U.S.–China Week: Trump to China, Guo Wengui/MSS intrigue, FONOP, Tillerson revives “rules-based order” (2017.10.23)

Welcome to Issue 117 of U.S.–China Week. This issue covers two weeks since October 9, and therefore covers a lot of ground in round-up form. It’s also been a busy period of writing and publishing around here.

First, if you’re in Seattle tomorrow evening, you can catch me speaking as part of the National Committee on U.S.–China Relations China Town Hall from 4–6 p.m. (Details and RSVP here.) I’ll discuss U.S.–China relations and China’s cyberspace policies with the local audience, following a live-streamed Q&A with Obama administration National Security Adviser Amb. Susan Rice. If you’re not in Seattle check for a local event near you or tune in to the livestream with Rice at 7 p.m. EDT.

Second, you can watch our New America panel discussing Chinese digital policy and introducing the DigiChina blog, and read my latest piece there (with Samm Sacks and Paul Triolo), “Beyond the Worst-Case Assumptions on China’s Cybersecurity Law.”

Of course, the big news in China is the 19th Party Congress. I’ll wait until after it concludes to assess any early U.S.–China relations implications.

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 you can follow me on Twitter at @gwbstr. Please send your comments, quibbles, and suggestions to [email protected].


  • President Donald Trump will travel to China Nov. 8–10. His trip will first take him to U.S. Pacific Command in Honolulu, Japan, and South Korea—and China will be followed by Vietnam for APEC meetings and the Philippines for ASEAN meetings. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis is on travel to the Philippines, Thailand, and South Korea this week. Administration officials previewing Trump’s Asia trip listed North Korea and forced technology transfer as key topics for the China leg.
  • WSJ reports that Trump considered acceeding to a Chinese request to deport dissident/fugitive Guo Wengui. The must-read story includes accounts of U.S. officials confronting Ministry of State Security personnel at New York’s Penn Station and JFK airport for conducting official business in violation of their visa status. “The U.S. Attorney’s office in Brooklyn prepared charges alleging visa fraud and extortion, according to people familiar with the matter. … Prosecutors were still scrambling to secure final signoff from Washington to go ahead with the planned arrests at the airport.” Interagency indecision then reportedly resulted in agents confiscating the Chinese officials’ phones but allowing them to depart. There’s much, much more. Read it.
  • Politico meanwhile reported on the Chinese government capture of a suspected CIA officer in January 2016. And Xinhua reported that the Chinese government transferred a fugitive sought by the U.S. government to U.S. authorities following the recent bilateral Law Enforcement and Cybersecurity Dialogue.
  • Secretary of State Rex Tillerson pushed the international “rules-based order” in China reference during a speech on India ties: “China’s provocative actions in the South China Sea directly challenge the international law and norms that the United States and India both stand for. The United States seeks constructive relations with China, but we will not shrink from China’s challenges to the rules-based order and where China subverts the sovereignty of neighboring countries and disadvantages the U.S. and our friends.”
  • The Justice Department indicted two Chinese citizens in China who accused of “conspiring to distribute large quantities of fentanyl and fentanyl analogues into the United States,” Reuters reported. And McClatchy reported on a surge in Chinese citizens being caught in illegal marijuana growing operations in Colorado and California.
  • U.S. officials told Reuters a U.S. Navy ship sailed near the Paracel Islands in the South China Sea to challenge “excessive maritime claims.” The ship did not pass within 12 nautical miles of the islands, according to reports. Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Hua Chunying said the ship had entered the islands’ “territorial sea” (“领海“) and harmed China’s sovereignty and security interests (“损害中国主权和安全利益”). Mattis told the Washington Free Beacon, “We stay strictly in accordance with international law, so there’s no violation of anyone’s sovereignty.” It appears likely this voyage was a freedom of navigation operation (FONOP) targeting the straight baselines China has declared around the Paracels.
  • Tesla reached a deal with Shanghai to build a car factory in the city’s free-trade zoneWSJ reported.
  • Technode summarized a report by IT Juzi and Tencent on comparative strengths in AI from the United States and China.
  • SCMP: “Intel leads US$100m funding round for Chinese AI start-up Horizon Robotics” and “US chip giant Qualcomm partners with Chinese tech firm to create smart-car lab
  • Senators Ted Cruz and Patrick Leahy wrote Apple’s CEO over the removal of VPN apps from the China App Store.
  • Recorded Future report: “U.S. Lags Behind Chinese [in Cybersecurity] Vulnerability Reporting

‘China Peril Cited: “Mortal Danger” Seen if Nation Reneges on Asian Pacts’

“WASHINGTON, Oct. 12[, 1967] — Secretary of State Dean Rusk, replying forcefully to Congressional critics, warned today that for the United States to abandon its treaty pledges to South Vietnam and the rest of Southeast Asia would ‘subject this country to mortal danger.’ Mr. Rusk’s usual calm tone was missing during a 55-minute news conference. He argued that American national interest was at stake in Vietnam because Communist China posed a threat to non-Communist Asia nations for the next decade. He depicted a precarious balance in the future between a billion Chinese, armed with nuclear weapons, and a billion non-Communist Asians looking to the United States for help in checking Peking.’If any who would be our adversary should suppose that our treaties are a bluff, or will be abandoned if the going gets tough,’ Mr. Rusk said in an opening statement, ‘the result could be catastrophe for all mankind.’ … ‘I have heard the word “credibility” injected into our domestic debate,’ Mr. Rusk said. ‘Let me say, as solemnly as I can, that those who would place in question the credibility of the pledged word of the United States under our mutual security treaties would subject this nation to mortal danger.’ … He said that Washington was ‘not picking out Peking as some sort of special enemy. Peking has nominated itself by proclaiming a militant doctrine of world revolution, and doing something about it.’”

(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. He is also a fellow for China and East Asia with the EastWest Institute. His website is gwbstr.com, and he is based in Oakland, California.

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

Free Subscription to U.S.–China Week by clicking here or e-mailing me is 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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