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「中、美關係」 -- 開欄文
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以下轉載兩篇就「中、美關係」所做的報導/評論:

1.
《中國鷹派取得華府外交政策主導權》(1) -- 報導「中、美關係」在過去10年間由「友善」轉向「較勁」(或「冷戰2.0)的經過和相關因素。

2.
中、美經貿關係脫鉤的虛實(2) – 分析「中、美經貿關係脫鉤」的實際和走勢。

此外,我將陸續轉載另一篇從心理學「人格特質」角度討論「中、美關係」的文章 -- 《中、美陷入惡性的相互依賴關係》(3),以及一篇展望「中國前景」的文章 -- 中國10年崩潰論》及其短評(4);可以跟它們對照著看。幫助我們從理論層次來了解國際關係和國家前途。

我轉載這四篇文章謹供參考並不表示我同意它們的論述。再次提醒各位:「盡信書不如無書」與「凡論述必有前提凡判斷必有立場」這兩個經驗之談。

後記:

二月初我被傳染上感冒。昏睡了10天左右;症狀消失後仍然無精打采了近一個星期。這兩天才有點精神做些正事。

附註:

1. 原文標題是:Washington’s China Hawks Take FlightTake flight一詞有兩個相反的意思:一是解決問題打敗對手引申為取得上風;二是逃之夭夭。從該文內容看,作者的「用法」是第一個意思。
2.
原文標題是:Is China-Decoupling A Myth?
3.
原文標題是:China and America are locked in destructive codependence
4.
原文標題是:'10 years left': This famed geopolitical analyst says China is going to collapse in the next decade -- here are 3 key numbers that could support his contrarian forecast。在一般用法中Contrarian指「與主流意見相反的」;用在股市指「逆勢操作的」。


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《習拜會:習總贏了舊金山牌局》讀後
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平心而論我不覺得考特金先生這篇文章很有料(本欄上一篇)。就標題來說,他應該針對「會談結果」分析/評論;而不是做些泛泛之談(請參看本欄《習、拜會要點》)。就內容而言,標題改為《習總近日春風得意比較適合(“Xi is Sitting Pretty Nowadays”請參看本欄《習拜會:拜登手中的牌更好)

以下三段話很有意思

… Britain’s new Foreign Secretary, former prime minister David Cameron, who can be counted on to wear out conference carpets with his kowtowing

段話相當缺德。

But last year America’s net deficit in high-tech trade was $242 billion, with the country relying on factories in China for military goods

一段話資訊值飽滿。

He could also force Xi to pledge not to take over Taiwan, which many American industries count on for key components. Imagine what could happen if China seizes these assets before the West can replicate them. Then, Xi will truly be king of the world.

一段話近於揶揄;因為,他明明知道自己所描述的情境在三、五年內難以實現。


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習拜會:習總贏了舊金山牌局 - Joel Kotkin
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Xi Jinping emerges as the winner from San Francisco

The Chinese premier has the West right where he wants it

 JOEL KOTKIN, 11/16/23

Xi Jinping should have entered San Francisco’s Apec conference with his tail between his legs, but instead has emerged as something closer to the king of the world. China may be experiencing tepid growth, a 
bloated real estate market, low industrial production, and an increasingly alienated youth yet, in spite of these factors, he appears to be wearing the crown.

To reach for this kind of power, being a dictator is helpful. One can force an agenda on one’s nation and the world without worrying too much about domestic critics. It certainly works with foreigners: after all, Xi’s mere presence has led San Francisco to 
clean itself up, something it has not managed for the last decade.

