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Prof. ST Hsieh

Director, US-China Energy Industry Forum

626-376-7460

[email protected]

June 9, 2023

The already tense and complex US-China relation had a new genie out of the bottle yesterday: The US media’s latest sensational reports of “China’s Secret Spy Base” in Cuba. The US government, including the White House, has officially denied the report.

But the damage is done.

  1. China reacted angrily with headlines such as:
    “Media’s hype of China’s spy station in Cuba a new farce, By GT staff reporters Published: Jun 09, 2023,”
    Why has WSJ become a ‘professional rumormonger’ against China? Global Times editorial Published: Jun 10, 2023
    .
    It is obvious that China is furious because, all the denials, have not made any difference. The China Hawks in the US will keep capitalizing these “reports” for the years to come, stressing that “China is threating the US all the time.”
    The net result is that the re-set of the US-China relation will be very difficult to say the least.
  2. The China Hawks in the US has already convinced themselves that, the “report” for a Chinese spy station in Cuba, means the spy station is already there. No more proof is needed, and the US should strike back immediately.
  3. The immediate impact of this report is a test for Biden Administration on how to move forward from just denying the report by saying, on the record, “it is not accurate.” Biden should be proactive and tell the US public “the true story!”
  4. It is also up to the Secretary Blinken, whenever he gets to Beijing, to assure his Chinese counterparts, how the administration is managing this US news episode and how the US and China should move forward. If Biden thinks clearly, maybe it is a good time to call Xi for a chat.

Media’s hype of China’s spy station in Cuba a new farce

By GT staff reporters Published: Jun 09, 2023

China on Friday criticized the US’ long-term interference in Cuba’s internal affairs and urged it to stop undermining the political foundation of bilateral relations while claiming to build “guardrails” on China-US relations after the US media’s hype of China’s so-called deal of building a spy station in Cuba.

However, Brigadier General Patrick Ryder, a US Defense Department spokesperson, denied the report and said, “We are not aware of China and Cuba developing a new type of spy station.” John Kirby, spokesperson for the White House National Security Council, said the report is not “accurate” while also noting the US’ “real concerns” about China’s relations with Cuba, Reuters reported. 

Cuban Vice Foreign Minister Carlos Fernandez de Cossio also refuted the Wall Street Journal report as “totally mendacious and unfounded” and said it is a US fabrication meant to justify Washington’s decades-old economic embargo against the island. 

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said at a press conference on Friday that spreading rumors and slander is a common tactic of the US.

Old tactics

While hyping the spy installation in Cuba, in recent days, US media also reported on US Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s plan to visit China “as soon as next week” following his trip to the Middle East. However, neither China nor the US has officially released any information on his visit to China in the coming weeks. 

Speaking about China’s attitude to dialogue with the US, Wang Wenbin said on Friday that China’s position on this issue is consistent and the door to dialogue and communication is always open. However, the important thing is that communication should not be carried out for the sake of communication, still less saying one thing but doing the opposite. 

China-US relations are facing a tempestuous environment, as being anti-China has become the politically correct stance in Washington, and there is no sign of an imminent improvement in the short term, given the US’ current domestic politics, said Wang. 

China | Too close for comfort (Economist)

What to make of reports that Cuba will host a Chinese spy base

China hawks in America are outraged!

(Excerpt)

Jun 9th 2023

Just when China and America seemed to be moving past the spy-balloon saga of February, a new flashpoint has emerged in the form of an alleged plan for China to establish a listening station in Cuba. Chinese and Cuban authorities have reached a secret agreement on setting up the electronic eavesdropping facility, the Wall Street Journal reported on June 8th, quoting unidentified American officials. Other outlets, such as the New York Times and Politico, have since filed similar reports. The Journal said China had agreed to pay Cuba several billion dollars in the deal.

The White House, the Pentagon and the Cuban government all denied the reports. “We are not aware of China and Cuba developing a new type of spy station,” said Brigadier-General Patrick Ryder, a Pentagon spokesperson.

The reports nonetheless sparked outrage from China hawks in Congress, posing a fresh challenge for President Joe Biden’s recent efforts to resume high-level exchanges with China. “We urge the Biden administration to take steps to prevent this serious threat to our national security and sovereignty,” the top lawmakers on the Senate Intelligence Committee said in a joint statement. “We are deeply disturbed,” said Mark Warner, the Democrat who chairs the panel, and Marco Rubio, the Republican vice-chairman.

The reported Chinese plans in Cuba are also bound to provoke a strong political reaction in America given hawkish sentiment towards China among the public and on both sides of the aisle in Congress.

Mike Gallagher, a Republican congressman who chairs the House of Representatives’ new bipartisan Select Committee on the Chinese Communist Party, invoked the Cuban missile crisis in his response to the reported plan. It “reminds us we are in a New Cold War that, once again, has come to our doorstep,” he said in a statement, calling for restrictions on outbound investment to China and on Chinese land purchases near American military bases. Nikki Haley, a Republican presidential candidate, wrote on Twitter: “Joe Biden needs to wake up to the real Chinese threats on our doorstep.”

Florida Lawmakers Seek Classified Briefing on China’s Plans for Spy Base in Cuba

(Excerpt)

By Warren P. Strobel Wall Street Journal, June 9, 2023

WASHINGTON—Republicans and Democrats on Florida’s congressional delegation Friday asked for a classified briefing on China’s plans for an electronic listening post in Cuba, calling the proposed site an “attempt to undermine the integrity and privacy of United States government, military, and civilian communications.”

In a letter, Democratic Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Republican Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart of Florida asked Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin to provide lawmakers with a briefing on the issue, including “the known or assumed capabilities that this listening post will possess” and what steps the U.S. is taking in response.

Cuba and China have both denied the planned electronic eavesdropping facility.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who is running for the 2024 Republican nomination, criticized the president over the development. “Joe Biden and his administration’s feckless foreign policy emboldens the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) around the globe—seeking platitudes while Xi inks a deal for Chinese intelligence and military access in America’s backyard,” DeSantis said.

Why has WSJ become a ‘professional rumormonger’ against China?: Global Times editorial

By Global Times Published: Jun 10

(Excerpt)
The reason why the White House and the Pentagon refuted the story this time may be because they are afraid that if the rumors are allowed to ferment, they will lose control and become passive. However, the US government’s ability to control this dark political force is becoming weaker and weaker.

In fact, the US has been carrying out activities such as global surveillance, building military bases near China’s territory, and conducting close reconnaissance along China’s coast in recent years. After the false news that “China is building an eavesdropping station in Cuba” came out, some American scholars even said that China is prepared to do the same in America. This is very ironic. If those lawmakers who get nervous and lose sleep at any sign of “China wanting to cause trouble near the US” can show a little empathy and think about how the US’ actions would make Chinese people feel, China-US relations would not have reached the current difficult situation. 

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