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China’s ‘New world order’? What Xi Jinping actually said about guiding international affairs

Quartz reported yesterday that Chinese President “Xi Jinping has vowed for the first time that China should take the lead in shaping the ‘new world order.’” While Xi’s speech is worthy of attention, this eye-catching framing of his remarks and some of the online discussion among observers may have gone too far.

Xi spoke at a seminar on national security, and Quartz points to a typical Xinhua paraphrased summary of the speech and a commentary on a Central Party School-linked website that includes direct quotes.

Taken as a whole, the documents do not so far indicate a strong statement that China’s government has decided to attempt leadership of a “new world order.”

First, the connotation of a new world order in English has a radical character that is not necessarily present in the Chinese 国际新秩序, which could more soberly be translated as “new international order.” (Tangentially, here’s an aging compilation of People’s Daily forum posts on “China’s rise and a new international order.”)

Second, Xi did not unambiguously say China would lead the new international order, but instead said it must “guide international society to collectively shape a more just and rational new international order.” While the Chinese term  引导 can be translated as “lead,” there are several other words Xi could have used if that meaning were really intended; thus as Quartz also translates it elsewhere in the article, “guide” is probably more appropriate.

Third, Xi’s other reported remarks significantly clarify his intended meaning. In the following quote (with my translation) from the commentary, he explicitly echoes the Chinese government’s standard position that its goal is not to replace the existing order but instead to affect its reform and development:

About the international order, Xi Jinping said: “Reforming and perfecting the existing international system does not mean starting over. It means pushing it to develop in a more just and rational direction. China’s Belt and Road and Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank initiatives are both open, transparent, inclusive, and beneficial to relevant countries’ economic development, employment, and poverty alleviation. And they welcome positive participation by other parties including the United States.

None of this is to say China’s government will not seek to increase its international status and comparative leadership power. The Quartz article was also right to draw attention to these remarks, including the new “two guides” formulation (see below). Still, Xi Jinping’s remarks and actions so far during this period of deep uncertainty about U.S. policy and the fate of the European Union, while worthy of close attention, do not constitute a declaration of China’s intention to reshape the international system.

Although the polished words of top leaders by no means reveal every level of a government’s intentions, “the two guides” in fact suggest a mixed role for China: participant, defender (especially in international security), and proactive reformer in the existing international system:

2月17日,习近平在国家安全工作座谈会上指出,“要引导国际社会共同塑造更加公正合理的国际新秩序” “引导国际社会共同维护国际安全”。
On February 17, at a seminar on national security work, Xi Jinping said: “[China] must guide international society to collectively shape a more just and rational new international order” and “guide international society to collectively safeguard international security.”

* * *

My hasty translations of the other direct quotes in the commentary follow:

Xi Jinping said: “China is a current participant in, builder of, and contributor to the international system, of which it is also a beneficiary.”

Xi Jinping said: “Today’s world is a changing world, a world of constantly emerging new opportunities and new challenges, a world of profound adjustments in the international system and international order, a world of profound changes in comparative power among countries, a world changing toward beneficial peace and development.”

Xi Jinping said: “Humanity stands at a moment of great development, great change, and great changes, an era of constantly emerging challenges and multiplying risks. Looking back at the past 100 years of history, the common wish of humanity has been peace and development. The universe has only one Earth, and humanity has only one home. It is every people’s hope and the charge of statesmen of our time to pass the torch of peace from one generation to the next, to ensure the steady flow of development, and to let the radiant light of civilization shine. China’s project is to construct a human community of common destiny and achieve common gain and common enjoyment.”

U.S.–China Week: Trump staffing, first contacts, early uncertainty, Cybersecurity Law (2016.11.14)

Welcome to issue 77 of U.S.–China Week. A week ago, I argued that “a Donald Trump win would at minimum drastically raise uncertainty in the U.S.–China relationship and could easily throw it into economic and security crisis as a consequence of that uncertainty.” (I also predicted “some level of economic turmoil … immediately upon a Trump win.” Instant accountability: Turmoil has in fact been very minor so far—a fact I will take as an inaugural caution about making predictions in a Trump era.) Then, I promised that I would “return to regular programming” this week. So today I move back toward regular programming in that I will not directly address U.S. domestic conditions in this forum. Instead, I will focus on the uncertainty Trump’s win delivered as promised in U.S.–China relations and some of the small areas of added information we have gained since Wednesday morning, when I compiled an early “Trump-China Reading List, and Unanswered Questions for his Asia Policy” for the Lawfare blog. That list includes material that emerged before the election, and there has been a great deal published since, despite limited new information. Maura Cunningham put together a great initial round-up of commentary.

