U.S.–China Week (2016.07.05)

Welcome to issue 58 of U.S.–China Week, back after a week off and coming to you on Tuesday this week following the U.S. Independence Day holiday. My latest commentary, assessing U.S.–China cyberspace dialogue nine months after President Xi Jinping’s September state visit to Washington, appears in Chinese at BBC Chinese.

I want to open this issue by recognizing another resource on U.S.–China relations that readers should find very useful. The Kissinger Institute on China and the United States at the Wilson Center in Washington publishes a monthly review of U.S.–China events as part of its e-mail update feed that also includes other content. The most recent issue, covering June, is here, and you can subscribe at the bottom of the page. Please send in recommendations of other resources, and I’ll find a way to share the best of them.

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].

Tribunal in Philippine-Chinese arbitration case to release outcome July 12

The tribunal convened under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) at the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague for the South China Sea case brought by the Philippines against China is to issue its award on July 12 at 11 a.m. local time. Before that date was announced, a U.S. State Department official speaking to Reuters said “it isn’t in (China’s) interest to take additional provocative actions” after the award is released and said “there’s some skepticism” about a list of governments Chinese officials claimed support China’s position on the arbitration. In a speech today at CSIS, former State Councilor Dai Bingguo said “China would not sit idle” if any award is implemented by any party, or if the Philippines makes “any further provocation.” / Andrew Chubb has a discussion of some of the Chinese domestic and international publicity efforts, and the folks at the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative have a not-entirely-uncontroversial but very useful tracker of which countries have said what about the case. Julian Ku, writing at Lawfare, has some further lawfare suggestions for the Philippines involving the International Court of Justice. He also provided a summary of arguments against China’s official positions about the legal questions. / Meanwhile, retired Real Admiral Michael McDevitt has a new report on China’s efforts to become a “maritime power.”

ANALYSIS: The U.S. and Chinese governments have each talked themselves into a test of wills following the arbitration outcome. Both have cited the likelihood of a response if the other engages in “provocation,” or in China’s case if any party does. Barring the unlikely case of total inaction by every player, we can expect a rapid round of finger pointing and declarations of righteousness under international law. Whatever happens, observers should be skeptical of interpretations of the legal outcome in the first hours after the release; it will likely be a long and intricate document. And no one should confuse resolution of the legal questions before the tribunal for a resolution of the underlying dilemmas in the region.

China and trade rise in Trump and Clinton campaign rhetoric

The New York Times reports on some things presidential candidates Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton agree on—going after China on trade issues: “They want to label China as a currency manipulator that undervalues the renminbi to help its exporters win sales in overseas markets. They want to file more trade cases against China and impose more tariffs. They want to investigate how the Chinese government subsidizes businesses. They also want to rethink big trade deals.” China featured prominently in a speech Trump gave called “Declaring America’s Economic Independence,” in which he targeted NAFTA and China’s accession to the World Trade Organization, two major economic initiatives from Bill Clinton’s administration. “Almost half of our entire manufacturing trade deficit in goods with the world is the result of trade with China,” Trump said. Brookings’ David Dollartakes on some of Trump’s arguments in a short commentary. / Meanwhile Thomas Petri, who served as a Republican U.S. Representative from Wisconsin from 1979 to 2015, advocates welcoming Chinese infrastructure investment in the United States.

ANALYSIS: A lot of what Trump and Clinton are seen agreeing on—the need for trade enforcement cases or scrutiny of Chinese subsidies—represents no break from the Obama administration policy. This could represent a reversion to a pattern in previous campaigns where candidates found “tough on China” to be a good rallying cry. Neither candidate has seriously engaged with how to find and exercise leverage over Chinese policymakers or businesses on these or other issues, and I wouldn’t expect a turn toward substance on China questions in this campaign.

Questions about commercial hacking drop; New draft of China’s Cybersecurity Law released; Lu Wei replaced abruptly

A report from the security firm FireEye found “suspected China-based” commercial hacking was down well before the September 2015 statements by Xi and Obama. Jack Goldsmith speculated that U.S. pressure on the issue might actually have been compatible with Chinese government efforts to reign in hacking behavior. Senators Ben Cardin and Richard Burr expressed skepticism that a decline had occurred at all. / Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker warned about the rise of a “digital protectionism.” / The second reading draft of China’s proposed Cybersecurity Law is available in English thanks to China Law Translate. / Lu Wei, China’s most visible official on cyberspace matters, surprised analysts by leaving his post as director of the Office of the Central Leading Group for Cybersecurity and Informatization, to be replaced by Xu Lin, who until recently was a Lu deputy and once was an official under Xi Jinping in Shanghai. Lu reportedly remains a deputy head of the party’s Central Publicity Department, according to SCMP.

Kurt Campbell’s book ‘The Pivot’ panned by Hugh White, and Campbell responds

Australian National University’s Hugh White writes of former Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell’s new book, among other things: “The Pivot has nothing to say about the most important single question facing America in Asia today: is it willing to go to war with China to preserve U.S. primacy? This question, more than anything else, will determine the shape of future Asian order and America’s role in it.”Campbell replies forcefully, calling out White for a “rather crude reading of Asia’s politics and the Pivot’s purpose. In White’s view, both are entirely about China. For White, the U.S. and China are locked in a struggle for supremacy over Asia that can end only in conflict or (as White advocates) American acquiescence to Chinese leadership in Asia.”

ANALYSIS: Campbell’s positions are of interest to watchers of U.S. Asia policy because of his close association with Hillary Clinton and his reported role as a key Asia adviser to her campaign. While White’s criticisms break little new ground (since he has made similar cases in other contexts), Campbell’s response does not fully address his central critique. Does Campbell’s vision reckon with the full magnitude of China’s role in the region? I withhold further judgment until I have a chance to read the book.

#USChinaWeek1966 <— follow this hashtag on Twitter for more
‘Rusk Rejects Suggestion U.S. Wants War With China’

“SYDNEY, Australia, July 1, 1966—Secretary of State Dean Rusk rejected today a suggestion that United States attacks on fuel installations at Hanoi and Haiphong in North Vietnam were designed to bring on a war with Communist China. … A questioner had suggested that the United States wanted war with China before the Communist power had developed its nuclear potential. Mr. Rusk described this view as ‘utter nonsense.’ He said the United States had 930 bilateral talks over the past 10 years with representatives of Peking, the last in late May. ‘We have seen from them no interest in a peaceful settlement in Southeast Asia,’ he said.” 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].






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