Mitch Joel WARNING... LONG RANT! It takes a lot for me to both get angry and publish about it. Canada’s…
U.S. – China relations November 2022-
Chinese balloon saga is part of a long history of U.S.-China tensions
Ronald W. Pruessen, Professor of History, University of Toronto
(The Conversation) The U.S. has routinely and historically described Chinese behaviour as aggressive.
In more recent years, Americans have pointed to China’s threatening gestures toward Taiwan, expansionist moves in the South China Sea and efforts to dominate important economic sectors (such as advanced semi-conductors)
Perennial competition and conflict between the U.S. and China have also always involved a repertoire of methods and tools that have gone far beyond “spying.” From the 1940s into the 1970s alone, the U.S. refused to recognize the People’s Republic of China and made numerous efforts to severely contain the Chinese regime.
It did so by building and then generously sustaining military alliances with Taiwan, South Korea and a string of leaders in South Vietnam.
For its part, China pushed back against American efforts by developing its own team of countervailing allies, including North Korea.
Chinese balloons therefore must be assessed within the context of decades of mutual espionage and an awareness of the many storms in the overall U.S.-China relationship. (17 February 2023)
The Government and the Private Sector Must Start Recognizing the China Threat
Neither is currently responding to the CCP’s challenges with appropriate urgency.
(National Review) …the looming threat — however far off it may be — of Chinese action against Taiwan has not led the U.S. government and private sector to make the strategic and regulatory changes needed to hedge against the possibility of major geopolitical shock. The public and private sectors seem to be waiting for the next flash point before acting, and both risk being caught flat-footed.
The Department of Defense is saying all the right things; its reports show the risk of Chinese aggression and the need to increase U.S. deterrence capabilities. But its actions sometimes differ dramatically. For example, it is not aligning its contracting for shipbuilding and missile production to match the threat, nor is it cutting bureaucratic red tape. If the threats are as significant as the Pentagon assesses, they should compel changes immediately.
Another missing Chinese minister. That’s the defense minister. Is this a coincidence or something bigger happening?
(Ian Bremmer) Well, we know when we don’t hear from ministers for a couple of weeks, we’re not going to hear from them going forward. They have been purged. And in this case, it does look like a significant corruption issue, something that the Chinese and the Ukrainians have in common right now, except Ukrainians you still hear from. The Chinese, house arrest or a lot worse. I guess the one positive thing you can say is that with corruption still being a big problem and the Chinese clearing house domestically inside the military, they’re not going to be looking to invade Taiwan any time soon. Of course, I didn’t think that was going to happen anyway. But there is also the possibility that we could see a breakthrough on US-China defense relations, because this defense minister, one of the reasons the Americans didn’t and couldn’t see him is because he was sanctioned by the US. That will not likely be true of his successor.
In Risky Hunt for Secrets, U.S. and China Expand Global Spy Operations
The nations are taking bold steps in the espionage shadow war to try to collect intelligence on leadership thinking and military capabilities.
Cleo Paskal Northern Mariana: Time to close China’s backdoor into the U.S.
Arnold Palacios is the Governor of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI). Yes, CNMI is very much part of the United States. The main island in the chain, Saipan, is around 2,500km east of Taiwan and even closer to Okinawa, Japan. Meanwhile, it is around 6,000km west of Honolulu, Hawaii.
CNMI has been on the front line of geopolitics for over a century. …
In his 24 August testimony before a U.S. Congressional Committee, Palacios explained what happened next: “From the 1980s through the early 2000s, we opened our doors to the garment industry. More than 30 factories, predominantly Chinese-owned, set up operations throughout the 47-square mile island of Saipan to assemble garments for export to the continental United States. Tens of thousands of people were brought in, many from the PRC, to work in these factories.” … “The factories began to close after global trade rules changed in 2005, stripping the commonwealth of competitive advantages it had through tariff-free and quota-free access to U.S. markets…The last factory shut down in 2009.”
The loss of the garment sector devastated the CNMI economy.
In his latest testimony Palacios said: “The Northern Marianas economy continues to struggle, and the government remains in deep fiscal distress. These are conditions that make the commonwealth acutely vulnerable to CCP exploitation…. Whatever form this pressure takes, it is always erosive to America’s influence and security in the region.”
Already some in the CNMI business community are pushing for the Governor to encourage more tourism from China. Meanwhile, 27 Chinese who came in on “parole”were found trying to illegally sneak in to Guam from CNMI by boat, and the actual number who made it is said to be in the hundreds in the past few months. This again raises questions about why the Chinese can still arrive essentially visa free and so many others can’t.
Palacios wants to move away from reliance on China in any sector. …
This time, it’s not Marines who are needed to liberate CNMI and give it a chance to come out of the darkness, it’s forensic accountants, FBI agents, special investigators and others who can shine a light on corruption—the fuel that drives PRC expansion. And others are needed who will help it rebuild its economy in a viable way, creating resilience against the next attacks. And there will be more attacks. You just need to look at a map to see why.
Those who are fighting to clean up CNMI are a threat not just to local criminals, but to the PRC. Those forces are not sitting still. They’ve spent decades trying to take CNMI, control its strategic location, and have a backdoor into the rest of the U.S. There isn’t a lot of time.
Cleo Paskal) US Pacific Policy in China’s Shadow (paywall)
Washington has indeed stepped up engagement, but missteps, half-steps, and mixed messaging are getting in the way.
(The Diplomat) U.S. President Joe Biden hosted the “first ever U.S-Pacific Island Country Summit” on September 28-29, 2022, at which the White House’s Pacific Partnership Strategy was launched. There is due to be a second summit in September 2023. (The meetings are held in September as many Pacific leaders are already in New York for the United Nations General Assembly, so it is more likely they would be willing to hang out for a few days for meetings in Washington.)
There is no question, then, that the United States wants to, at the least, look like it is serious about the Pacific Islands. The reason for the renewed interest is obvious. The degree to which Chinese influence operations in the region have undermined local governance has become difficult to ignore, and has the potential (and likely the intent) to undermine U.S. strategic architecture in the Pacific – and with it, the viability of a free and open Indo-Pacific.
