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The Month in U.S.-China Relations (February) 中美关系月报

It should come as no surprise that China prefers to treat individuals, information, and institutions in the international sphere as it treats them within its own borders. China’s fast-emerging competition with the United States in the rule-making arena is an attempt to have Chinese values and standards accepted as legitimate alternatives to established international standards and practices. This month’s newsletter kicks off with three short articles that, read together, present a balanced picture of the competition to make global rules—a competition that increasingly shapes bilateral relations.

February, 2015

It should come as no surprise that China prefers to treat individuals, information, and institutions in the international sphere as it treats them within its own borders. China’s fast-emerging competition with the United States in the rule-making arena is an attempt to have Chinese values and standards accepted as legitimate alternatives to established international standards and practices. This month’s newsletter kicks off with three short articles that, read together, present a balanced picture of the competition to make global rules—a competition that increasingly shapes bilateral relations.

U.S.-China relations will also be affected by the burgeoning ideology campaign in China that already comprises culture, entertainment, media, think tanks, universities, and NGOs, and which will doubtless be folded into Xi Jinping’s new guiding phrase, The Four Comprehensives. While the ideology campaign is primarily a Chinese domestic affair, the deep involvement of American institutions in these Chinese sectors means that U.S. academic, exchange, and civil society groups will be hit by the campaign. If old patterns hold, Beijing’s push to combat “Western values” will also take a toll on American perceptions of China, which could in turn influence Chinese perceptions of the States. The Fei Chang Dao blog recommended at the end of this newsletter offers a useful, bilingual chronology of the unfolding campaign.

Major Issue Tracker

China as an Emerging Superpower

  • President Obama: "Writing the Rules for 21st Century Trade" (February 18): In a February 18 blast e-mail message President Obama wrote, “…we have to make sure the United States—and not countries like China—is the one writing this century's rules for the world's economy” ...Read More>> The Kissinger Institute view is that who writes the rules is less important than developing rules that work for everyone. Be that as it may, questions of who leads in establishing new norms and whether China seeks to replace or refine the existing order are now central to U.S.-China relations. We recommend three short February essays that frame the topic well: one by Scott Kennedy, the new Deputy Director of the Freeman Chair in China Studies at CSIS, and articles from The Diplomat penned by Shannon Tiezzi and Joan Johnson-Freese.
  • China rebuffed over UN move targeting NGOs (January 30): China failed in its effort at the UN to pass a measure that would allow member nations’ criticisms of NGOs to be kept out of the public record...Read More>> The United States opposed the Chinese proposal, which was consistent with the PRC and Russia’s growing suspicion of NGOs and civil society generally, reported here. China is likely to issue new laws or guidelines regulating foreign and foreign-funded NGOs in China later this spring.
  • China Expands Island Construction in Disputed South China Sea (February 18): China continues not just to create new facts on the ground, but to create the ground itself on islands and reefs in the South China Sea. A newly published set of photos revealed that Chinese construction in the region far exceeds that of other SCS claimants...Read More>>
  • Argentinian congress approves deal with China on satellite space station (February 26): The Argentine Congress approved construction of China’s first space satellite station outside its borders. The base, already under construction in southern Argentina, will be used to track projected unmanned Chinese missions to Mars and the Moon. Some Argentine politicians are worried that the base is a dual-use technology that could aid the People’s Liberation Army as well as China’s space program...Read More>>

America's Rebalance

  • China's Xi to make first state visit to U.S. as both flag problems (February 11): It was announced that CCP General Secretary Xi Jinping will make his first state visit to the U.S. in September 2015, before the UN General Assembly opens in New York. His visit should incentivize both sides to build on the Obama-Xi meetings held in Beijing in November 2014, where they emphasized the cooperative aspects of the relationship over the competitive factors that had seemed to prevail over the previous year...Read More>>
  • Obama begins sales pitch on trade to wary U.S. public (February 21): In his weekly radio address, President Obama pushed for passage of Trade Promotion Authority, or TPA, a step seen as essential to completion of the Trans Pacific Partnership agreement. He built on his State of the Union warning about China writing rules by closing with this flourish: “We should make sure the future is written by us….We’ll make sure that this Century is another all American century.” Watch Here>>
  • The following articles are indicative of a growing tendency among some analysts to depict India as a pawn in a new Indo-Pacific great game. The South China Morning Post and Diplomat trumpet Indian and Russian support for China’s calls for a new world order, while the Foreign Policy piece sees India joining hands with the U.S. and Japan to counter Chinese power. Beijing and Washington would both do well to consider India as a great nation in its own right that seeks constructive relations with all regional powers.


