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The Month in U.S.-China Relations 中美关系一个月 (November 2016)

The Month in U.S.-China Relations 中美关系一个月 (November 2016)

If China took President-elect Trump’s campaign rhetoric seriously, it would brace for harmful economic policies while embracing a potential U.S. drawdown in Asia. Beijing is a sophisticated observer of U.S. politics, and takes campaign speech with a grain of salt. Judging from China’s state-run media and netizen comments, the election did not so much raise hopes and fears in China as feed CCP and popular beliefs that democracy is chaotic, and that the United States is in decline. As America transitions into the Trump era, Chinese President Xi Jinping solidified his grip on power in November as the newly anointed “core leader.” 

In non-election news, the New York Times reported last month that Facebook was developing software that could potentially censor content on its site in hopes that the tool would allow it to re-enter the Chinese market. Although the software may never be used, it is clear that Facebook is willing to consider compromising on core principals to access the world’s largest Internet market. Some argue it is better to be part of the conversation than to be shut out completely. For others, such as Clay Shirky, Andrew McLaughlin and Kaiser Kuo, the choice is simple: Facebook Must Stay out of China. The Kissinger Institute finds that more companies in a growing number of sectors may face similar choices.

Sandy Pho

Senior Program Associate, Kissinger Institute

Major Issue Tracker

China as an Emerging Superpower

Xi Jinping May be ‘Core Leader’ of China, but He’s Still Really Nervous (November 1): According to the Chris Buckley at The New York Times (subscription), Xi appears politically strong, but officials suggest he and other leaders have doubts about the party’s ability to weather long-term threats. Related:  Xi Jinping's 'Core Leader' Status Will Help China's Reforms in Coming Years and Pendulum of Power Makes Xi Jinping a ‘Core’ Leader in Mold of Jiang Zemin

China Debuts New J-20 Stealth Fighter Jet (November 1): In the latest sign of the growing sophistication of the country’s military technology, China’s J-20 stealth fighter made its public debut at an air show on November 1st. The Guardian has a video of the fighter jet in action.

Chinese Official Named Head of Interpol (November 10): A top Chinese police official was elected president of Interpol, setting off alarm bells among rights advocates over abuses and a lack of transparency within China's legal system…Read More>>

China Discovers the Price of Global Power (November 15): The  Wall Street Journal (subscription) ran a piece on the first Chinese combat troops to be killed in action since its border war with Vietnam in 1979. The deaths triggered soul-searching in China over the costs of President Xi’s quest to make his nation major world power. Related: If the U.S. Withdraws, China wonders whether it is Ready to Lead the World  (subscription)

Trump Opens Doors for China in Latin America (November 18): “Trump’s election is an unmitigated disaster for the region,” commented Jorge Castaneda, a former Mexican foreign minister. But Latin America has an escape valve: China. Related: Caribbean, Latin American Media Invited to set up Branches in China

China Boosts Military Ties with Djibouti (November 24): China will improve military ties with Djibouti, where China is building its first overseas naval base…Read More>>

U.S. Elections and Politics

Why Chinese Immigrants Support Donald Trump (November 3): Kaiser Kuo, writing at Sinica, offers analysis on why first-generation Chinese lean Republican.

China Tantalized by U.S. Election Mayhem (November 7): Before the Elections, Veteran Pekingologists said that Beijing would prefer Republican over Hillary Clinton who is considered a hardliner on human rights Read More>>

China Policy After Trump's Campaign Comments (November 17): NPR interviewed Mike Pillsbury, adviser to the Trump Transition Team, about the President-elect’s China policy and his aggressive stance towards China during the campaign.

The U.S. Rebalance to Asia

Evaluating the ‘Rebalance to Asia’ (November 2): The Diplomat (subscription) interviewed Kissinger Institute Distinguished Scholar Ambassador Stape Roy on the Obama Administration’s “Rebalance to Asia” policy. “There is no question that China is suspicious of U.S. motives in launching the rebalancing strategy, (but) U.S. trade in goods and services with China in 2015 totaled over $650 billion, hardly the feature of a containment policy.” 

