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The Month in U.S.-China Relations 中美关系月报 (January 2016)

China as an Emerging Superpower

Officials Confirm Construction of First Domestic Chinese Aircraft Carrier (January 4): The U.S. Naval Institute reported last month that construction of China’s first domestic aircraft carrier was underway. China currently has one other carrier, the Liaoning, which was Russian-made and purchased from Ukraine. This second carrier is the first to be indigenously-built.

Xi Arrives in Saudi Arabia, Starts 3-nation Mideast Visit (January 19): According to Xinhua, Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Iran last month, seeking to forge closer political and economic ties with the region. This was the first state visit by a Chinese head of state to Saudi Arabia in seven years. Related: Saudi Arabia Tussle Over Exports to China; Commentary: China not outsider in Middle East.

Xi Inaugurates Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, Says China will Take More International Responsibility (January 17): Chinese President Xi Jinping inaugurated the Asian Infrastructure Development Bank last month, saying China will play a more active role in improving the investment environment and integration in Asia. The U.S. was initially vocally critical of the Bank but has since walked back these comments…Read More>>

Chinese President Xi Jinping Tipped to Attend Nuclear Summit in United States (January 26): President Xi Jinping is expected to make his second visit to the United States in less than a year to attend the Nuclear Security Summit in Washington in March, according to national defense and military experts from both countries…Read More>>

China’s New Grand Strategy for the Middle East (January 26): Not everyone will appreciate China’s new role in the Middle East, especially those in Washington accustomed to America as sole power broker in the region. But with escalating tensions in the region, and neo-isolationism’s spread within the American electorate, Washington should welcome Xi’s advances toward the Middle…Read More>>

China’s Economic Leaders Struggle to Explain Thinking to World (January 27): While the Chinese government and central bank have since woken up to the fact they face a communications crisis with regards to their financial system, officials and analysts say the opacity of the Communist party makes it a difficult challenge to overcome…Read More>>

China, U.S. Should Jointly Promote Solutions to More Global Issues: Xi (January 27): President Xi Jinping last month urged the United States to work with China to find solutions to more global issues and develop bilateral ties…Read More>>

China Backs UN Move to Denounce North Korea Over Nuclear Test (January 27): According to the Washington Post, Secretary of State John F. Kerry and China’s foreign minister agreed last month to move ahead with a UN resolution condemning North Korea for its latest nuclear test, but they appeared as far apart as ever on how far to push Pyongyang.

The U.S. Rebalance to Asia

McCain Blasts lack of U.S. Patrols in South China Sea (January 4): Chairman of the influential U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee, Senator John McCain criticized the Obama administration last month for delaying further "freedom of navigation" patrols within 12 nautical miles of islands built by China in the South China Sea…Read More>>

White House: Not Expecting Overnight Reform in China – Excerpt (January 7): Excerpts from a transcript of an exchange last month between White House spokesman Josh Earnest and reporters at a regular news briefing. “Our approach has been to press China on the pace of its reforms, including the additional measures for an orderly transition to a market oriented exchange rate that responds to upward as well as downward market pressure.”

Republicans Seek more Naval Resources Amid South China Sea Dispute (January 7): Tension over the South China Sea highlights the need for the United States to maintain a strong Navy to serve as a deterrent, U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan said, last month, criticizing the Obama administration for proposals he said would reduce the U.S. naval fleet...Read More>>

Kerry Fails to Sway Cambodian Leaders on South China Sea (January 26): U.S. Secretary of States John Kerry met Cambodian leaders last month but failed to secure their commitment to a more robust stance with Southeast Asian nations against China's pursuit of territorial claims in the South China Sea…Read More>>

U.S., China Agree on Need for New UN Measure on North Korea (January 27): U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi agreed last month on the need for a significant new U.N. Security resolution targeting North Korea after its January 6 nuclear test, though there were few signs of concrete progress…Read More>>

President Xi Tightens Grip: CECC Cochairs Say No One is Outside His Reach: Congressman Chris Smith, Chair, and Senator Marco Rubio, Cochair, of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC) noted with deep alarm last month troubling developments in mainland China and Hong Kong. According to the CECC, there is growing evidence of a concerning trajectory for the rule of law and rampant human rights abuses under President Xi Jinping.