It’s also worth comparing Xi to his counterparts. Besides him, Western leaders are doing little to impress — not least his host, the doddering Joe Biden, whose 
own party does not even want him to run. There’s not a Churchill, Roosevelt or even a Reagan in the bunch. Biden was even prevented from unveiling a proposed new trade deal in San Francisco with Asia’s other economies due to opposition from his own party

Strategically, Xi has the West exactly where he wants it. China agreed to 
US climate proposals in San Francisco this week. The demands for more wind and solar energy, as well as electric vehicles, assure an industrial supremacy for the country that produces more greenhouse gases than the entire developed world put together. China already boasts a huge lead in solar battery production, and increasingly dominates the production of rare-earth elements, which are critical to wind turbines, solar panels and electric vehicles

As 
American EV firms struggle with production and supply chain issues, China’s Warren Buffett-backed BYD has emerged as the world’s top electric vehicle manufacturer, with big export ambitions, while Tesla focuses much of its future growth at its Chinese factories. Meanwhile, the Net Zero policies of the West are already unravelling Germany’s industrial economy, which is losing much of its industrial base, notably in chemicals and vehicles.

Like the former Soviet Union, China has found 
many “useful idiots” in the American establishment, including on Wall Street, Silicon Valley and, it appears, within the Biden family. China has also found ways to influence politicians in Australia and Canada. And we certainly can’t expect a stiff upper lip from Britain’s new Foreign Secretary, former prime minister David Cameron, who can be counted on to wear out conference carpets with his kowtowing.  

Some in the West insist that China will never conquer the “commanding heights” of the world’s technology-driven economy. But last year America’s net deficit in high-tech trade was $242 billion, with the country relying on factories in China for military goods

What’s more, China now has a freer hand militarily. Tied down in Ukraine and the Middle East, the Institute for Strategic and International Studies has 
warned that the West now lacks “sufficient residual inventories for training and to execute war plans”. Chong Ja Ian, a political science professor at the National University of Singapore, added that Xi is following the pattern which Mao referred to as “talk and fight, fight and talk […] That is, to talk while building up forces.”

If Biden still had leverage, or the will to use it, he might insist that China pledge to not aid Russia or Iran. He could also force Xi to pledge not to take over Taiwan, which many American industries count on for key components. Imagine what could happen if China seizes these assets before the West can replicate them. Then, Xi will truly be king of the world.


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習拜會:拜登手中的牌更好 -- David E. Sanger
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請參看本欄《習、拜會要點習拜會:習總一手好牌》兩文。

For Biden, a Subtle Shift in the Power Balance With China’s Xi Jinping

For the first time in years, a Chinese leader desperately needed a few things from the United States.

, 11/17/23

SAN FRANCISCO — When President 
Joe Biden met President Xi Jinping on Wednesday on the edges of Silicon Valley, there was a subtle but noticeable shift in the power dynamic between two countries that have spent most of the past few years denouncing, undercutting and imposing sanctions on each other.

For the first time in years, a Chinese leader desperately needed a few things from the United States. Xi’s list at the summit started with a revival of American financial investments in China and a break in the series of technology export controls that have, at least temporarily, crimped Beijing’s ability to make the most advanced semiconductors and the artificial intelligence breakthroughs they enable.

All this may explain why Biden’s aides were able to negotiate, fairly quickly by Chinese diplomatic standards, a potentially major agreement on stopping the flow of the chemical precursors for fentanyl to the United States and a resumption of military-to-military communications, critical for two superpowers whose forces bump up against each other every day.

“Restoring these military-to-military contacts, and not just at the secretary of defense level, but also at the regional command level and the operational level, is really critical to helping to avoid miscalculations and mistakes,” Secretary of State 
Antony Blinken said in an interview Thursday.

The lurking question now is whether Xi’s charm offensive — on full display Wednesday night as he entertained CEOs — marks a lasting shift or a tactical maneuver.

While Biden’s aides said they were pleased by the concrete outcomes of the summit, they readily conceded that those may be short-lived. China’s record of steady compliance and enforcement with similar agreements in recent years has been spotty. And it is possible Xi was simply looking for a way to get through China’s roughest era of bankruptcies, property-value collapses and loss of consumer confidence in four decades.

Nonetheless, Biden seems happy to take advantage of the breathing space, hoping that he will have more time before the presidential election to rebuild manufacturing competitiveness and hem in China’s gains in the Pacific.

