The U.S.-China Policy Foundation




  • President Hu's Official State Visit to Washington

January 22, 2011- President Hu Jintao’s state visit to Washington provided a renewed platform for both countries to make progress on a wide array of issues. From the time Hu arrived on Tuesday, January 18, the Obama administration pushed fervently for progress in negotiations regarding currency, the growing trade imbalance, human rights and China’s military stance. On the other hand, Hu, who is scheduled to be replaced by a new President within the next two years, took a more subdued approach. In response to criticism, he continued to call for mutual respect between the two powers and focusing on “harmony” in their interactions.

President Hu arrived on Tuesday and had a private dinner with President Obama that evening. On Wednesday, he was honored at a formal arrival ceremony, after which he attended bilateral meetings and a joint news conference, finishing with a state dinner at the White House.

After attending the luncheon that USCPF helped to host on Thursday, President Hu flew to Chicago. There, he observed his country at work on U.S. soil, visiting a Chinese-owned auto parts plant and touring the Confucius Institute in Chicago, one of several cultural centers that China has established around the world.

Especially compared with previous visits, this visit was deemed a success. The U.S.-China Policy Foundation was honored to contribute to President Hu’s experience here and hopes both powers will continue to engage one another and effect positive change moving forward.

  • Second round of Strategic & Economic Dialogue held in Beijing

    May 25, 2010- The second round of high level talks between U.S. and Chinese officials wrapped up with several modest agreements on trade and energy issues, but no major agreements on international policy issues. Held in Beijing on May 24-25, the dialogue was expected to cement political trust and expand cooperation between the two countries.

    Secretary of State Hillary Clinton Secretary of Treasury Timothy Geithner Clinton led a delegation of more than 200 officials from the Obama administration to participate talks with their Chinese counterparts, headed by State Councilor Dai Bingguo, who oversees Chinese foreign policy, and Vice Premier Wang Qishan, who oversees economic policy.

    While little progress was made concerning winning China’s backing for international measures against North Korea over the sinking of a South Korean warship, the U.S. pressed China on several other issues, including ensuring "fair access" for foreign companies. China also pledged to submit a revised offer to join the World Trade Organization’s agreement on government procurement by 2010.

    China stressed the risks both economies face from Europe's debt woes, and the effect the crisis may have on China's currency policy. Chinese leaders and media also continued to express concern about whether the U.S. was veering into economic protectionism, and whether the Obama administration allowed domestic politics to influence foreign policy.

  • Currency report delayed

    April 4, 2010- U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner delayed a scheduled April 15 report to Congress on exchange-rate policies, sidestepping a decision on whether to accuse China of manipulating the value of the yuan and signaling that the Obama administration prefers to resolve matters diplomatically. The delay came as Chinese President Hu Jintao prepared to visit Washington, DC for a nuclear summit April 12-13.

  • Google attempts to circumvent censorship

    March 23, 2010- Google attempted to circumvent censorship by rerouting mainland servers through Hong Kong. This aggravates relations between US and China, with White House expressing disappointment with China, at the lack of resolution.

  • Obama meets Dalai Lama, angering China

    February 18, 2010- President Barack Obama hosted exiled Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama at the White House Thursday, drawing an angry reaction from China and risking further damage to already strained Sino-U.S. ties.

    While defying Beijing's demands to cancel the meeting, the White House took pains to keep the encounter low-key, barring media coverage of the meeting and only posting an official photo on the White House website of the two men.

    The White House said Obama "commended the Dalai Lama's ... commitment to nonviolence and his pursuit of dialogue with the Chinese government." Obama encouraged China and the Dalai Lama's envoys to continue efforts to resolve their differences through negotiations, despite recent talks having yielded little progress.The White House said Obama and the Dalai Lama also "agreed on the importance of a positive and cooperative relationship between the United States and China."

  • U.S. announces $6.4B in arms sales to Taiwan

    January 30, 2010- In a move bound to anger China, the United States intends to sell $6.4 billion in arms to Taiwan, including about $2.85 billion in missiles.

    The package includes a variety of U.S.-made weapons systems, including 60 Black Hawk helicopters (totaling $3.1 billion), 114 advanced Patriot air defense missiles; a pair of Osprey mine-hunting ships; and dozens of advanced communications systems.


