The United States and China closed out 2015 jockeying for diplomatic space in the Middle East, Davos, and Southeast Asia. The first challenges of 2016 (rising tensions in the South China Sea, North Korea’s fourth nuclear test, the victory of the Democratic Progressive Party in Taiwan), indicate that the new year may be more contentious than the old, and that the need for the United States and China to cooperate when possible will therefore be more urgent. 

This balancing act was on display last month when President Obama met with Southeast Asian leaders at Sunnylands, where he had hosted General Secretary Xi Jinping in September 2013. This first ever U.S.-ASEAN summit meeting in the United States underscored the importance of ASEAN in a region expected to see military spending reach US $533 billion a year by 2020. In recognition of Southeast Asia’s centrality to American security and economic interests, the Month in U.S.-China Relations newsletter will expand in 2016 to include a section highlighting ways in which ASEAN countries influence U.S.-China relations. 

China as an Emerging Superpower

China Sends Missiles to Contested South China Sea Island (February 15): As reported by CNBC, China deployed an advanced surface-to-air missile system to one of the disputed islands it controls in the South China Sea in February.

China Seen boosting Defense Spending as South China Sea, Reforms Weigh (February 15): As reported by Reuters, China will likely announce another large rise in defense spending, as the ruling Communist Party seeks to assuage the military's unhappiness at sweeping reforms and as worries over the South China Sea and Taiwan weigh on Beijing.

China, S. Korea Hold Strategic Dialogue on Korean Peninsula Nuclear Issue (February 17): The foreign affairs ministries of China and the Republic of Korea (ROK) held a strategic dialogue in February to discuss issues including the Korean Peninsula nuclear problem. The Chinese vice foreign minister said it is in the interests of both countries to achieve the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and maintain peace and stability there…Read More>>

Beijing Overtakes New York as New 'Billionaire Capital' (February 25): Hurun, which tracks wealth in China, has released an annual Global Rich List for the past five years measuring billionaires' wealth in U.S. dollars. A total of 100 billionaires are now living in the Chinese capital, compared with 95 in New York, the report says…Read More>>

UN Diplomats: U.S. and China Agree on New North Korea Sanctions (February 25): The United States and China have reached agreement on a UN resolution that would impose tougher sanctions on North Korea as punishment for its latest nuclear test and rocket launch, UN diplomats say…Read More>>

The U.S. Rebalance to Asia 

Joint Statement of the U.S.-ASEAN Special Leaders’ Summit: Sunnylands Declaration (February 15-16): This Special U.S.-ASEAN Leaders Summit was the first ever to be held in the United States and the very first Summit following the establishment of the ASEAN Community…Read More>>

Press Release: Congressman Chris Smith Discusses Religious & Academic Freedoms, China's… Harassment/Detention of Human Rights Leaders (February 17): U.S. Congressman Chris Smith (NJ-04) embarked on a five-day human rights mission to China last month that was marked by a historic speech at the New York University (NYU) campus in Shanghai and several meetings with government officials and representatives from religious communities…Read More>>

China's HQ-9 Missile Placement Underlines Pentagon Focus on A2/AD (February 19): When unveiling the Pentagon’s fiscal 2017 budget request, Secretary of Defense Ash Carter highlighted the challenge presented by China as one of “our most stressing competitors”…Read More>>

Commander of U.S. Pacific Command Admiral Harry Harris Statement Before the Senate Armed Services Committee (February 23): Admiral Harris urged Congress to repeal sequestration in the face of rising uncertainty in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region. “Given that four of the five strategic problem sets identified by Secretary Carter—China, North Korea, Russia and ISIL—are in our region, I'd say that we can't Rebalance fast enough.”

Statement by NSC Spokesperson Ned Price on National Security Advisor Susan E. Rice’s Meeting with Foreign Minister Wang Yi of China (February 24): National Security Advisor Susan E. Rice met with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi in February at the White House. Ambassador Rice and Foreign Minister Wang affirmed their commitment to expanding practical bilateral cooperation while also addressing and, where possible, narrowing differences…Read More>> 

Southeast Asia

Vietnam’s Foreign Policy after the 12th National Party Congress: Expanding Continuity (February 9): Vietnam’s current multi-directional foreign policy, which revolves around hedging and balancing between the United States and China, is still the most sensible way for Vietnam to navigate its way as the situation in the South China Sea becomes ever more challenging…Read More>>

Thailand Bets on China-led AIIB to Finance Massive Infrastructure Needs (February 16): Thailand’s cabinet approved a budget of 52.82 billion baht (US$1.47 billion) to join the China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) in Februrary. Thailand will hold around a 1.43 percent share of the bank with payments beginning in five installments of 2.112 billion baht (US$58.90 million) due by the end of 2019…Read More>>