China’s efforts have combined in some cases with a legitimate dissatisfaction about Western (usually defined as U.S., Australia, and New Zealand) engagement that is then used as a justification for closer ties with Beijing. Some of that engagement would seem to run counter to the best interests of citizens in a democracy but, as described by [former president of Federated States of Micronesia, David] Panuelo, certainly would seem to be consistent with China’s national interests. That includes things like the China-Solomon Islands security deal, which, according to a leaked draft, allows for the deployment of People’s Liberation Army troops in the Solomons to “protect the safety of Chinese personnel and major projects in Solomon Islands.”
Should the US pursue a new Cold War with China?
(Brookings) The U.S.-China relationship is entering a consequential period, with some even characterizing the intensifying competition as “a new Cold War.” In a written debate, experts offer a rigorous examination of the choices and trade-offs facing the United States in its competition with China.
… What lessons from the U.S.-Soviet Cold War are — or are not — applicable to U.S.-China competition today? What does “success” entail if the United States seeks to prevail in strategic competition with China? And what kind of coexistence is possible between the two great powers?
Biden hopes Xi Jinping will attend G20 amid reports Chinese president will skip Delhi summit
Analysts suggest Chinese leader may be reluctant to give neighbouring rival India the spotlight
(The Guardian) “I hope he attends,” Biden told reporters on Thursday in Washington, as some US officials played down the chances of a Xi-Biden meeting in New Delhi, suggesting it would be more likely at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, or Apec, conference in San Francisco in November.
Xi no show at G20
Chinese President Xi Jinping is reportedly unlikely to attend the G20 summit of the world’s leading advanced and emerging economies in India next week.
(GZERO media) No reason for Xi’s decision is known, but it’s the first time he’ll miss the gathering. He also unexpectedly skipped giving a speech at the BRICS summit earlier this month and is said to be sending a deputy in his stead to an Asian economic summit next week as well. Pick your speculation: health problem, deepening domestic economic woes, diplomatic snub?
… Lastly, Xi’s absence also means there won’t be any bilateral sideline meeting with US President Joe Biden, something that had been mooted as the world’s two largest economies try to manage an increasingly competitive relationship. A shame, as there were good vibes in the air after US Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo’s trip to Beijing earlier this week.
US commerce secretary warns China will be ‘uninvestable’ without action on raids, fines
(AP) — Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo on Wednesday said she warned Chinese leaders that U.S. businesses might stop investing in their country without prompt action to address complaints about worsening conditions due to raids on firms, unexplained fines and unpredictable official behavior.
Raimondo’s comments add to pressure on Chinese leader Xi Jinping’s government, which is trying to revive investor interest and reverse an economic slump. Business groups say confidence among foreign companies is at an all-time low. Official figures show foreign investment plunged in the latest quarter.
Raimondo visited Beijing as part of U.S. efforts to restore relations that plummeted to their lowest level in decades due to disputes about technology, security, Taiwan and other issues. She called her meetings with China’s No. 2 leader, Premier Li Qiang, and other officials “very productive” but said she “didn’t pull any punches” in conveying business complaints.
US Commerce Secretary Raimondo offers China more dialogue at ‘very open’ talks in Beijing
US Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said Monday she and her counterpart, Chinese Commerce Minister Wang Wentao, had agreed on steps to improve communication between the world’s top two economies on business and trade following four hours of “very open” discussions in Beijing.
What China’s Economic Woes May Mean for the U.S
The fallout is probably limited — and there may be some upside for American interests.
(NYT) At the moment, the implications for the United States are probably minor, given China’s limited role as a customer for American goods and the minor connections between the countries’ financial systems.
In a note published Thursday, Wells Fargo simulated a “hard landing” scenario for China in which output over the next three years would be 12.5 percent smaller than previous growth rates would achieve — similar to the impact of a slump from 1989 to 1991. Even under those conditions, the U.S. economy would shave only 0.1 percent off its inflation-adjusted growth in 2024, and 0.2 percent in 2025.
The AI Power Paradox – Can States Learn to Govern Artificial Intelligence—Before It’s Too Late?
By Ian Bremmer and Mustafa Suleyman
(Foreign Affairs September/October 2023) From the vantage point of Washington and Beijing, the risk that the other side will gain an edge in AI is greater than any theoretical risk the technology might pose to society or to their own domestic political authority. For that reason, both the U.S. and Chinese governments are pouring immense resources into developing AI capabilities while working to deprive each other of the inputs needed for next-generation breakthroughs. (So far, the United States has been far more successful than China in doing the latter, especially with its export controls on advanced semiconductors.) This zero-sum dynamic—and the lack of trust on both sides—means that Beijing and Washington are focused on accelerating AI development, rather than slowing it down. In their view, a “pause” in development to assess risks, as some AI industry leaders have called for, would amount to foolish unilateral disarmament.
But this perspective assumes that states can assert and maintain at least some control over AI. This may be the case in China, which has integrated its tech companies into the fabric of the state. Yet in the West and elsewhere, AI is more likely to undermine state power than to bolster it…
What’s the best case scenario for US-China relations? (podcast)
(Brookings) Ryan Hass, newly appointed director of the John L. Thornton China Center, talks with host David Dollar about the themes and ideas the China Center will be focusing on in the next few years. Hass also reviews the state of U.S.-China relations under the Biden administration, how domestic politics—including Taiwan’s—matter in the U.S.-China competition, and his vision of a best case scenario for U.S.-China relations in the coming decade. Transcript
US continues to shape the strategic environment in which China operates
Joe Biden plans new restrictions on US investments in China, including Hong Kong, declares ‘emergency’ on sensitive tech
(SCMP) US President Joe Biden looks to restrict US venture capital, private equity stakes in Chinese firms in micro electronics, AI, quantum information technologies
Separately, White House declares ‘national emergency’ over ‘threat of advancement’ by China in ‘sensitive technologies and products’ related to military, spying
The End of China’s Economic Miracle
How Beijing’s Struggles Could Be an Opportunity for Washington
(Foreign Affairs) for average Chinese savers, who hold most, perhaps even all, their life savings in yuan-denominated assets, buying assets abroad made sense even before the pandemic. It makes even more sense now that prospects for growth at home are diminishing, and the risks from CCP caprices are rising.