  • Obama travels to Asia

    November 17, 2009- President Barack Obama visited China during his four-nation Asia trip from Nov. 12 to 19 which will also took him to Japan, Singapore and the Republic of Korea.

    Obama met with Chinese President Hu Jintao and other high-ranking Chinese leaders to discuss a wide range of policy issues. The two leaders released a lengthy joint statement calling for more collaboration on agriculture, global health issues, and counter-terrorism, as well more student exchanges and broader military cooperation.

    Beyond committing to pursuing continued cooperation between the United States and China, China remained inflexable on the majority of major issues of interest to the U.S. Hu did not publicly discuss the possibility of sanctions against Iran, made no nod toward changing the value of China’s currency, and made only a joint statement that bluntly acknowledged that the two countries “have differences” regarding human rights.

    Furthermore, Obama avoided public meetings with Chinese liberals, free press advocates and even ordinary Chinese, showing unusual deference to the Chinese leadership’s aversions to these kind of exchanges.


  • Obama cancels meeting with Dalai Lama

    October 2009- President Barack Obama has refused to meet the Dalai Lama in Washington in a move to curry favour with the Chinese prior to his November trip to China.

    Obama's decision dismayed human rights and Tibetan support groups, who said he had made an unnecessary concession to the Chinese, who regard the Dalai Lama as a political threat to Chinese sovereignty, despite his calls for autonomy rather than independence for Tibet.

    The move represents a shift in position for the president on the Tibetan issue. In April 2008, Obama joined Hillary Clinton, then his rival for the Democratic nomination and now his Secretary of State, in calling on George W. Bush to boycott the Beijing Olympics opening ceremony in protest at the bloody repression of a popular uprising in Tibet.


  • China and India sign new climate change agreement

    October 21, 2009- India signed an agreement with China, the world’s biggest polluter, to increase cooperation on tackling climate change after the countries rejected calls from rich nations to set binding caps on carbon emissions.

    The memorandum of understanding was signed in New Delhi by India’s environment minister Jairam Ramesh and Xie Zhenhua, vice minister at China’s National Development and Reform Commission. The agreement comes ahead of a United Nations climate-change summit in Copenhagen in December.

    More than 190 nations are set to gather in Copenhagen starting Dec. 7 for the final round of talks on a climate accord to replace the Kyoto Protocol, expiring in 2012. China and India say wealthy countries including the U.S. should lower emissions by 40 percent from 1990 levels by 2020 and share technology with poorer nations to help them fight climate change.

  • Obama to visit China in November

    October 8, 2009- U.S. President Barack Obama will visit China in mid-November in a four-nation Asia trip from Nov. 12 to 19 which will also take him to Japan, Singapore and the Republic of Korea, the White House said on Wednesday.

    Obama is due to be in Japan on Nov. 12-13. Following his visit to Tokyo, Obama will attend the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Singapore before heading to China and South Korea, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs told reporters.

  • U.S. and China renew talks during Strategic & Economic Dialogue in Washington

    July 28, 2009: At the opening of the inaugural Strategic & Economic Dialogue in Washington, DC on Monday, President Obama emphasized the unprecedented significance of U.S.-China relations, saying “the relationship between the United States and China will shape the 21st century, which makes it as important as any bilateral relationship in the world.”

    Chinese State Councilor Dai Bingguo, who oversees foreign policy, and Vice Premier Wang Qishan, who oversees economic policy, will be in Washington for meetings Monday and Tuesday with Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

    The talks are a broader version of the more economic-oriented dialogue that was started in 2005 under President George W. Bush, and led, with a more economic tilt, by Henry M. Paulson Jr., Treasury secretary under Bush. While former dialogues were primarily intended to address bilateral economic issues such as the dollar-RMB exchange rate, the Obama administration plans to discuss several issues with the Chinese delegation, seeking cooperation not only on economic matters but also on key issues such as climate change, nuclear proliferation and transnational threats.

    The U.S. has been greatly concerned about narrowing the trade gap with China. Although the Chinese trade surplus with the U.S. is reduced this year, the U.S. officials are expected to emphasize that China cannot continue to rely on exports to the U.S. to drive its continued economic growth, and that China needs to transition to a focus on domestic consumption.

    Among other priorities, the Obama administration is also looking to Beijing to put pressure on an increasingly antagonistic North Korean regime and to convince China to agree to curb its emissions of carbon dioxide ahead of a key climate-change conference in Copenhagen in December.

