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

The Kissinger Institute was in China for a week-long seminar on U.S.-China relations in February. It was a contentious month, but none of our interlocutors in Beijing or Zhejiang mentioned President Obama’s February 20 meeting with the Dalai Lama or the doubts American officials have expressed over China’s claims in the South China Sea.

The Month in U.S.-China Relations 


February, 2014

The Kissinger Institute was in China for a week-long seminar on U.S.-China relations in February. It was a contentious month, but none of our interlocutors in Beijing or Zhejiang mentioned President Obama’s February 20 meeting with the Dalai Lama or the doubts American officials have expressed over China’s claims in the South China Sea. They took a uniformly patient, analytic tone on territorial disputes. Many of them pointed out the contrast between their (newfound) moderation and the inflammatory statements of Japanese leaders. This reasonable approach might prove effective if it can be maintained. We were struck that, over and above their tactical arguments and tone, many of the Chinese with whom we discussed Sino-Japanese relations seemed genuinely baffled—even hurt—that we could not see the true nature of Japan.  

Thanks to our readers for passing the first issue of this newsletter to interested organizations and individuals, and for their suggestions for improving the publication. A reader in Rhode Island took us to task for using “alludes” for “eludes” in the introduction.  We are duly embarrassed. Please send additional critiques to:

Major Issue Tracker

America’s Rebalance

  • Draw a Big Red Line in Asia (February 5): Joseph Bosco, writing for the National Interest made an emphatic case for drawing “a big red line in Asia” to dissuade further “probes and provocations by China or North Korea”…Read More >>
  • See Also Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, Daniel Russel's Testimony before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs (February 5): In the clearest statement the United States has made on the issue, Secretary Russel questioned the validity of China’s nine-dash-line in the South China Sea and challenged China to give a legal defense of its territorial claims… Read More >>
  • U.S. Admiral Assures Philippines of Help in Disputed Sea (February 13): The U.S. decision to clarify its attitudes toward the region (we call Chinese clarity of this sort “assertive”) was on display again on February 13, when the U.S. chief of naval operations told students of the National Defense College of the Philippines, that “of course we would help you” if China occupied one of the Spratly Islands…Read More >>
  • Kerry Worried about Asia’s Sea Disputes, Citing Moves by China (February 18): Secretary of State Kerry visited South Korea, China, Indonesia, and the United Arab Emiratesfrom February 13 to 18. He gave a solo press conference in Beijing at the conclusion of his meetings there in which he declined to use the phrase “New Model of Major Power Relations.” (Readers of the January newsletter will recall that then-Senator, now-Ambassador Baucus said he was “wary” of that formulation during his confirmation hearing.) Instead, Secretary Kerry described America’s “partnership” with China this way: “As the world's two largest economies, we really have a particular role, a particular set of responsibilities that we can exercise, and together, if we exercise them in concert with one another, we have an opportunity to make real progress, and also to send important signals to people throughout the world - people who are watching China rise and wonder where it is headed, and people who watch the United States continue to exercise its leadership and to press for the expression of our values and our interests to be met according to the rule of law and according to the highest international standards”… Read More >>

Pity the Chinese translator who had to tackle that.

China as an Emerging Superpower

  • China’s Military is on the March and Canberra Must Take Note (February 15): On February 1 three Chinese ships set out from Hainan Island and sailed south through the Sunda Strait and into the Indian Ocean, coming closer to Australian territory than any previous Chinese naval drill. Australian views on China and the United States in the wake of the flotilla are summarized in this article…Read More >>
  • China’s Push into ‘America’s Backyard’ (February 8): We learned that, on January 29, The Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) had launched a China-CELAC Forum. CELAC includes every country in the western hemisphere except the United States, Canada, and the American territories of European nations. CELAC was established in 2011 as an alternative to the Organization of American States, which the United States brought together in 1948 in response to the Soviet Union’s influence in the region. The China-CELAC forum will meet in 2014…Read More >>
  • China, Taiwan Hold First Direct Talks Since 1949 Split (February 11): Good news on February 11, when officials from China and Taiwan, meeting in Nanjing, announced that the two sides would hold a formal government-level dialogue for the first time since China’s civil war concluded in 1949...Read More >>
  • China Faults Report Blaming North Korean Leader for Atrocities (February 18): On February 17a report of the UN Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in North Korea accused the DPRK of “crimes against humanity.” It was the strongest statement on North Korea that the Commission has made. The report was accompanied by a letter to North Korean leader Kin Jong Un warning him that he could be prosecuted for the slaughter, rape, torture, and starvation of his people. China said that the UN report had unjustifiably “politicized” human rights issues…Read More >>
  • See Also North Korea: UN Commission Documents Wide-Ranging Ongoing Crimes Against Humanity, Urges Referral to ICC(February 17)
  • Indonesia tells China it will not Accept an Air Defence Zone Over South China Sea (February18): Straits Times reported that, one day after Secretary Kerry left Indonesia, the Indonesian Foreign Minister told Beijing “firmly” that Jakarta would not accept a Chinese air defense identification zone in the South China Sea. The Foreign Minister added that he had received signals from China that it had no intention of doing so in the near future…Read More >>