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].

Xi and Trump speak by phone after questions about missing phone call

President Xi Jinping sent a “congratulatory message” to President-elect Trump on Wednesday, saying he looks forward to “push[ing] bilateral relations for greater progress at a new starting point.” In response to questions about Trump proposals for a 45 percent tariff on Chinese imports, Foreign Ministry spokesperson said, “I believe that any US politician, if he takes the interests of his own people first, will adopt a policy that is conducive to the economic and trade cooperation between China and the US.” Later, after WSJ reported that Trump said he had spoken to “most leaders, though he hadn’t yet spoken with” Xi, Xinhua reported that Trump and Xi discussed U.S.–China relations on Monday. According to Xinhua, Trump “thanked Xi for the congratulations and said that he agreed with Xi on his views about U.S.-China relations. China is a great and important country with eye-catching development prospects, said Trump. The United States and China can achieve win-win results featuring mutual benefits, he added.”

ANALYSIS: These news items give us very little, and it appears the Chinese government is in a wait-and-see mode, but we might as well keep track of whether Chinese officials again use the term “new starting point” and whether Trump makes a habit of hyping potential “win-win” deals.

Unusual pool for Asia advisers after establishment denunciations; policy direction unclear or uncharted

A great deal of speculation has surrounded the question of who might take on important positions for Asia policy. The economist Peter Navarro has long been one of the most visible Asia-oriented Trump policy advisers. The day before the election, he co-authored a Foreign Policy article arguing the Obama era’s “pivot” was merely speaking loudly and arguing for carrying a larger stick. “Trump will steadfastly pursue a strategy of peace through strength, an axiom of Ronald Reagan that was abandoned under the Obama administration,” the article said, adding support for a dozens more naval ships and calling for South Korea and Japan to share more costs for regional security. Alexander Gray, Navarro’s co-author here, is a former adviser to Rep. Randy Forbes, leader of the House China Caucus and an advocate for Naval procurement who lost his primary in Virginia after redistricting and has been discussed as a likely secretary of the Navy. A BuzzFeed article based on a list provided by a “source close to the campaign” also named former Senator Jim Talent, currently a member of the U.S.–China Commission, former State Department official Randy Schriver, and think-tanker Elbridge Colby, whose biosays he has worked on U.S.–China nuclear weapons issues. James Woolsey put himself in the public eye as a Trump adviser with a SCMP op-ed saying he can “see the emergence of a grand bargain in which the US accepts China’s political and social structure and commits not to disrupt it in any way in exchange for China’s commitment not to challenge the status quo in Asia. It may not be a spoken agreement but a tacit understanding that guides the relations in the years to come.” (The same quote appears in a China Daily report before the election based on a conference appearance.) The Hill reports that James Jay Carafano is working on the State Department transition. FT reports that “Dan DiMicco, the former chief executive of steel company Nucor and a longtime advocate of a tougher US line on China, is the point person on trade in Mr Trump’s transition team.” Michael Pillsbury, a veteran defense analyst known to many in the field as a China hawk, has been identified as an adviser to the transition.

“What percentage of the qualified national security establishment has refused to work for Mr. Trump? I would guess it’s at least half,” Pillsbury told Bloomberg. Among the many Republican Asia policy experts who have signed public lettersopposing Trump are several we might have expected to see on another Republican president-elect’s radar: Michael Auslin, Daniel Blumenthal, Aaron Friedberg, Paul Haenle, and others. Eight even said they would vote for Clinton: James Clad, Patrick Cronin, Charles Dunne, Michael Green, Frank Lavin, Robert Manning, Anja Manuel, and Peter Watson.

ANALYSIS: We have no real idea who will play what role in shaping U.S. policy toward China and the Asia-Pacific. That includes Trump’s role and his inclinations. In my “reading list” from Wednesday, I recount many of the campaign statements he and his affiliates made, but those statements often conflict both before the election and with further statements afterward. Even the post-election statements we have seen need to be regarded with skepticism, because people are likely angling for positions. At the most basic level, it is too early to tell what the world should expect. (Thus although there have been at least a dozen reasonable speculative articles about a potential Trump China policy, I’m not processing them here, because I want more information before we start evaluating predictions.) As a Chinese oil industry source tells the WSJ, “Nobody knows what he’ll do.”