The United States should welcome those savings, along with Chinese businesses, investors, students, and workers who leave in search of greener pastures. But current policies, enacted by both the Trump and the Biden administrations, do the opposite. They seek to close off American universities and companies to Chinese students and workers. They restrict inward foreign investment and capital inflows, and they discourage Chinese companies from moving into the U.S. and allied economies, whether for production or for research and development. They reduce downward pressure on the yuan and diminish, in the eyes of ordinary Chinese people, the contrast between their government’s conduct and that of the United States. These policies should be reversed.
Easing these restrictions need not involve reducing trade barriers, however much this might benefit U.S. economic and foreign policy on its own terms. In fact, if the American economy did a better job of attracting productive Chinese capital, labor, and innovation, those inflows would partly make up for the substantial economic costs incurred as a result of the U.S. trade conflict with China. Neither would Washington need to water down national security restrictions on critical technologies.
Removing most barriers to Chinese talent and capital would not undermine U.S. prosperity or national security. It would, however, make it harder for Beijing to maintain a growing economy that is simultaneously stable, self-reliant, and under tight party control. Compared with the United States’ current economic strategy toward China, which is more confrontational, restrictive, and punitive, the new approach would lower the risk of a dangerous escalation between Washington and Beijing, and it would prove less divisive among U.S. allies and developing economies. This approach would require communicating that Chinese people, savings, technology, and brands are welcome in the United States; the opposite of containment efforts that overtly exclude them.
Several other economies, including Australia, Canada, Mexico, Singapore, the United Kingdom, and Vietnam, are already benefiting from inflows of Chinese students, businesses, and capital. In so doing, they are improving their own economic strength and weakening the CCP’s hold at home.
China Is Ready for a World of Disorder
America Is Not
By Mark Leonard
(Foreign Affairs) “Changes unseen in a century” has become one of Xi’s favorite slogans since he coined it in December 2017. Although it might seem generic, it neatly encapsulates the contemporary Chinese way of thinking about the emerging global order—or, rather, disorder. As China’s power has grown, Western policymakers and analysts have tried to determine what kind of world China wants and what kind of global order Beijing aims to build with its power. But it is becoming clear that rather than trying to comprehensively revise the existing order or replace it with something else, Chinese strategists have set about making the best of the world as it is—or as it soon will be.
China’s Perfect Storm Threatens Growth Outlook
China’s Got 99 Problems
(Bloomberg) After the whole of China got Covid last December and the government finally lifted its pandemic restrictions, 2023 was meant to be the year for an economic rebound.
We’re halfway through the year and instead the world’s second-largest economy is facing a confluence of problems: Sluggish consumer spending, a crisis-ridden property market, flagging exports, record youth unemployment and towering local government debt.
Relations with major trading partners and sources of technology such as the US, Europe, Japan or South Korea are worsening. Foreign firms in China are also increasingly wary of investing more here — partly because of concerns about the slowdown, and partly because of the rising risks from doing business in the world’s second-largest economy.
Altogether, the dynamics threaten not only to lead to disappointing growth this year, but also to thwart the Chinese economy’s momentum to surpass that of the US.
China Isn’t Buying Biden’s Balancing Act
Antony Blinken’s frosty reception demonstrates the limits of Washington’s China strategy.
(Foreign Policy) He was greeted at the plane by a midlevel Chinese official (as well as U.S. Ambassador to China Nicholas Burns), seen as a calculated diplomatic snub by Beijing. What followed was a series of tense public exchanges and hours-long closed-door meetings with his counterparts—as well as a brief meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping—that showed that the Biden administration’s stated efforts to ease tensions with China aren’t making much headway.
But it’s little surprise that any olive branch might be spurned, given how Washington’s approach to China is hardening as it ramps up public and military support for Taiwan, works to create a new anti-China security architecture in the Asia-Pacific, and levies harsh new trade restrictions and sanctions on Beijing.
Blinken didn’t have much room to maneuver going into the visit, and the Biden administration’s efforts to simultaneously turn down the temperature and dial up the pressure illustrate the administration’s dilemma.
With visit to China, Blinken clears a diplomatic path, but it’s unclear where it goes
(NPR) Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s long-anticipated trip to Beijing shows that the administration is keen to reignite diplomacy and inject some stability to its dealings with China, but whether it was a success remains to be seen.
Blinken held talks with China’s top two foreign policy officials and even had an audience with leader Xi Jinping during his two-day stop in Beijing that ended on Monday.
But Analysts say China-U.S. ties are so fraught that re-establishing a semblance of stability and balance will take much more effort and political will — which will be tested by presidential election campaigns in the United States and Taiwan in the coming months. And while both sides say they want to reduce friction, their strategic assessments of the other have not budged.
“Profound differences” remain between U.S. and China, Secretary Blinken tells NPR (text + audio)
Cleo Paskal What’s needed with Chinese trade isn’t de-risking, it’s de-parasiting. The US-China relationship is much more like the relationship between a host and its parasite. I wrote about it a while back.
Watch China’s actions, don’t listen to its words
… Since at least the 1970s, and accelerating since joining the WTO, the Chinese Communist Party and its related entities have latched on to the US (and others) probing for entry points, enmeshing with systems, sucking out capital and intellectual property, weakening defences, modifying behaviour, neutering response, and spreading from there. It left its hosts sickened and disoriented. Even though, more often than not, the host at least initially, welcomed the barnacle.
China calls this approach comprehensive national power—and includes opaquely intermeshed tendrils such as economic, diplomatic, military, cyber and soft power.
US, Japanese, Philippine coast guard ships stage law enforcement drills near South China Sea
(AP) — U.S., Japanese and Philippine coast guard ships staged law enforcement drills in waters near the disputed South China Sea on Tuesday as Washington presses efforts to reinforce alliances in Asia amid an increasingly tense rivalry with China.
China and U.S. defense chiefs compete for influence in the Asia Pacific
(NPR) China’s new defense minister made his first international appearance on Sunday at an annual defense summit, where he delivered a speech full of thinly-veiled barbs at the U.S., calling on it to “mind your own business” after two close encounters between the country’s militaries.