Trade & Economic Relations

  • Obama’s Free Trade Push Runs Into More Trouble (February 12): The economic centerpiece of President Obama’s rebalance to Asia is the TransPacific Partnership, or TPP, a trade agreement that the United States is negotiating with Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, South Korea, Singapore, and Vietnam. Although it initially viewed the proposed agreement as a U.S.-orchestrated anti-China effort, Beijing began to signal interest in the TPP in 2013. Failure to conclude the agreement could be a severe blow to American prestige in Asia and would be widely interpreted as a “win” for China. While TPP faces numerous obstacles, in February it became clear that opposition from fellow Democrats might be the greatest hurdle President Obama faces…Read More >>

Soft Power

  • China is Going in for Sports Diplomacy
    • Envoy Tries a Little Soft Power at the Super Bowl (February 4): Chinese Ambassador Cui Tiankai and his wife attended the Super Bowl…Read More >>
    • China’s Xi Visits Russia, Says Sochi Games to be Splendid (February 7): Communist Party General Secretary Xi Jinping attended the opening ceremony of the winter Olympics in Sochi. His attendance was widely covered in China and hailed as a symbol of strong Sino-Russian ties…Read More >>
  • ‘House of Cards’ Finds Avid Audience in China (February 19): You’ve probably already heard about the popularity of the Netflix series House of Cards in China. The vice governor who hosted a banquet for KICUS February 27 spent fifteen minutes raving about it. He thought it was impressive that the “American Ministry of Culture would let it be broadcast.”  He and his colleagues thought the show’s writers had included China themes in order to attract a Chinese audience…Read More >>
  • Shanghai Warms Up to New Cuisine: Chinese Food, American-Style (February 12): NPR reported that Americans have opened an American-style Chinese restaurant in Shanghai. It’s hard to say how this alters the soft power balance…Read More >>

Military Affairs

  • China to Ramp up Military Spending (February 3): Michael Forsythe reports on increases in China’s defense spending…Read More >>
  • See Also More Money, More Power for Asian Militaries (February 5): The Wall Street Journal notes that military budgets are rising across Asia…Read More >>
  • Chinese Troops Join U.S.-Thailand Cobra Gold Military Exercises (February 11): The Chinese and American militaries continue to deepen their engagement despite, and to alleviate, their mutual suspicions. On February 11, seventeen PLA soldiers arrived in Thailand for the Cobra Gold exercises, which are led by the United States and Thailand and which include soldiers from Japan, Singapore, and Malaysia. It was the first time that China participated in the largest multinational military exercise in Asia Pacific...Read More >>
  • China and the United States Establish Dialogue Between Armies (February 21): While visiting China on February 21, U.S. Army Chief of Staff General Raymond Odierno said he was optimistic about establishing a dialogue between the militaries of China and the United States to build trust...Read More >>

Academic Relations

  • Almost One-Third of all Foreign Students in U.S. are From China (February 7): The Chronicle of Higher Education reported that one-third of foreign university students in the United States come from China. Chinese students bring needed tuition dollars and vast talent to American higher education. American-trained Chinese intellectuals transmit knowledge and form companies, NGOs, friendships, and marriages that make them a key constituency for constructive Sino-U.S. relations, whether they remain in America or return to China after earning degrees. But the sudden influx of so many students from a starkly different educational tradition also poses challenges to the academic quality of American schools…Read More >> 
  • See Also The China Conundrum-American Colleges Find the Chinese Student Boom a Tricky Fit (November 2011): Few universities acknowledge the difficulties mentioned above, which are laid out in this article…Read More >>
  • Tears for Fears-China’s Educators Rethink the Learn-and-Churn Model (February 14): As American students’ homework loads and testing pressures mount, Chinese educators are questioning the “Asian model” of education…Read More >>


  • With Glittering New Set Design, CCTV News Takes Aim at the World (February 18): China Central Television hired the American set designer of the The Daily Show and The Colbert Report to make-over its Beijing headquarters and improve its image…Read More >>

Environmental Issues

  • U.S., China Pledge Cooperation on Climate Change (February 15): The only deliverable (dreadful word) from Secretary Kerry’s February China visit was a new agreement for cooperation to combat climate change…Read More >>
  • Air Pollution PM2.5 Levels Rise Across Japan, 10 Prefectures Issue Warnings (February 27): Chinese pollution has become a diplomatic issue. Smog and fine particulate matter now drift across the Yellow and East China Seas to South Korea and Japan…Read More >>

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:



Video Clip

  • China and Japan: Seven Decades of Bitterness(Feburary 13): The leaders of China and Japan can’t yet meet to talk sensibly about their differences. In this program, Chinese and Japanese journalists travel together in both countries and then meet in a BBC studio to show how it’s done.

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