Few American officials doubt that when he can, Xi will reignite his effort to displace the United States as the most skilled military, technological and economic power in the world.

While Xi turned down the temperature on Taiwan a few degrees, telling Biden he would not move precipitously against the island, American national security officials emerged from the meeting believing that he is still intent on eventually bringing the island under the mainland’s control. And they see no evidence that Xi’s appetite for more territory in the South China Sea or more nuclear weapons will abate.

Still, the change in tone, even if temporary, was welcome. It began over the summer, when Blinken made a trip to Beijing that had been delayed by the Chinese spy-balloon incident. With the depths of the economic crisis in China becoming apparent, Blinken reported back that he was struck by an eagerness there for visits by Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo. There were quiet meetings in Vienna, and then Washington, between Jake Sullivan, the national security adviser, and his counterpart, Wang Yi.

It was all intended to culminate in the meeting between Biden and Xi, which lasted for four hours Wednesday at the Filoli mansion and gardens, a popular hiking, dining and wedding destination that suddenly became the playing field for the greatest geopolitical competition on Earth.

During the meeting, Xi complained about the damage done to China by its portrayal as a villain in the United States, according to administration officials who would not speak on the record about the discussions. Xi voiced his longest and loudest protests about the cutoff of the fastest computer chips, which Biden responded would help the Chinese military. The two leaders were at fundamental odds on that issue: What Xi sees as economic strangulation, Biden sees as an issue of national security.

But the tone was always measured, sometimes friendly, leavened with Biden’s recollections of past trips with Xi in China, the United States and at summits around the world. Xi then fine-tuned his speech for the CEOs to recall happier moments in the U.S.-China relationship.

“It did strike me that it was a speech that could be given seven or 10 years ago in the era of engagement,” said Michael Froman, the former U.S. trade representative and Citigroup executive, who recently became president of the Council on Foreign Relations and attended the dinner. “It was as if the era of ‘wolf-warrior diplomacy’ had never happened, and some of the events of the past few years had not occurred.”

In fact, the most striking element of the visit was Xi’s seeming abandonment of the “wolf warrior” tone — one the Chinese leader himself had encouraged.

The phrase came to embrace a Chinese diplomatic style, aimed especially but hardly exclusively at the United States, in which Chinese envoys described the end of an era of American dominance. China was rising, the wolf warriors declared, and America was in unstoppable decline. The arguments tracked closely with some that Xi himself made in speeches to party leaders and military officials in Beijing.

Xi dispatched one of his favorite wolf warriors, Qin Gang, to Washington as his hand-picked ambassador. During Biden’s first year, the emissary spoke about “lies, disinformation” about China that were “spreading every day.” He complained, “China is being treated like a kid, being scolded by his or her parents every day. ‘You are wrong. You need to do this. You shouldn’t do that.’”

So when Qin was recalled from Washington to become foreign minister, there was an assumption in Washington that his approach had been a success — and he was being rewarded for the blunt, in-your-face diplomacy that once led Sullivan to ask aloud: “Who calls their diplomats wolf warriors?”

Xi appears to have rethought the wisdom of doing so. Qin disappeared over the summer, not long after meeting Blinken in Beijing. The conversations underway since have been largely practical, not polemical.

Blinken was able to negotiate outlines of the crackdown on the precursor chemicals for fentanyl during his summer trip, and the Chinese quickly made it illegal to trade in those chemicals — and in the past week or so began arresting violators, most identified by the United States.

“This is concrete stuff, and it goes to the single common denominator across our country that has been devastating communities,” Blinken said Thursday.

The actions were reminiscent of a previous era when China would crack down on arms and technology companies selling parts to North Korea, or Iran. Still, American officials caution that they fully expect some of the makers of the chemicals will figure out how to avoid the sanctions, and they will come back on the market.

