U.S.–China Week: Cyberspace talks, maritime countdown, ‘productive’ BIT talks but ‘jury still out,’ Obama meets Dalai Lama (2016.06.20)

Welcome to issue 57 of U.S.–China Week. Programming note: I will be on the road next week and, barring any pressing developments, the next issue will come out Tuesday, July 5, after the U.S. Independence Day holiday.

I want to begin this edition with a personal remembrance.

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This week Ambassador Wu Jianmin, who had served as China’s ambassador to France and to the United Nations in Geneva, among many other positions, died in an auto crash in Wuhan. In recent years, through my work with Yale Law School’s China Center, I had the privilege of spending many hours with Wu in U.S.–China Track 2 dialogues. While much is being written about his position as a so-called “dove” in China’s foreign policy debate, I will remember him for his commitment to practical action under difficult circumstances. While some in both China and the United States advocated “tough” and uncompromising positions, Wu sought a way forward while acknowledging that common and conflicting interests coexist in international affairs. This practical orientation is captured in much of his public writing. He sometimes noted that, while people debated the virtues of a strategy based on Deng Xiaoping’s phrase “韬光养晦” (contestedly translated as “keep a low profile, and bide your time”), they generally forgot the second half of Deng’s statement, “有所作为” (“get something accomplished”). In 2012 Wu made the case (en/zh) that “keeping a low profile” was about being “modest and prudent,” not deceptive. In the Global Times in 2013, Wu pushed for China to avoid a “weak country mentality,” develop a thicker skin, and calmly pursue its interests while considering the broad landscape. If Wu was a dove, it was because he thought avoiding arrogance and unnecessary conflict was the best way to pursue China’s interests (and in many cases for other countries to pursue theirs). It was that sensibility that allowed him to make great, though quiet, contributions to U.S.–China relations in recent years. I will remember Ambassador Wu Jianmin for his consistency of purpose, personal warmth, diplomatic skill, and kindness toward junior colleagues. I extend my deepest condolences to his family and friends.

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Cybercrime dialogue loses top U.S. reps to Orlando response; Joint statement cites plans, not concrete cooperation

Attorney General Loretta Lynch and Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson pulled out of the second meeting of the “U.S.–China Cybercrime and Related Issues High Level Joint Dialogue” to deal with the Orlando nightclub shooting, sending their deputies to Beijing. The Chinese co-chair, Politburo Member Meng Jianzhu, met with the U.S. delegation, and the joint statement said he co-chaired the dialogue meeting. That joint statement avoided discussing what had been accomplished through this channel, instead listing numerous things the two sides had decided to accomplish—among other things, to implement a “Cybercrime and Related Issues Hotline Mechanism Work Plan” and “test the hotline mechanism” before September; to “enhance,” “hold a workshop to discuss,” work “on a regular basis,” “further strengthen” various kinds of information sharing; and to “prioritize cooperation on combatting cyber-enabled intellectual property (IP) theft for commercial gain and to cooperate in law enforcement operations in four additional areas” (child pornography, terrorist activities, phishing and e-mail attacks, and firearms trafficking). Meng reportedly cited the remaining months of the Obama administration as an opportunity to “leave more of a political legacy for President Obama and lay a strong foundation for our cooperation for the next administration.” The only reported concrete achievement was to have set up “temporary e-mail addresses” to share information. While some cooperation on cases was cited as “continuing,” I see no public information about the nature of cooperation to date. The next round of talks are to occur in the second half of 2016.

ANALYSIS: The burning question for U.S.–China cyberspace diplomacy at this stage is whether the apparent breakthrough alongside President Xi Jinping’s state visit to Washington in September 2015 will in retrospect mark a positive inflection point in the two governments’ handling of problems and opportunities. What made September a breakthrough was a disaggregation of some diverse cyberspace and cybersecurity issues and the willingness to sit and talk in several different contexts. If the governments can’t cite actual cooperation by the end of the Obama administration, any victory declared by either side was premature.

