U.S.–China Week: Cyberspace diplomacy, Carter on rebalance phase 3, Chinese warnings on THAAD and Japan-U.S. maneuvers (2016.10.03)

Welcome to issue 71 of U.S.–China Week. I hope everyone in China is enjoying the National Day holiday. Continuing my occasional series highlighting other resources out there on U.S.–China relations, this week I recommend readers don’t miss the latest issue of the ChinaPower podcast from CSIS. This edition features a detailed and revealing conversation about Obama-era China policy with Evan Medeiros, who served in the White House from the beginning and stepped down as Senior Director for Asia at the National Security Council in June 2015. The podcast, hosted by Bonnie Glaser, is generally well worth following, and the preceding episode is a good one featuring Samm Sacks on China cybersecurity issues.

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. You can also find U.S.–China Week on Medium and on Facebook, and you can follow me on Twitter at @gwbstr. And please send your comments, quibbles, and suggestions to[email protected].

Assessing progress and prospects for cyberspace diplomacy; China’s hacking vulnerability; Apple’s $45m Beijing facility

One year after Presidents Barack Obama and Xi Jinping made parallel statements at the White House promising their governments “will not conduct or knowingly support cyber-enabled theft of intellectual property, including trade secrets or other confidential business information for commercial advantage,” the jury is still out. Adam Segal assesses the year since but remains skeptical that the two governments will reach substantial levels of cooperation. (Our Yale center hosts Segal for a talk on Wednesday.) The State Department’s Coordinator for Cyber Issues, Christopher Painter, notes progress in international cyberspace diplomacy, but remarks, “our work is far from finished. Some countries continue to pose significant challenges to our efforts as they push their vision of a more state-centric, restrictive cyberspace environment.” The Canadian government, meanwhile, is reportedly discussing a deal with Chinese counterparts “to help protect Canadian corporations from hackers.” / Christina Larson reports on the estimated $15 billion annual domestic cybersecurity challenge China faces. And Motherboard describes a huge botnet exploiting about 1.5 million webcams from a Chinese company. / Apple is setting up a 500-employee, $45 million Beijing facility to develop hardware, WSJ reports.

ANALYSIS: The excitement and skepticism about the breakthrough re-vitalization of U.S.–China official dialogue on cybersecurity a year ago masked just how deep the challenge is for each country. What it seems to have truly achieved, as I argued in BBC Chinese over the summer, was a move past a period when official dialogue had been frozen over the commercial espionage issue and the U.S. indictment of PLA officers. Those who declared victory on commercial theft, it seems, may be right in a limited sense, though it is hard to know for sure. Even if that issue were totally solved, however, there remains a vast landscape of cyberspace-related challenges faced not only be governments but by companies and individuals. The best strategy for “cyber diplomacy” may be to carefully disaggregate “cyber” into its many specific challenges and seek solutions in functional areas of bilateral dialogue, both inside and outside government.

Carter on the ‘Future of the Rebalance’ and a ‘principled and inclusive security network’ for the Asia-Pacific

Secretary of Defense Ash Carter said he “shared with my counterparts the plans and the commitments that are part of the next phase of our rebalance to the Asia-Pacific” at an informal U.S.-ASEAN Defense Ministers’ meeting in Hawaii, emphasizing also a “principled and inclusive security network”—apparently a slight adjustment of the “principled security network” he discussed in June. The “Future of the Rebalance” was the topic of a Carter speech aboard a Navy ship in San Diego. In listing five “major, immediate, evolving challenges,” Carter led with “Russian aggression and coercion,” then spoke of “managing historic change in the Asia-Pacific…more on that in a moment, where China is rising, which is fine, but sometimes behaving aggressively, which is not” (ellipsis in original). Carter presented the first phase of the rebalance as “quantitatively and geographically” enhancing U.S. military posture in the Asia-Pacific, and the second phase as making “qualitative improvements” to that posture—followed by a list of new and redeployed hardware. He said the third phase will continue the “qualitative” improvements and “catalyz[e] the Asia-Pacific’s principled and inclusive security network.” On principles, Carter said, “Beijing sometimes appears to want to pick and choose which principles it wants to benefit from and which it prefers to try to undercut. For example, the universal right to freedom of navigation that allows China’s ships and aircraft to transit safely and peacefully is the same right that Beijing criticizes other countries for exercising in the region. But principles are not like that. They apply to everyone, and to every nation, equally.” Carter’s language on possible cyberspace cooperation was not “inclusive” to the point of mentioning Chinese capabilities and concerns: “Because the network is so rich with nations with cyber expertise, including Japan, Korea, India, Singapore, as each of our countries develop their cyber capabilities, we can learn from each other and cooperate together in this important domain.” / Global Times, which loosely translates Carter’s “inclusive and principled security network” as “包容和基于原则的地区安全架构” (“inclusive and principled regional security architecture”) gives a fairly calm reading. The Chinese press in general took the speech to be announcing the “rebalance 3.0,” and a CCTV report focused on new hardware. / Meanwhile,Navy Times reported that the White House instructed military officials not to speak about “great power competition” with China. This comes at a time when voices are beginning to rise once more favoring “freedom of navigation” (FON) operations. Former Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Gary Roughead has balanced and practical thoughts about the FON program in a recent Carnegie-Tsinghua podcast.

