Category: Foreign Policy

Should Obama Downgrade Xi’s Planned State Visit?

By , August 17, 2015

Last week, China Law & Policy published a post encouraging President Obama, even in light of the current crackdown on rights defending advocates in China, to move ahead with President Xi Jinping’s State Visit to the U.S. currently scheduled for September. However, China Law & Policy recommended that President Obama raise the plight of the rights defending lawyers by highlighting the important role public interest lawyers have played in the United States.

State Visit or not, the real question is: What Will the First Lady Wear?

State Visit or not, the real question is: What Will the First Lady Wear?

Our posting received a plethora of responses, including one from Adam Bobrow, CEO and Founder of Foresight Resilience Strategies, LLC, a Maryland-based strategic consulting firm to develop new solutions for companies facing cybersecurity challenges. With prior experience in the White House and the Department of Commerce, Bobrow explains the procedures surrounding a State Visit and argues that while the Xi visit must occur because of many thorny issues plaguing the US-China relationship, the visit should be downgraded to an “official visit,” not a State Visit.

Guest Blogger Adam Bobrow

Adam Bobrow

By Guest Author Adam BobrowThanks to Elizabeth for her original post which made me think more about Chinese President Xi Jinping’s September State Visit to Washington.  Elizabeth’s thoughtful take addressed the question of the White House’s response to the crackdown on rights defenders in China.  I agree that President Obama’s meeting with Chinese President Xi should go forward but I have tried to take into account additional strategic and economic policy considerations in assessing whether Xi’s State Visit seems appropriate at this time.  For reasons addressed below, I do not think that incorporating a session on the crackdown will work but suggest that the White House downgrade the meeting from a State Visit to another category of Head of State visit, such as an official visit or a working visit.

The Obama-Xi meeting should take place because there are many issues that the United States and China need to discuss at the highest levels.  But the pomp and circumstances and the inherent approbation of a State Visit sends the wrong message to China about the ways in which Chinese government policies impact the U.S. economy and elements of global security that the United States has vested interests in maintaining.

Background on State Visits

A State Visit, while it does not have an absolute definition, follows certain traditional guidelines surrounding its logistics and the respect accorded the foreign Head of State or Government.  In the United States, such a visit has an arrival ceremony on the South Lawn of the White House, a 21-gun salute for the visiting Head of State, a joint review of U.S. troops, and a State Dinner with the visiting Head of State as the guest of honor.  Because the last element is the easiest to measure—either a State Dinner occurred or it did not—I have used the inclusion of a State Dinner during a visit as a proxy for State Visits.

During the current Administration, President Xi’s State Visit would be only the ninth State Visit in the almost seven years since President Obama was sworn into office.  Perhaps more telling, of those nine State Visits, President Obama will have hosted two different Chinese Presidents.  No other country’s leaders have enjoyed two State Visit invitations during this Administration even though Mexico, South Korea, Japan, and India—all State Visit countries during the Obama Administration—have changed leaders since President Obama hosted their previous Head of State or Government.

Why Should Obama and Xi Meet?

In Elizabeth’s blog post, she advocates that President Obama should, “invit[e] Xi Jinping to a session with U.S. public interest lawyers and their supportive corporate law brethren” to demonstrate the United States’ support for the plight of rights defenders in China.  During President Xi’s visit President Obama can and certainly should raise the unacceptable and self-defeating nature of the ongoing roundup of weiquan (rights defending) lawyers by the Chinese authorities––either by insisting that there be a window reserved in the primary bilateral meeting (preferred) or by bringing the topic up spontaneously in that meeting or at the joint press conference. The latter is less effective to change Chinese behavior but important as a domestic political issue in the United States. But keep in mind that the Chinese officials planning the State Visit will not agree to a meeting that includes some of the private critics of their conduct in the United States.  The U.S. government cannot unilaterally control the broad agenda for the visit by insisting on certain meetings, such as one with U.S. public interest lawyers.

But even with this limitation, the larger question remains: why should the U.S. and Chinese Presidents meet?  Currently, the United States and China face a number of urgent issues that directly impact their relationship.  For far too many of these, however, neither side will agree even on the terms of reference for their differences, preferring either to deny a problem exists or to insist on a formulation that assigns the responsibility exclusively to the other party.  These thorny issues are myriad: Chinese island reclamation and freedom of navigation in the South and East China Seas; alleged cyber incursions into U.S.-based systems including personnel files held by the U.S. government and commercially valuable data held by a wide range of U.S. businesses; the devaluation of China’s currency in response to slowing growth in China; the creation of the Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank, a new international development institution created with China as the leading shareholder; national security limitations on Chinese investment in the United States; the impact of China’s own National Security Law on U.S. businesses operating in China; and even China’s continued non-market economy status in U.S. antidumping investigations. Today’s New York Times reveals another agenda item: Chinese public security agents operating in the United States and allegedly intimidating or threatening some Chinese expatriates suspected of graft to return to China. This is an additional issue for which the two countries offer incompatible explanations. Unfortunately, political leaders in both countries have framed these issues in ways that make them difficult to discuss, much less resolve.

The meeting of the two Presidents could advance bilateral cooperation, however, on two issues of current importance.  First, both sides seek to advance negotiations on the U.S.-China Bilateral Investment Treaty (BIT) by exchanging updated negative lists of excluded investment areas.  Second, each side also wants to advance cooperation on curbing greenhouse gas emissions in advance of the 21st session of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Conference of Parties (COP 21) in Paris in December.  Obama and Xi could announce concrete and meaningful progress on BIT and greenhouse gas emissions based on strong preparation at the staff- through Cabinet-levels and help provide negotiating teams on each topic with clear instructions on the way forward in both cases.

When weighing the decision of whether to downgrade the meeting, political and protocol reasons for the level of the visit must also contend with the substantive policy questions already discussed. The issue of face plays a role in this calculation as President Xi hosted President Obama for a State Visit in Beijing last year, complete with State Arrival Ceremony at the Great Hall of the People and a State Banquet. Refusing to accord President Xi the same courtesies would cause great offense. In addition, leaders meet to increase opportunities to get to know one another and build a relationship that might advance issues or prevent future conflicts. Two years ago, the White House cited this reasoning in meeting in a more relaxed setting away from Washington in the lead-up to the two Presidents’ summit at the Sunnylands Estate in California. The very specific intention of the informal setting away from Washington was to reduce the pressure to make public pronouncements and face the increased scrutiny of a scripted and formal visit so that the leaders could get to know one another better. Whether the more informal setting did allow greater candor, the added scrutiny of a State Visit can only undermine efforts by the two Presidents to build their relationship as a hedge against growing frictions in any meaningful way.  Next month, the two Presidents will meet farther apart on urgent bilateral issues than at any prior meeting they have had and with often conflicting visions of the world as they would like it to be.  Ranging from President Xi’s marketing of China’s New Model of Great Power Relations, which premises more space for Chinese actions on the world stage free of American interference or even commentary, to President Obama’s preference for selling the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement (TPP) as a way of writing new international trade rules to prevent China from writing those rules instead, these competing visions are not currently amenable to building trust during a one-day visit.