  • Obama looks for common ground with China on cyber issues (February 11): President Obama phoned Chinese President Xi Jinping to seek common ground on cyber issues that continue to plague the relationship. Obama called for “swift work” to narrow differences...Read More>>


  • U.S. would welcome Japan air patrols in South China Sea (January 29): Admiral Robert Thomas, commander of the Seventh Fleet and the top U.S. navy officer in Asia, said the United States would welcome an extension of Japanese air patrols into the South China Sea to counter the growing number of Chinese vessels in the area...Read More>>  China responded to the suggestion on February 4 by threatening to declare an air defense identification zone in the SCS...Read More>>
  • China’s Incomplete Military Transformation (February 11): The U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission and the RAND Corporation issued a report on China’s Incomplete Military Transformation: Assessing the Weaknesses of the People’s Liberation Army.  The report noted continued concerns about China’s military budget and asked whether the PLA’s power might someday surpass that of the U.S....Read More>>
  • Document: John McCain Letter Asking Pentagon Not to Send U.S. Carrier to China (February 2): Senator John McCain wrote to Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel asking that the Pentagon not send a U.S. aircraft carrier to visit China because “sending such a platform to China would be seen as an international display of respect to China and its Navy, despite Beijing’s recent record of aggressive behavior in the East and South China Seas” and would “send the wrong signal to allies and partners throughout the region” ...Read More>>  In a February 11 essay in Foreign Policy, James Holmes made the counter case, arguing that sending a carrier would convey resolve, display American military strength, and reassure regional allies and partners...Read More>>

Soft Power

  • China to expand soft power push through overseas cultural centers (February 13): China announced that it would invest heavily in creating new Chinese cultural centers worldwide, including in Brussels, Singapore, Nepal, Pakistan, Tanzania, Sweden, Romania and Hungary. Cultural Centers, unlike Confucius Institutes, focus on teaching Chinese performing arts...Read More>>


  • Qualcomm Spared Some of Worst Penalties by Chinese Authorities (February 10): The American semiconductor company, Qualcomm, was fined $975 million for violating Chinese antitrust laws. Although this was the largest fine against a single company, analysts say Qualcomm was spared some of the worse penalties that authorities could have imposed...Read More>>
  • 2015 Business Climate Survey (February 11): The American Chamber of Commerce in China issued its 2015 China Business Climate Survey Results, which revealed that half of foreign companies in China felt unfairly singled out in anti-monopoly investigations and many believe Beijing is unfairly limiting foreign companies’ access to China’s technology market. Download the survey here>>
  • U.S. challenges ‘illegal’ Chinese export subsidies (February 11): Washington requested formal talks at the WTO over China’s use of “demonstration bases,” or special government-supported industrial clusters. Washington is accusing Beijing of providing discount services and cash bonuses—which amount to illegal subsidies under WTO rules—to businesses located in 179 bases across the country...Read More>>

Academic Relations

  • Enemy infiltrators targeting China's students and teachers, education chief says (February 3): In an essay in the journal Qiushi, Minister of Education Yuan Guiren warned that foreign infiltrators target young faculty and students in China’s universities to turn them against Marxism and the Chinese government. If this campaign is serious and sustained, it’s bound to be a problem for American universities with programs in China and for the growing number of American faculty with appointments at Chinese universities. If the threat is as dire as Yuan makes it out to be, it seems odd that China continues to permit millions of its young people to study abroad, as described in the Economist article below. Read More>>
  • Georgia on their minds (February 21): The Economist ran a data-rich overview of the history, current situation, and future trends for Chinese overseas study, capturing the trends of greater secondary and undergraduate enrollments and the growing number of foreign-educated Chinese who return to China. We’re still waiting for a picture to emerge of how returnees fare in the Chinese job market and what long-term effect, if any, study in the West has on returnees’ opinions of Chinese and international affairs...Read More>>


  • Why Internet users all around the world should be worried about China’s Great Firewall (February 2): The Washington Post offered a summary of ways in which China’s control of the Internet within its borders affects web users outside of China, citing the increasingly high “Great Firewall of China” and new requirements for foreign companies that require them to surrender source codes and other intellectual property to Chinese regulators.  While these are issues of great concern for individual and corporate users and for national governments around the world, we should note that China’s is not the only government that requires corporate compliance of this sort in the name of security. That qualification is offered only in the 16th of 18 paragraphs (the one that begins with “To be fair”), after much talk of “alarm bells” and “tentacles” in connection with the Chinese case...Read More>> For a comparison of U.S. and Chinese practices, see this February 27 Motherboard story here>>

If You Read/Watched Nothing Else in February…

The fine writing and film/videography on U.S.-China relations published each month far exceeds the assimilating capacity of any institution.  It would be ridiculous to feature “the best” efforts of the past 30 days, but KICUS would like to highlight the following work nonetheless:


  • A Chronicle of China's Campaign to Rectify Political Ideology at Universities: 2014 - 2015 (February 25): Clear analysis of the growing ideology campaign in China depends on getting the analogy right. Will this be prosecuted like the anti-corruption drive and become a pillar of Xi Jinping’s governance? Or is it more like campaigns of the 80s and 90s that were announced with fanfare and then petered out or were diverted into more limited assaults on, for example, pornography? The process through which the campaign is unfolding, detailed in the blog recommended here, indicates that the popular and theoretical ground has been carefully laid for a sustained campaign...Read More>>


  • Americans See China's Economic Power as Diminished Threat (February 26): Good news for China out of Princeton, NJ, as a new Gallup poll indicates that fewer Americans see China’s economic growth as a threat to the United States and China falls from the highest perceived security threat (in 2014) to number three, after Russia and North Korea...Read More>>

Thanks for reading and for your continued support of
The Kissinger Institute on China and the United States.

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