… His remarks highlight how mounting U.S.-China military tensions have dominated the annual Shangri-La Dialogue, spilling out into the open with dueling speeches delivered by their respective defense chiefs over the weekend.
The U.S. and China are competing for influence in the Asia Pacific
Austin touted expanded military exercises with allies and partners, including Japan, Australia, the Philippines and Indonesia. The U.S. is also increasing the sharing of military technology with India, creating interoperability between its military systems with Japan, and is currently building a new fleet of nuclear-powered submarines with Australia.
U.S.-China divide looms as Asia security summit begins in Singapore
(NPR) Tense U.S.-relations and an arms build-up in the Pacific region will be on show this weekend as defense chiefs, including from the U.S. and China, gather at the Shangri-La Dialogue, an international defense summit, in Singapore.
The Dialogue, which started Friday, has been overshadowed by China’s refusal to let its defense minister meet formally with U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin at the forum. But both countries are still leading large delegations to the summit, which gathers diplomats, academics, defense contractors, journalists, and analysts from around the Pacific region.
South China Sea drills conceal a secret war to control the internet
(The Hill) Over 486 undersea cables carry more than 99 percent of all international internet traffic globally, according to the Washington-based research firm TeleGeography. The bulk of them are controlled by a handful of American technology giants, namely Google-owner Alphabet, Facebook-owner Meta, Amazon and Microsoft.
Southeast Asia’s internet economy is expected to reach $1 trillion in value by 2030. Whoever controls the Asia-Pacific’s subsea cabling infrastructure will not only dominate this booming economy but control the global internet. Internet data flows, carrying everything from emails and banking transactions to military secrets, are more valuable than oil. As such, the world’s subsea cabling infrastructure is increasingly vulnerable not only to sabotage, but also to espionage — spy agencies can easily tap into cables on their own territory.
That’s why the geopolitical rivalry between the U.S. and China has increasingly focused on controlling the world’s subsea cabling networks.
C. Uday Bhaskar: The EU’s struggle to find a unified stance on China will shape the US-China contest
(SCMP) This has been a month of heightened diplomatic activity in East Asia with Chinese President Xi Jinping hosting his French and Brazilian counterparts in Beijing while Tokyo convened a meeting of foreign ministers from the Group of Seven in preparation for next month’s G7 summit
China is expected to be a major agenda issue at the G7 summit, due to begin on May 19 in Hiroshima under Japanese stewardship. The freshly concluded Tokyo meeting of G7 foreign ministers was a foretaste of the collective resolve.
In their communiqué, they spoke of their “strong sense of unity as the world navigates grave threats to the international system, including Russia’s continued war of aggression against Ukraine”. They also reaffirmed their commitment “to uphold and reinforce the free and open international order based on the rule of law”.
This commitment will be the core principle for the coming G7 summit. The US-led Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, which includes Japan, India and Australia, have a similar orientation regarding the rules-based order, including in their stance on the South China Sea, where concerns have been expressed over the issue of China changing the status quo.
Beijing will no doubt study the outcome of the Hiroshima summit carefully and calibrate its support to a beleaguered Russia, even as the new contours of the US-China contest begin to crystallise.
How France and the rest of its EU partners harmonise their China policy will have a bearing on the geopolitics of 2023 and the resolution, or lack thereof, of the war in Ukraine.
30 March-9 April
John Schindler Twitter @20committee
“We urgently need to address Beijing’s spy-driven threat to the integrity of our politics, especially the looming 2024 election. Otherwise, we are on our way to becoming a country of warmer and less polite Canadians.”
We Need to Talk About Chinese Election Interference
What Russia was to our 2016 election, China will be in 2024 – and the time to get prepared is now because the counterintelligence clock is ticking
(Top Secret Umbra) The peculiar Guo saga, which has been covered at Top Secret Umbra, is so strange as to be scarcely believable, yet it’s played out on social media for all to see. Somehow Guo managed to become best friends with Steve Bannon, the quixotic right-wing gadfly who served as President Trump’s “chief strategist” for the first eight months of the Trump presidency, with the two plotting together to somehow liberate China from the Communists, from the safety of New York. None of this has ever made much sense, yet it’s clear that the relationship between Bannon and Guo, personally and professionally, has grown close
The Undoing of Guo Wengui, Billionaire Accused of Fraud on 2 Continents
He cultivated powerful allies and built an empire in China. Then, fleeing charges, he turned his charms on America. Now the law has caught up with him.
(NYT) Mr. Guo may now be at the end of a remarkable trajectory, from billionaire Beijing insider to fugitive critic of the Chinese Communist Party and ally of Trump Republicans. That path, fueled by bravado, ruthlessness, a keen political antenna and alleged theft, has left lingering suspicion about his allegiances. And it has now taken him from his Manhattan penthouse to his new place of residence: the Brooklyn federal detention center.
Mr. Guo rose from poverty to control a nationwide property empire centered on a $1 billion office, retail, hotel and residential complex next to the site of the 2008 Beijing Olympics. … By 2014 he ranked 74th among China’s richest people, with $2.6 billion. …
To fend off China, Mr. Guo applied for political asylum in September 2017 and moved closer into Trump circles, embracing views held by the president and the American far right. Mr. Guo soon won the support of influential Trump allies, and they won access to his money.
In late 2018 Stephen K. Bannon, Mr. Trump’s onetime chief strategist, became chairman of the Rule of Law Fund, billed as a $100 million effort financed by Mr. Guo to disseminate information about Communist Party corruption and to help its victims.
In June 2020 Stephen K. Bannon and Mr. Guo announced the “New Federal State of China,” an idea for an alternative Chinese government.
Ian Bremmer: Washington watches as Beijing bargains
China is swimming into uncharted waters here. In the past, Beijing confined its leadership in diplomatic interventions to Asia, avoiding direct involvement in anything not directly relevant to China’s national security. And now we see China brokering a Middle East deal that Americans and Europeans could not have made.
It’s also a big deal because China might successfully hold Iran to its promises to not build a nuclear weapon, a point toward which Iran appears to have edged ever closer in recent weeks. That would be good for the region, for the world, and for US and Israeli national security.
