The U.S. and China This Week
Week of July 25, 2003
The U.S. and China This Week
Politics Takes a Backseat for Blair in China
British Prime Minister Tony Blair was in China this week, the
fourth leg of a whirlwind tour that included stops in the U.S., Japan, South
Korea, Mainland China and Hong Kong. Blair's trip to China, his first in five
years, took place amidst domestic scandal at home, a worsening situation on
the Korean peninsula, and political crisis in Hong Kong.
Blair held talks with Chinese leaders on North Korea, in which
he praised Chinese diplomatic efforts and growing Chinese participation in
world affairs. Blair also gently raised the democracy issue with regard to
Hong Kong. Blair was quoted by the BBC as saying, "There are proposals
to move toward greater democracy in Hong Kong
obviously we support that.
I hope we can get that process of change back on track." Talks also touched
on reconstruction in Iraq and Indo-Pakistani relations. Yet, politics largely
took a back seat to trade and investment, as evidenced in the consortium of
Britain's business elite that accompanied the Prime Minister to China. The
group of executives represented London financial firms, oil giants and engineering
firms, and drug maker GlaxoSmithKline. The primacy of trade and investment
was further evidenced in a high-profile signing of an agreement between P&O,
Denmark's Maersk, and China Ocean Shipping Company (COSCO), which was attended
by Blair and Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao. P&O, a British ports firm, announced
an $800m investment in conjunction with its Chinese and Danish partners to
build a container terminal in the China's northern port of Qingdao.
Among EU countries, Great Britain is China's second biggest
trading partner, with a trade volume of 7bn pounds in 2002. The Daily Telegraph
(London) quoted the Chinese Premier as telling Blair and a delegation of executives
from British Petroleum, Shell, and leading banks that he "hopes that
in three to five years we can expand this trade figure to pounds 9 billion
this is a modest target." Britain currently runs a trade deficit with
China, but it is also the biggest investor in China among EU countries.
Symbolism in Domestic Politics
CNN's senior China Analyst, Willy Wo-Lap Lam, has pointed
out that last week's move by Hu Jintao and his political allies, such as
Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, to abolish the annual top-level meetings at
the summer resort of Beidaihe constitute "a brilliant move to underscore
their determination to break with the past." Since the early 1950's,
esoteric groups of top Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and military leaders,
as well as retired party elders, have met at annually at Beidaihe in July
to discuss "affairs of the state." In reality, the "informal
discussion sessions" held in the luxurious beach bungalows amounted
to "behind the scenes skullduggery and back-stabbing..." says
While reporting on the incident has focused on the money-saving
aspects of the policy change, many analysts and commentators see the move
as testament to Hu's determination to "curtail the rule of personality"
and "run the party and country according to law and institutions"
(anonymous Beijing academic). Others hail the policy as indicative of a
"new style" of doing things, also reflected, for example, in Chinese
Premier Wen Jiabao's decision to eschew the presidential suite and travel
around with aids in a minivan during his recent visit to Hong Kong.
Domestic advocates for reform as well as China watchers abroad
are interpreting these largely symbolic actions as a sign of Hu's willingness
to steer the country toward long-overdue political reforms. They assert
that Hu is testing the waters, moving ever so delicately toward announcing
"democracy within the party," widely believed to be the next,
safe step toward greater transparency and leeway to choose leaders within
U.S.-China Relations: On-Going Debate Over Outsourcing
High-tech R&D to China
In June, Senator Joe Lieberman's office weighed in on what
is becoming an increasingly front-page-worthy issue: the national security
implications of outsourcing high-tech R&D to the PRC. The white paper
his office published, entitled National Security Aspects of the Global
Migration of the U.S. Semiconductor Industry, explains that "East
Asian countries are leveraging market forces through their national trade
and industrial policies to drive a migration of semiconductor manufacturing
to that region, particularly China." The implication is that China
is leveraging access to its market to obtain sensitive high-tech know-how
so it can improve its defense capability vis-à-vis the United States.
The paper also asserts that "relying on integrated circuits fabricated
outside the U.S. is not an acceptable national security option."
For major IT firms the debate centers much less on matters
of national security and more on matters of national prosperity. From
their perspective, whoever wins the Chinese market wins the world. This
is why throughout the 1990's U.S. companies were willing to accept the
risks involved in entering into joint ventures with Chinese partners in
exchange for market access. They had no choice, as the joint venture requirement
was codified in Chinese law. So imperative was it to gain market access,
multinationals were willing to expose themselves to the rampant corruption,
overstaffing, management headaches, and other risks inherent in Chinese
business culture. They were even willing to accept technology transfer
requirements, i.e. less control over their intellectual property.
Today, this debate is taking on new life following China's
accession to the WTO. Under WTO rules and regulations, China must discontinue
requiring technology transfer as a prerequisite for market access. Under
the new system, multinationals can opt to set up wholly foreign owned
enterprises that will allow them to covet their intellectual property
and minimize their investment risks while still gaining market share.
By implication, China's ability to leverage market share for dual-use
technological know-how will be reduced.
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views expressed herein are those of the writers and editors
do not reflect the views of USCPF itself.
Last Updated: 5 December 2001