Abe to meet Trump on way to APEC meeting in Lima, where Obama faces regional leaders in final summit

Reuters reports: “U.S. President-elect Donald Trump’s meeting next week with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe may mark the start of talks to garner Japan’s support for a push back against China’s growing influence in Asia, a security adviser to Trump said. … The Trump adviser said the president-elect would want to allay any ‘unfounded’ concerns Abe may have and affirm his commitment to their countries’ security alliance.” The Trump-Abe meeting is set for Thursday. / Meanwhile, President Barack Obama is preparing for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Lima this weekend. National Security Adviser Susan Rice wrote in The National Interest a restatement of Obama administration views on the Asia-Pacific: “This APEC summit will be President Obama’s last, but it cannot and will not be the end of American engagement with the region. … Our interests in the region are enduring. Our commitment must be as well.” There, as U.S. commitment to the TPP appears finished for the forseeable future and likely for good, China is expected to press trade priorities including the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) and the long-discussed but nascent APEC-wide Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific (FTAAP).

China passes new Cybersecurity Law; U.S. businesses concerned

An item authored by former U.S. Trade Representative Charlene Barshefsky and colleagues at the law firm WilmerHale notes: “Drafts of the Cybersecurity Law had raised significant concerns in the international business community, due to provisions with the potential to restrict market access such as data localization requirements, national security reviews for ICT products and services, and data retention and sharing requirements. The final draft is largely consistent with previous drafts, although the provisions of the Law are cast broadly, and it will be up to the State Council, Cybersecurity Administration of China, and other government bodies to issue implementing rules in the months and years ahead (in addition to related rules that are already in place). The Cybersecurity Law itself will take effect June 1, 2017.” The translated full text of the new law is available with notes on changes since the last draft at China Law Translate. At Lawfare, Christopher Mirasola notes several areas of concern for foreign firms, many of which are rooted in the ambiguities of the law as written (while awaiting more detailed regulations and evidence of how enforcement will be practiced).

’19 Experts on Asia Are Named by Rusk As Advisory Panel’

“WASHINGTON, Nov. 10 (AP)—Secretary of State Dean Rusk named today a 19-man advisory panel on East Asian and Pacific Affairs headed by Prof. Edwin O. Reischauer of Harvard, former Ambassador to Japan. The new Group: Edwin O. Reischauer, former Ambassador to Japan and now a professor at Harvard; John M. Allison, former Ambassador to Indonesia, director of the Overseas Career Program, University of Hawaii, Honolulu; Hugh Borton, president of Haverford (Pa.) College; Claude A. Buss, associate of history, Stanford University; Russell G. David, associate director, Center for Studies in Education and Development, Harvard University; Russell H. Fifield, professor of political science, University of Michigan; Caryl Haskins, president of the Carnegie Institution of Washington; Alice Hsieh, China expert, Rand Corporation, Santa Monica, Calif.; Walter H. Judd, former Representative and medical missionary to China; Lucien W. Pye, professor of political science, Center for International Studies, Massachusetts Institute of Technology; A. M. Rosenthal, former foreign correspondent and now metropolitan editor for The New York Times; Dr. Howard A. Rusk, contributing editor of The New York Times; president of the World Rehabilitation Fund and director of refugee and health projects for Korea and Vietnam; Robert A. Scalapino, China expert and chairman of the political science department, University of California; Arch T. Steele, journalist, Portal, Ariz.; George E. Taylor, director of the Far Eastern and Russian Institute, University of Washington; Frank N. Trager, professor of international affairs, New York University; Robert E. Ward, professor of political science, University of Michigan; Clifton Wharton Jr., acting executive director, the Agricultural Development Council, Inc., New York; Kenneth T. Young, former Ambassador to Thailand, now president of the Asia Society, New York.”

(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

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].

8 GOP Asia advisers release open letter opposing Trump, say will vote for Clinton

This open letter regarding Donald Trump and U.S. policy toward Asia appeared at Foreign Policy and is reproduced here for reference.

Preserving U.S. Credibility in Asia: An Open Letter

As foreign and security policy appointees in previous Republican administrations, we will reluctantly (for some) but unavoidably be voting for the Democratic party’s presidential candidate this November. In doing so, we will join former National Security Adviser Brent Scowcroft and other mentors who have already made the same decision.