It’s also impossible to end the horrible war in Yemen, and the humanitarian catastrophes it has triggered, without bringing Iranians and Saudis to the table. The agreement China announced is only a first step, but the newly pragmatic relations could bring the Yemen conflict – in which Tehran supports the Houthi rebels and Riyadh supports the Yemeni government – to a halt much sooner.
In fact, China’s Middle East plan underscores the limited value of a Biden administration foreign policy the US president continues to insist is built on support for democracy through containment of autocracy.
… But China’s new diplomatic ambitions aren’t limited to the Middle East.
After unveiling a detailed framework to negotiate an end to the war in Ukraine, Xi is now prepping for a phone call with Volodymyr Zelensky and a visit to Moscow to see his friend Vladimir Putin.
In this case, we should be more skeptical of China’s value. Here, the honest broker principle works against Beijing
Washington should see both risks and opportunities in China’s more ambitious global diplomatic role.
It’s not like China is about to replace the United States in the Middle East. Given the hardware the US already has patrolling the skies and waters of the region, Beijing would have to spend billions upon billions over many years to supplant that influence.
Nor is the US retreating from China’s backyard. The American withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership limited Washington’s economic influence in Asia, but the US remains critical for the security of its many Asian and Pacific allies. Washington is now extending that commitment with its Quadrilateral Security Dialogue with Japan, India, and Australia.
But a larger global leadership role for China will come at a cost for US influence.
In the Middle East, Washington has a big presence, but it doesn’t have a clear purpose. It’s on the wrong side of most Middle Eastern countries, in part because the Biden administration wants to transition away from fossil fuels, but offers little talk about the continuing importance of hydrocarbons for keeping that transition stable. In that sense, the Gulf oil producers don’t share a core interest with the US. China, on the other hand, isn’t ambivalent about quenching its thirst for fossil fuel. Given that the Saudis and Iranians will have to compete with Russia to sell oil to China, new deals with Riyadh have extra value.
Chinese-Brokered Deal Upends Mideast Diplomacy and Challenges U.S.
The agreement negotiated in Beijing to restore relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran signaled at least a temporary reordering of the usual alliances and rivalries, with Washington left on the sidelines.
(NYT) Finally, there is a peace deal of sorts in the Middle East. Not between Israel and the Arabs, but between Saudi Arabia and Iran, which have been at each other’s throats for decades. And brokered not by the United States but by China.
This is among the topsiest and turviest of developments anyone could have imagined, a shift that left heads spinning in capitals around the globe. Alliances and rivalries that have governed diplomacy for generations have, for the moment at least, been upended.
Analysis: China role in Saudi, Iran deal a tricky test for US
By Phil Stewart and Michelle Nichols
(Reuters) – The surprise deal between Iran and Saudi Arabia to restore diplomatic ties offers much for the United States to be intrigued about, including a possible path to rein in Tehran’s nuclear program and a chance to cement a ceasefire in Yemen.
It also contains an element sure to make officials in Washington deeply uneasy – the role of China as peace broker in a region where the U.S. has long wielded influence.
Relations between the U.S. and China have become highly contentious over issues ranging from trade to espionage and increasingly the two powers compete for influence in parts of the world far from their own borders.
Ahmed Aboudouh: China just left the US with a bloody nose in the Gulf
(Atlantic Council) Chinese ambitions to mediate between Saudi Arabia and Iran are not new. Chinese five-point plans, flaunted by senior Chinese diplomat Wang Yi two years ago, set out a Chinese vision for regional security and revealed a glimpse into Beijing’s objective to become a regional actor.
For China, the agreement solidifies its legitimacy as a heavyweight diplomatic mediator able to resolve the most antagonistic geostrategic competition in the region. It could create the first conditions for a shift in the strategic balance in the context of rivalry with the United States in the Gulf. China’s ambitions to position itself as a credible peacemaker have a broader scope covering conflicts in Syria, Libya, and Yemen, especially after this agreement. This could be problematic in Washington. The United States’ hesitance to spend more political capital on mediating conflicts is increasingly seen in the Middle East as evidence of the United States’ declining power and its focus on competition with China in the Indo-Pacific. The agreement could also provide the Chinese leadership with more strategic options since de-escalating tensions between Riyadh and Tehran creates a thin layer of security and stability necessary for oil exports bound to China, trade sea lines of communication, and Chinese Belt and Road investments.
For Saudi Arabia and Iran, China’s ostensible commitment to the “non-interference” principle and its “non-alignment” regional policy attached great credibility to its position as a broker. To be clear, both countries seem united in their grievances towards the Biden administration, albeit at different levels. Nonetheless, despite Iraq’s hosting the talks for the most part, China’s desire to take the lead has met Riyadh and Tehran’s willingness to hand it a diplomatic win—a stark indication of China’s growing influence over the two biggest powers in the Gulf.
Max Boot: Democrats and Republicans agree on China. That’s a problem.
In these ultra-partisan times, pundits often bemoan the decline of bipartisanship. I’ve done so myself. But we should remember that when the two parties agree on an issue, that doesn’t necessarily mean they are right. It could mean they are falling prey to a collective delusion.
That consensus was on display last week in the first hearing of the newly formed House Select Committee on the Strategic Competition Between the United States and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), which had been created by a vote of 365-65.
Chairman Mike Gallagher (R-Wis.) and ranking minority-party member Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Ill.) were a model of bipartisan comity. In fact, Krishnamoorthi insisted that Congress must be united because “the CCP wants us to be fractious, partisan and prejudiced.” But while the hearing was bipartisan, it was also disturbingly one-sided.
Utterly missing were any of the numerous experts in the China-watchers community who would have warned of the risks of reckless confrontation, advocated dialogue with Beijing to reduce tensions and pointed out that there are issues (such as trade, global warming and the North Korean nuclear program) where cooperation with China is in our own interest.
Completely unmentioned were all the benefits of trade with China. The U.S.-China Business Council notes: “American companies exported $192 billion in goods and services to China in 2021, constituting 7.5 percent of U.S. exports … Exports to China support over 1 million U.S. jobs.” Meanwhile, cheap Chinese exports have fueled U.S. prosperity — and, until recently, with low inflation.