China Tensions Fuel Acceleration in Military Spending in Asia (February 21): China’s military growth combined with heightened territorial tensions is likely to propel the Asia Pacific region to the top rank of military spending by the end of the decade, according to a report by IHS Jane’s…Read More>>

ASEAN Says Seriously Concerned about Rising South China Sea Tensions (February 28): "Ministers remained seriously concerned over recent and ongoing developments," the 10-members Association of Southeast Asian Countries (ASEAN) said in a statement after a regular meeting of the group's foreign ministers in Laos…Read More>>

Xi Meets Special Envoy of Vietnam's Communist Party Chief (February 29): "China and Vietnam share a common destiny, so do the Communist Party of China and the Communist Party of Vietnam," Xi told Hoang Binh Quan, a special envoy of Vietnam's communist party chief Nguyen Phu Trong, state news agency Xinhua said. Sino-Vietnamese relations have cooled recently due to conflicting territorial claims in the South China Sea.    

Cyber and Espionage

Why China Hacks the World (February 1): According to Adam Segal in his newly released book, with Xi’s desire to turn China into a “great cyber power,” Beijing will continue to pursue a strategy of exerting sovereignty over cyberspace, which is bound to create friction with Washington. Read the entire excerpt here.

Internet Governance CEO Under Fire for Role in Chinese Conference (February 11): Three senators have challenged the head of a U.S.-funded Internet management organization to show that his leadership role in a Chinese-run conference doesn’t conflict with his commitment to an open Internet…Read More>>


U.S. Admiral Warns Against Chinese Fighter Flights from South China Sea Runways (February 15): Any move by China to fly jet fighters from runways on its new man-made islands in the disputed South China Sea would be destabilizing and would not deter U.S. flights over the area, a senior U.S. naval officer said…Read More>>

China, United States Call on Each Other to Halt South China Sea 'Militarisation' (February 24): Top diplomats from China and the United States have called for a halt to the 'militarisation' of the South China Sea and have reiterated their respective countries' position with regards to freedom of navigation (FON) in the disputed waters of the region…Read More>>

Harris: PACOM Needs More Subs, Long-Range Missiles To Counter Chinese Threats (February 23): China’s recent actions to militarize the South China Sea have changed the operational landscape, and the U.S. Pacific Command needs more attack submarines and long-range surface missiles to keep up with the evolving threat, PACOM commander Adm. Harry Harris told the Senate Armed Services Committee…Read More>> 

Soft Power

That Time China Censored an Art Summit — In Another Country (February 12): Though China maintains that its foreign policy is guided by the principle of "non-interference" — that is, non-interference in the domestic affairs of other countries — it seems increasingly willing to assert itself across borders…Read More>>

Anger as U.S. Senate Votes to Name Square Outside Chinese Embassy After Dissident (February 14): A Chinese nationalist newspaper says Americans politicians are being petty after the Senate approved a bill to rename the plaza in front of the Chinese embassy in Washington after an imprisoned Chinese political dissident…Read More>>

China Film Insider Q&A With Christopher Bremble of Base FX—Part One (February 15): As the Chinese appetite for big-budget movies grows, special effects services company Base FX, founded in Beijing in 2006 by American Christopher Bremble, finds itself situated right between those films’ traditional suppliers, the Hollywood studios, and the moviegoers they’re trying to reach harder than ever before…Read More>>

Forget ‘Deadpool'—A Bizarre Mermaid Movie in China Made $276.7 Million in a Week (February 18): “Mermaid,” an eco-themed comedy from Hong Kong filmmaker Stephen Chow racked up $276.7 million in the first seven days of its release, helping China earn $548 million in ticket sales — shattering the seven-day revenue record for a territory (film industry-speak for a country or other segment of the world)…Read More>>


China Defends Law Enforcers as U.S. Calls for Clarity on Booksellers (February 2): As reported by Reuters, China's Foreign Ministry said its law enforcement officials would never do anything illegal, especially not overseas, after the United States called on China to clarify the status of five missing Hong Kong booksellers.

Playboy Is Ditching the Sex and Betting on China (February 15): Playboy recently unveiled its first issue without a nude centerfold. According to Foreign Policy, this was widely attributed to the company’s renewed focus on China, where pornography, and Playboy magazine, is strictly illegal. Shortly after Playboy signed a 10-year partnership in China, the magazine made the decision to move away from full-frontal nudity.

Xi Jinping asks for 'Absolute Loyalty' from Chinese State Media (February 19): According to The Guardian, Chinese president, Xi Jinping, has made a rare and high-profile tour of the country’s top three state-run media outlets, telling editors and reporters they must pledge absolute loyalty to the Communist party and closely follow its leadership in “thought, politics, and action”. For more analysis, please see these Wall Street Journal and China Media Project pieces.

