The Month in U.S.-China Relations 


March, 2014


Major Issue Tracker

America’s Rebalance

  • DoD Official: Asia Pivot 'Can't Happen' Due to Budget Pressures (March 4): Katrina McFarland, U.S. Assistant Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, said that the American pivot/rebalance to Asia “can’t happen” due to budget constraints. She quickly revised her remarks to make the opposite claim, saying, “the rebalance to Asia can and will continue.” Our sense is that she was right both times: the rebalance can and will continue to be a non-happening due to budget constraints...Read More >>
  • Over 100,000 protest in Taiwan over China trade deal (Mar 30): The demonstrations in Taiwan against the fast-tracking of a trade agreement with China are receiving insufficient attention in American media. Some of the best reporting on the issue has come from the New York Times’ Austin Ramzy, who is only in Taipei because the Chinese government declined to renew his PRC credentials. 2014 is the 35th anniversary of both the establishment of U.S.-China relations and the Taiwan Relations Act, under which the U.S. sells weapons Taiwan. Those sales are described by Beijing as the single greatest obstacle to improved relations. (For a review of Taiwan issues, watch the lecture by Richard Bush cited below)… Read More >>
  • We're Losing Our Military Edge Over China. Here's How to Get It Back. (March 27): Elbridge Colby and Virginia Congressman J. Randy Forbes, whose district includes the Norfolk Naval Station and who chairs the Congressional China Caucus, penned an article for the National Interest that spelled out what it would take for the U.S. to keep its military edge over China. The implication of the article is that the cost of not engaging in a massive, long-term arms race with China would be dire. The cost of pursuing the Forbes/Colby program is not spelled out (see item 1, above.) ...Read More >>
  • Japan, U.S. to create new defense body (March 30): The Yomiuri Shimbin reported that Japan and the U.S. will “create a permanent consultative body to coordinate the operations of the Self-Defense Forces and the U.S. military,” citing Chinese aggression as the cause of closer cooperation...Read More >>

China as an Emerging Superpower

  • China's Xi ramps up military spending in face of worried region (March 5): China announced the greatest increase in its military budget in three years. The 2014 budget will increase by 12.2% to $131.57 billion...Read More >>
  • China: Neither Ally nor Enemy on Russia (April 2): China’s response to Russia’s annexation of Crimea has been one of the most telling stories of the past month. China is distrustful of color revolutions and inclined to stand with Russia against the West when it can. But non-interference in the internal affairs of other nations, respect for the territorial integrity of sovereign states, and opposition to popular referenda are sacred principles in China’s foreign affairs catechism. Ukraine is demonstrating to China that great powers cannot always avoid the double standards that China has long maintained are characteristic of U.S. diplomacy and hypocrisy. Ely Ratner and Samuel Charap capture China’s dilemma in an essay for the National Interest...Read More >>
  • Malaysians fire back at China for criticism over MH370 (March 28): Southeast Asian nations are watching Chinese official responses to the disappearance of flight 370 as an indicator of how China will construe its expanding interests in the region...Read More >>
  • Eyes on Crimea, China makes its move (March 17): There has been broad speculation about whether China would apply lessons drawn from Russia’s successful annexation of Crimea to its territorial disputes in the South China Sea. On March 9, for the first time in 15 years, China prevented the Philippine navy from delivering supplies to a small group of sailors stationed in the hull of a ship on the Second Thomas Shoal...Read More >>

    Later in the month, the Philippines snuck supplies through the Chinese blockade...Read More >>

  • Philippines files evidence against China’s claims (March 30): The standoff in the Second Thomas Shoal plays out against the backdrop of the Philippines’ presentation of evidence to an arbitration tribunal in The Hague which is expected to issue a ruling on Manila’s and Beijing’s competing claims in 2015. The U.S. supports the Philippines’ submitting the case to the international court under the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea. China has stated that it will neither participate in the case nor recognize the court’s decision...Read More >>

Sino-U.S. Cooperation

  • Carp(e) Diem: Kentucky Sends Invasive Fish To China (March 24): NPR reported that American fisherman, frustrated that the invasive Asian carp is depleting stocks of local game fish, is now capturing the delicious cyprinid for re-export to China. If the Asian carp reaches the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence, many of America’s greatest fisheries will be transformed. In China, meanwhile, invasive American species like the fall webworm are devastating Chinese crops...Read More >>  

Trade & Economic Relations

  • China loses trade dispute over rare earth exports (March 26): The WTO ruled that China unfairly limited export of rare earths...Read More >>


  • NSA targeted network of Chinese tech firm Huawei, leaked document shows (March 22): Documents leaked by Edward Snowden revealed that the NSA had infiltrated the systems of Huawei, the Chinese company that the U.S. accuses of intending to infiltrate American systems. The slope down from that moral high ground gets more slippery by the month. Presidents Obama and Xi discussed the revelations in The Hague on March 24...Read More >>

Soft Power

  • Michelle Obama's China Opportunity (March 20): The soft power highlight of the month was the trip to China by First Lady Michele Obama, her daughters, and her mother. KICUS director Robert Daly previewed the trip for the National Interest and stands by his analysis now that the visit has ended...Read More >>
  • Universal Studios to Build $2 Billion Hollywood-Themed Resort in Beijing (March 4): Universal Studios announced that it will build a $2 billion entertainment complex in China...Read More >>
  • It’s Captain America vs. Spider-Man at the Chinese Box Office (March 26): Captain America and Spiderman will compete for Chinese box office. Superheroes () fare well on Chinese screens even though China has neither mimicked nor adapted the superhero fantasy. Kung-fu masters and the Monkey King suffice...Read More >>
  • When China’s Dalian Wanda Group purchased AMC Entertainment Holdings for $2.6 billion in 2012, there was concern that Wanda would use its ownership of America’s second largest theater chain to promote Chinese films and policies. In March, AMC screened Hayao Miyazaki’s The Wind Rises. The Japanese director’s latest film tells the story of the designer of the Mitsubishi A6M Zero, treating it as an exercise in aesthetic and mechanical brilliance. Imagine a German feature-length cartoon about the personal struggles and refined tastes of the engineers of the Panzer tank and you’ll have the feel of the thing. It is worth noting, especially in the current political climate, that a Chinese-owned theater in the U.S. has screened a tribute to the creator of one of Imperial Japan’s deadliest war machines.
  • The Electronic Holy War (March 25): The Chinese game wei-qi, which most Americans know, via Japan, as go, continues to grow in popularity. Readers who followed Deep Blue’s defeat of Gary Kasparov may enjoy this New Yorker piece on the quest to program machines to defeat go masters...Read More >>

Academic Relations


  • Bloomberg hints at curb on articles about China (March 20): In a speech in Hong Kong, Bloomberg Chairman Peter Grauer implied that Bloomberg regretted reporting on the secret fortunes of China’s politically connected families. Those reports resulted in China’s cancellation of orders for the terminals that are the core of Bloomberg’s business. If Grauer was articulating a new Bloomberg editorial policy, Bloomberg will be missed as an objective, comprehensive news source...Read More >>  

If You Read/Watched Nothing Else in March…


  • Evan Osnos continues to write superb essays on China for the New Yorker. We recommend three China pieces published in March and the one on Zhou Yongkang in particular. We look forward to the publication of his book on China later this year.

- China’s Fifteen-Billion-Dollar Purge
- China’s Portraits of Grief
- After 3/1: The Dangers of China’s Ethnic Divide



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