ANALYSIS: Given the full context of the Carter speech, which includes only pro forma recognition that a long-term security arrangement in the Asia-Pacific will necessarily include Chinese participation, I am tempted to read “inclusive” to mean an expansion of U.S. security architecture from alliances to alliances-plus. Alliances-plus would include working with ASEAN as a whole, Vietnam as a “partner” but not ally, India as an anchor in what Navy folks generally now call the Indo-Asia-Pacific (or just the Indo-Pacific), and, pointedly, not China. To be fair, Carter did apparently seek to avoid this impression. His short section about China was prefaced by “given our inclusive approach, DoD is also taking steps to modernize our military-to-military relationship with China.” Later, he explicitly said, “Everyone gets a voice, and no one is excluded…and by the way, that includes China, and its military, and we hope China doesn’t exclude itself” (ellipsis in original). But basing the “network” on principles including “freedom of navigation and overflight” on which U.S. and Chinese views are notoriously different makes the efforts to signal inclusiveness to China hard to take seriously. The rhetoric doesn’t hide the basic objective of shoring up the status quo “rules-based order” and the U.S. position against potential change resulting from China’s growing power. All that aside, Carter’s declarations about a third phase of the “rebalance” are obviously aspirational and subject to the outcome of the November election, both for the White House and for the Congress, which must appropriate funds for many of the initiatives advertised.

Defense Ministry warns against Japan–U.S. ‘patrols’; THAAD site announced as Zhong Sheng foresees ‘counter attack’

A Chinese Defense Ministry spokesperson said “we’d like to tell the Japanese side that if Japan wants to conduct joint patrols and joint exercises in China-administered waters, it is just like playing fire and the Chinese military will not sit idle,” according to the official transcript (in English and Chinese). This came in response to a question about a reported statement by Japanese Defense Minister Tomomi Inada. The question phrased the Inada statement as saying that “Japan planned to conduct joint patrols with the U.S. military in the disputed waters of the South China Sea.” In reality, Inada had said in Washington, “Japan on its part will increase its engagement in the South China Sea through, for example, Maritime Self-Defense Force joint training cruises with the U.S. Navy, bilateral and multi-lateral exercises with regional navies.” (Please drop me a note if she made another statement about “joint patrols”; I couldn’t find one.) / Meanwhile, A column published under the semi-authoritative pseudonym Zhong Sheng in the People’s Daily declared that the South Korean public opposed deploying the THAAD anti-missile system, argued that it won’t increase South Korea’s security, and declared that if the United States and South Korea hurt Chinese and other countries’ strategic security interests, they will unavoidably “pay the proper price and suffer the proper counter attack.” Reuters covered the column and the related context. The Defense Ministry spokesperson said, “The Chinese side will follow closely the deployment and take necessary measures to safeguard China’s strategic security and regional strategic balance. What needs to be emphasized is that we Chinese mean what we say.”

ANALYSIS: On both Japan’s potential joint maneuvers (which were apparently mischaracterized) and THAAD, the message being sent by these prominent Chinese voices is that actions will produce reactions. The language, while strong, is quite vague. To follow through on a promise not to “sit idle,” the Chinese military could simply monitor any U.S.–Japan joint activities and perhaps engage in the customary radio traffic ordering them away—or they could do something more dangerous. To satisfy the unofficial promise to “counter attack” (vexing to translate 回击 in this context), quiet measures ensuring China’s strategic nuclear forces remained confident in their deterrence power might be sufficient—or something more dangerous might happen. The difference here is that Japan’s involvement in the South China Sea seems tailor-made to increase pressure on China, and the THAAD deployment is an effort to reduce risk created by North Korea—one being made over Chinese objections but not specifically to change China’s calculus.

Watching Clinton and Trump, and the U.S. electoral system, from a Chinese perspective

Writing for Chatham House, Vincent Ni pulls together views of several Chinese commentators and interviews others, presenting a survey of the perspectives Chinese observers are expressing on the U.S. election. A former diplomat, Ren Xiao, tells him “If I were America’s enemy, I would hope Trump is elected, and see him make US’s relations with its allies in Asia a mess; but if I were America’s friend, I would think that Hillary would be a better president.” Ni continues: “But clearly, neither Trump nor Clinton treats China as their friend in this campaign.” / Cao Li at NYTinterviews You Tianlong, one of the people behind a fantastic Chinese-languagepodcast on U.S. elections. You tells NYT “the biggest misunderstanding is that many Chinese take ‘House of Cards’ too seriously.” On why some Chinese like Trump, You notes, “First of all, many Chinese don’t like Hillary Clinton. … Second, many Chinese don’t like the Democratic Party. [noting Truman and Chiang, Kennedy and Vietnam, and Clinton’s ‘slowed negotiations’ WTO accession] … Third, many Chinese support Trump’s isolationist foreign policy. They believe that Trump would take a more pragmatic approach towards China and create new opportunities for China’s rise.”

ANALYSIS: The《选·美》podcast will be great listening in the coming weeks as I dive into the archives. In the NYT interview, You says, “many Chinese aren’t really observing American politics as much as they’re projecting their own biases onto American politics.” That’s sure enough true in the reverse case as well.

‘Chinese Say Mao Inspired New Auto Style, But Latest Model Seems to Reflect American Designs’

“HONG KONG, Sept 29[, 1966]—The teachings of Mao Tse-tung provided the inspiration for production of an improved version of Communist China’s Red Flag passenger car, Peking reported today. But pictures of the new model indicate that its designers drew more inspiration from American manufacturers than from Chairman Mao. Its chromework, recessed headlights and white sidewall tires seem to owe more to the teachings of capitalism than to those of communism. … In 1963 Peking asserted that the Red Flag performed better than the American Lincoln sedan. China’s annual production of vehicles is estimated to total about 20,000, but only a small percentage are passenger cars. … ‘What we wanted was proletarian art, not an imitation of foreign models,’ the ‘pacesetters’ told a Hsinhua reporter. ‘Nothing new could be created if we were content to copy models from abroad.’

(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.)


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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