U.S. to Deploy THAAD in 8-10 Months (November 4): The commander of U.S. forces in South Korea said a U.S. Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) anti-missile system battery would be deployed in South Korea within the year…Read More>>

Donald Trump’s Peace through Strength Vision for the Asia-Pacific (November 7): This Foreign Policy (subscription) piece, written by two Trump advisors, was widely read in Washington and Beijing as indicating how the president-elect will change America’s relationships in Asia.

Southeast Asia and the South China Sea

China, Malaysia Sign Deal on Navy Vessels (November 1): As reported by Reuters, Malaysia has agreed to buy four Chinese naval vessels and pledged to handle South China Sea disputes with Beijing bilaterally. Related: A Slow Malaysian Turn Towards China Could Become a Reality

Chinese Checkbook Diplomacy in Southeast Asia (November 7): The Financial Times (subscription), reporting on recent deals made between Beijing, Manila, and Kuala Lumpur, notes: “Experts caution that nothing concrete has been taken away from the U.S. by either country, but in diplomacy, where perception is often more important than reality, much damage has been done.”

Philippine Leader Sees "New World Order" Under Russia, China (November 17): President Rodrigo Duterte said the United Nations’ efforts to halt war have been futile and that if China and Russia decide to create a new world order, he would be the first to join  and leave the UN, which he said is dominated by the U.S…Read More>>


U.S. FONOP Challenges China’s Baselines (November 4): Commander Gary Ross of the Office of the U.S. Secretary of Defense confirmed that October’s Decatur FONOP in the Paracel Islands did not follow the rules of innocent passage and was aimed at challenging China’s excessive straight baselines…Read More>>

Cyber, Technology, and Surveillance

Chinese Aerospace Giant Introduces Smartphone for Satellite Communications Network (November 6): One of China’s top aerospace technology companies unveiled the first satellite smartphone designed for use with the country’s first mobile communications satellite, Tiantong-1 (TT-1). Satellite experts say the launch is part of China’s “space-based Silk Road” strategy. Read More>>

China Adopts Cybersecurity Law over Foreign Opposition (November 7): China has green-lit a sweeping and controversial law that may grant Beijing unprecedented access to foreign companies’ technology and hamstring their operations in the world’s second-largest economy…Read More>>

Backdoor in Android Phones Sent Americans' Data To China (November 15): Kryptowire, a security firm that got its start with help from DARPA and Homeland Security, discovered software running on Blu Products smartphones that were transmitting personal data to servers located in China…Read More>>

Baidu CEO Tells Silicon Valley Immigrants to Avoid Trump and Come to China (November 18): Baidu CEO Robin Li sees the change in the U.S. government as an opportunity for Chinese innovation, if only Chinese immigrants will return to the Homeland, because “The global center of innovation is shifting”…Read More>>

Facebook Creates Censorship Tool to Return to China (November 22): According to the New York Times (subscription), Facebook has quietly developed software to suppress posts from appearing in people’s news feeds in specific geographic areas. The feature was created to help Facebook get into China, a market where the social network has been blocked. The BBC and Forbes also reported on this story. Related: Facebook Must Stay out of China (subscription).

Media and Soft Power

Chinese Mogul Buys Dick Clark Productions (November 4): Wang Jianlin, the chairman of Dalian Wanda Group (DWG) acquired Dick Clark Productions, gaining rights to the Golden Globe awards, the Miss America pageant, and New Year’s Rockin’ Eve in Times Square…Read More>>

WeChat Censorship Provokes Chinese Editor’s Ire (November 4): As reported by April Ma for technode, a Chinese editor is angry over suspension of his publication’s–—official WeChat account, and he’s making sure Tencent hears about it.

China Adopts Film Law With Mixed Implications for Hollywood (November 8): The new statute provides stiff penalties for box-office fraud and piracy, which Hollywood will cheer, but its vaguely worded rules are designed to stifle negative depictions of China. The Hollywood Reporter, Guardian, and Wall Street Journal (subscription) all reported on this story.