PACOM CO Harris: More U.S. South China Sea Freedom of Navigation Missions Are Coming (January 27): According to USNI News, the top military officer in the Pacific said that more operations in the South China Sea not only will continue but will become more complex.

U.S. Destroyer Challenges More Chinese South China Sea Claims in New Freedom of Navigation Operation (January 30): An American guided missile destroyer conducted a freedom of navigation operation within 12 nautical miles of a disputed island claimed by China in the South China Sea Paracel island chain, Pentagon officials confirmed to USNI News last month.

Southeast Asia and the South China Sea

China Defends Airstrip Construction in the South China Sea (January 6): According to Shannon Tiezzi at The Diplomat, China landed a civilian aircraft on Fiery Cross Reef in the South China Sea, drawing diplomatic protests from Vietnam and the Philippines.

China's Dream of Rail Link to Southeast Asia Coming True (January 21): According to The Straits Times, China-backed plans to build high-speed rail networks that link countries in mainland Southeast Asia to China are slowly coming to fruition.

In Cambodia, John Kerry Balances Trade Ties with Warning on Human Rights (January 26): U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry met with Cambodia's leaders last month, the second in a three-country swing through Southeast Asia meant to deepen U.S. partnerships ahead of a key summit with the region's leaders this February…Read More>>. For more on Kerry’s visit to the region, please see this Wall Street Journal piece.

South China Sea: Taiwan's President Ma in Disputed Island Visit (January 28): According to CNN, Taiwan's leader, Ma Yingjeou paid a visit last month to an island in disputed waters in the South China Sea, in a show of sovereignty that has drawn criticism from the United States.

Cyber, Space, and Espionage

A “Year of Innovation” for Internet Controls (January 7): In Beijing last month, a senior-level meeting on internet policy pledged that 2016 would be a “year of innovation.” But according to David Bandurski, this wasn’t about breakthroughs in technologies or services — the objective was information control, plain and simple.

Space Warfare with Russia and China? Pentagon Urged to Prepare for it (January 27): A new report released last month by the Center for a New American Security highlights the vulnerabilities the Pentagon has in space. It argues that potential adversaries like China and Russia have noticed the degree to which the United States is reliant on its “space architecture,” and begun to seek ways to threaten it...Read More>>


  • Secretary Carter Illuminates the South China Sea FONOP (January 7): Secretary of Defense Ash Carter published a letter to Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain, in which he offers the clearest and most detailed explanation the Department of Defense has given to date of the recent freedom-of-navigation operation in the South China Sea. The letter offers a fulsome response to Senator McCain’s letter of last November requesting additional details on the operation…Read More>>
  • Xi Jinping Reforms China’s Armed Forces—To His Own Advantage (January 16): Excellent piece in The Economist on the ways in which Xi Jinping is reforming China’s military. Ultimately, these changes reflect China’s ambitions to develop capabilities that challenge American naval and air power in the western Pacific.

Soft Power

Bringing U.S. Presidential Debates to a Chinese Audience (January 3): U.S. presidential debates have gone viral in China, generating millions of views on Weibo and Chinese video-sharing websites like Sina Video. So far, Chinese officials have largely refrained from commenting publicly on the debates, but China’s youth can’t get enough, with one viewer saying “this is way better than an American TV series”…Read More>>

Pursuing Critics, China Reaches Across Borders. And nobody is Stopping it (January 27): A string of incidents, including abductions from Thailand and Hong Kong, forced repatriations and the televised “confessions” of two Swedish citizens, has raised alarm bells among rights activists. Yet many foreign governments seem unwilling or unable to intervene, their public response limited to mild protests. These incidents beg the question, what exactly is the role of values in U.S.-China relations, if any?

With Corbis Sale, Tiananmen Protest Images Go to Chinese Media Company (January 27):  An image licensing company founded and owned by Bill Gates just sold a large portion of its photo stock, which includes historical images from Tiananmen Square, to a Chinese firm. The deal has raised concerns about how historical photos will be treated by a Chinese company…Read More>>

Honing Skills in U.S., a Group of Teenagers Is Fueling China’s Hockey Shift (January 30): Misha Song, who tuned 19 last month, is a major force in driving hockey interest in China. In June, he became the first Chinese-born player drafted by an N.H.L. team when the Islanders selected him in the sixth round…Read More>>

Trade and Economic Relations

A Door Opens to U.S. for Chinese Investors (January 3): Stock-purchase apps such as  Jimubox, are opening a path to U.S. financial markets for the Chinese middle class, which is seeking profitable places to put money. According to the Wall Street Journal, the new apps are the latest in a wave of innovations transforming China’s financial markets and upending traditional banking here.

