Welcome to Issue 91 of U.S.–China Week. Coming to you this week from Berkeley, Calif., where I am attending the EastWest Institute’s Global Cyberspace Cooperation Summit, this edition is abbreviated due to travel. On the cyberspace theme, I wrote up my “Observations on China’s new international cyberspace cooperation strategy” for Lawfare.
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First Trump-Xi meeting set for Trump’s Florida resort in April, reports say; Tillerson’s first Asia trip begins this week
President Donald Trump will host President Xi Jinping at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida April 6–7, Axios reported without specifying sources. CNN reported that a U.S. “senior administration official” said the plan was tentative. China’s Foreign Ministry did not comment when asked by Reuters. Previously, Foreign Minister Wang Yi had told reporters “there will be good news” when asked whether Xi would visit the United States in 2017. (At a National People’s Congress press conference, Wang said U.S.–China relations need to “rise above two things”: “the difference of our social systems,” and “the zero-sum mentality.”) Meanwhile, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who NYT reports has been working quietly behind the scenes rather than in the spotlight and “talks all the time to Jared [Kushner]” according to a U.S. senator, will travel to Japan, South Korea, and China beginning March 15, arriving in Beijing March 18. An unnamed State Department briefer on Tillerson’s trip said, “We’re pursuing a constructive and results-oriented relationship with China, one that benefits the American people, remains faithful to our allies, and presses China to abide by international rules and norms.” In a break from previous practice, the secretary of state will reportedly not be accompanied by a traveling press pool.
ANALYSIS: In the likely event that the Trump-Xi meeting occurs as reported, as I suggested last week with rumors of a Mar-a-Lago meeting in mind, Chinese officials will be working hard to ensure Xi’s treatment there compares favorably with that of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Both the planning and the pageantry of the meeting will be a test of the Trump administration’s ability to work with Chinese counterparts. The early release of a tentative plan’s date and location may not increase Chinese confidence. Watch for a Tillerson meeting with Xi, following State Councilor Yang Jiechi’s short meeting with Trump in Washington. And as Bill Bishop suggests, it would be impossible (and irresponsible) not to also watch for either the appearance or actuality of corruption as Trump son-in-law Kushner’s family reportedly “stands to receive more than $400 million” from Anbang in a real estate deal.
The U.S. government announced that it had begun deploying the THAAD missile defense system in South Korea, over China’s objections. Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Geng Shuang said, “we are resolutely against the deployment of THAAD by the US and the ROK in the ROK, and will take firm and necessary steps to safeguard our security interests.” I joined a ChinaFile Conversation on the deployment, with Sheena Greitens offering valuable comments after the next news broke: “With today’s impeachment of President Park, South Korea is likely to have a left-leaning president, and Moon Jae-in, the current front-runner, has previously suggested that he might reconsider [THAAD] (though he now says he supports the deployment). The THAAD system that arrived last week is currently at Osan, waiting for the ultimate site of the system to be prepared, and full deployment is not expected until June, after the new president takes office. The future of THAAD, therefore, is not yet assured, let alone any secondary spending decisions or deployments that might result.” Yonhap reported that a Pentagon spokesperson said deployment would continue (at least for now). John Delury offered a short summary of the activism and journalism that led to Park’s ouster. Meanwhile, the Washington Post reported on a Chinese proposal (not a new one) that the United States and South Korea should suspend military exercises in exchange for a North Korean suspension of its missile tests. Ely Ratner, recently of the White House and now at CFR, described the case for rejecting such a deal.
- At Lawfare, Ron Cheng described U.S.–China cyber crime cooperation so far, concluding that “investigators on both sides have a keen interest in ensuring that mutually recognized best practices are applied to this important area.”
- Chinese IT company “ZTE to Pay $892 Million to U.S., Plead Guilty in Iran Sanctions Probe,” WSJ reported.
- SCMP reported that Google Scholar may again become available in China, according to a National People’s Congress member, Liu Binjie. “The academic sector will be the first to get through,” Liu said. The report included no comment on whether in such a case the Scholar product would be censored, and I would not be surprised if the report amounts to nothing.
- Chinese ride-hailing company Didi Chuxing has joined Baidu in setting up a Silicon Valley artificial intelligence lab, with an executive promising “breakthroughs in new-energy and self-driving vehicles and intelligent transportation systems.”
‘Report from Peking Broadcast by N.B.C.’
“The National Broadcasting Company carried a radio report from a correspondent in Peking at noon yesterday. The network said it was the first such report to the United States out of Communist China in 15 years. The Columbia Broadcasting System and the American Broadcasting Company said yesterday they had carried no such reports in many years. The report came from Virgil Berger, a correspondent for Reuters, the British news agency. N.B.C. said Mr. Berger telephone his report to a Reuters bureau in the Far East and it was then relayed by radio to N.B.C. in New York. The network said that Mr. Berger did not telephone his report directly to New York because this would probably have been prohibited by the Chinese. … Mr. Berger reported that ‘the Chinese capital is calm again, at least outwardly, after three months with more or less continuous demonstrations.’ ‘In Shanghai, and other key areas,’ he continued, ‘as well as in Peking, this return to more normal conditions has been accompanied by a marked increase in army control over matters previously run by civilian administrations.”
(Source: The New York Times. This 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.)
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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.
Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are my own (and I reserve the right to change my mind).
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