Skip to main content

The Month in U.S.-China Relations 中美关系一个月 (April 2017)

Since Mar-a-Lago, Trump has called Xi twice to discuss North Korea and has reiterated his admiration for Xi’s intelligence and virtue. It is doubtful that this good will is sustainable, however, and, based on China’s interests and history, it is unlikely that China will “solve” the problem of North Korea to Trump’s satisfaction.

The Month in U.S.-China Relations 中美关系一个月 (April 2017)

Following his meeting with Xi Jinping at Mar-a-Lago in April, President Trump told a group of journalists that, “I like him and I believe he likes me a lot.” During the same summit, President Trump authorized an air strike on Syria. Domestically, the strikes played well in the media and with his base. Internationally, the strikes sent a signal to countries that dared question America’s resolve and military might. When asked whether the strikes were a message to North Korea, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson responded, “If you violate international norms, if you violate international agreements, if you fail to live up to commitments, if you become a threat to others, at some point a response is likely to be undertaken."

North Korea is now the Trump administration’s top foreign policy concern. It has also become an opportunity for cooperation between Washington and Beijing. Since Mar-a-Lago, Trump has called Xi twice to discuss North Korea and has reiterated his admiration for Xi’s intelligence and virtue. It is doubtful that this good will is sustainable, however, and, based on China’s interests and history, it is unlikely that China will “solve” the problem of North Korea to Trump’s satisfaction.

Sandy Pho

Senior Program Associate

Kissinger Institute on China and the United States

Major Issue Tracker

China as an Emerging Superpower

China Surpasses Canada as Top Buyer of U.S. Crude (April 4): China imported 8.08 million barrels of U.S. light crude in February, nearly quadrupling its January purchases. That helped boost U.S. exports to a record 31.2 million barrels during the month…Read More>>

Beijing’s Strict Capital Controls Are Delaying Belt and Road Project Approvals (April 4): According to the South China Morning Post, Mainland firms need up to three times longer to gain approval for their investments in the government’s Eurasian infrastructure development plan. Related: China to Gather Friends for Biggest Summit of Year on New Silk Road; World Bank Group, China-led AIIB Agrees to Deepen Cooperation.

The Myth of China’s Coal Imports from North Korea (April 5): Yun Sun argues in 38 North that “the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Commerce were not honest about China nearing the upper limits on North Korean coal imports set by the UNSCR 2321.” Related: North Korean Ships Head Home After China Orders Coal Returned; China’s Nuclear Get-Out Clause Over Defense of North Korea; Kim Jong Un’s Rockets are Getting an Important Boost — From China.

10 Things You Should Know About China’s First Home-Built Aircraft Carrier (April 12):The South China Morning Post provides the stats on China’s new carrier (70,000 tons, 315 meters long, 75 meters wide, cruising speed of 31 knots) and analyzes its impact on the PLA Navy. Related: Oops! Chinese Defense Ministry’s PLA Poster a Big Photoshop Fail; China Launches its First Domestically-Made Aircraft Carrier.

China is Building the World’s Largest Nuclear Submarine Facility (April 19): Starting later this year, China's new submarine factory on the Yellow Sea will churn out nuclear-powered attack subs—also known as SSNs…Read More>>

China Launches First Cargo Spacecraft Tianzhou-1 (April 20): According to Xinhua, China aims to build its own permanent space station. The new cargo ship will service the facility. Related: Why China’s New Cargo Space Ship is So Important (subscription).

Trump-Xi Summit

The Stakes at Mar-a-Lago (April 6): Robert Daly, Director of the Kissinger Institute writes: “At the summit in Mar-a-Lago, U.S. President Donald Trump hopes to alter deeply-rooted Chinese policies despite having no China strategy…” Read More>>

The 9 Charts You Need to Understand the U.S.-China Relationship (April 6): Quartz released these charts prior to the Trump-Xi summit.

Xi-Trump Mar-A-Lago Summit: Beyond Sweet Nothings (April 8): Alan Romberg believes that the Florida meeting between U.S. and Chinese presidents give reasons for cautious optimism regarding North Korea, the South China Sea, and Taiwan.

Donald Trump’s Grandchildren Serenade Chinese President Xi in Mandarin (April 9): Video of Arabella Kushner, President Trump’s granddaughter, performing for Chinese President Xi and First Lady Madam Peng Liyuan can be viewed here. Related: The Classic Chinese Text that Ivanka Trump’s Kids Recited for Xi was Long Banned in China.

Briefing by Secretaries Tillerson, Mnuchin, and Ross on President Trump's Meetings with President Xi (April 7): Tillerson introduced a new framework for negotiations, to replace the S&ED, “The U.S.-China Comprehensive Dialogue.” The framework has four pillars: a diplomatic and security dialogue; a comprehensive economic dialogue; a law enforcement and cybersecurity dialogue; and a social and cultural issues dialogue.

