Posts tagged: Obama

Xi Jinping & Obama – Working Together on the Enviornment

THE WHITE HOUSE

Office of the Press Secretary

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
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.

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

THE WHITE HOUSE

Office of the Press Secretary

________________________________________________________________

For Immediate Release                               June 7, 2013

 

REMARKS BY PRESIDENT OBAMA

AND PRESIDENT XI JINPING OF THE PEOPLE’S REPUBLIC OF CHINA

AFTER BILATERAL MEETING

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

THE WHITE HOUSE

Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release                                June 7, 2013

REMARKS BY PRESIDENT OBAMA

AND PRESIDENT XI JINPING OF THE PEOPLE’S REPUBLIC OF CHINA

BEFORE BILATERAL MEETING

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

Xi-Obama Agenda: Time to Talk Press Freedom?

Sunnylands’ golf course – will this lady be President Xi’s caddy?

President Obama and China’s new president, Xi Jinping (pronounced See Gin-ping) have much to discuss in their two days of informal meetings scheduled to begin Friday in Sunnylands, California.  Economic ties, cyber-espionage, North Korea, the United States’ “pivot” to Asia, will all likely be on the agenda.

One small critical item that needs to be on that agenda: China’s increasingly hostile treatment of foreign journalists, especially those foreign journalists whose stories the Chinese government does not like.

Freedom of the press is limited for the Chinese domestic media.  The Chinese government still supports certain state-run media outlets which serve as its mouthpiece and even the independent, commercial media is subject to censorship, including daily instructions on what not to report.  It likely comes as a shock to the Chinese government that it cannot control the foreign press in quite the same way.

But that doesn’t mean it does not try.  Over the past year, in response to critical articles and coverage, the Chinese government has attempted to censor the press with something that many fear most: a denial of a journalist visa during the annual renewal period or a visa renewal that is conveniently not processed.  In 2012 alone, four journalists, Al Jazeera’s Melissa Chan, the Washington Post’s Andrew Higgins, the New York Times’ Philip Pan and also Chris Buckley, have either been forced to leave China or not allowed to enter because of visa issues.

Buckley’s visa problems are likely attributable to his colleague, David Barboza’s hard-hitting series on the then Vice Premier Wen Jiabao’s family’s inordinate amounts of wealth.  Although Barboza’s visa was renewed, when Buckley’s visa expired on December 31, 2012, even though he put in for a renewal months prior, the Chinese government was still processing his paper work.  Without a valid visa, Buckley and his family were forced to leave China.  As of today – six months later – Buckley is still reporting from Hong Kong and waiting on his visa.

China’s visa vendetta diplomacy may seem minor but it doesn’t have to stay that way.  Right now, the Chinese government has decided to deal with recalcitrant foreign journalists by not renewing their visas or in some cases toying with their visas (in a 2012 survey, the Foreign Correspondents Club of China found that a third of its members surveyed stated that they had difficulty renewing visas.  The majority of those journalists believed – or in some cases were told – that their difficulty was a result of specific reporting).

But each one of these reporters are also subject to Chinese law, including Chinese criminal law.  Articles 102 to 112 of the Criminal Law criminalize behavior that is a threat to national security.  In particular, Articles 105 and 111 are commonly used to censor dissent and carry prison terms of 3 years, 5 years, 10, life or death depending on the severity of the circumstances.

  •             Article 105: “Whoever instigates the subversion of the political power of the state and overthrow the socialist system through spreading rumors, slandering, or other ways….”
  •             Article 111: “Whoever steals, secretly gathers, purchases, or illegally provides state secrets or intelligence for an organization, institution, or personnel outside the country….”

Article 4 of the Regulations of the People’s Republic of China on News Coverage by Permanent Offices of Foreign Media Organizations and Foreign Journalists (“Regulations”) makes clear that foreign journalists are subject to China’s laws, including its criminal law.  Although the Regulations were amended in 2008 to take out specific prohibitions against endangering China’s national security and using foul means to carry out news coverage (see Article 14 of the earlier regulations here), the fact that these provisions were deleted does not shield foreign journalists from those provisions of the Criminal Law dealing with the same issues – Articles 105 and 111.

As the cases against Stern Hu – a naturalized Australian business man and Rio Tinto executive – and Xue Feng – a naturalized U.S. citizen and geologist – demonstrate, China will bring criminal charges against foreign citizens. Hu, whose case began as a “state secrets” case, was given 10 years; Xue was given 8 years in his “state secrets” case.

So far, the Obama administration has remained publicly silent about China’s attempted censorship – through the visa process – of American journalists and American media companies.  Hopefully there is behind the scenes discussions about this issue and that it will be discussed during the next two days.