    Chief among the Chinese concerns is the issue of trade protectionism, which has been an increasing problem since late 2008 and has severely impaired Chinese exports. The Chinese delegation is expected to remind the U.S. of the rise in protectionism and urge the U.S. to end the practice in the interests of accelerating the global economic recovery.

  • Hu skips G-8 summit as Uighur riots escalate in Western China

    July 8, 2009: Chinese President Hu Jintao canceled plans to participate in the Group of Eight summit in Italy and flew home early Wednesday after reports of increasingly chaotic riots throughout China's far western region of Xinjiang. Clashes erupted Sunday between the region's Muslim Uighur minority and the dominant Han Chinese, leaving an estimated 156 dead, according to government reports. Hu's withdrawal from the Group of Eight summit, reported by state media, signaled his government's growing concern about the worst ethnic violence in China in decades.

    A written statement from China’s foreign ministry said that Hu was returning to Beijing “given the current situation in Xinjiang,” where Sunday’s riots by ethnic Uighurs were followed Monday and Tuesday by reprisal attacks on the part of ethnic Hans. President Hu had planned to meet with President Obama at the Italy summit to discuss climate change and other issues.

    The conflict erupted after what started as a peaceful demonstration by Uighurs apparently spun out of control. Since then, protests have spread from the regional capital of Urumqi to Kashgar, Yili, Aksu and other major cities in Xinjiang. The Chinese government reportedly deployed police and paramilitary troops, closed mosques, instituted a curfew, and rounded up at least 1,400 people.

    The violence underscores the extent of the tension and mistrust between Uighurs and Han Chinese in the region. After three days of deadly ethnic violence, a Communist Party leader from the region pledged Wednesday to seek the death penalty for anyone behind the strife. Urumqi party boss Li Zhi told state media reporters many suspected instigators of the riots had been arrested and that most were students. At a news conference, Li said that nine of the 156 known dead remained unidentified, their bodies burned too badly for families to recognize them. The ethnicity of those who died was not officially specified, but several media reports have suggested that the great majority of the photographs were of Han victims.


  • Chinese government delays mandate on filtering software

    July 1, 2009: One day before a government-set deadline that would have required all personal computers sold in China to be accompanied by a controversial content-filtering application, state media reported Tuesday that the government would indefinitely postpone a mandate requiring the inclusion of the Green Dam-Youth Escort software.

    While the Chinese government has said the software is chiefly a way for parents to protect children from pornography, many outside parties, have expressed concern about the software. Critics of the application say it is capable of restricting PC users from viewing Web sites containing "forbidden" political content.

    Organizations that had expressed their objections included the Business Software Alliance, Consumer Electronics Association the United States Chamber of Commerce and the EU Chamber of Commerce. A June 24 letter from the U.S. Department of Commerce to the Chinese government listed "numerous concerns raised by global technology companies, Chinese citizens, and the worldwide media about the stability of the software, the scope and extent of the filtering activities and its security weaknesses."

  • U.S. files WTO complaint against Chinese export restrictions

June 24, 2009: U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk announced Tuesday that the U.S. was filing a complaint with the World Trade Organization against China for restricting exports of raw materials necessary for the production of steel aluminum and chemicals through quotas, duties and other barriers.

The filing is the first by the United States since Obama promised aggressive action in his campaign to defend the interests of American manufacturers in the global economy. As he announced the complaint, Kirk reiterated that enforcing trade agreements would be a top administration priority. “China's policies on these raw materials seem to be a giant thumb on the scale in favor of Chinese producers. It's our job to make sure we remove that thumb from that scale,” Kirk said.

The Obama administration had tried to address the disputed practices directly with Beijing, as the Bush administration did during the last two years, but decided to file a complaint when it became clear additional talks would yield no results.

Since China joined the WTO in 2001, Washington has filed seven cases against Beijing. China has filed four cases against the United States.


  • Controversy over new Chinese filtering software mandate

June 22, 2009: According to a May 19 directive issued by the Chinese government, all computers shipped into the country after July 1 will be required to include the Green Dam- Youth Escort program, which monitors Web site access.

The U.S. formally lodged a complaint with China on its plan, citing concern about any attempt to restrict the free flow of information. Computers loaded with Green Dam block sites with pornographic images and text as well as references to the Falun Gong spiritual organization and other objectionable groups.

