his opposition to trade liberalization legislation including permanent normal trade relations with China, for instance in a CNN town hall debate.

ANALYSIS: Smith allows that what economists mean by “good” is often at odds with the interests of certain sectors of the economy. It seems unlikely U.S. public opinion could get more sour on the jobs implications of trade with China, but it’s interesting to note these findings at a time when U.S. businesses, traditionally the “ballast” of the U.S.–China relationship, have such a tall wish list in their dealings with China.

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 China Center at Yale Law School, where he specializes in U.S.–China diplomatic, security, and economic relations through research and Track II dialogues. A full bio is available here.

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

Subscription to U.S.–China Week by clicking here or e-mailing me is free and open to all, and an archive of past editions appears at my long-running website on U.S.–East Asia politics, Transpacifica.

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