China to Ban Foreign Companies From Online Media Business (February 17): The ruling Chinese Communist Party has announced new regulations that will ban foreign companies from publishing online media, games, and other "creative" content within China's borders starting in March…Read More>>

Visual China to Invest US$100m in Getty Images (February 19): Chinese image licensing company Visual China Group said it plans to invest up to US$100 million in Getty Images as the Shenzhen-listed firm expands its footprint in the global picture library…Read More>>

Chinese Social Media Platform Plays a Role in U.S. Rallies for NYPD Officer (February 24): A crucial factor in mobilizing the Chinese American community to rally against the conviction of Peter Liang, a Chinese American rookie cop who fatally shot an unarmed African-American man in Brooklyn, NY, was WeChat, a.k.a. Weixin, a social media platform developed by the Chinese company Tencent and used primarily on smartphones...Read More>>

Education and Academic Relations

Chinese Students Are Flooding U.S. Christian High Schools (February 8): Another great Foreign Policy piece discussing the high number of Chinese students enrolling in secondary Christian schools in the United States – even though they come from the world’s largest atheist state.

China Says Its Students, Even Those Abroad, Need More ‘Patriotic Education’ (February 10): A directive issued last month by the Communist Party organization of the Ministry of Education calls for “patriotic education” to suffuse each stage of and aspect of schooling…” even if they are studying abroad. According to the New York Times, the directive says that Chinese students studying abroad must also be made a focus of instruction in Mr. Xi’s “China Dream” of national revival…Read More>>

Sentenced to Prison for Assault, Teenage 'Parachute Kids' Deliver Warning to Adults in China (February 25): Xinlei “John” Zhang was 15 when he moved to Southern California to get an American education. Now 19, Zhang was sentenced to six years in prison last month for his role in a brutal gang attack on another student. Zhang  urged Chinese parents to think carefully before sending their children to the U.S. without supervision…Read More>> 

Trade and Economic Relations

U.S. Food Supplier Weighs Appeal After China Court Jails Worker (February 1): According to Bloomberg Business, OSI Group LLC, a U.S. food company run by banker-turned-burger tycoon Sheldon Lavin, said it’s considering an appeal after a Shanghai court found two of its Chinese units guilty of selling out-of-date products and jailed 10 workers.

Honeywell Partnering With China's Comac on Jet Certification (February 15): U.S. based Honeywell International is working with China’s state-owned aircraft maker Comac to certify its planes, including the country’s first homegrown single-aisle jet that aims to challenge Boeing Co. and Airbus Group SE’s control of the market…Read More>>

SEC: Tech Company Bribed Chinese Officials (February 16): The Securities and Exchange Commission announced last month that a Massachusetts-based technology company and its Chinese subsidiaries agreed to pay more than $28 million to settle parallel civil and criminal actions involving violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA).

Uber is Losing More than $1 billion a Year in China (February 16): Uber is racking up tremendous losses in a high-stakes bid to make a dent in China's car-hailing market, its CEO revealed last month…Read More>>

Apple Pay Goes Live In China (February 17): As reported by TechCrunch, Apple Pay was launched in China last month, a move that takes Apple’s digital payments service into its fifth country worldwide. China is Apple’s second-largest market behind only the U.S. based on revenue.

Congress Is Wary of Chinese Deal for Chicago Stock Exchange (February 17): According to Bloomberg, dozens of members of Congress plan to ask the Obama administration to review the planned acquisition of the Chicago Stock Exchange by a Chinese firm, to assess whether it poses a national security risk or a risk to the companies traded on the exchange.

China's Zoomlion Bids for Terex, Stokes U.S. National Security Fears (February 17): China's Zoomlion Heavy Industry Science and Technology Co Ltd confirmed in February it had made an offer for U.S. crane maker Terex Corp, a proposal that was opposed by at least one U.S. congressman on national security concerns…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 60 days, but KICUS would like to highlight the following work nonetheless:


‘Rule by Fear’? (Robert Daly, Asia Society ChinaFile, February 19)


How Xi Jinping Sees the World…and Why (Jeffrey A. Bader, Brookings Institution, February 2016)

Xi Jinping on the Global Stage (Robert D. Blackwell and Kurt Campbell, Council on Foreign Relations, February 2016)


China’s Rights Struggle is no Longer an ‘Internal Affair’ (Kerry Brown, The Diplomat, February 1)

Seeing the Forest through the SAMs on Woody Island (Michael Green, Bonnie Glaser and Zack Cooper, CSIS cogitAsia, February 19)

Don’t Misread Old Tealeaves: Chinese Investment and CFIUS (Thilo Hanemann and Daniel Rosen, The Rhodium Group, February 24)


Panel Discussion: “Doubling Down? China and the International Order(s)” (Munich Security Conference, February 2016)

Statesmen’s Forum: Wang Yi, Minister of Foreign Affairs, PRC (CSIS, February 25)


Americans See China as Top Economy Now, but U.S. in Future (Gallup, February 22)

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The Kissinger Institute on China and the United States.