Concerns that the filtering software mandate will create potential technical and trade problems for U.S. computer makers seeking to sell in China have prompt representatives of the U.S. embassy to meet officials at China’s industry and information technology and commerce ministries on June 19. The outcry over the filtering plan prompted the Chinese government to clarify that, although the surveillance software will ship with every computer, it does not have to be used.

Last week, the Chinese government blocked some Google Inc. search links to stop the spread of pornography amid a government crackdown on obscene material on the Internet. Google responded to the warning with a statement assuring Chinese officials the company will take “all necessary steps” to remove pornography from its Chinese language portal, Google.cn.

  • China cuts tariffs to spur exports, increases tobacco tax to boost revenue

June 22, 2009: China will abolish export duties on some grains and industrial products and cut the duties for chemical fertilizers and nonferrous metals from July 1 to promote exports, the Ministry of Finance said in a statement Monday.

The cut follows several increases in export tax rebates to support overseas sales amid the global downturn. Since last August, China has increased export tax rebates seven times. Chinese exports declined 26.4 percent in May from a year; year to date (January-May 2009), Chinese exports totals were down 21.8 percent from 2008 levels.

China has also increased taxes on tobacco products in an effort to increase government revenue, according to a joint statement by the Chinese Ministry of Finance and the State Administration of Taxation (SAT). Taxes went up on cigarette cartons costing 70 yuan or more to 56 percent from the previous 45 percent rate, while tax for cigarette cartons costing less than 70 yuan rose from 30 percent to 36 percent.

China has the world's largest population of smokers. According to a report by the China Daily, about 350 million of the country's 1.3 billion citizens were smokers in 2008; about one million Chinese people die of tobacco-related diseases each year.


  • Geithner reassures Chinese investors during trip to Beijing

June 1, 2009: U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner arrived Sunday in Beijing for his first official visit to China. During three days of meetings with Chinese officials, including Chinese President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao, Geithner emphasized the need for the U.S. and China to cooperate to fix the global economic system.

In a speech at Peking University, Geithner said the U.S. would move swiftly to get its debt under control, assuring the Chinese that their vast holdings in federal bonds are safe and that the Obama administration is doing everything it can to preserve the value of the American dollar.

China is the largest holder of United States government debt, owning $768 billion in Treasuries as of March, and a growing number of Chinese officials and economists have expressed concern in recent months that the value of those debt holdings will plunge if inflation takes off or the dollar weakens further because of mounting U.S. deficits.

Geithner is also using trip to encourage the Chinese to implement various economic reforms that will reduce the trade imbalance between the two nations, relying less on exports and developing a broad-based domestic consumer market. If China funnels more of its economic output into its own economy, it would potentially boost manufacturing in the United States because Chinese consumers would begin importing U.S. goods.

He made only the briefest reference to currency issues, a topic of sharp disagreement between the U.S. and China. Geithner said a more flexible exchange-rate regime was particularly important because it would spur more Chinese demand. The Obama administration chose not to cite China as a currency manipulator last month, a fact that disappointed U.S. manufacturers and labor unions.

Geithner also offered strong backing for a bigger Chinese role in international policymaking. “China is already too important to the global economy not to have a full seat at the international table,” he said.


  • China Suspends North Korea Exchanges
June 1, 2009: China suspended government exchanges with North Korea after Kim Jong-Il’s regime last week tested a nuclear device on May 25 and fired six short-range missiles last week, Yonhap News said, citing unidentified diplomatic sources in Beijing.

The report, if confirmed, would be the strongest reaction yet to North Korea’s actions by its biggest ally and trading partner. China's support is widely seen as crucial to resolving the North Korean nuclear crisis because it is one of the few states with an influence on the isolated Stalinist regime in Pyongyang.

China has said it “resolutely opposes” North Korea’s nuclear test, and agreed last week with the U.S., Japan and Russia to work toward a United Nations Security Council resolution censuring the regime. U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who is in Asia for a week-long tour, said on May 29 that “based on what the Chinese government has said publicly, they’re clearly pretty unhappy.”

The U.S. and Japan are seeking a UN Security Council resolution that cuts North Korea’s international financial ties as well as China’s help in persuading it to abandon its nuclear ambitions. The White House said Thursday that China was being "very helpful" in the efforts to censure North Korea over its nuclear and missile tests.