U.S. Marshals Raid Hoverboard Booth at CES (January 7): According to Bloomberg Business, Two U.S. federal marshals showed up at the Consumer Electronics Show last month to conduct a raid on a Chinese company’s booth. Changzhou First International Trade, the Chinese company in question, is accused of counterfeiting California-based Future Motion's Onewheel skateboard.

China Gets $37 Billion Closer to Taking the U.S.'s Tech Crown (January 17): According to Bloomberg, venture capitalists poured a record $37 billion into China startups last year, more than double the previous year’s tally, as the country emerges as a legitimate challenger to the U.S. for leadership of the technology industry.

Qualcomm Unveils $280 Million Joint Venture With Chinese Province (January 17): Qualcomm Inc and the provincial government of Guizhou in southwest China unveiled on Sunday a $280 million joint venture for the design, development and sale of advanced server technology, as the U.S. chipmaker deepens its Chinese relations…Read More>>

Education and Academic Relations

The Most Chinese Schools in America (January 4): Via the Freedom of Information Act, Foreign Policy received a complete set of data on the F-1 visas issued in all of 2014 and until late March 2015 from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Those numbers are a strong proxy for the most Chinese campuses in America, and provide an apples-to-apples method to compare them.

‘Thank You for Educating the Scumbags China Can’t Handle’—Three Chinese bullies will Serve U.S. Jail Time – and China's Internet is Rejoicing (January 27): On January 7, three Chinese defendants – Zhai Yunyao, Yang Yuhan, and Zhang Xinlei, all now 19 years old – agreed to accept prison sentences for the March 2015 assault and kidnapping of Liu Yiran, who was then 18, while attending high school in San Gabriel Valley. According to Foreign Policy, that’s just fine with many in China.


Despite Release of Uighur brothers, China's crackdown on Speech at Fever Pitch (January 1): China unexpectedly released from detention two of three brothers of a reporter for Radio Free Asia, who is based in Washington last month. All three brothers had been held since the summer of 2014, and their case had attracted significant attention abroad, especially in the United States…Read More>>

Russian, Chinese Propaganda Muffling U.S. Government’s Message to World (January 3): As reported by the Washington Times, the head of the federal board that oversees Washington-financed media outlets such as Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and Voice of America stated that the U.S. government’s international media operations grossly lack funding to counter effectively the rising global blitz of state-sponsored propaganda from Russia, China and other rivals.

Major League Baseball Games to Be Streamed in China by LeTV (January 7):  Chinese tech and entertainment company LeTV has signed an exclusive three-year deal with Major League Baseball to stream games live in China, Hong Kong and Macau. It is professional baseball's first major media agreement in the fast-growing China market…Read More>>

'Kung Fu Panda 3' China Opening Leaves Bamboo on the Table (January 30): According to Forbes, relative to expectations that had been building since 2011—when predecessor Kung Fu Panda 2 grossed a then-stunning $92.5 million in China—the new picture’s opening day felt underwhelming to some analysts.

 If You Read/Watched Nothing Else in January…

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:


Does Chinese Investment Pose a Threat to Hollywood? (Asia Society’s ChinaFile Conversation, January 17).


Asia-Pacific Rebalance 2025: Capabilities, Presence, and Partnerships (CSIS)


Rethinking U.S. Strategy Toward China (John McLaughlin, The Cipher Brief, January 18)

The Case for a Two-Track U.S. Approach to North Korea (Robert Daly, Wall Street Journal, January 19)

Where China Stands After North Korea’s Fourth Test (Andrei Lankov, NK News, January 25)


Assessing the Outcomes and Implications of Taiwan's January 2016 Elections with Joseph Wu (CSIS, January 19)


Sinica Podcast: The China Meltdown

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Sandy Pho

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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