If the issue is not raised and highlighted as a priority, that silence will come with a price.  As foreign journalists continue to write hard-hitting exposes on China, the Chinese government will begin to realize that its visa vendetta diplomacy has not had the intended effect and might resort to another tool in its tool box against foreign journalists – China’s vague and expansive “endangering national security” provisions of its Criminal Law.

Call Me Maybe: Obama Telephones China’s New President

By , March 14, 2013

THE WHITE HOUSE

Office of the Press Secretary

________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

March 14, 2013

 

Readout of the President’s Phone Call with Chinese President Xi Jinping

 

The President called Chinese President Xi Jinping today to congratulate him on his new position and to discuss the future of the U.S.-China relationship. The President underscored his firm commitment to increasing practical cooperation to address Asia’s and the world’s most pressing economic and security challenges. Both leaders agreed on the value of regular high-level engagement to expand cooperation and coordination.  The President noted that Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew will visit China next week and that Secretary of State John Kerry will also visit Beijing in the coming weeks as part of his upcoming trip to Asia. The President highlighted the threat to the United States, its allies, and the region from North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs and stressed the need for close coordination with China to ensure North Korea meets its denuclearization commitments. President Obama welcomed China’s G-20 commitment to move towards a more flexible exchange rate, and he underscored the importance of working together to expand trade and investment opportunities and to address issues such as the protection of intellectual property rights. In this context, the President highlighted the importance of addressing cyber-security threats, which represent a shared challenge. The two leaders agreed to maintain frequent and direct communication.

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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.

Why So Secretive? US-China Legal Experts Dialogue

Who received the invitation to the Legal Experts Dialogue?

One would think that after a six-year hiatus, the resumption of the U.S.-China Legal Experts Dialogue would receive a little more fanfare than a cursory four-sentence press release from the Department of State (“DOS”), issued on June 6, a mere two days before the big event.

For the past two years, almost every high-level discussion between the U.S. and China has raised the issue of the Legal Experts Dialogue (“LED”), with the goal of resuming the talks (last held in 2005).  When President Obama visited China in November 2009, the two countries’ Joint Statement directly stated that “[t]he United States and China decided to convene the U.S.-China Legal Experts Dialogue at an early date.”  Ditto for the Joint Statement after President Hu’s visit to Washington, D.C. in January 2011.

It wasn’t until April 28, 2011, at the Human Rights Dialogue, that anyone provided somewhat more of a hard date.  At a press conference, Assistant Secretary of State Michael Posner announced that the U.S. and China finally agreed to convene the LED in “June 2011.”  This vague date was reiterated a few weeks later in the statement issued at the conclusion of the Strategic & Economic Dialogue.

So why the lame press release about the LED?  It’s been a priority item in the U.S.’s negotiations with China.  One would think that finally being able to achieve the goal of actually having the LED and especially of hosting it in the midst of the Chinese government’s crackdown on rights-defending lawyers, would be a feather in DOS’s cap; something that they would want the world to know about.

Why remain mum on who these “experts” are and what they will be discussing?  Instead, DOS only states that there will be “government and non-government experts” who will “explore key legal issues of mutual interest.”  Could DOS be more vague?

There are occasions when the U.S. might achieve more by pressuring China behind the scenes.  In the case of Xu Zhiyong in 2009, it looks like that approached worked.  But the LED is a completely different beast – the existence of the Dialogue has long been made public and given that there will be non-government experts, it does not appear that there will be high-level discussions here on par with Hu-Obama talks.  It sounds like it is one group of lawyers talking to another.  Given some of the issues that have sprung up in the past few months, including the assault on public interest lawyers, China’s indigenous innovation policy, various WTO cases, and the criminal trials of U.S. citizens, it would be interesting to know what is on the agenda.

But in general, I do not hold out hope that the LED will produce any earth-shattering results, if it produces results at all.  While DOS has stated that there will be “in-depth discussions and practical cooperation on the rule of law” (yeah, I don’t know what that means either), it’s basically two days of meetings among strangers with translators in between.  How much can really be achieved?

And maybe that’s why the U.S. hasn’t given the LED the credit one would think it is due.  Maybe even DOS realizes that bringing over a delegation of Chinese lawyers and legal experts for a mere two days is likely a waste of taxpayer’s money.

I do think that more open dialogue between the U.S. and China is a good thing.  But there are better ways to increase the lines of communication between the legal communities in the two nations and assist China with improving upon its commitment to a rule of law.  Identifying and inviting reform-minded Chinese lawyers to the United States for a longer period of time – anywhere between three months to a year – is a better use of money.  Through that experience, a Chinese lawyer can see how our legal system functions, see the good and the bad, interact with U.S. lawyers, and determine which aspects if any should be replicated in China.