‘Doctor Strange’ Wins China Weekend Box Office (November 8): Doctor Strange, which stars Benedict Cumberbatch and Tilda Swinton, brushed aside charges of “whitewashing” and kowtowing to Chinese censorship to outpace the second-place film, domestic Chinese thriller Hide and Seek, by $40 million...Read More>>

Education and Civil Society

China Bans For-Profit Private Schools From Grades One to Nine (November 8): According to the Shanghaiist, China’s legislature passed a revised law banning for-profit private primary schools and junior high schools from operation in the country. Quartz also reported the story.

U.S. Surpasses 1 Million International Students (November 14): More than one million international students studied in the United States last year, a 7 percent increase from the previous year. China continues to provide the bulk of international students, growing 8 percent last year to reach 328,000 students…Read More>>

China Seeks Foreign Enrollment in Colleges (November 14): According to the Wall Street Journal (subscription), China’s efforts to create “world-class universities” depend on winning the global competition for students, not because Chinese universities need the cash, but because foreign students reflect and confer soft power.

China Issues Guideline on Foreign NGO Registration (November 30): As reported by the Global Times, Beijing issued guidelines on the registration of foreign NGOs, reiterating the need for government supervision. Related: China Says ‘No Grace Period’ for Foreign NGOs Under Tough New Law

Trade and Economic Relations

Alibaba Staffer Helps SEC Probe into Tech Giant (November 1): The Securities and Exchange Commission is working with one or more whistleblowers inside Alibaba as it investigates the controversial accounting practices of the China-based e-commerce giant, The New York Post has learned.

Agricultural Bank of China Pays New York for Money Laundering Violations (November 4): The Agricultural Bank of China Ltd. will pay a $215 million penalty for violating New York state's anti-money laundering law, the state's financial regulator said…Read More>>

Chinese Government Backs Buyout Firm’s Deal for U.S. Chip Maker (November 28): According to Reuters, Canyon Bridge Capital Partners, a buyout fund that agreed to acquire U.S.-based chip maker Lattice Semiconductor Corp for $1.3 billion, is funded partly by cash from China's central government and also has indirect links to China’s space program.

If You Read/Watched Nothing Else in November…

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:


The 2016 Presidential Election: Responses from Beijing, Hong Kong and Taipei (Kissinger Institute, November 21)


The Beautiful Country and the Middle Kingdom, (John Pomfret, Henry Holt & Co, November 29)

The Economics of Air Pollution in China: Achieving Better and Cleaner Growth (Ma Jun, Columbia University Press, November 29)


Watching the Election from the Post-Truth Future (Christina Xu, Medium, November 17)


Can America Remain a Pacific Power? (Shihoko Goto and Michael Kugelman, Real Clear World, November 7)

Hollywood's Golden Age in China is Coming to an End (Jeffrey Towson, Los Angeles Times, November 25)


Can Xi Pivot from China’s Disrupter-in-Chief to Reformer-in-Chief? (Damien Ma, World Politics Review, November 15)

China’s Great Leap Backward (James Fallows, The Atlantic, December Issue)


U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission 2016 Annual Report to Congress (USCC, November 16).


A Chinese Perspective on Obama's Asia Policy: An Interview with Zhu Feng (Yuan Xunhui, Zhang Juan, and Shannon Tiezzi, The Diplomat, November 9)

The Lessons of Henry Kissinger (Jeffrey Goldberg for The Atlantic, November 10)


What Does the World Expect of President-elect Trump: China (Robert Daly, Wilson Center, November 8)

Upcoming Kissinger Institute Events

The Falling Yuan: What’s Happening to China’s Currency and Why Does it Matter to the United States? (December 13, 10:30am-12:00pm, the Wilson Center, RSVP Here)

Thanks for reading and for your continued support of

The Kissinger Institute on China and the United States.

About the Author

Sandy Pho

Senior Associate
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Kissinger Institute on China and the United States

The Kissinger Institute works to ensure that China policy serves American long-term interests and is founded in understanding of historical and cultural factors in bilateral relations and in accurate assessment of the aspirations of China’s government and people.  Read more