Where does that leave us in terms of a verdict on the impending visit?  Looking at the list of issues where no progress is likely, it is probable that each President will raise a differing subset of those issues without actually hearing what the other has to say.  They will talk past each other and reach no conclusions nor even advance the terms on which officials at lower levels will address these issues going forward.  On the other (skimpier) hand, the Presidents may make meaningful progress on the two issues identified above:  BIT negotiations and climate change measures ahead of the Paris negotiations in December. The non-policy considerations present a trickier, more qualitative question of whether the slim possibility of greater candor in a less formal set of meetings makes it a better bet to risk the strong negative reaction of a Chinese government that sees the downgrade as a personal snub to President Xi. The White House needs to decide based on the best interest of the United States and the American people, of course, rather than how its decision in Washington will be received in Beijing or even by some larger subset of the Chinese people.

In this instance, the pomp and circumstance of a State Visit will reduce the efficacy of the potential positive outcomes of the meeting and send a misleading positive message about the current parlous state of U.S.-China relations.  Rather than providing additional space for the two Presidents to increase mutual understanding and provide clear guidance to their bureaucracies on how to resolve some outstanding issues, the Presidents may make some small and specific progress in two areas.  But the strictures of a State Visit also make it likely that the two governments will feel compelled to send a message that the visit demonstrates a highly productive bilateral relationship on firm grounding. That message would obfuscate real differences in search of solutions, potentially setting back relations rather than moving them forward, and backfire as the evidence clearly belies such a positive message. The White House should downgrade the meeting, restore the informal approach of Sunnylands, and hope that more time focused on substance and less on meaningless public praise by each country of the other may permit more candid discussion and advance solutions to pressing problems.

China Passes National Security Law

Ready for National Security!

Within a day of its publication of the second Draft Foreign NGO Law on May 5, the Chinese government also published for comment a Draft National Security Law.  Today, that document became law. Although criticized for its vagueness and breadth, the passed law is still just as broad if not more so.  The new law also covers protection of seabeds and adds the word “extremism” to the provision on terrorism (Article 28), a provision that immediately follows the one that protects “normal religious activity” and calls for the opposition to foreign influences and interference in domestic religious affairs (Article 27).

The law itself comes off more as abstract principles. But make no mistake, the Chinese government and the Public Security Bureau which has oversight of the Law, means business.  The fact that they elevated this abstract document to the level of a law is a telling sign and foreign governments should be looking at it carefully.

The full English translation of the National Security Law has been published at China Law Translate and can be found here.

Where’s Your Tracksuit – Will Xi Jinping be China’s Putin?

By , February 13, 2014
President Xi waving to the Chinese Olympic team during the Sochi Opening Ceremonies

President Xi waving to the Chinese Olympic team during the Sochi Opening Ceremonies

Last week’s opening ceremonies were full of Russian stereotypes – ballet, nutcrackers, revolution, really bad techno.  But one image that was far from a cliché was the cozy relationship between Russian President Vladamir Putin and his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping.  Over at Concurrent Opinions, law professor and China expert Margaret K. Lewis, mused about what appears to be a deepening friendship and what this could mean for China.  Will Xi be wearing a tracksuit anytime soon?  Read Lewis’ post here.

CORRECTION on NY Times Reporter’s Departure from Beijing

By , February 10, 2014
CL&P issues a correction

CL&P issues a correction

Yesterday, China Law & Policy published a post regarding New York Times reporter Austin Ramzy and the circumstances surrounding his effective expulsion from China this past January.  After the post went up, some readers emailed me to comment that my analysis may be wrong, in particular my examination of Article 14 of the Regulation on News Coverage by Permanent Offices of Foreign Media Organizations and Foreign Journalists (“Foreign Media Regs”).

Here’s the background.  On January 27, 2014, Ministry of Foreign Affairs (“MOFA”) spokesperson Qin Gang addressed the Ramzy situation stating that by not changing the status of his visa (presumably to a tourist or some other non-journalist visa) when he re-applied for a new press card with MOFA, Ramzy was in violation of the regulations.

As I wrote yesterday, Qin Gang’s assessment is correct under Article 14 of the Foreign Media Regs) if Ramzy’s prior press card with Time Magazine was “canceled.”  Article 14 reads:

The cancellation of the Certificate for Permanent Office of Foreign Media Organization in China and the Press Card (R) shall be made public.

The Journalist Visa of a resident foreign journalist whose Press Card (R) is cancelled automatically becomes invalid ten days after the date of cancellation.

A resident foreign journalist whose Press Card (R) is cancelled shall, within ten days from the date of cancellation, present the relevant certifying documents to the public security authority of his place of residence to apply for the alteration of his visa or resident permit.

I concluded that Ramzy, who was permitted to apply for a New York Times press card in June 2013, did not have a canceled press card,

When obtaining press cards were a bit easier: Edgar Snow's press card for Beijing

When obtaining press cards were a bit easier: Edgar Snow’s press card for Beijing

making Article 14 inapplicable.  But a few emails came in, including from individuals with experience with press cards in China, that based on their experiences, it was more likely that Ramzy’s Time Magazine press card was canceled in order to apply for the New York Times press card, making Article 14 applicable.  Fox News also highlighted this reading of the Foreign Media Regs.

I stand corrected and I thank the readers who wrote to me.  Under Article 14 of the Foreign Media Regs, it does appear that when a foreign journalist in China switches employers and tenders her prior press card, that card is effectively canceled and to be in line with the Foreign Media Regs, the journalist presumably has to apply for a change in visa status.

But the reason why I still continue to hedge and question if Ramzy was in fact in violation of the law, as opposed to just these regulations, is because when read in conjunction with China’s Exit-Entry Administration Law (“Exit-Entry Law”), Ramzy’s situation is a little less clear.  The Foreign Media Regs do not address what happens when the prior press card is canceled but the journalist is waiting on a new press card to be issued.  But the Exit-Entry Law permits an individual to stay until the expiration of a residency permit even when an application for a new one was denied (see Exit-Entry Law, Arts.29 & 32).  Additionally, the Regulations on Exit-Entry Aministration for Foreign Nationals (“Exit-Entry Regs”), which further define the Exit-Entry Law, acknowledge that there will be times when the visa and residence permit process is delayed.  In those situations, the foreign national can rely on the “acceptance notice” from the Public Security Bureau (“PSB”) to lawfully reside in China until her visa or residency permit is processed (Exit-Entry Regs, Arts. 13 & 18).

Qin Gang, stepping up the game!

Qin Gang, stepping up the game!

The Exit-Entry Regs do not apply to MOFA in its review of press cards, but did it take a page from the Exit-Entry Reg’s play book?  Did MOFA reassure Ramzy and the New York Times that with MOFA’s acceptance of the application, Ramzy could continue to reside in China on his Time Magazine visa and resident permit until the new press card was processed?  Article 21 of the Foreign Media Regs leaves it within the discretion of MOFA to determine the penalty, if any, for a violation of the Foreign Media Regs.  Unfortunately, emails to the executive and managing editors of the New York Times for clarification were not answered.

But at any rate, what the Ramzy incident reflects is that journalism just got a heck of a lot harder in China, especially for any news agency that seeks to cover sensitive issues.  Back at the beginning of January, Jill Abramson, the New York Times‘ executive editor, seemed to think things had blown over in China, that the earlier problems in securing journalist visas for their reporters had mostly been resolved.  But Abramson spoke too soon because with the Ramzy incident, the Chinese government just stepped up its game.