Quick Guide to the Outcomes of Xi-Trump Summit (April 8): The South China Morning Post analyzed statements released by the two sides following the meeting and outlined key takeaways. Related: China Offers Concessions to Avert Trade war with U.S. (subscription); Wilbur Ross says U.S. Wants ‘Tangible Results’ with China;  China to Allow in More Hollywood Movies to Appease Trump on Trade Deficit

Gov. Walker Breaks Down his Alaska Meeting with Xi Jinping (April 9): Xi made a surprise visit to Anchorage on April 7th. While there, Xi heard from the Alaskans who last year exported seafood, minerals, oils, and other products valued at just under $1.2 billion to China.

After Meeting, China May Drop Ban on U.S. Beef (April 10):  Chinese officials who spoke to the Financial Times (subscription) said that President Xi is offering to lift China’s 13-year-long ban on U.S. beef and buy more American grain and agricultural products. Newsweek reported the story as well. Related: Why China’s Got Beef with U.S. Beef.

Xi and Trump Discuss Korean Peninsula, Syria over Phone (April 12): According to Xinhua, Xi Jinping  held a telephone conversation with Donald Trump after their meeting in Mar-A-Lago to discuss North Korea and Syria.

Trump vs Trump on China's Currency Manipulation (April 12): In an interview with the Wall Street Journal (subscription) last month, President Trump said the Chinese are "not currency manipulators." He used to feel differently…Read More>>

The U.S. Rebalance to Asia

South Korea Assures Citizens U.S. Won’t Strike North Pre-emptively (April 11): According to The New York Times (subscription), the anxieties were fed by Mr. Trump’s willingness to use force, as seen in his missile attack on Syria; the redeployment of American warships near the Korean Peninsula; and Mr. Trump’s impatience with China over what he views as its reluctance to pressure North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un.

U.S. Marines Arrive in Darwin for Australia, China Exercises (April 17): At 1,250 troops, this year's deployment falls short of the 2,500 Marines initially planned. Still, it will be the largest U.S. aircraft contingent to Australia in peacetime history…Read More>>

TPP Minus U.S. to be Discussed in May (April 20): Japan is looking to ratify a joint declaration during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting in May to direct working-level staff to find ways of implementing the trade deal without the U.S…Read More>>

Joint Statement by Secretary Tillerson, Secretary Mattis, and DNI Coats on North Korea (April 26): The White House summoned all 100 members of the Senate for a briefing on North Korea last month. Read the briefers’ joint statement here. Related: Senators Describe 'Long and Detailed' White House Briefing on North Korea; Senators: Little Learned During Rare All-Hands North Korea Briefing.

Taiwan President Says Second Phone Call with Trump Possible (April 27): Reuters reported Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen as saying, “We have the opportunity to communicate more directly with the U.S. government…we don’t exclude the opportunity to call President Trump himself…” The next day, Reuters reported Trump’s response: “…I have established a very good personal relationship with Xi…So I wouldn’t want to be causing difficulty right now for him.”

Southeast Asia and the South China Sea

Duterte’s China Gambit Yet to Pay Dividends (April 3): According to the Asia Times, six months after securing more than $24 billion worth of investment and loan commitments from China, there is little indication in the Philippines that the funds have been disbursed. Related: Duterte Cancels Visit to Disputed South China Sea Island after Warning from Beijing; At Strategic Shoal, China Asserts Power Through Control and Concession.

Thailand to Buy More Chinese Tanks (April 4): The tanks, reportedly costing $58 million, will be the second batch of Chinese VT4s ordered by Thailand. They will replace the M41 Walker Bulldogs currently operated by the Royal Thai Army…Read More>> 

U.S. Navy Aid Unit Told to Leave Cambodia (April 4): U.S.-Cambodian relations have been strained by U.S. criticism of Phnom Penh’s plans to ban oppositional parties and by renewed Cambodian demands for the cancellation of debts dating from the 1970s.

War in Myanmar (April 5): Recent intense fighting between Myanmar military forces and China-equipped Kokang rebels has eroded the two countries' bilateral ties…Read More>>

China Gives Military Equipment to Laos (April 14): Prashanth Parameswaran writes in The Diplomat (subscription) that China presented defense equipment to Laos in another sign of the enduring importance of security relations between Beijing and the Southeast Asian state. Pakistan Defence also ran this story. Related: Construction of China-Laos Railway Speeding Up Before Rainy Season; More Chinese-Owned Banana Plantations to Close in Laos; "Chinese Culture Enters ASEAN" Activities Held in Laos to Promote Bilateral Cultural Exchanges

Foreign Ministers of U.S., ASEAN to Meet in May (April 21): According to Nikkei Asian Review, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will chair a meeting with his counterparts from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, on May 4th in Washington, DC. Related: ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Washington Visit Provides Opportunity to Address Key Policy Concerns.