However, even as North Korea has defied the international community, China has emphasized its bond between the two countries, designating 2009 a “Year of Friendship” to mark 60 years of ties.

  • Pelosi calls for cooperation on climate during trip to China
May 28, 2009: Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, met China’s two top leaders on Wednesday to discuss cooperation on energy and environmental problems, and Prime Minister Wen Jiabao said Beijing would join Washington to “push for positive results” at the next global warming summit meeting this fall in Copenhagen.

Speaking at Tsinghua University in Beijing, Pelosi continued the theme of her five-day China trip — that combating global warming represented a new challenge that both governments must tackle jointly. Pelosi called the climate change issue “a game changer in the U.S.-China relationship” and “an opportunity we cannot miss."

Much of the world is looking to the United States and China, which together emit nearly half the world’s climate-changing gases, to find common ground on a new treaty that will reduce pollutants. Despite recent efforts towards cooperation on this important issue, it will be quite some time before a consensus will be reached. Just last week, China issued a new position paper on climate change that rejected any mandatory caps on its emissions and demanded that wealthy countries provide at least .5 percent to 1 percent of their gross domestic product to help developing countries upgrade technology and cope with the results of climate change.

Pelosi’s visit is notable for the lack of controversy it has generated. The California democrat is an outspoken critic of China’s human rights record; last year, Pelosi called for then-President Bush to boycott the opening of the Beijing Olympics. She also visited the Dalai Lama last year and had earlier opposed normal trade relations with China. But ahead of her departure for China, Pelosi said on Capitol Hill she had no plans to raise sensitive issues and would focus instead on green concerns.

  • Obama names ambassador to China

May 18, 2009: President Obama selected Republican Governor Jon Huntsman Jr. of Utah to serve as ambassador to China, in a move consistent with the president’s goal of promoting bipartisanship and his desire to work with China to effectively confront global challenges.

Gov. Huntsman, 49, has deep ties to Asia. Huntsman has served as a deputy trade representative and ambassador to Singapore. Huntsman, who served as co-chair for Sen. John McCain's 2008 presidential campaign, was considered by some as a potential GOP presidential contender in the 2012 election. The governor is a fluent speaker of Mandarin, which he mastered while serving as a Mormon missionary in Taiwan. He and his wife, Mary Kaye, also adopted a daughter from China.

If confirmed by the Senate, Huntsman will be a key figure in the administration's effort to enlist Chinese help in resolving the global financial crisis, cutting greenhouse gasses and containing North Korean nuclear ambitions. Huntsman also will need to deal with growing concern in both countries over China's record $767.9 billion holdings in U.S. Treasury securities.

Huntsman's nomination came only days after a group of U.S. policymakers introduced legislation that would pressure China to raise the value of its currency by threatening higher tariffs on imported goods.


  • Obama meets with Hu at London G-20 summit, agrees to continue SED

April 1, 2009: President Obama met with Chinese President Hu Jintao in London ahead of the G20 economic summit. The two countries also agreed to form a U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue (as opposed to the "Strategic Economic Dialogue" formed under the Bush administration.) The White House says Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner would jointly represent the United States during those talks.

The White House also stated that Obama accepted an invitation to visit China later this year.


  • China expresses additional doubts about the long-term viability of the U.S. dollar

March 24, 2009: In another indication that China is growing increasingly concerned about holding huge dollar reserves, the head of its central bank has called for the eventual creation of a new international currency reserve to replace the dollar. In a paper released Monday, Zhou Xiaochuan, governor of the People’s Bank of China, said a new currency reserve system controlled by the International Monetary Fund could prove more stable and economically viable.


  • China officially becomes top U.S. creditor

March 17, 2009: China consolidated its position as the top creditor to the United States, with $739.6 billion dollars in U.S. Treasury bond holdings as of late January, U.S. government data showed. The US Treasury Department released the monthly figure at a sensitive time, less than a week after Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao expressed concern about the fate of Chinese investments in the United States.


  • Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao voices concern about stability of U.S. dollar

March 13, 2009: Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao expressed concern about the safety of China’s $1 trillion investment in American government debt, the world’s largest such holding, and urged the Obama administration to provide assurances that its investment would keep its value in the face of a global financial crisis. He called on the United States to “maintain its good credit, to honor its promises and to guarantee the safety of China's assets.”