This is not the first time that the Chinese government has cited to law to provide a veneer of legality in its efforts to suppress criticism (or

Rights Attorney, Xu Zhiyong, recently sentenced to 4 years

Rights Attorney, Xu Zhiyong, recently sentenced to 4 years

more aptly suppress criticism that is not directed by the Party).  Chinese public interest lawyers and activists have been treated in a similar fashion.  Liu Xiaobo is likely the last activist the West will see tried for “subversion of state power” and since the lawless abduction of civil rights attorney  Gao Zhisheng, the recent prosecutions have been “in accordance with law.”  The Chinese government has become increasingly sophisticated in how it handles what it perceives as threats to its one-party rule.   In January, rights lawyer Xu Zhiyong was tried and found guilty for disturbing public order.  Back in 2010, civil rights lawyers Tang Jitian and Liu Wei were disbarred on highly technical regulations that govern the legal profession.  By turning to more administrative and technical punishments, the Chinese government can state that it is merely following the law, a defense it has come to realize the West finds a bit harder to counter.

game-changerSimilarly, the Chinese government now appears to be using the same strategy with foreign journalists and the visa application process.  It’s a labyrinth of regulations, making it easy for the Chinese government to point to a violation.  With the Ramzy incident, foreign media outlets in China can no longer rely on the assurances of MOFA or even how things were done in the past.

Ramzy might have been the sole casualty of the New York Times-China feud for the 2013 cycle.  But his forced departure is a game-changer and should be a warning to the U.S. government and U.S. media outlets that they too need to step up their game; things are far from “blown over.”

Another One Bites the Dust But Does Anyone Care? Congress is Silent as NY Times Reporter Leaves Beijing

By , February 9, 2014

New York Times journalist Austin Ramzy

New York Times journalist Austin Ramzy

Last month, while another U.S. journalist was packing his bags, forced to leave China, the U.S. Senate was poised to hold the confirmation hearing for Max Baucus, the Administration’s nominee to replace Gary Locke as ambassador to China.  You would think that central to the Baucus hearing would be the issue of journalist visas, or at least it would be mentioned by the candidate himself as a troubling development.  But you would be wrong.   Instead, after a December where the issue of U.S. journalists in China reached crisis level, Congress reverted to its shortsighted old ways, barely even raising the issue.

But, as the recent expulsion of the U.S. journalist clearly demonstrates, such a lackadaisical approach is increasingly dangerous as the Chinese government attempts to develop a more sophisticated response to try to maintain control of foreign journalists and U.S. media outlets through the visa process.

New York Times Reporter Austin Ramzy Effectively Expelled from China

For ten years, Austin Ramzy diligently covered Asia and China for Time Magazine, first out of Hong Kong and then since 2007, out of Beijing.  While his pieces were thought-provoking for a Western audience, they were hardly the type that would illicit anger from the Chinese government.  There were no articles exposing government officials’ vast wealth and while Ramzy did report on certain human rights issues in China, those articles were interspersed among other more general pieces.  In other words, he was likely not on the Chinese government’s target list in terms of renewing a visa.

But Ramzy’s status changed when, in April 2013, he took a job with the New York Times.  Since October 2012, when it published a Pulitzer-Prize

Former Premier Wen Jiabao

Former Premier Wen Jiabao

winning series on former premier Wen Jiabao’s questionable role in his family’s lucrative business holdings, the New York Times has become the Chinese government’s Enemy Number One.  Its website, including the Chinese-language portion, has been blocked in China, its U.S. website allegedly hacked from China, and every December, when it comes time to renew their visas, the New York Times China correspondents have faced excessive delays and effective expulsion.  The New York Times Fall 2013 coverage of the U.S. investigation into J.P. Morgan’s cushy ties with the children of China’s government elite, including the daughter of Wen, likely did not help its situation.

Ramzy’s visa troubles began almost as soon as he started working for the Times.  Although Ramzy had a journalist visa good through the end of December 2013, because he switched employer, under Chinese law, Ramzy was required to first apply for a new press card with the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs (“MOFA”).  Once issued, Ramzy then, with his new press card, would be required to apply for a new journalist visa and residency permit with the Public Security Bureau (“PSB”) to reflect his new employer (see Regulations on News Coverage by Permanent Offices of Foreign Media Organizations and Foreign Journalists -“Foreign Media Regs” – Art. 10).

But, according to a source familiar with the matter, MOFA began giving Ramzy a hard time from the beginning.  For two months, the Beijing MOFA office refused to accept his press card application, informing him first that he would have to apply through Hong Kong, and then informing him that it would have to be through the New York consulate.  However, Article 10 of the Foreign Media Regs clearly states that the application can be made within China and directly to MOFA.

As the source told China Law & Policy, it was not until June 2013, two months later, that MOFA finally accepted his press card application.  But MOFA would sit on Ramzy’s application, and come December 2013, Ramzy was part of the New York Times contingent that was almost effectively expelled en mass when MOFA failed to process any Times correspondents’ press card applications and renewals.

Photo from Ramzy's Twitter feed showing that he had mostly packed his things

Photo from Ramzy’s Twitter feed showing that he had mostly packed his things

While the pressure from the Obama Administration, in particular Biden’s December visit to Beijing where he publicly raised the issue, appeared to have averted the de facto closure of the Times‘ China bureaus, Ramzy seems to be the lone casualty.  Ramzy’s vulnerability likely came from the fact that he was the only New York Times correspondent who was hired in the middle of the year.  For some reason, MOFA processes “new” applications for a press card with a news agency differently than a mere renewal of the press card for a reporter that continues to work for the same news agency.  This is what happened to New York Times correspondent Chris Buckley the year before.  Like Ramzy, Buckley took a job with the Times in October 2012 but MOFA failed to process his press card.  When his prior journalist visa and residency permit expired on December 31, 2012, Buckley was forced to leave China.  For the past year he has been reporting for the Times from Hong Kong while MOFA allegedly is still processing his press card application.

Similarly, by the end of this December, without a press card, Ramzy was unable to apply for a new journalist visa.  His prior visa and residency permit was set to expire on December 31, 2013.  At the end of December, MOFA provided Ramzy with a one-month “humanitarian” visa so that after seven years, he could pack up his life and leave.  On January 30, 2014, Ramzy left Beijing and relocated to Taipei, Taiwan to cover China from there.

Stronger Response from Both the US & China

With his departure, the White House issued a strong statement, condemning China on Ramzy’s effective expulsion.  This was a marked departure from the White House’s prior strategy of silence when other U.S. reporters were effectively expelled or banned from reporting from China (Melissa Chan in 2012, Philip Pan in 2012, Andrew Higgins from 2009 to 2012 and Paul Mooney in 2013).

But the U.S. was not the only country with a changed strategy.  For all of these prior expulsions and bans, the Chinese government has never

MOFA spokesperson Qin Gang

MOFA spokesperson Qin Gang

provided a specific reason for its delay or denial.  But in Ramzy’s case, the Monday before his departure, MOFA spokesperson Qin Gang addressed the issue and tried to put a fig leaf of legality over the situation.  While Qin implied that MOFA was still processing Ramzy’s press card application, he accused Ramzy of violating Chinese regulations because he continued to enter and leave China on his old visa connected to his prior employer and never applied for a new visa or residence permit.