Countdown continues; U.S. carriers linked up in Pacific; ASEAN ‘concerns’ muffled; Chinese navy in Japanese waters

The most recent speculation about the timing of the conclusion of the Philippine-Chinese arbitration case has ranged from today (June 20) to July 7. Bonnie Glaser said on Twitter the tribunal had said it would give the press and involved governments a week’s notice. Until the result is known, everything maritime in the region is being framed as a preparation for that moment. / The New York Timescalled an exercise by two U.S. aircraft carrier groups “a show of strength.” This came after the U.S. Pacific Fleet commander announced that one carrier group that traditionally operated in the Eastern Pacific would now cross the international date line. / An ASEAN meeting in Kunming, China, released and then withdrew (or at least did not officially endorse) a statement expressing “serious concerns” about developments in the South China Sea. / And after the “contiguous zone” sail-through at Senkaku/Diaoyu by the Chinese navy reported last issue, a Chinese naval vessel reportedly entered Japan’s territorial waters around non-disputed territory. Puzzlingly, a Foreign Ministry spokesperson said “all countries are entitled to innocent passage in these waters without prior notice or approval,” but probably was supposed to emphasize “transit passage” instead of its “innocent” cousin. (Ankit Panda rightly questions whether “transit passage” would fit.) For those keeping score, the Defense Ministry statement called these waters Japan’s adjacent waters, not its territorial sea.

ANALYSIS: The UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) is a universal reference point as these events unfold, but its power to shape events will be tested in the tribunal’s decision and the series of events that follow. With the U.S. military displaying more hardware in the region and China’s navy bringing Japan back into active protest, the possible acceleration of regional maritime events after the news is released is cause for real concern. Current worrisome trend-lines are shaped by decisions made at a methodical pace. What if the same people have to make decisions quickly?

Ever-optimistic USTR: Bilateral investment talks ‘productive’ as new negative lists exchanged; New IP theft cases

Reuters reports: “A [U.S. Trade Representative] spokeswoman said U.S. and Chinese negotiators exchanged revised ‘negative lists’ of sectors that would stay off-limits from foreign investment as they try to reach a deal for a bilateral investment treaty [BIT].” The USTR statement does not seem to appear on the office’s website. Reuters also reported Treasury Secretary Jack Lew said “the jury is still out” on the new list. / Meanwhile, “a Chinese software developer has been charged with stealing source code from a U.S. company to help the Chinese government,” The Wall Street Journal reported. / “Monsanto Co. sued a former computer programmer, alleging he stole proprietary files after resigning to explore a job at a Chinese seed company,” also per WSJ. / And Leslie Hook describes Uber’s expensive challenge in China, which has nothing to do with stolen IP and everything to do with local competition.

Obama meets Dalai Lama at White House; Chinese response muted as U.S. reiterates no support for Tibetan independence

Obama met with the Dalai Lama at the White House. According to the White House readout, “the President emphasized his strong support for the preservation of Tibet’s unique religious, cultural, and linguistic traditions and the equal protection of human rights of Tibetans in China. … The President encouraged meaningful and direct dialogue between the Dalai Lama and his representatives with Chinese authorities to lower tensions and resolve differences. In this context, the President reiterated the longstanding U.S. position that Tibet is a part of the People’s Republic of China, and the United States does not support Tibetan independence. The Dalai Lama stated that he is not seeking independence for Tibet and hopes that dialogue between his representatives and the Chinese government will resume.” Secretary of State John Kerry reportedly spoke with Foreign Minister Wang Yi (Chinese readout, Xinhua English) and reiterated the U.S. position that Tibet is a part of China.

ANALYSIS: This meeting was staged after the Obama administration’s final Strategic and Economic Dialogue, after the cybercrime dialogue, and well before the expected presidential meeting alongside the G20 in September in Hangzhou. The Chinese response was relatively calm. In two days of Foreign Ministry spokesperson statements [1,2], the Dalai Lama was not called any names, but instead characterized as “not a pure religious figure, but a political exile that has long been engaged in anti-China separatist campaigns under the cloak of religion.” Nor did the U.S. statements denounce specific conditions in Tibet on this occasion. This likely took significant diplomatic work.

#USChinaWeek1966 <— follow this hashtag on Twitter for more
‘Peking Believed a Topic at U.S.-Japan Parley’

“Sengokuhara, Japan, June 19, 1966—Japanese and American diplomatic planning staffs conferred here again today and were reported to have discussed Japan’s intricately developing relations with Communist China. Pressure on Premier Eisaku Sato’s pro-American Government has been increased by powerful political forces that want Tokyo to cut loose from Washington’s lead in China policies. Mr. Sato must mollify those elements while preserving the alliance with the United States Japan’s military protector and principal trading partner. The 10-man American team was headed by Samuel D. Berger, Assistant Secretary of State, and Edwin O. Reischauer, the Ambassador to Tokyo.” Link.

(Source: The New York Times. 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.)


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. 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].






One response to “U.S.–China Week: Cyberspace talks, maritime countdown, ‘productive’ BIT talks but ‘jury still out,’ Obama meets Dalai Lama (2016.06.20)”

  1. […] Graham Webster of Yale Law School paid tribute to Wu on his Transpacifica blog: […]

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