Wen voiced his concerns during a session in which he reaffirmed the comparative health of China's economy and said that his government would take whatever steps were needed to end the China's economic slump.


  • White House meeting with Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi

March 12, 2009: Obama met with visiting Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi at the White House to discuss issues of mutual concern. Yang, who was in the U.S. on a five-day working visit as guest of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, met first with Secretary Clinton and National Security Advisor James Jones before his meeting with President Obama.


  • U.S.-China Navy Confrontation in South China Sea

March 9, 2009: Five Chinese ships maneuvered dangerously close to an unarmed U.S. navy surveillance vessel in the South China Sea, the US government says. U.S. officials said the incident on Sunday came after days of "increasingly aggressive" acts by Chinese ships.

While a Pentagon spokesman stated that China's actions violated international law on respecting other users of the seas, China blamed a U.S. Navy ship for violating international law during a tense confrontation near a Chinese submarine base.

  • Secretary of State Clinton travels to Asia on first international trip

February 15, 2009: Hillary Clinton traveled to Asia on her first trip abroad as Secretary of State. Moving to establish China as a priority, Clinton made her first trip abroad to China and three other Asian nations, breaking the tradition of secretaries of state of visiting Europe first.

In China, Clinton discussed a wide gamut of economic, security and environmental issues, including Beijing's response to the global financial crisis and its role in curbing North Korea's nuclear program, as well as a joint strategy to address global warming and other environmental issues.


  • Geithner's remarks suggest more confrontational stance on China policy

January 23, 2009: In a written comment to the Senate Finance Committee this morning, Treasure Secretary-designate Timothy F. Geithner alleged that China was "manipulating" its currency, a charge that is certain to anger Beijing and possibly prompt it to sell some of its massive reserves of US dollars.

In answer to questions submitted to him by members of the Senate Finance Committee, Geithner wrote "President Obama — backed by the conclusions of a broad range of economists — believes that China is manipulating its currency."He continued, saying “President Obama has pledged as president to use aggressively all the diplomatic avenues open to him to seek change in China's currency."

He noted that while in the Senate, Obama sponsored legislation along with other senators that would overhaul the process for determining what countries are manipulating their currency to gain trade advantages in competition with the United States. That legislation would have authorized a new enforcement process "so countries like China cannot continue to get a free pass for undermining fair trade principles."

Geithner's comments suggest that the Obama administration will take a harder line with China than the previous administration. The Bush administration refused to cite China as a currency manipulator in a report that Congress requires the Treasury Department to prepare twice a year, choosing instead to begin the Strategic Economic Dialogue, high-level discussions that have been held twice a year starting in late 2006. Since the SED began, the Chinese have allowed the yuan to appreciate nearly 20 percent.

The more aggressive position will be popular with organized labor in the United States, a major supporter of Mr. Obama’s presidential campaign, and with many manufacturers who say China is purposely keeping its currency devalued against the dollar and leaving American exports at a competitive disadvantage against lower-priced Chinese goods.

By keeping its yuan artificially low against the dollar, Beijing can make its exports more competitive. Geithner's statement signals that the Obama will take a tougher stance on China than Bush

Do you agree with the shift to a more agressive stance? The USCPF is interested in your opinion. Email us your comments!


  • China Policy Suggestions for the President-elect

(Posted January 16, 2009)
America currently enjoys a relatively stable relationship with China, having just marked the 30th anniversary of the normalization of diplomatic relations last month. The increasingly constructive U.S.-China relationship has proven to be one of the brighter spots of the Bush administration’s foreign policy. In determining whether the U.S. and China can maintain a stable relationship, dialogue and leadership will be the most important factors. The following are a few suggestions to the President-elect regarding Sino-American relations.

Establish Policy Priorities
The President-elect will need to establish a clear and considered approach to dealing with China, mindful of which issues should be priorities. Obama‘s statements during his campaign suggest he plans to take a hard line with the Chinese on several important issues, including trade and human rights. While it is important to stand by his stated positions, he must also be willing to consider how his policies will affect other aspects of U.S. foreign policy. Which is more important, criticizing China’s human rights record or assuring Chinese cooperation in dealing with the North Korean nuclear issue?