Qin was correct that Ramzy did not apply for a new visa and residence permit once he took the job with the Times, but that was not a willful act.  For a journalist visa and residency permit, part of the application is submission of a valid press card (Foreign Media Regs, Art. 10).  Here Ramzy was not able to apply for a new visa where MOFA was sitting on his application for a new press card, failing to process it.

Regardless of that fact, the law does not require Ramzy to apply for a different type of visa (presumably a non-journalist one) while waiting on a new press card.  The only time that a journalist must apply for a different type of visa to remain in China is if his press card has been “canceled,” a decision that must be made public (Foreign Media Regs., Art. 14).  Here, Ramzy’s prior press card was not cancelled; rather he was applying for a replacement.*  Nowhere in the Foreign Media Regs is there a requirement that a journalist change his visa type while waiting on a replacement press card.

PassportsFinally, China’s Exit-Entry Administration Law permits a foreign resident to stay in China to expiration of a prior residence permit even when a new one is denied: “[I]f an extension is denied, the foreigner concerned shall leave China on the expiry of the validity period specified in their residence permits” (Exit-Entry Administration Law, Art. 32).

Ramzy was within the law in entering and exiting China on his prior visa while waiting on his press card.  But MOFA’s citation to the law, even if inaccurate, is an interesting development and not restricted to foreign journalist visas.  Rather, it has been a trend in dealing with criticism from abroad.  An examination of how the Chinese government has dealt with public interest lawyers shows a government increasingly using the law – even if only a fig leaf – to explain its suppression of dissent.  The Chinese government has come to realize that the rhetoric of law is often an effective defense and silencing device in dealing with the West.

The Danger of the Senate’s Silence

It is this more sophisticated response that should put the U.S. government on warning that Beijing does not intend to back down in toying with

The Baucus Senate Confirmation Hearing - Why Bother?

The Baucus Senate Confirmation Hearing – Why Bother?

foreign journalists visas.  That is why the absence of this issue during the Baucus hearing was a dangerous disappointment.  During the hour and a half session, not a single Senator specifically asked what Baucus intended to do about this issue.  Instead, the hearing descended into the verbal embodiment of a high school social studies essay on the “interconnectedness” of the world, how they are like us, and with Baucus addressing human rights only superficially, stating that its protection “is the bedrock of American society.”

By not focusing on the issue of journalists visas during the hearing, Congress has effectively signaled to Beijing that it can go back to the status quo; the Senate is too concerned with how to sell beef in China to pay attention  to one journalist unable to stay there.  This is certainly a missed opportunity because if there is one thing the Chinese government does not understand and fears as a result, it is Congress.  Even if five minutes of the hearing addressed the issue, that might have given the Chinese government food for thought.

And it would also have been useful for Americans to know what Baucus’ strategy will be.  As Ambassador, Baucus will have a lot of power to determine if there should be a policy of visa reciprocity.  Does he think that is an appropriate approach?  Does he think there are other ways to deal with this issue?  How public will he be when the Chinese government again trifles with a U.S. journalist’s visa?

The U.S. government – both Congress and the Administration – cannot allow this issue to slip into the background.  While the White House should be commended for issuing a statement on Ramzy’s expulsion, it needs to use every opportunity to remind the Chinese government that this is a key issue.  Just stating it is not enough.  Last week, when Daniel Russell, Assistant Secretary of the Bureau of East Asia and Pacific Affairs at the State Department held a press conference, two reporters in the audience were from Chinese government-run media outlets.  Perhaps starting the press conference with a comment about how the U.S. allows a free foreign vis-a-vis China might demonstrate just how important the issue is to the current Administration.

Goodbye New York Times?

Goodbye New York Times?

Consistent pressure on the Chinese government from all parts of government must continue until Pan, Buckley, and Ramzy’s visa applications are processed.  Back in December, when it looked like the New York Times and the Bloomberg China bureaus would effectively close, the U.S. government was able focus its resources and pressure China to renew the correspondents’ visas.  But here, the danger is no different.  Where the New York Times is unable to get a new press card for any new employees in China, it will be unable to replace its current correspondents.  How long can David Barboza, 10 years in China and Ed Wong, six years, stay there?  It might be a slow death for the Times‘ China offices, but, unless something changes, its end inevitable


* After publication of this post on February 9, 2014, it was brought to my attention that Ramzy’s prior press card with Time Magazine could have been “cancelled” under Chinese law and that Article 14 might apply to him.  A correction in the form of a new post can be found here.  Apologies in advance.  — EML

Chen Guangcheng and the Commandeering of Our China Human Rights Policy

By , June 20, 2013

Chinese activist Chen Guangcheng

Love is a battlefield and so evidently is our China human rights policy.  At least that is what the recent developments with blind Chinese activist Chen Guangcheng demonstrate.  Chen made international headlines last April when he bravely escaped his illegal house arrest, fled to Beijing and sought refuge in the U.S. Embassy.

On May 19, 2012, after the U.S. brokered a deal, Chen and his family arrived at Newark International Airport where Chen was to start a fellowship at NYU Law School’s U.S.-Asia Law Institute.

Fast forward a year and on Sunday, Chen was again in the news, this time issuing a press release stating that NYU had forced him to leave, alleging that NYU’s actions were a result of the Chinese Communist Party’s pressure on the University.  NYU has denied Chen’s allegations.

Chen’s story is more than just a page six affair of he-said-she-said.  Instead it reflects the ability one group to exert an undue influence on the China human rights agenda.

The Commandeering of the U.S.’ Human Rights Policy in China

In very simplistic terms, the politics behind our China human rights policy used to be easy – the left supported human rights in China above all else.  The right was more about business ties to China before human rights (or as a way to achieving human rights).

But the rise of the religious right, especially the pro-lifers, within the Republican Party has changed that dynamic.  Nothing demonstrates that more clearly than the changing politics behind the Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC).

In 2000, after China’s WTO entry, Congress created the CECC to monitor China’s human rights and rule of law development.  It quickly became Capitol Hill’s bipartisan think tank on China issues, publishing a detailed annual report on China’s human rights and rule of law record and some of the U.S.’ best young China hands passed through the CECC.

But over the past six years, the CECC has become dominated by one voice, that of Rep. Chris Smith, a pro-life Republican who became a member of the Commission in 2007, its chairman in 2011 and its current co-chair.  Since his membership, the CECC has become increasing politicized.

I first felt this when undergoing an interview for a position covering the CECC’s criminal law portfolio back in 2009.  I had already cleared interviews with CECC staff, and a political vetting by one of

Rep. Chris Smith of New Jersey

Chris Smith’s staffers was the final hurdle. It was unclear why this staffer had been chosen as he neither spoke Chinese nor demonstrated any special knowledge of China.  He asked only limited questions about my work at NYU’s U.S.-Asia Law Institute (the same organization where Chen would land years later) or about my knowledge of Chinese criminal law which I had focused on during my two years at NYU.  Instead he asked about my views of Obama’s China policy vis-a-vis Bush’s (I believe they were pretty much the same); why I wrote for the Huffington Post (because they are willing to publish me); what editorial control did the Huffington Post have over my work (none); and finally, what did I think about China’s one-child policy.  And that is where much of the interviewed remained – around China’s one-child policy.

