Mon. Apr 22nd, 2024

Prof. ST Hsieh

Director, US-China Energy Industry Forum


[email protected]

May 24, 2023

US and China are reshuffling their diplomatic teams with the hope of a re-set. China has a team with old faces, Wang Yi, Qin Gang and Xie Feng. The US will have new faces in the White House and the State Department as senior staff announced leaving his/her posts or retired.

“Old faces” or “old hands” have the advantages of steady policy and continuity. New hands may bring new ideas or new opportunities. We wish both teams the best.

However, diplomatic teams are messengers and communicators, President Biden and President Xi call the final shots. They bear the ultimate responsibilities and earn the credits.

The US and China are competing for global dominance in a very complex world with many very challenging issues. In order to stabilize and re-store the bilateral relationship, the US and China have to align their agenda and then mitigate differences step by step. For example, one must respect the other’s core interests. They do not have to agree with each other’s position but should not argue every time they meet. Because arguments do not make any progress in resolving any issue but antagonize each other further.

It is better for the presidents to assign specific tasks and goals for each team meeting. Rather than allow the staff to free lancing and/or grandstanding with the news media. Of course, each president must have a comprehensive policy and clear agenda. It is more challenging for President Biden than President Xi:

  1. US politics is polarized and divided. President Biden’s public supporting level is only around 40%. His political opponents attack him openly every time on any issue. The GOP controlled House probably do not support any rapprochement toward China. Of course, China will have to consider GOP’s positions.
  2. President Biden is running for re-election next year. His China policy or agenda may not survive after 2024. President Biden has to be realistic and make the best use of his time when he is in charge.

US State Department’s top China policy official to step down –sources

Michael Martina and Humeyra Pamuk

Wed, May 24, 2023 at 2:27 PM PDT

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. State Department’s top China policy official Rick Waters is set to step down, four sources familiar with the matter told Reuters, at a time of fraught relations between Washington and Beijing.

Waters, deputy assistant secretary of State for China and Taiwan who leads the department’s recently created China House policy division, announced his intention to leave his post at a staff meeting on Wednesday, according to the four sources.

Waters, intends to remain at the department, one of the sources said.

Reuters reported two weeks ago that the State Department delayed human rights-related sanctions, export controls and other sensitive actions to try to limit damage to the U.S.-China relationship after an alleged Chinese spy balloon traversed the United States in February.

The report referenced an email Waters sent to staff that relayed instructions to postpone some actions so the department could focus on a “symmetric and calibrated response” to the balloon.

President Joe Biden’s administration has sought high-level meetings with China in an effort to keep ties from veering toward conflict, particularly since the diplomatic crisis spurred by the balloon’s flight over sensitive U.S. military sites.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken postponed a planned February trip to China after the balloon incident, but the White House has said efforts are continuing to facilitate visits by Blinken, as well as Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo.

Waters, a supporter of the administration’s pro-engagement agenda, has led China House – officially the Office of China Coordination – since it was launched in December as a reorganization of the department’s China desk to sharpen policies toward China. He has served as deputy assistant secretary for about two years.

Some Biden administration critics have questioned U.S. overtures to Beijing, arguing that past decades of engagement have failed to change China’s actions on a range of trade, security and human rights issues.

Congressman Mike McCaul, the Republican chair of the House of Representative’s Foreign Affairs Committee, cited the Reuters report in a letter he sent to Blinken dated May 19, demanding information related to actions toward China.

“For the U.S. to succeed in its strategic competition with the PRC (People’s Republic of China), it is essential that it be willing to unflinchingly hold the PRC accountable for its aggression and malfeasance, and that it be well-organized and effective in doing so,” McCaul wrote.

The Biden administration has recently seen other changes among senior officials focused on China.

U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman, who has driven much of the department’s approach toward China, announced on May 12 that she is retiring.

And a former top official for China on Biden’s National Security Council, Laura Rosenberger, stepped down earlier this year to head the U.S. government-run nonprofit that manages Washington’s unofficial relations with Chinese-claimed Taiwan.

Biden promised a thaw, but the U.S. and China are struggling to break the ice

Steven Overly, Phelim Kine and Doug Palmer

Wed, May 24, 2023 at 12:39 PM PDT

The United States has said for months that it wants to thaw its icy diplomatic relationship with China. New tension points keep getting in the way.

The U.S. advance of trade talks with Taiwan, made public last week, and China’s recent ban of memory chips from a U.S.-based company in its infrastructure projects are the latest frictions roiling ties between the two economic powers.

“We still want to have these conversations,” White House national security spokesperson John Kirby told reporters Wednesday. “We’re still in discussions with the PRC about how to move forward on that, but I just don’t have an update for you.”

Beijing seems skeptical of any progress.

“The U.S. says it wants to speak to the Chinese side while seeking to suppress China through all possible means…is there any sincerity in and significance of any communication like this” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning said this week.

The uncertainty ahead of the meetings underscores the difficulty of repairing the U.S.-China relationship, which has hit its lowest point in decades after a string of economic and security flare-ups. The Biden administration’s more conciliatory rhetoric in recent months — emphasizing it does not aim to curb Beijing’s growth or “decouple” the two economies — has done little to ease the simmering distrust in both capitals. And domestic political pressure continues to drive saber rattling on both sides. The dearth of high-level dialogue is only likely to feed the conflicts.

Those tensions spilled into plain view last week when the Chinese embassy announced Wang would travel to the U.S. and meet with top U.S. trade officials this week. Less than two hours after that pronouncement, Tai announced the U.S. had completed the first phase of a trade deal with Taiwan, which China views as a breakaway province.

Beijing was irate. China accused Washington of violating the long-standing one-China policy in which the U.S. does not maintain formal diplomatic relations with the self-governing island.

A Chinese official unauthorized to speak to the press seemed to walk back the announcement of the meetings shortly after news of the Taiwan deal, saying “both sides are still discussing the details at the working level.”

President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping met in-person for the first time since Biden became president in Bali, Indonesia, in November on the sidelines of a G-20 summit. However, spiraling bilateral tensions over issues including trade, Taiwan and the Chinese spy balloon incident in February have effectively frozen high-level diplomatic contacts for the past six months. The next likely opportunity for a Biden-Xi meeting would be in San Francisco in November during the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation leaders’ summit.

The bilateral chill has also frozen bilateral military communications. Beijing suspended senior military contacts as part of a package of reprisals for then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s trip to Taiwan in August. And Beijing is stalling on agreeing to a meeting between Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Chinese Defense Minister Li Shangfu at the annual Shangri-La Dialogue security conference in Singapore next week.

Despite the U.S. desire for renewed dialogue, Washington has not been hesitant to fault China for its own actions. Kirby on Wednesday strongly condemned a move by China to ban the use of memory chips made by Boise, Idaho-based Micron in key infrastructure projects because of national security concerns.

“I mean, it came just one day after the G-7 leaders issued their first ever statement on economic resilience and security,” Kirby said. “So how do they respond to criticism over economic coercion? With economic coercion.”

“We don’t believe that should be the case,” Kirby said. “The discussions and the lines of communication that we’re trying to keep open, remain open. And again, there’s been some promising indicators there.”

Factbox-US-China tensions intensify over tech to Taiwan flashpoints

Wed, May 24, 2023 at 1:21 AM PDT

SHANGHAI (Reuters) – A U.S. lawmaker’s demand for trade curbs on a Chinese memory chipmaker in response to China calling products from Micron Technology a national security risk is the latest escalation of tension between the big powers.

Following are five recent flashpoints.






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