When the conversation Wednesday turned to military-to-military communications, Xi repeatedly urged Biden to just pick up the phone and call him if there was a problem. Of course, calls between the leaders of the two countries are never that easy. (China in particular insists on orchestrating every word that will be uttered well ahead of time.)

But the real test will come in the negotiations ahead. While U.S. officials said little about it, the Chinese side heralded a new “working group” that will examine the risks of artificial intelligence in weapons systems, including nuclear weapons. China has never entered talks about the size and purpose of its nuclear arsenal, saying it had so many fewer than Russia and the United States do that it wanted to reach parity before making any commitments.

c.2023 The New York Times Company


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習、拜會要點 – 路透社
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Biden and Xi meeting: Taiwan, Iran, fentanyl and AI

, 11/16/23

Trevor Hunnicutt and Jeff Mason

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President Joe Biden and China's Xi Jinping met for about four hours on Wednesday to discuss issues ranging from military conflicts to drug-trafficking.

Biden welcomed the Chinese leader at the Filoli estate, a country house and gardens about 30 miles (48 km) south of San Francisco, ahead of a summit of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum.

Here's the key issues discussed.

TAIWAN

The two leaders had a "substantial" discussion on Taiwan, with Xi telling Biden that Taiwan was the biggest, most dangerous issue facing the two superpowers, a senior U.S. official told reporters.

The Chinese leader said that China had no plans for military action against Taiwan in coming years, but also discussed conditions under which force could be used, the official said.

Biden said he "stressed the importance of peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait." He also asked Xi to respect Taiwan's electoral process, the U.S. official said.

Xi responded: "Look, peace is ... all well and good but at some point we need to move towards resolution more generally," the U.S. official said.

MILITARY TALKS

Beijing said the two leaders agreed to resume military contacts that China severed after then-House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taiwan in August 2022.

Biden made a "very clear request" that both countries institutionalize the military-to-military dialogues, and U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin will meet his Chinese counterpart when that person is named, a senior U.S. official said.

LEADER TO LEADER TALKS

Biden said he and Xi agreed to high-level communications.

"He and I agreed that each one of us can pick up the phone call directly and we'll be heard immediately," Biden told reporters after the meeting.

COOPERATION AND CONCILIATION

Beijing's report of the meeting, via the Communist Party-controlled Chinese state media, emphasized the need for more cooperation, dialogue and respect. China and the United States should set an example for other countries, Xi told Biden, according to Chinese media, and promote cooperation on trade, agriculture, climate change and artificial intelligence.

An official briefed on the talks said Beijing was also seeking a show of respect from the trip.

FENTANYL

Biden and Xi agreed to cooperate on addressing the source of the opioid fentanyl, a leading cause of drug overdoses in the United States, the U.S. official said.

Under the agreement, China will go directly after specific chemical companies that make fentanyl precursors.  

IRAN

The two leaders also discussed the unfolding crisis in the Middle East, with Biden asking China to weigh in with Iran and urge it to avoid steps that could be seen as provocative, the senior U.S. official told reporters.

Chinese officials told the U.S. side that they had engaged in discussions with Iran on regional risks.

ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE

The two leaders also discussed artificial intelligence (AI)and agreed that AI was used in military or nuclear operations, it created real risks.

The senior U.S. official said both sides were "very much focused" on practices regarding AI that could be dangerous or destabilizing, but not ready for any mutual declaration.

 (Reporting by Jeff Mason, Trevor Hunnicutt; writing by Andrea Shalal; Editing by Heather Timmons and Stephen Coates)

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習拜會:習總一手好牌-David P. Goldman
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Xi holds four aces as he meets Biden 

Ukraine stalemate, tech war flop, China’s enhanced stance with Global South & US military’s caution bind Biden

DAVID P. GOLDMAN, 11/11/23

China’s leader Xi Jinping will meet President Biden Nov. 15 in San Francisco with four high cards in his hand. Policy advisers close to Xi express an unprecedented kind of confidence in China’s strategic position. 