These types of sustained contact are what can best assist China with implementing a rule of law.  A two-day conference likely cannot.  But unfortunately, we won’t really know because nothing about the LED is publicly available.

Obama’s Chinese Youth Vote – Filled with Hope As Well As Suggestions

By , November 15, 2009

Originally Posted on the Huffington Post.

Chinese artist's rendition of Barack Obama with Cultural Revolution Slogan "Serve the People"

Chinese artist's rendition of Barack Obama with Cultural Revolution Slogan "Serve the People"

Beijing, China – A certain excitement has lighted the streets of Beijing in anticipation of President Barack Obama’s maiden visit here this week.  Not only has the capital experienced two days of clear blue skies, a rarity in a city that is usually encased in a yellow, gritty smog during the cold winter months, but there is an electricity in the air as everyone discusses President Obama’s visit – from the formal news casters on TV analyzing the potential agenda to the famously earthy taxi drivers complaining about the potential traffic nightmare.

But like President Obama’s fan base back home, the young in China are especially keen on his visit.  And the President is acutely aware of this fact.  On Monday, his first day in China, President Obama will meet with a group of Chinese college and graduate students in Shanghai, to listen to their opinions and answer their questions.  What do these students think of President Obama?  What questions or recommendations will they have for the President?

In talking to a group of graduate students from the China University of Political Science and Law, one of Beijing’s most prestigious universities, President Obama’s rise to power has filled them with the hope that the impossible, or at least the improbable, is achievable.  “He gives young people encouragement.  If you work hard, you can obtain a high position….it’s the American Dream.” said Xie Jinbao (pronounced Syeh Gin-bao).    “For many, it is very dream-like” explained Liu Huisheng (pronounced Leo Hway-sheng), while cautioning that only those who care about politics have been paying attention.  “In general though my friends are neutral [about President Obama].”

In pinpointing the source of this hope, the Chinese students spoke more frankly than their American counterparts on

China University of Political Science and Law

China University of Political Science and Law

one subject in particular: President Obama’s race.  “He’s America’s first black president” Li Siming (pronounced Lee Tsi-ming) offered excitedly, “it makes young people very excited.”   “America was able to elect a black president, it shows that it has a certain openness” said Dong Jianjun (pronounced Dong Geeann-june).  The students also derived inspiration from the multicultural nature of the President’s cabinet, mentioning by name, at least their Chinese names, the appointment of Chinese-Americans including Commerce Secretary Gary Locke, Energy Secretary Steven Chu and Cabinet Secretary Chris Lu.  “In China, this could never happen; a foreigner could never work in the administration” said Xie Jinbao.

For the students, many who have little recognition of a world before President George W. Bush, President Obama represents a new approach to the global order, an approach that they eagerly look to be a part of.  “He is much better than Bush” Xie Jinbao said.  “Bush believed in unilateralism, but Obama supports multilateralism.”  At a time when many western observers question China’s commitment as a collaborator on the world stage, Li Siwei (pronounced Lee Tsi-way) seemed to imply her generation’s eagerness for greater responsibility: “Obama is willing to work with other countries, there will be more cooperation.”

But even though the term superstar was used repeatedly to describe President Obama and student Liang Xuanjing (pronounced Leeang Syuan-jing) was in awe of President Obama’s charisma, there were words of caution.  “Confucius had a saying ‘If a person is too perfect, we will have doubts’” Liu Huisheng said, noting that perhaps President Obama’s speeches are a bit “too perfect.”  Dong Jianjun echoed this sentiment: “Compared to presidents like Roosevelt or Kennedy, Obama has similarly great charisma…but we have yet to see if his [Obama’s] policies will be effective.”  Like many Americans, these Chinese students are looking for President Obama to follow through on the promises of his speeches.  In a relationship as close as the one between China and the U.S., President Obama’s actions, or lack of action, directly impact China and many of these Chinese students’ futures.

Not surprisingly though, many of the topics that the students would like Presidents Obama and Hu Jintao (pronounced Who Gin-tao) to discuss are the same as their U.S. contemporaries – international trade and the ever escalating tariff war topped the list for these students.  But so did the issue of climate change and energy efficiency as well as the economic recovery.

China’s youth are not that different from the young back home – they share the same hope that Presidents Obama and Hu can make the world a better place and they express an eagerness for a new world order where the U.S. and China can work through their issues.  But like their American brethren, if Presidents Obama and Hu cannot solve many of today’s problems, including the economic crisis, climate change, and an increasingly cantankerous trade relationship, it will be their generation that will be left holding the bag.

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