I told the staffer that forced abortions are wrong and illegal under Chinese law.  The staffer probed deeper than just forced abortions, inquiring what I thought about the one-child policy in the abstract and whether the policy alone, regardless of the way it was implemented, was a human rights violation.  Of the human rights violations in China, the one-child policy is low on my list, and I said as much.  But the questions continued, and at some point I found myself “admitting” that I was fine with contraception.   Once those words left my mouth, somehow I knew I did not get the job.

The phone interview ended with the staffer asking about one of my blog posts where I tried to explain why the Chinese Communist Party should not be viewed as a monolith.  The line of questioning quickly turned into what felt like a McCarthy-era hearing with the staffer accusing me about not caring about human rights.

After the interview, I was rejected for the job.  I was told that Chris Smith’s office stated that my rejection was because my blog had typos (which is true).  But the line of questioning I underwent suggests another reason to me.  That interview was the first glimpse of what I believe is the pro-life contingent’s influence on our policy toward China’s human rights.

How Does Chen Guangcheng Play Into Chris Smith’s China Human Rights Policy?

It didn’t surprise me last year when it was Rep. Chris Smith who orchestrated Chen Guangcheng’s dramatic phone call from Beijing into the CECC hearing where Chen begged to be allowed into the US, creating a second international crisis that the U.S. had to negotiate.  It was even less surprising that Chen’s translator on that phone call was Bob Fu, president of the Texas-based evangelical human rights group, ChinaAid.  Fu himself has testified a number of times before the CECC, and since Chen’s Sunday night press release Fu has made the rounds with the press, alleging that Chen was being forced out of NYU because of Chinese pressure.  Expectedly, Rep. Smith has threatened to convene a hearing hauling in NYU officials to testify under oath and prove that they were not pressured by the Chinese government.

Rep. Chris Smith with Bob Fu of ChinaAid, on the phone with Chen Guangcheng

To pro-life advocates like Rep. Smith, Chen is an important figure.  Chen, a self-taught lawyer, began his career by fighting for the rights of those with disabilities.  Soon, Chen heard of other injustices in his village, especially forced abortions.  Although China maintains a one-child policy, forced abortions and sterilizations are illegal under Chinese law.  An investigation by Chen and lawyers from Beijing uncovered that forced abortions and sterilizations were common, especially in rural areas.  By the summer of 2005, Chen filed multiple lawsuits in his village Linyi on behalf of many of the victims.

It was those forced abortion cases that caused Chen to become a martyr, being arrested and thrown in jail on trumped-up charges.  Even after his official release, the Linyi authorities illegally kept him under house arrest.  But it was these forced abortion cases that also brought him to the attention of the pro-lifers in the United States.  Although Chen has stated that he is against forced abortions and less against abortions themselves (see NPR interview at 9:51), his lawsuits represent an important stepping stone for pro-lifers –  ridding China of the one-child policy.  And there is always hope that he can be converted to a pro-life stance.

Chen Guangcheng – Only A Pawn in Their Game?

I don’t believe that NYU succumbed to Chinese political pressure.  Mattie J. Bekink, Chen Guangcheng’s special adviser while at NYU, has issued a convincing press release detailing the efforts that NYU went to for Chen and his family and that she was the one who informed him early on in his tenure is that he was on a one-year fellowship.

But more importantly, I question how much the Chinese government actually cares about Chen’s existence in the United States.  Chen was a public relations disaster for the Chinese government while he was in China – causing protests domestically and internationally and even having Christian Bale attempt to visit.  Yes, the Chinese government protested the U.S. government’s involvement in the Chen affair, but ultimately they let him go and likely because they wanted to.  Activists lose their impact once they leave China.

Chen offers no evidence as to this alleged pressure.  Although he ties all of this to NYU’s desire to expand its Shanghai campus, that doesn’t seem to make sense.  NYU accepted Chen in May 2012.  That didn’t change its plans for the Shanghai campus.  The campus is still set to open in fall 2013.

But whether Chen is a pawn in a much bigger game is merely speculation.  And maybe Chen isn’t even a pawn; maybe he has taken sides and that he has chosen the pro-life camp.  News reports have stated that Chen is currently negotiating fellowships with two organizations – the Leitner Center at Fordham Law School focused on international human rights and the Witherspoon Institute, a conservative, pro-life think tank, in Princeton, New Jersey.  But it wouldn’t surprise me if after Sunday’s press release and accusations if Fordham withdraws from negotiations; who would want that headache, ending up in the press like NYU.  So in the end, Chen may only be left  with one choice – Witherspoon.  Which makes one wonder why Chen didn’t wait until he signed the contract with whichever organization he chose and then lambast NYU.  There was no particular reason to do it now.  Unless of course Chen – or the people surrounding him – didn’t want a choice.

Ramifications of the Pro-Life’s Influence on China’s Human Rights Policy

Soon after my interview with Rep. Chris Smith’s office, I asked a friend who worked on Capitol Hill how a Congressional commission could be so influenced by one voice.  No one cares about China he told me, they care about the Middle East.

I don’t know if that is exactly true but certainly what happened with the CECC shows that others on Capitol Hill need to start paying attention.  Our relationship with China is too important to allow the human rights agenda to be so unduly influenced by one contingent.  The one-child policy and abortions can and should be a part of our human rights agenda, but it should not be the exclusive focus.  Or if it is, that consensus should be reached in a more democratic process not just by default because no one paid attention.

The CECC has long been an important resource for scholars, journalists and everyday citizens who want to learn more about China.  No other organization publishes as well documented an analysis of China’s human rights and rule of law developments as the CECC does in its annual report.  But if the organization becomes politicized, that annual report will begin to lose its legitimacy.  Its work is too important to allow that to happen.

In the present Congress, Rep. Smith is CECC’s co-chair, meaning that he will wield less influence than he did as chairman.  But he is still on the Commission and he also currently chairs the Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights and International Organizations of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.  Under his tenure, many of the hearings on China focus on these narrow issues with some of the same witnesses testifying.

But more than anything, what is happening with Chen Guangcheng is a sad state of affairs – it appears that he is being used by pro-life advocates in an attempt to commandeer the U.S.’ human rights policy in China.  To the extent that Chen is not a pawn, well, it didn’t have to end this way.  What’s unfortunate is that Chen’s behavior sets the tone for other activists trying to escape China, fearing for their life.  Will the United States government be willing to take that risk again, especially if a Democrat is still in the Executive Office?  Likely “the Dissident Wears Prada” is not a movie they want to see replayed.

Xi Jinping & Obama – Working Together on the Enviornment


Office of the Press Secretary

June 8, 2013

United States and China Agree to Work Together on Phase Down of HFCs

Today, President Obama and President Xi agreed on an important new step to confront global climate change.  For the first time, the United States and China will work together and with other countries to use the expertise and institutions of the Montreal Protocol to phase down the consumption and production of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), among other forms of multilateral cooperation.  A global phase down of HFCs could potentially reduce some 90 gigatons of CO2 equivalent by 2050, equal to roughly two years worth of current global greenhouse gas emissions.