China warns U.S. to stop suppression or risk ‘conflict’
(Reuters) – The United States should change its “distorted” attitude towards China or “conflict and confrontation” will follow, China’s foreign minister said on Tuesday, while defending its stance on the war in Ukraine and its close ties with Russia.
The U.S. had been engaging in suppression and containment of China rather than engaging in fair, rules-based competition, Foreign Minister Qin Gang [China promotes its U.S. envoy Qin Gang to foreign minister] told a news conference on the sidelines of an annual parliament meeting in Beijing.
Suppressing China won’t make America great – Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang
Mr Qin’s comments follow Chinese President Xi Jinping’s unusually direct rebuke of the US on Monday.
Mr Xi said “Western countries led by the US had implemented all-round containment, encirclement and suppression” against China and that this brought “severe challenges” to the country.
Abusing state power’: China lashes out at US over TikTok bans
Beijing – which itself blocks access to Facebook, Twitter and many others – hits out at ban on Chinese-owned software on US government devices
A year later, China blames U.S. ‘hegemony’ — not Russia — for war in Ukraine
(WaPo) China has launched a public diplomacy offensive to wrest control of the narrative about its role in the conflict, trying to clear itself of accusations that it has sided with Russia while accusing the United States of turning the conflict into a “proxy” war.
Few of the positions staked out by Chinese officials in a flurry of speeches and documents this week are new, but they have underscored why Beijing continues to stand by Moscow even as it professes “deep concern” about the conflict: It considers the United States — not Russia — the progenitor of global insecurity, including in Ukraine.
China and Russia reaffirm close ties as Putin meets top diplomat
On eve of Ukraine invasion anniversary Russian leader says China relations ‘proceeding as planned’
Top U.S., Chinese diplomats hold first meeting since balloon incursion
The discussion between Secretary of State Antony Blinken and China’s top diplomat, Wang Yi, was the first face-to-face engagement since the spy balloon was taken down
(WaPo) During the meeting, the two diplomats discussed a range of issues, including Chinese surveillance and the country’s alliance with Moscow — topics that have brought diplomatic relations between Beijing and Washington to new lows.
Blinken Has Tense Meeting With Chinese Official Amid Spy Balloon Furor
The meeting resumed diplomatic contact between Washington and Beijing that had been frozen since the U.S. shot down a Chinese spy balloon.
Notably, neither country said anything about seeking a new date for Mr. Blinken’s trip. Mr. Blinken also told NBC that he had spoken “very clearly and very directly” to Mr. Wang about the balloon incident, and that there had been “no apology” from Mr. Wang during the meeting. It was another reminder that Chinese-U.S. relations have fallen to perhaps their lowest point since Richard Nixon opened a channel of communication to China’s leadership a half-century ago.
C Uday Bhaskar: US-China ‘balloongate’ fallout should hasten a review of near-space use
• Reports of spy balloons and other unidentified objects drifting through countries’ airspace call for making near-space use more consensual and transparent
• Meanwhile, the breakdown in trust between the world’s two major powers bodes ill for a world weary after years of pandemic and conflict
(SCMP) The manner in which Beijing has handled the early stages of the balloon saga does not speak well of the quality of strategic communication between Xi and Biden’s security advisers and, by extension, the sagacity of Chinese diplomacy. A more disturbing trend is China’s use of advanced technologies and the varying degrees of concern among China’s neighbours over its intent and integrity.
India is one of many nations that have detected such intrusions by balloons, with one such vehicle being sighted over the Andaman and Nicobar Islands in January 2022. The conjecture is that it was of Chinese origin, and the security implications of such surveillance have spurred internal deliberations. Could high-altitude balloons eventually be used to deliver an electromagnetic pulse and stun an unsuspecting adversary?
As the world waits for more information regarding Chinese balloons and other unidentified floating objects around the globe, the case for reviewing the use of near space from 20 to 200 kilometres in a consensual and transparent manner has become imperative.
U.S. and China Vie in Hazy Zone Where Balloons, U.F.O.s and Missiles Fly
American officials are worried China is far along in developing military technology that operates in the unregulated high-altitude zone of “near space.”
By Edward Wong, Eric Schmitt and Julian E. Barnes
(NYT) High above earth, but below orbiting satellites, the United States and China are testing new defense systems. China’s exploitation of the zone with aerial craft and advanced munitions suggests it is pulling ahead of its superpower rival in important ways.
This little-known and little-seen strategic contest over near space — a phrase that is suddenly on the lips of every other American politician and policymaker — is increasingly critical for the honing of advanced warfare and certain types of espionage.
Near space is liminal space, a stratospheric netherworld where no international law applies and no military force holds dominance, where hypersonic missiles and space planes fly and surveillance balloons drift without being picked up by radars.
The Chinese military, which has surprised the United States with uses of hypersonic missiles and balloons, has focused for years on developing capabilities in near space, generally thought of as 60,000 feet to 330,000 feet above earth — or 11 miles to 62 miles — where no civilian aircraft fly.
How a Fog of Questions Over a Spy Balloon and U.F.O.s Fed a Diplomatic Crisis
U.S. officials now suspect that the balloon was sent to spy on bases in Guam and Hawaii and that recent U.F.O.s were not surveillance machines. Washington’s evolving view reflects U.S. and Chinese difficulties in discerning each other’s intentions.
(NYT) Some American officials say they know the intended trajectory of the spy balloon in part because the U.S. government tracked the balloon from the time of its launch in late January from Hainan Island in southern China, a detail first reported Monday by The New York Times, and observed it as it moved across the Pacific. U.S. agencies also monitored the balloon as it was pushed in different directions by the winds, officials said.
Once the balloon went off course, as U.S. officials suspect, Chinese officials and the machine’s operators, who could be employees of a civilian-run balloon maker under contract with the People’s Liberation Army of China, appeared to make a series of bad decisions.