First, the collapse of Ukraine’s offensive against Russian forces and its 
commander’s admission that the war is a “stalemate” is a setback for America’s strategic position and a gain for China, which has doubled its exports to Russia since the February 2022 invasion of Ukraine. 

Second, the US tech war on China has flopped, as Chinese AI firms buy fast Huawei processers in place of chips from Nvidia and other US producers.

Third, the Gaza war provoked by Hamas on October 7 gives China a free option to act as the de facto leader of the Global South in opposition to Israel, an American ally. China now exports more to the Muslim world than it does to the United States.

And fourth, the US military wants to avoid confrontation with China in the Northwest Pacific region as well as its home waters in the South China Sea, where the PLA’s thousands of surface-to-ship missiles and nearly 1,000 fourth- and fifth-generation warplanes give China an overwhelming home-theater advantage in firepower.

Mutual fear of war

In the background of the Biden-Xi summit is a fear – shared by both sides – that a US-China confrontation could lead to war.

Henry Kissinger told the Economist last May: “We’re in the classic pre-World War 1 situation where neither side has much margin of political concession and in which any disturbance of the equilibrium can lead to catastrophic consequences.”

A prominent advisor to China’s Communist Party, Renmin University Professor Jin Canrong, told “
The Observer” on November 9, “The world today has entered an era of great struggle: the old order dominated by the West. It is disintegrating, but the new order has not yet been established.” Jin compared the world situation to China’s bloody Warring States period (475 BCE to 221 BCE).

A major concern on the American side is the expansion of China’s nuclear arsenal to a projected 1,000 warheads by 2030, from just 220 in 2020. A November 10 commentary in 
Foreign Affairs warns, “Chinese analysts are worried that the United States has lowered its threshold for nuclear use – including allowing for limited first use in a Taiwan conflict – and that the US military is acquiring new capabilities that could be used to destroy or significantly degrade China’s nuclear forces.”

Newsom shows how to pull back

A foretaste of the Biden-Xi discussions came from the October 25 Beijing visit of California Governor 
Gavin Newsom, the likeliest 2024 Democratic presidential candidate should Biden withdraw for health reasons or in response to Congressional investigations of his personal and family finances. A widely-circulated scenario for the upcoming presidential race foresees Newsom replacing an ailing Biden at the top of the Democratic ticket.

Significantly, Newsom has been quoted as saying that he had “expressed my support for the One-China policy … as well as our desire not to see independence” of Taiwan. Newsome spoke of “renewing our friendship and re-engaging [on] foundational and fundamental issues that will determine our collective faith in the future.”

(請見上一篇的短評)



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《習拜會:習總一手好牌》小評
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郭德曼先生這篇評論分析習拜會前習總所佔據的優勢(本欄下一篇文章)

1) 
俄烏戰爭膠著
2) 
科技戰翻盤
3) 
全球南方各國向心
4)  
美國軍方謹慎

以上四點中除了第1點是新近發展這個部落格還沒有深入討論外其它三點此處至少有一篇相關的分析/報導請參閱科技戰(共兩篇)南方各國1(共兩篇)南方各國2(共兩篇)美國軍力1美國軍力2(共四篇)

美國軍方謹慎有其背景

a. 
自越戰以後,除了幾個小國外,北越、伊拉克、阿富汗、和敘利亞等已經把「美國軍方『打怕了』」。
b. 
中國軍隊雖然三四十年沒有實戰經驗,但在裝備和火力上與美軍不相上下;在中短程飛彈上可能還略勝一籌。美國軍方不願,也不敢對他們的最高統帥拍胸打包票自在意料之中

第二點跟兩岸關係息息相關。這就不必我再著墨(共三篇)

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中、美經貿脫鉤的虛實 -- Alex Capri
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Is China-Decoupling A Myth?

Alex Capri, 02/14/23

For the second year running, trade and investment between the U.S. and China have increased. This, despite Washington’s escalating campaign to choke off the flow of strategic technologies to its geopolitical rival. On the surface, such contrasts would seem to refute the claim that the two economies are decoupling.