Chinese Investment in U.S. Tech Startups May Have Peaked (April 12): recent Pentagon report warns that Chinese investment in U.S. tech startups, especially those with military applications, could give China a strategic advantage over the U.S…Read More>>

Technology, Surveillance, and Espionage

San Gabriel Valley Raids Target Scammers Who Helped Chinese get U.S. Visas (April 5): Suspects in the case are accused of collecting $50 million from scores of Chinese nationals, who were granted permission to live in the United States in exchange for investing in development projects that never panned out…Read More>>

Beijing Will Give Citizens $72,000 if they Catch Foreign Spies (April 10): Beijing announced that, starting on April 10th, it will reward citizens who turn in spies who “infiltrate, subvert, steal state intelligence, and collude to instigate rebellions.” Related: Rewards of Up to 5 Million Yuan Offered for Terrorism Tip-Offs by Remote Area in China’s Xinjiang; China Mobilizes Students, Pensioners to Join Anti-Espionage Drive.

China Draft Cyber Law (April 11): The law would ban the export of any economic, technological or scientific data whose transfer would pose a threat to security or public interests. Related: Beijing Cyber Regulators to Summon Apple Over Live Streaming

Yahoo Is Sued for Failing to Keep 2007 China Dissident Promise (April 11): Yahoo! Inc. failed to keep financial and humanitarian commitments made a decade ago after it admitted to helping the Chinese government find dissidents who were later jailed…Read More>>

Chinese Internet Giant Baidu Snaps up U.S. Computer Vision Firm (April 13): xPerception, which makes vision perception software and robotics and virtual reality hardware, will continue to develop its core technology under Baidu’s research unit…Read More>>

‘Red Army’ Defends China on the Virtual Battlefield (April 13): H1Z1: King of the Kill, a popular online “deathmatch” video game, is home to a virtual militia of Chinese avatars known as the “Red Army” who battle against foreign enemies…Read More>>

Chinese National Guilty of Attempting to Export High-Grade Carbon Fiber to China (April 21): Fuyi Sun, aka “Frank,” a PRC citizen, pleaded guilty to illegally exporting high-grade carbon fiber to China. The fiber is used in aerospace and military applications…Read More>>

China Convicts U.S. Woman of Spying (April 26): Sandy Phan-Gillis was arrested in China in March 2015 while traveling with a business delegation from Texas. She was sentenced to three and a half years in prison, but it is unclear if she will have to serve the time…Read More>>

Media, Censorship, and Soft Power

Warren Buffet Selected as the Face of Cherry Coke in China (April 4): Mr. Buffett is well known in China. Berkshire Hathaway streamed its annual meeting online last year, with real-time translation into Mandarin Chinese…Read More>>

China’s ‘House of Cards’ Hits the TV Screen (April 5): Like the American political drama starring Kevin Spacey, the Chinese series, In the Name of The People, has proven popular among viewers and critics, receiving 170 million views last month …Read More>>

State Media Condemn ‘Arrogant, Cold-Blooded’ United Airlines (April 12): According to the South China Morning Post, United has about 20 percent of U.S.-China airline traffic and has a partnership with Air China, the third-largest Chinese airline. Related: In China, A Politicized View of the United Airlines Debacle.

China’s Fake Box-Office (April 13):  According to the Wall Street Journal (subscription), China’s film regulator began including fees charged by online ticketing firms in reporting box-office figures. Under the new method, China’s box-office revenue fell just 0.1 percent from the same period a year ago. Without the fees included, China’s box office would have fallen by 6.2 percent. Related: Hollywood’s New Script: You Can’t Make Movies Without China (subscription); Richard Gere's Studio Exile: Why His Hollywood Career Took an Indie Turn.

CMC Capital Partners Invests in CAA, Launches China Media and Entertainment Venture (April 17): Beverly Hills-based Creative Artists Agency will expand its activity in China in the areas of talent representation, film, finance, TV, and digital content production …Read More>>

How Western Fake News Took Over China’s Social Media (April 17): Social media accounts known as yingxiao hao, or “marketing accounts” import and translate fake news stories from outlets such as the Daily Mail …Read More>>

Golden Monkeys Steal the Show in Disneynature’s Born in China (April 20): “Born in China,” a co-produced nature/propaganda film currently in worldwide release, features Chinese pandas, snow leopards, cranes, Chiru antelope, and golden monkeys…Read More>> 

Education and Civil Society

Colleges Strengthen Marxist Ideology (April 10): Beijing has called on Chinese universities to improve Marxist studies, help students adopt "correct values," and conscientiously resist “incorrect” ideologies…Read More>>

Ideology Purge Hits Chinese Universities With Western Ties (April 24): According to the Financial Times (subscription), China is stepping up pressure on educational institutions, including many that run joint programs with leading western universities. Teams of agents from the Communist party’s Central Commission for Discipline Inspection arrived on the campuses of China’s 29 top universities in mid-March and will carry out inspections until the start of May.