C Uday Bhaskar: China-US balloon fracas
(The Tribune India) Raises questions over equitable management of use of space as a domain
If indeed this was a civilian weather platform, as claimed by Beijing, it is not clear why it was being deployed at such distant ranges far away from China. And if there was a compelling meteorological reason for such deployment, Beijing could have informed the countries concerned about the trajectory of the wayward balloon, which would be determined by wind currents and space turbulence. This kind of transparency would have allayed any anxiety about the nature of such data-gathering (now seen as an intelligence mission surveillance) in those nations that have a security concern apropos of China. …
The second strand pertains to the manner in which the US and China have dealt with this issue of airspace transgression and the escalation that has been witnessed over the last fortnight, culminating with the US using a missile to ‘protect’ its sovereignty. It is more than evident that the US-China relationship is moving towards greater discord with seemingly intractable causal factors. …
In one of the abiding paradoxes of the last decade, tension with China over what is perceived by many of its interlocutors as unambiguous belligerence and/or covert use of military muscle to snatch unilateral tactical advantage (viz South China Sea and Ladakh-Galwan) has not prevented a robust trade and economic relationship. The US, Japan and India are in a similar space and will need to evolve individual and collective approaches to prudently manage this contradiction.
Ian Bremmer: Lessons from “balloon-gate”
Xi makes mistakes — sometimes big and costly ones. There’s been lots of speculation about why China sent a slow-moving, 200-foot-tall balloon to hover over American nuclear silos (unlike most years, when it deploys Snoopy along 5th Ave), but I see only one reasonable explanation: miscalculation. It was obviously no accident: The aircraft was reportedly “maneuverable,” but even if it wasn’t and Beijing’s claim that it was an “errant weather balloon” was true, the Chinese would have notified the US as soon as it went wayward. And it’s hard to imagine it was intentional, since Xi Jinping had nothing to gain from provoking the US now — not while China is in the middle of a charm offensive to court foreign investment and revive economic growth after exiting zero-COVID. Maybe he assumed he could get away with it like he had in the past, or maybe he was badly advised about the risk of retaliation. Either way, Xi didn’t want this outcome. On top of his track record of consequential missteps, this should make everyone worry about what other serious blunders Xi could make in the future.
US-China relations are a minefield. Biden and Xi have both expressed a desire to build a “floor” under the relationship, but that will prove easier said than done amid structurally intensifying strategic competition and a complete absence of trust. Balloon-gate is only the latest in a series of mutual escalations in recent weeks, including US sanctions on a Chinese company doing business with Russia’s paramilitary Wagner Group, a likely US ban of all trade with Chinese tech giant Huawei, and new proposed Chinese export controls on key high-tech industries. And more clashes are sure to come soon as China grows closer to Russia (possibly in defiance of US sanctions), House Speaker Kevin McCarthy travels to Taiwan, and Washington tightens the screws on China’s tech sector. The fact that a literal balloon caused the US to indefinitely postpone a much-needed meeting with Xi is a sign of how little it could take for the relationship to … blow up. …
China rushes to cap damage over suspected spy balloon as Blinken delays trip
(WaPo) Beijing on Saturday offered a subdued rebuttal to Washington’s decision to delay a high-level visit after a suspected Chinese spy balloon was discovered hovering over the United States, derailing China’s recent efforts to repair its most important bilateral relationship.
Blinken had been expected to meet Chinese leader Xi Jinping on the trip, and while few expected concrete results, officials on both sides hoped it would start the process of capping tensions over issues such Taiwan, U.S. sanctions targeting Chinese tech companies, human rights, and China’s friendship with Russia. The trip would help pave the way for a potential visit to the United States by Xi when San Francisco hosts an Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation leaders meeting in November.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry said in a statement Saturday that the presence of a Chinese airship in U.S. airspace was “completely an accident,” and caused by westerly winds knocking the balloon off course.
Five questions (and expert answers) about the curious case of the Chinese spy balloon
(Atlantic Council) What happens to the world’s most important bilateral relationship now? Our experts, one of whom happened to be on the scene of the balloon brouhaha in Montana, are airing their thoughts. (with UPDATE 4 February)
1. What should happen now that the balloon has been shot down?
Now that the United States has taken down the People’s Republic of China’s (PRC) surveillance balloon over the Atlantic Ocean, there are three steps the United States should pursue:
Recover and exploit the balloon for both intelligence and counterintelligence value, while also not squandering an opportunity to directly refute the PRC’s preposterous claims that this was a weather research balloon. In short, deny the PRC its implausible deniability, both for diplomatic purposes and to weaken the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) confidence in its own military and intelligence apparatus.
Send a message about costs and red lines to the PRC through economic, military, and diplomatic actions both directly with the PRC and indirectly within the region and with the PRC’s global interests and partnerships. Encouragement of things like recent Czech overtures to Taiwan can be a part of this.
Channel broad and near-universal outrage on this brazen (though likely nominally effective) act of collection from one hundred thousand feet to energize US public will against PRC intelligence overtures that are substantially closer to home. Those include collection risks and vulnerabilities such as TikTok, the Office of Personnel Management breach, collection of US genetic data, Huawei 5G, industrial/economic espionage, and even more invasive activities. Efforts to date for public support to counter such activities have simply not been effective enough to feed into a necessary whole of nation approach.
Heather Cox Richardson February 4, 2023
…it’s not at all clear to me what this balloon was designed to accomplish politically. Secretary of State Antony Blinken canceled his planned visit to Beijing over it, giving the U.S. a reason to back out of a visit that certainly seemed likely to bolster President Xi Jinping’s government. Scholar of international relations Daniel Drezner notes in his Drezner’s World it appears to have been a screw-up at a level below that of President Xi. China has been trying to cool tensions with America, not heat them up.
That being said, the visible spy balloon predictably sparked Republican attacks on President Biden, so the incident has the potential to weaken the administration’s strong steps to counter the growing power of China.
Biden and Blinken have worked to build Indo-Pacific cooperation that balances the power of China in the region, reinforced U.S. support for Taiwan, established export controls on technology that have hamstrung the Chinese semiconductor industry, and enhanced security cooperation with South Korea and Japan. But the media attention to the balloon has offered Biden’s opponents an opportunity to say he is not countering China strongly enough.
What China wanted out of Blinken’s now postponed visit
While U.S. officials had hoped to establish guardrails to prevent tensions from spiraling into conflict, Beijing wants to reset the relationship on the basis of broad principles that would make issues like Taiwan or Chinese territorial claims in the South China Sea off-limits.