The agreement between the United States and China reads as follows:


Regarding HFCs, the United States and China agreed to work together and with other countries through multilateral approaches that include using the expertise and institutions of the Montreal Protocol to phase down the production and consumption of HFCs, while continuing to include HFCs within the scope of UNFCCC and its Kyoto Protocol provisions for accounting and reporting of emissions.


HFCs are potent greenhouse gases used in refrigerators, air conditioners, and industrial applications. While they do not deplete the ozone layer, many are highly potent greenhouse gases. Their use is growing rapidly as replacements for ozone-depleting substances that are being phased out under the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer. Left unabated, HFC emissions growth could grow to nearly 20 percent of carbon dioxide emissions by 2050, a serious climate mitigation concern.

The Montreal Protocol was established in 1987 to facilitate a global approach to combat depletion of the stratospheric ozone layer. Every country in the world is a party to the Protocol, and it has successfully phased out or is in the process of phasing out several key classes of chemicals, including chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs), and halons. The transitions out of CFCs and HCFCs provide major ozone layer protection benefits, but the unintended consequence is the rapid current and projected future growth of climate-damaging HFCs.

For the past four years, the United States, Canada, and Mexico have proposed an amendment to the Montreal Protocol to phase down the production and consumption of HFCs. The amendment would gradually reduce consumption and production and control byproduct emissions of HFCs in all countries, and require reporting in these areas. The amendment includes a financial assistance component for countries that can already access the Protocol’s Multilateral Fund, and leaves unchanged the reporting and accounting provisions of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and Kyoto Protocol on HFC emissions.


President Xi Jinping & President Obama – Press Conference – Sunnylands, CA


Office of the Press Secretary


For Immediate Release                               June 7, 2013





Sunnylands Retreat

Rancho Mirage, California

8:09 P.M. PDT

     PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Everybody ready?  Well, I know we’re a little behind, but that’s mainly because President Xi and I had a very constructive conversation on a whole range of strategic issues, from North Korea to cyberspace to international institutions.  And I’m very much looking forward to continuing the conversation, not only tonight at dinner but also tomorrow.

     But I thought we’d take a quick break just to take a question from both the U.S. and Chinese press.  So what I’ll do is I’ll start with Julie Pace and then President Xi can call on a Chinese counterpart.

     Q    Thank you, Mr. President.  How damaging has Chinese cyber-hacking been to the U.S.?  And did you warn your counterpart about any specific consequences if those actions continue?  And also, while there are obviously differences between China’s alleged actions and your government’s surveillance programs, do you think that the new NSA revelations undermine your position on these issues at all during these talks?


     And President Xi, did —


     PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Why don’t you let the interpreter —


     Q    And President Xi, did you acknowledge in your talks with President Obama that China has been launching cyber attacks against the U.S.?  Do you also believe that the U.S. is launching similar attacks against China?  And if so, can you tell us what any of the targets may have been?  Thank you.


     PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Well, Julie, first of all, we haven’t had, yet, in-depth discussions about the cybersecurity issue.  We’re speaking at the 40,000-foot level, and we’ll have more intensive discussions during this evening’s dinner.


What both President Xi and I recognize is that because of these incredible advances in technology, that the issue of cybersecurity and the need for rules and common approaches to cybersecurity are going to be increasingly important as part of bilateral relationships and multilateral relationships.


In some ways, these are uncharted waters and you don’t have the kinds of protocols that have governed military issues, for example, and arms issues, where nations have a lot of experience in trying to negotiate what’s acceptable and what’s not.  And it’s critical, as two of the largest economies and military powers in the world, that China and the United States arrive at a firm understanding of how we work together on these issues.


But I think it’s important, Julie, to get to the second part of your question, to distinguish between the deep concerns we have as a government around theft of intellectual property or hacking into systems that might disrupt those systems — whether it’s our financial systems, our critical infrastructure and so forth — versus some of the issues that have been raised around NSA programs.

     When it comes to those cybersecurity issues like hacking or theft, those are not issues that are unique to the U.S.-China relationship.  Those are issues that are of international concern.  Oftentimes it’s non-state actors who are engaging in these issues as well.  And we’re going to have to work very hard to build a system of defenses and protections, both in the private sector and in the public sector, even as we negotiate with other countries around setting up common rules of the road.


     And as China continues in its development process and more of its economy is based on research and innovation and entrepreneurship, they’re going to have similar concerns, which is why I believe we can work together on this rather than at cross-purposes.

     Now, the NSA program, as I discussed this morning, is a very limited issue, but it does have broad implications for our society because you’ve got a lot of data out there, a lot of communications that are in cyberspace.  And how we deal with both identifying potential terrorists or criminals, how the private sector deals with potential theft, and how the federal government, state governments, local governments and the private sector coordinate to keep out some of these malicious forces while still preserving the openness and the incredible power of the Internet and the web and these new telecommunications systems — that’s a complicated and important piece of business.  But it’s different from these issues of theft and hacking.

     And every government is then inevitably going to be involved in these issues, just like big companies are going to be involved in these issues.  I mean, you’ve got private companies that have a lot more data and a lot more details about people’s emails and telephone calls than the federal government does.  And if we’re called upon not only to make sure that we’re anticipating terrorist communications but we’re also called upon to work with the private sector to prevent theft out of ATMs, et cetera, then we’re going to have to find ways to deal with this big data in ways that are consistent with our values; in ways that protect people’s privacy, that ensure oversight, and strike the right balance.


     And as I indicated this morning, that’s a conversation that I welcome having.


     PRESIDENT XI:  (As interpreted.)  As President Obama said, in our meeting this afternoon we just briefly touched upon the issue of cybersecurity.  And the Chinese government is firm in upholding cybersecurity and we have major concerns about cybersecurity.


     In the few days before President Obama and I meet today, I note sharp increased media coverage of the issue of cybersecurity.  This might give people the sense or feeling that cybersecurity as a threat mainly comes from China or that the issue of cybersecurity is the biggest problem in the China-U.S. relationship.

The application of new technology is a double-edged sword.  On the one hand, it will drive progress in ensuring better material and cultural life for the people.  On the other hand, it might create some problems for regulators and it might infringe upon the rights of states, enterprises, societies and individuals.

     We need to pay close attention to this issue and study ways to effectively resolve this issue.  And this matter can actually be an area for China and the United States to work together with each other in a pragmatic way.  And I’m happy to learn that within the context of the China-U.S. strategic and economic dialogue, a working group has been established to discuss cybersecurity issues.  So this is an issue that the two sides will continue to discuss.


By conducting good-faith cooperation we can remove misgivings and make information security and cybersecurity a positive area of cooperation between China and the U.S.  Because China and the United States both have a need and both share a concern, and China is a victim of cyber attacks and we hope that earnest measures can be taken to resolve this matter.


Thank you.


Q    I’m with China Central Television and my question for President Xi is, what are the main issues that were discussed in the longer-than-expected meeting this afternoon?  And what are the major areas of consensus that have emerged from the discussion?  And last year, when you were visiting the United States, you raised the concept of the two sides working together to explore what you call a new model of major country relationship, something that is unprecedented in the relationship and that can inspire future generations.  And after this concept was raised, there has been much discussion and comment on it, both in China and the United States and in the world more broadly.  So did you have further discussion on this issue in your meeting this afternoon?