The numbers are clear. 2022 witnessed an historic high in U.S.-China bilateral trade -- $690 billion in combined imports and exports, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Imports from China increased by $31 billion from the previous year, while U.S. exports also increased by $2.4 billion. This followed a similar upward trend in 2021.

These figures reveal the mindset amongst a presiding generation of CEOs, who, for decades, have come to rely on China as a growth strategy no-brainer. Consider that in July of 2021, the American Chamber of Commerce in Shanghai conducted a survey of 300 American companies and reported that, despite growing animosities between the two countries, 60% had increased their investments in China since the prior year. More than 70% of American manufacturers said they had no plans of moving their production out of China. All this, while the Biden administration was mobilizing “China-free” supply chain initiatives amongst allies and blacklisting Chinese companies.

Wall Street also remains bullish on China. A new investment wave had already begun in 2020, after Beijing removed foreign ownership caps on local fund ownership, and Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan, Citigroup, Morgan Stanley and others ploughed more than $75 billion into China’s financial markets. Blackrock, the American investment firm, announced it would set up a $1 billion mutual fund, the first foreign firm to gain approval for a wholly owned fund in China.

These numbers may just be the tip of the iceberg. Bloomberg has reported that offshore holding companies in tax havens, such as the Cayman Islands, obscured another $1.4 trillion of foreign investment into China, making the inflow of foreign money at least three times higher than the official numbers on the books.

China’s 2023 departure from zero-Covid policies, meanwhile, sparked a surge of investor enthusiasm.

The great China paradox

All of this leads to one giant, wicked paradox. How can China be America’s chief adversary, and, simultaneously, a vital supply chain partner as well as a manufacturing hub, and a growing market?

There exists, however, the very real and ongoing issue of bifurcation in global supply chains. “Strategic” goods and services linked to China are decoupling. Ecosystems involving semiconductors, supercomputing, biotech, and quantum science, among others, will continue to decouple as Washington and Beijing engage in techno-nationalist competition and hybrid warfare.

A major problem is the accumulation of trade and investment that finds itself languishing inside a figurative grey zone, where so-called “dual-use” technologies --  seemingly harmless commercial items that can also be applied to military uses -- can go from enjoying day-to-day trade, to being suddenly blacklisted. Over time, the grey zone will swallow up ill-advised China investments as export controls negate well-established supply chains. The inevitable result will be a wider China-decoupling.
 
The question, then, is to what extent will bifurcation in the tech landscape become a catalyst for more general China-decoupling? The answer is that it will accelerate the trend more than most expect.

Bifurcation of the technology landscape

Washington’s semiconductor blockade has already effectively decoupled supply chains between American and most Chinese tech companies of consequence. This includes Huawei and ZTE (telecommunications); SMIC and YMTC (semiconductors); DJI (drones); Dahua, Megvii, SenseTime, and HikVison -- all of which are from the AI, surveillance software and hardware sectors.

Prior to the imposition of U.S. sanctions and export controls, the above brands accounted for billions of dollars in trade with American and other foreign MNEs. In 2018, Huawei, alone, purchased $70 billion in components from foreign suppliers, including $11 billion from Intel, Micron and Qualcomm. All of this effectively ended with the latest round of U.S. export controls on semiconductors in October of 2022.

The problem now facing MNEs in China is the growing list of goods that will soon end up in the sanctions bucket. In the case of Huawei, Washington is now mulling an all-out ban on the transfer of any American technology. Such a move, when applied beyond Huawei to other selected firms and industries, will create a domino effect regarding general China-decoupling.

The grey zone

Technologies with potential military applications are in virtually every kind of commercially available good, from laptop computers, smartphones and cloud infrastructure to electric vehicles and washing machines.