(AP) — A huge, high-altitude Chinese balloon sailed across the U.S. on Friday, drawing severe Pentagon accusations of spying despite China’s firm denials. Secretary of State Antony Blinken abruptly canceled a high-stakes Beijing trip aimed at easing U..S.-China tensions.
Fuzzy videos dotted social media sites as people with binoculars and telephoto lenses tried to find the “spy balloon” in the sky as it headed eastward over Kansas and Missouri at 60,000 feet (18,300 meters).
Blinken’s cancellation came despite China’s claim that the balloon was merely a weather research “airship” that had blown off course. The Pentagon rejected that out of hand — as well as China’s contention that the balloon, about the size of two school buses, was not being used for surveillance and had only limited navigational ability.
US military to gain expanded access to Philippines bases in efforts to counter China
(CNN) The Philippines will provide the United States with expanded access to its military bases, the two countries said Thursday, providing US forces with a greater strategic footing on the southeastern edge of the South China Sea close to self-ruled Taiwan.
The newly announced deal will give the US access to four more locations under an Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) dating to 2014, allowing the US to rotate troops to a total of nine bases throughout the Philippines.
The US has stepped up efforts to expand its Indo-Pacific security options in recent months, amid mounting concerns over China’s aggressive territorial posturing throughout the region.
War game suggests Chinese invasion of Taiwan would fail at a huge cost to US, Chinese and Taiwanese militaries
CNN — A Chinese invasion of Taiwan in 2026 would result in thousands of casualties among Chinese, United States, Taiwanese and Japanese forces, and it would be unlikely to result in a victory for Beijing, according to a prominent independent Washington think tank, which conducted war game simulations of a possible conflict that is preoccupying military and political leaders in Asia and Washington.
A war over Taiwan could leave a victorious US military in as crippled a state as the Chinese forces it defeated.
At the end of the conflict, at least two US aircraft carriers would lie at the bottom of the Pacific and China’s modern navy, which is the largest in the world, would be in “shambles.”
Those are among the conclusions the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), made after running what it claims is one of the most extensive war-game simulations ever conducted on a possible conflict over Taiwan, the democratically ruled island of 24 million that the Chinese Communist Party claims as part of its sovereign territory despite never having controlled it.
Thucydides’ Trade Trap
Meeting at the G20 summit in Bali, US President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping struck a more conciliatory tone, with Biden pledging that there will be no “new cold war” with China. But even if an imminent Chinese invasion of Taiwan now seems less likely, the recent escalation of American restrictions on exports of advanced technologies to Chinese firms suggests that economic decoupling will continue.
Carl Bildt: How China Will Achieve Hegemony
(Project Syndicate) Notwithstanding the risks posed by Russian aggression, China appropriately looms largest in the Biden administration’s new National Security Strategy. Yet by eschewing an assertive free-trade agenda, the United States continues to give China an advantage in precisely the area where it is ascendant.
Pinelopi Koujianou Goldberg: America Should Rethink Its Economic War on China
America’s latest efforts to block China’s technological and economic development are likely to do more harm than good. The peaceful economic relationship of the past 30 years may not have been perfect, but it was certainly better than what will come from zero-sum rivalry and mutual suspicion
(Project Syndicate) Consider US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan’s rather sobering suggestion, in September, that it is no longer enough for the world’s largest economy simply to outcompete its economic rivals through technological innovation. The implication is that America must do whatever it can to hold those rivals back, and to inflict as much economic pain on them as possible. Yet this outlook clearly signals weakness. It is an admission that policies aimed at increasing America’s own economic competitiveness may have only limited success.
In fact, America’s moves against China are less about national security and more about economic domination. If it continues (a big “if”), the impressive progress that China has made over the last three decades could indeed make it the world’s most important economy. But it is wrong to presume that global welfare is a zero-sum game, and that China’s ascent implies America’s decline. Moreover, it remains to be seen how effective the new sanctions will be, given that the US imposed them unilaterally without consulting its allies. Export restrictions, in particular, call for close coordination, and there is already reason to doubt that some countries will go along with the US policy.
Biden and Xi try to avoid a new Cold War, even if all isn’t ‘kumbaya’
[Biden] described Xi as not overly confrontational but instead “the way he’s always been: direct and straightforward.”
CNN — President Joe Biden held a three-hour talk Monday with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping, their first in-person encounter since Biden took office and an opportunity that both sides appeared to hope would lead to an improvement in rapidly deteriorating relations.
Emerging afterward, Biden told reporters he was “open and candid” with Xi about the range of matters where Beijing and Washington disagree. He cast doubt on an imminent invasion of self-governing Taiwan, and seemed hopeful his message about avoiding all-out conflict was received.
Still, the US president was frank that he and Xi came nowhere near resolving the litany of issues that have helped drive the US-China relationship to its lowest point in decades.
Why China Will Play It Safe
Xi Would Prefer Détente—Not War—With America
By Christopher K. Johnson, President and CEO of China Strategies Group, a political risk consultancy, and a Senior Fellow at the Asia Society’s Center for China Analysis
(Foreign Affairs) Xi’s very sense that China faces substantial challenges may encourage him to lower bilateral tensions. Ding, a leading Politburo member, unwittingly hinted as much in a lengthy early November article in the People’s Daily, where he forcefully catalogued China’s many challenges and arduous tasks over the next five years (and beyond) and offered a controversial Mao formulation as the right response. It was, after all, Mao who first lowered tensions with Washington in order to more easily achieve many of his objectives. Xi is not looking for a rapprochement, but he might like some breathing room. Early rumblings that Biden and Xi could hold a lengthy meeting with the trappings of traditional modern summits, where both sides use the gathering to announce commercial deals and other deliverable results, certainly suggested as much. The real question is whether Biden wants to—or can—seize Beijing’s apparent interest in a détente to pump the brakes on the relationship’s downward spiral.
Biden to meet Xi Jinping at G20 in first face-to-face talks as president
Pair to ‘discuss efforts to deepen lines of communication’, White House says, with Taiwan and human rights set to be discussed
Joe Biden will meet his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, on Monday on the sidelines of the G20 summit.