Most criticism of current Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump focuses on his erratic behavior, bizarre conspiracy theories, vulgar and inappropriate words, and appeal to baser instincts and atavistic nationalism. He dismisses whole groups of people, including adherents to a world religion.

Meanwhile, policy-focused dissent covers the field, from the Mexican border wall fantasies to his ill-informed (if not willfully ignorant) views about allies, Russia, torture, the origins of the Islamic State, and nuclear weapons.

We share these and other misgivings, but our common and primary reason for deciding to vote for Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton arises from fears that Trump’s combative, ignorant views can (and will, if he’s elected) inflict great damage on our country’s global position and on its economy.

America faces relentless economic and geostrategic competition from China and Russia, and new variants of global jihadi terrorism. It’s absolutely the wrong time to elect an unstable, ill-prepared amateur with no vision or foresight to meet the manifold challenges of the 21st century.

In Europe, we need a president who will strengthen trans-Atlantic relations and stand up to Russia. While Russian President Vladimir Putin only respects strength, we also need shrewd policies to thwart the insidious infiltration of propaganda and corruption.

In the Middle East, also, we need equally smart statecraft — to prevent sectarian conflict from engendering wider hostilities while doubling down to defeat the Islamic State and the wider jihadist threat in whatever forms it assumes.

Looking forward, however, we especially fear a Trump presidency’s impact on America’s future in Asia, where China’s influence in the region, now the global economy’s center of gravity, grows apace with the country’s power. Beijing’s worldview offers less liberty and more state and military control — attitudes which, coupled to an assertive chauvinism, directly challenges an open, rules-based order.

Looking at all his announced intentions, Trump cannot provide leadership to adapt global and regional economic institutions to the new Asian realities. Doing this means weaving the United States more tightly into Asia’s economic tapestry and security arrangements, not the opposite.

These trends explain why, back in 2007, President George W. Bush’s administration began reemphasizing Asia, setting out an American-led path for the region’s future.

The Obama administration persisted with, and expanded, this important policy pivot. Indeed, Clinton played a vital part in this U.S. rebalancing policy in Asia after 2009, a move which elicited sustained, genuine bipartisanship — an approach which prevailed during her tenure as secretary of state, despite occasional disagreement over tactical choices.

By contrast, the current Republican presidential candidate offers only bluster or preposterous panaceas for Asia — ideas which, if they ever find their way into policy, will wreck our country’s credibility, economy, and leadership in very short order.

Should Trump become president and put his nostrums into practice, Asia’s response will be prompt and epochal. In their varying ways, Asia’s big or small countries will be forced to tilt towards America’s challengers, especially China. Some of them may move quickly to seek security under a new proliferation of nuclear weapons.

In short, if the Trump brand — of which this candidate is so proud — becomes America’s brand, we can expect ruinous marginalization in Asia and unwanted compliance with rules which the Chinese and other challengers set.

Trump speaks of a greater America, a more competitive America, and a stronger America, but his election risks the exact opposite, especially in Asia. His scorn for free trade agreements like the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) fires up the campaign crowds but risks a catastrophic loss of prestige and leadership. Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, on a recent visit to the United States, put it succinctly: “For America’s friends and partners, ratifying the TPP is a litmus test of credibility and seriousness of purpose.”

While it’s tempting to join the anti-free traders, we would hope that Clinton reconsiders her current position on the TPP. Failure to approve it would cede to China the role of defining regional trade rules, and would be a body blow to U.S. standing and the U.S. economy.

We accept legitimate anxieties about the TPP but believe that these would be best met by working with Congress and bilaterally with other treaty partners. Trade forms a small but vital part of preparing a 21st century workforce in a world transformed by technological change, from robotics and artificial intelligence to 3D printing and self-driving cars. We cannot command the incoming tide to recede. We’re stuck with the world in which we dwell.

Our relations with nations across the Indo-Pacific region will go a long way toward determining the future prosperity and security of the United States. Like it or not, an internationalist foreign policy is a necessity, not an option. It’s not a divide between globalism and nationalism, as Trump would have us believe, but a strategic question: How does America navigate the current century’s competitive environment?