Pursue personal relationships with Chinese leaders
In addition, it will be important for Obama to establish and maintain a close relationship with Chinese leadership; President Bush’s personal relationship with Chinese President Hu Jintao was instrumental in allowing the leaders to discuss such sensitive issues as human rights, currency practices, and Taiwan. It will also be important for the next ambassador to China to be both experienced and well-connected; exemplary former appointees have included Ambassadors Leonard Woodcock, James Sasser, and Clark Randt.

Recruit China experts and Asian-Americans to foreign policy positions
Although Obama’s short-term foreign focus will necessarily center on America’s wars in the Iraq and Afghanistan and the conflict between Israel and Palestine, China’s rising influence in global affairs will compel the new administration to establish its policies with respect to China sooner rather than later. While the Obama transition team has yet to announce any individuals who will serve as the president’s advisors on China, it is worth noting the paucity of China experts serving in foreign policy positions during recent years. This scarcity is especially evident in high-level White House advisory positions and positions within the State Department and the National Security Council. Recruiting individuals with direct experience and expertise to serve in these roles will prevent a repeat of the uncertain and abrasive relations characteristic of Bush’s first term in office.

Continue economic cooperation through SED
The U.S. must also continue to work closely with China to mitigate the effects of the global economic crisis. To this end, Obama should continue the biannual Strategic Economic Dialogues  (SED) begun by the Bush administration, as well as other high-level foreign policy dialogues that work to promote strong ties. Although Obama should be commended on his outstanding choice of cabinet members, it will be hard to find a replacement with Secretary Henry Paulson’s economic experience to take over leadership of the SED. In light of Vice President-elect Joe Biden’s extensive foreign policy experience, perhaps the office of the vice president should take an active role in shaping the next round of talks.   

Increase bilateral military exchanges
In addition to established dialogues, Obama should promote an increase in military exchange relationships. The growing size of the Chinese military and expanding capabilities in the space technology field are topics of increasing interest to the United States, and have also been subject to misunderstanding, wild conjecture, and distortion; these issues are too important to be left to speculation. While Secretary Robert Gates has done an admirable job in improving military relations, an increase in military exchanges will serve to assuage concerns about a militarily aggressive China.

Encourage cross-Strait cooperation
While the contentious Taiwan issue has become less of an immediate concern, thanks to the March election of Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou, Obama should also encourage continued dialogue and cooperation between the island and the mainland, and support such proposals as cross-Strait trade and permitting Taiwan to enter the World Health Organization as an observer.

Apart from the aforementioned issues that have traditionally served as a framework for Sino-American relations, the next administration will be confronted with many new challenges, including the global financial crisis and the necessity of collaboration over global warming and clean energy issues.  


  • Fifth U.S.-China SED concludes in Beijing

December 5, 2008: China and the United States concluded the fifth China-US Strategic Economic Dialogue (SED) on Friday morning, with "important consensus" reached on the financial turmoil and critical issues of the two economies. The dialogues, co-chaired by Secretary Paulson and Chinese vice Premier Wang Qishan, were dominated by talk concerning the global economic crisis. In his opening remarks, vice Premier Wang emphasized the need to focus on possible solutions; "Making joint efforts to tackle the current global economic crisis is the most urgent task before us," he said. 

The two sides also discussed an array of issues of overall, strategic and long-term importance to both economies, including strategies to manage macro-economic risks, strengthening energy and environmental cooperation, coping with trade challenges, promoting an open investment environment and among others.

The world's fourth largest economy was forecast to expand by more than 9 percent next year, according to a blue paper released Tuesday by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. Figures from China's General Administration of Customs revealed that the bilateral trade between China and the United States, its second largest trading partner, grew 13.6 percent in the first ten months year on year to 281.3 billion US dollars. China is the third-largest export market for U.S. products and services, and U.S. exports to China are growing far faster than U.S. exports to other major trading partners. U.S. exports to China were up 17 percent through September of this year.

President Hu hailed the results of the high-profile economic dialogue as fruitful and promising. Paulson echoed Hu’s sentiments, saying that the meeting was "very successful, achieved many outcomes."

Paulson thanked China's leadership in establishing the SED mechanism jointly with President George W. Bush, saying that the dialogue was important for bilateral economic relations, also important for both nations and for the world. "The SED mechanism has helped keep relations progressing and moving forward during tough times, and tensions have inevitably occurred. It has been especially useful during the last few months when we tried to deal with the financial crisis," Paulson told Hu.


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