And my question for President Obama is, what will the United States do to contribute to the building of a new model of major country relationship between China and the U.S.?


     PRESIDENT XI:  (As interpreted.)  In the first meeting that I’ve had with President Obama this afternoon, we had an in-depth, sincere and candid discussion on the domestic and foreign policies of China and the United States, on our joint work to build a new model of major country relationship, and our international and regional issues of mutual interest.  And the President and I reached important consensus on these issues.

     I stated very clearly to President Obama that China will be firmly committed to the path of peaceful development and China will be firm in deepening reform and opening up the country wider to the world.  China will work hard to realize the Chinese dream of the great national renewal and will work hard to push forward the noble cause of peace and development for all mankind.

     By the Chinese dream, we seek to have economic prosperity, national renewal and people’s well-being.  The Chinese dream is about cooperation, development, peace and win-win, and it is connected to the American Dream and the beautiful dreams people in other countries may have.


President Obama and I both believe that in the age of economic globalization and facing the objective need of countries sticking together in the face of difficulties, China and the United States must find a new path — one that is different from the inevitable confrontation and conflict between the major countries of the past.  And that is to say the two sides must work together to build a new model of major country relationship based on mutual respect and win-win cooperation for the benefit of the Chinese and American peoples, and people elsewhere in the world.

     The international community looks to China and the United States to deliver this.  When China and the United States work together, we can be an anchor for world stability and the propeller of world peace.


     I stand ready to work with President Obama to expand on all levels of exchanges between the two sides.  I look forward to maintaining close communication with the President through mutual visits, bilateral meetings, exchange of letters and phone calls. And I invited President Obama to come to China at an appropriate time for a similar meeting like this.  And we look forward to visiting each other country.

     At the same time, the two sides will work hard to make progress in the various bilateral mechanisms, such as the strategic and economic dialogue and the high-level consultation on people-to-people exchange.  Also, the Chinese Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Chinese Minister of National Defense will both make visits to the United States within the year.


     Our two sides should also step up exchanges and cooperation in economy and trade, energy, environment, people-to-people, and cultural fields, as well as at the sub-national level, so that we can deepen the shared interests of the two countries and expand them to all areas.

     We should also improve and strengthen the military-to-military relationship between the two countries and promote the building of a new model of military relationship between the two sides.  The two sides should also improve coordination microeconomic policies so that by strengthening cooperation, we can contribute to our respective development at home, and promote strong, sustainable and balanced economic growth in the Asia Pacific region and the world at large.


     And I’m confident in our joint effort to build a new model of major country relationship.  I believe success hinges on the human effort.  Firstly, both sides have the political will to build this relationship.  Secondly, our cooperation in the last 40 years provides a good foundation for us to build on.  Thirdly, between China and the United States, there are over 90 intergovernmental mechanisms which provide the institutional underpinning for our efforts.


     Fourth, there is strong public support for this kind of relationship between China and the United States.  There are 220 pairs of sister provinces, states and cities between China and the U.S.  There are 190,000 Chinese students in the United States, and 20,000 American students in China.


     And 5th, there is enormous scope for future cooperation between China and the U.S.


     Of course, this endeavor is unprecedented and one that will inspire future generations.  So we need to deepen our mutual understanding, strengthen our mutual trust, further develop our cooperation and manage our differences so that we can avoid the traditional path of inevitable confrontation between major countries and really embark on a new path.


The Chinese nation and American nation are great nations, and the Chinese people and American people are great peoples.  As long as we stand high and look far, as long as we make specific progress and accumulate them over time, as long as we maintain confidence and determination, as long as we have wisdom and patience, I’m confident that we will succeed in achieving this historical mission.


     I’m sorry for going too long.  Thank you.

     PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Well, I think President Xi summarized very well the scope of our conversations.  We spoke about some very specific issues — for example, President Xi mentioned the importance of military-to-military communications.  In the past, we’ve had high-level diplomatic communications about economic and strategic issues, but we haven’t always had as effective communications between our militaries.  And at a time when there’s so much activity around the world, it’s very important that we each understand our strategic objectives at the military as well as the political levels.  So that’s an example of concrete progress that can advance this new model of relations between the United States and China.

     So we’ll be taking steps to institutionalize and regularize such discussions.  But more broadly, I think President Xi identified the essence of our discussions in which we shared our respective visions for our countries’ futures and agreed that we’re more likely to achieve our objectives of prosperity and security of our people if we are working together cooperatively, rather than engaged in conflict.


     And I emphasized my firm belief to President Xi that it is very much in the interest of the United States for China to continue its peaceful rise, because if China is successful, that helps to drive the world economy and it puts China in the position to work with us as equal partners in dealing with many of the global challenges that no single nation can address by itself.

     So, for example, neither country by itself can deal with the challenge of climate change.  That’s an issue that we’ll have to deal with together.  China as the largest country, as it continues to develop, will be a larger and larger carbon emitter unless we find new mechanisms for green growth.  The United States, we have the largest carbon footprint per capita in the world; we’ve got to bring down our carbon levels in order to accommodate continued growth.  And so that will translate then into opportunities for specific work around green technologies and research and development, and interactions between our scientists so that we can, together, help advance the goal of a sustainable planet, even as we continue to grow and develop.


     We’ve got a lot of work to do to take these broad understandings down to the level of specifics, and that will require further discussions not only today and tomorrow, but for weeks, months, years to come.  But what I’m very encouraged about is that both President Xi and myself recognize we have a unique opportunity to take the U.S.-China relationship to a new level.  And I am absolutely committed to making sure that we don’t miss that opportunity.

     Thank you very much, everybody.

                             END           8:47 P.M. PDT

Remarks by President Obama & President Xi Jinping After First Day of Meetings


Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release                                June 7, 2013




Sunnylands Retreat

Palm Springs, California

5:21 P.M. PDT


     PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Well, it gives me great pleasure to welcome President Xi back to the United States.  We first met during my visit to China in 2009, and I had the opportunity to welcome him to the Oval Office last year when he was still Vice President and a guest of Vice President Biden’s.

     I think some of you may know that President Xi is no stranger to the United States.  He’s remembered fondly in Iowa, where he once visited and stayed with a local family, and on his trip last year, he had a chance to come to California — including, I understand, going to a Lakers game, which I was very jealous of.  (Laughter.)

     President Xi just took office in March.  Our decision to meet so early, I think, signifies the importance of the U.S.-China relationship.  It’s important not only for the prosperity of our two countries and the security of our two countries, but it’s also important for the Asia Pacific region and important for the world.

     And the importance of this relationship in some ways is reflected with this somewhat unusual setting that we are hosting the President in.  Our thought was that we would have the opportunity for a more extended and more informal conversation in which we were able to share both our visions for our respective countries and how we can forge a new model of cooperation between countries based on mutual interest and mutual respect.  I think both of us agree that continuous and candid and constructive conversation and communication is critically important to shaping our relationship for years to come.


     And for my part, this will give me an opportunity to reiterate how the United States welcomes the continuing peaceful rise of China as a world power and that, in fact, it is in the United States’ interest that China continues on the path of success, because we believe that a peaceful and stable and prosperous China is not only good for Chinese but also good for the world and for the United States.