Haiyin to Help Bring $1bn in Chinese VC Funds to University Startups in U.S. (April 20): Chinese venture firm Haiyin Capital has partnered with the National Council of Entrepreneurial Tech Transfer to establish a joint venture, “The American-Chinese University Growth Fund.” The fund will provide funds from Chinese investors to American university startups over the next decade…Read More>>

Father’s Regret Over Sending Daughter to Study in U.S. Goes Viral (April 20): The family was initially proud that their daughter was studying in America, but Zhang now worries that there will be no one to care for him or his wife in their old age, as his daughter has decided to remain in the States. He says his choice to let her go abroad was “the worst decision of [his] life.”

New (and Old) Concern about Confucius Institutes in America (April 28): In the New York Review of Books, Richard Bernstein comments on a new report detailing the risks that China’s Confucius Institutes pose to academic freedom, hiring practices, and teaching quality on American university campuses.

Trade and Economic Relations

Ant Financial and Euronet Take MoneyGram Fight to Capitol Hill (April 4): According to the Wall Street Journal (subscription), Jack Ma’s Ant Financial has made an $880 million bid to purchase Dallas-based MoneyGram. It is the first public-company takeover announced by a Chinese company since President Trump took office. Reuters also reported on this story.

Trump Team Takes Steps to Keep Chinese From Westinghouse (April 4): The Trump administration is so alarmed that Chinese investors may try to purchase Westinghouse Electric Co.’s nuclear business that U.S. officials are trying to find an American or allied buyer for the company instead. Related: Trump’s Chinese Trade Tension Claims Grain as Latest Victim; Trump Authorizes Investigation into Steel Imports from China.

Amazon’s China Logistics Push to Pile Pressure on Rival Shippers (April 4): According to The Financial Times (subscription), Amazon is taking aim at the $8tn global logistics industry, by quietly nurturing a program in China through which any wholesaler can use it to ship goods around the world by sea, land or air. Investopedia also picked up on this story.

Starbucks China Elder Care Agenda (April 12): Starbucks announced last month that it will extend health insurance to parents of its employees for critical illness. According to Caixin, the move should bring positive publicity to Starbucks in China.

U.S. Hospitals See Healthy Opportunities in China (April 17): Two American hospitals have joined a growing list of about 100 foreign clinics that have partnered with Chinese health service providers in recent years …Read More>>

If You Read/Watched Nothing Else in April…

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:


Are We Heading for a Blow-up on the Korean Peninsula? (Aaron David Miller, Robert Daly, Jean H. Lee, Robert Litwak, James Person, The Wilson Center, April 20)


Deng Xiaoping Sees Khrushchevs (Sophia Wang and Charles Kraus, Sources and Methods, April 10)

Op-Eds and Essays

Can Trump Match Xi Jinping’s Game? (Evan Osnos, The New Yorker, April 4) *Evan Osnos discussed his book Age of Ambition: Chasing Fortune, Truth, and Faith in the New China at the Wilson Center in 2014. A video recording of the discussion can be viewed here.

Chinese Investment in the United States: Time for New Rules? (Jennifer M. Harris, Lawfare, April 11)

In China, A Politicized View of the United Airlines Debacle (Jiayang Fan, The New Yorker, April 20)


By More Than Providence: Grand Strategy and American Power in the Asia Pacific Since 1783 (Michael J. Green, Columbia University Press)


New Neighbors: 2017 Update on Chinese Investment in the United States by Congressional District (The National Committee on U.S.-China Relations and The Rhodium Group)

Congressional Testimony

Chinese Political and Military Thinking Regarding Taiwan and East and South China Seas (Timothy R. Heath, RAND, U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, April 13)


Americans’ Views of China Improve as Economic Concerns Ease (Pew Research Center, April 4)


China Under Trump Series (The Banker)

Tracking China’s Global Energy Finance (China Environment Forum, The Wilson Center, April 13)

U.S.-China Relations After Mar-a-Lago (Robert Daly on Wilson Center NOW, April 24)

About the Author

Sandy Pho

Senior Associate
Read More

Kissinger Institute on China and the United States

The mission of Kissinger Institute on China and the United States is to ensure that informed engagement remains the cornerstone of U.S.-China relations.  Read more