Trump would take us on a race to the bottom in a fragmenting world order; Clinton is best positioned seek both renewed prosperity and better security. For these reasons, we will work towards her election in November as our next president.

The Honorable Dr. Patrick M. Cronin
Former Assistant Administrator, Policy and Program Coordination, U.S. Agency for International Development

James Clad
Former deputy assistant secretary of defense for Asian and Pacific security affairs

Robert Manning
Former senior counselor, Department of State and member, policy planning staff

Charles W. Dunne
Former U.S. Foreign Service officer and former foreign policy adviser to the director for strategic plans and policy at the Joint Staff

Dr. Michael J. Green
Former special assistant to the president and senior director for Asia, National Security Council

The Honorable Frank L. Lavin
Former under secretary of commerce for international trade and former U.S. ambassador to Singapore

Anja Manuel
Former special assistant to under-secretary for political affairs, U.S. Department of State

Peter Watson
Former chairman, U.S. International Trade Commission; former chairman, president, and CEO, U.S. Overseas Private Investment Corporation; and former director of Asian affairs, National Security Council

Trump adviser Peter Navarro’s Asia policy comments to BBC [transcript]

BBC spoke with Peter Navarro, whom they identify as a policy adviser to Donald Trump, about Asia policy.

The video, published July 24, and my transcription are below.

“If China continues to cheat in the trading arena, we have no other choice but to defend the American people from Chinese cheating. The purpose of a Trump regime is to basically have China play by the rules, which they promised to when they joined the World Trade Organization in 2001. And frankly China has been the biggest cheater in the WTO, as measured by all the complaints that we see filed against them and measured by all the other avenues—illegal export subsidies, intellectual property theft, currency manipulation.”

“Specifically on the international court ruling, the public statement is very simply that we hope that China will abide by international rules and respect the ruling, and we hope and expect that this matter will be resolved peacefully. And at this point, it’s really China’s move. The question is, is China gonna be an aggressive bully in the region and provoke some type of military confrontation, or is China going to be a good citizen member of the international global order and enjoy all the benefits of that in terms of trade and peace? And it’s really up to China.”

“The TPP is gone in a Trump world, but that doesn’t mean that we won’t have really good trade agreements with countries in Asia. I would say to my friends in Asia, don’t worry about Donald Trump abandoning you or leaving you behind. He understands the importance of Asia, markets, resources, alliance, need for peace and prosperity. But the rules have to change. China has to stop cheating and our allied partners have to pay a little bit more of their fair share. It’s very simple.”

Clinton adviser Laura Rosenberger comments to BBC on Asia policy [transcript]

Laura Rosenberger, foreign policy adviser to Hillary Clinton, spoke with the BBC alongside the Democratic National Convention last week. Below is my transcription of her remarks, based on the video published here:

On TPP: “Well, Secretary Clinton’s been very clear. You know, she believes that trade agreements need to work for the American people. That means it needs to help create good American jobs, it needs to raise wages for American workers, and it needs to advance America’s national security. And she believed when she looked at the final version of the TPP that was negotiated that it unfortunately didn’t meet those three tests. And so she concluded that she cannot support it.”

On “the pivot to Asia”: “The pivot to Asia was not a one-time move, and it was not a move away from anything. It was really about making sure we are invested and resourced in the right way in the region, and, as president, she would absolutely figure out ways to build on what’s been done over the past eight years. And it’s true that we continue to deepen our alliances, build new strategic partnerships, and make sure that we are doing what we need to do to manage China’s rise. It is absolutely a complex relationship. It’s one of the most consequential as well.”

On the South China Sea: “The way that the other countries in the region are responding will have an important impact on how China reacts, and this is where U.S. leadership is very critical. You know, the U.S. making sure that our partners and our allies have the confidence to know that we stand by them, as they stand by the ruling, sending the very clear signal to China that breaking the rules is simply not acceptable. It’s not acceptable when it comes top ignoring a ruling. It’s not acceptable to ignore the rules when it comes to the WTO on issues like trade. It’s not acceptable to ignore the rules when it comes to issues like human rights.”

On North Korea: “Well Secretary Clinton believes the threat from North Korea is very serious. She absolutely thinks that we need to convince North Korea that its only option is to give up its nuclear weapons. And to do so requires imposing some real pressure, because all signs right now are that North Korea has no intention of giving up its nuclear weapons, and that’s a real problem for the United States and our allies, and we need to make that choice very clear to them.”