     Of course, as two of the largest economies in the world, we’re going to have a healthy economic competition, but we also have a whole range of challenges on which we have to cooperate, from a nuclear North Korea — or North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs — to proliferation, to issues like climate change.


     And the United States seeks an international economy and international economic order where nations are playing by the same rules, where trade is free and fair, and where the United States and China work together to address issues like cybersecurity and the protection of intellectual property.


     In addition to the strategic concerns that we share and the economic challenges that each of our countries face, I will continue to emphasize the importance of human rights.  President Xi has spoken of a nation and a people that are committed to continuous self-improvement and progress, and history shows that upholding universal rights are ultimately a key to success and prosperity and justice for all nations.


So I want to again welcome President Xi to the United States.  We’re very glad that he’s here.  Inevitably, there are areas of tension between our two countries, but what I’ve learned over the last four years is both the Chinese people and the American people want a strong, cooperative relationship, and that I think there’s a strong recognition on the part of both President Xi and myself that it is very much in our interest to work together to meet the global challenges that we face.  And I’m very much looking forward to this being a strong foundation for the kind of new model of cooperation that we can establish for years to come.


So welcome, and thank you very much for being here.


PRESIDENT XI:  (As interpreted.)  Honorable President Obama, it’s my great pleasure to meet you.  We’re meeting with each other earlier than people might have expected.  They thought that we might have to wait until the Saint Petersburg G20 summit to meet with each other, but here we are.  I want to thank you for your invitation, and it’s my great pleasure to meet you here at Sunnylands, the Annenberg Estate.


This is a wonderful place, a place of sunshine, and it’s very close to the Pacific Ocean.  And on the other side of the ocean is China.  When I visited the United States last year, I stated that the vast Pacific Ocean has enough space for the two large countries of China and the United States.  I still believe so.


And, Mr. President, we’re meeting here today to chart the future of China-U.S. relations and draw a blueprint for this relationship and continue our cooperation across the Pacific Ocean.


     And this reminds us of what happened over 40 years ago when the leaders of China and the United States, with the strategists’ political courage and wisdom, realized a handshake across the Pacific Ocean and reopened the door of exchanges between China and the United States.  And in the more than 40 years since then, the China-U.S. relationship has gone through winds and rains and it made historical progress.  And our two peoples and the people elsewhere in the world have reaped huge benefits from this.


     And at present, the China-U.S. relationship has reached a new historical starting point.  Our two countries have vast convergence of shared interests, from promoting our respective economic growth at home to ensuring the stability of the global economy; from addressing international and regional hotspot issues to dealing with all kinds of global challenges.  On all these issues, our two countries need to increase exchanges and cooperation.

     And under the new environment, we need to take a close look at our bilateral relationship:  What kind of China-U.S.  relationship do we both want?  What kind of cooperation can our two nations carry out for mutual benefit?  And how can our two nations join together to promote peace and development in the world?  These are things that not just the people in our two countries are watching closely, but the whole world is also watching very closely.

     Both sides should proceed from the fundamental interests of our peoples and bear in mind human development and progress.  We need to think creatively and act energetically so that working together we can build a new model of major country relationship.

President Obama, I look forward to having in-depth communication with you on major strategic issues of common interest to deepen our mutual understanding and to push forward all-round cooperation.  I’m confident that our meeting will achieve positive outcomes and inject fresh momentum into the China-U.S. relationship.

     Thank you.

     PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Thank you very much, everybody.

                        END           5:34 P.M. PDT

China & the Presidential Debate

By , October 23, 2012

On Monday night, the world experienced the third and final presidential debate.  This time, topic was pure foreign policy, or at least it was suppose to be.  Needless to say, China Law & Policy was anxiously watching – China’s rise was supposed to be one of the few subjects to be discussed.

After an hour and twenty minutes, the debate finally turned to China.  With less than ten minutes, each candidate was forced to discuss his policy toward the world’s second largest economy and a rising global power.

Was ten minutes sufficient to discuss a foreign policy matter as important as our economic, military and moral relationship with China?   Absolutely not.  One hopes that the next president has a policy toward China that is more complicated than what can be explained in less than his allotted five minutes.

But in all fairness, the lack of attention to China was likely not a result of ignorance of China’s importance vis-a-vis the United States.  This debate is for the American people and let’s face it, right now the Middle East is at the forefront of most American minds.  For the past few months, Syria, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, or  Libya, have appeared on the front page of major national newspapers; it’s in this region where American lives are on the line on a daily basis; and with all the saber rattling in the region there is a very real fear amongst Americans that the U.S. entanglement in a third war in the region is a possibility.

While we would have liked to have seen more discussion on China, the focus and time spent on the Middle East was necessary.  And hey, China should feel lucky – it got more time than the European debt crisis (0 minutes) which arguably is a much more time-sensitive crisis with severe, global repercussions.

But back to China.  Between the two candidates, there was no clear winner or loser in terms of China.  The only real loser was Bob Schieffer who pivoted to the China topic by saying “Let’s turn to China.  Mr. President what is the U.S.’ biggest national security threat?”  Gee Bob, I wonder who YOU think is the biggest national security threat.  Not surprisingly, neither candidate fell into Bob’s trap.

What was the most interesting aspect of the debate was that it was perhaps the clearest representation of how similar China policy is and has always been between the two parties.  Each candidate began his statement on the importance of the U.S.-China trade dealings and the symbiotic relationship between the two countries.  Neither candidate discussed cutting or changing this mutually dependent relationship.  Instead, each candidate underscored the need for China to “play by the rules” and trade fair – Obama highlighted the many WTO cases his administration has brought, and won against China, and Romney emphasized the need to protect intellectual property.  So in reality, the two China policies were pretty much the same.  Two key differences, and where each candidate lost equal points, were the following:

  • Romney declaring China a currency manipulator.  Romney has promised to declare China a currency manipulator on his first day in office.  But what he doesn’t mention is that this declaration is largely symbolic – like Amtrak declaring May 10 National Train Day – it’s sort of self-serving.   As Bloomberg noted in a great article about this last week, presidential declaration of currency manipulation does nothing.  All it would do would be for the Secretary of the Treasury to analyze whether the president’s claim is true using a specific formula.  If it is, then the Treasury Secretary is required to work with the International Monetary Fund to negotiate a solution with the offending nation.  There is no guidance about what to do if negotiations fail.  So basically, Romney’s plan is to do what is currently being done – negotiating with China to limit its currency manipulation.
  • Obama highlighting the need for government to support the green tech industry.  Obama reinforced the need for government funding for industries like green tech so as to compete with China.  Romney was critical of government’s role and thought that funding of industries should be left to business and venture capitalists.  China Law & Policy has long maintained that government policies and funding of green technology is important in maintaining any competitive advantage over China.  (See How China Beat the U.S. and Became the New Green Tech Giant).  But what Obama failed to mention is that one of the bills that could have kept us in competition with China – the Climate Change Bill – failed to pass a Democratic-controlled Senate (after passing the Democratic House).

On China – Same, Same but Different

Missing from the discussion was any mention of the Senkaku/Diaoyutai islands, the U.S. military’s abysmal relations with the Chinese military, reasserting US power in the region, potential Chinese cyberattacks, or human rights.

In the end, the debate did little to distinguish between the two candidates in terms of China.  Anyone who is an undecided because of China issues will likely stay that way.

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