Such dual-use items enable entire business sectors, including the medical and pharmaceutical fields, mining, energy, agriculture, and cleantech. Here, the inconvenient truth is that as the U.S.-China geopolitical rivalry grows more confrontational -- think South China Sea, Taiwan, the Indo-Pacific theater, or any unanticipated incendiary event -- sweeping new U.S. exports controls and sanctions could suddenly disqualify a big chunk of in-China operations for American firms.

If the recent Chinese “balloon-gate” reveals anything, it’s that Beijing’s intelligence gathering activities are geared toward fighting a future war with America. Washington’s immediate reaction to the incident was to add 6 Chinese aerospace companies to the commercial blacklist. It would seem an underwhelming response, but, over time, many more entities in the gray zone will suffer the same fate as the U.S. looks to curtail China’s military capabilities by choking off every conceivable kind of technology transfer. The inevitable outcome is more general China decoupling.

Regarding Wall Street, investors will struggle to achieve transparency and, therefore, traceability regarding China investments. Washington is currently in the process of rolling out new outbound investment controls, requiring a financial institution to give assurances that the entities it invests in are not linked to the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) and Chinese Communist Party apparatus -- a virtually impossible task. This will eventually disqualify a big chunk of opaque investments and lead to more general decoupling within financial markets.

Those pouring money into China have yet to properly fathom the immensity of these forces. Until then, many will regard U.S.-China decoupling as a myth.

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以下《外交政策》這篇文章報導10年間中美關係是如何演變成今天這個局面。一般來說,此文內容算得上持平之論

我一向認為「美關係」是:「合則兩利鬥則俱傷」。格拉默先生的觀點似乎也類似。


Washington’s China Hawks Take Flight

The story of how decades of U.S. engagement with China gave way to estrangement.

Robbie Gramer, 02/15/23

Barack Obama and Xi Jinping casually strolled around the exclusive Sunnylands retreat near Palm Springs, California, smiling to display warm and friendly U.S.-China relations. It was the summer of 2013, and things seemed to be going well between the reigning superpower and the ascendant one.

Obama was a fairly seasoned second-term president; Xi, the new Chinese leader, had just taken the reins from Hu Jintao, and nearly everyone in Washington viewed him as the embodiment of a new, more hopeful chapter in U.S.-China relations. Obama spoke of a “new model of cooperation” with China and said the United States welcomed the “continuing peaceful rise of China as a world power.” It was the beginning of a new era in U.S.-China relations.

Except it wasn’t.

A decade later, all the goodwill that Obama and Xi seemed to have built at Sunnylands has completely evaporated. At home, Xi has cemented his authoritarian power over the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP). He has carried out a sweeping crackdown on ethnic Uyghurs and other minorities in China’s Xinjiang region in what the United States considers a genocide and has overseen the country’s most ambitious military buildup since World War II. In Washington, the so-called doves who long championed engagement with China have been completely sidelined. Policymakers and lawmakers across the increasingly wide political spectrum have coalesced into a consensus: It’s time to get tough on China -- whatever that means in practice.

Washington has ramped up military support for Taiwan, the independently governed island that Beijing views as its own territory. A top U.S. military commander recently issued a memo warning his troops that they could be fighting China over Taiwan by 2025. A high-profile trip to Beijing by U.S. President Joe Biden’s top diplomat, meant to dial down tensions between the two powers, was scuppered in early February after an alleged Chinese spy balloon floated across the continental United States, sparking a minor political firestorm in Washington.

 “My fear is that by acting like military conflict with China is inevitable, you will ultimately make that reality come true,” said Sen. Chris Murphy, a Democratic lawmaker on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. “China has not made the decision to invade Taiwan, but if the United States turns all of China policy into Taiwan policy, then that will potentially affect their decision-making.”

Did decades of U.S. efforts at engagement, which started with President Richard Nixon opening relations with China and lasted through Obama’s presidency, simply fail to deliver? Or did the arrival of Xi and his aggressive, revisionist approach to China’s place in the world render it moot?

Many Western lawmakers, policymakers, and China analysts place the blame of spoiled relations solely at Xi’s feet.

 “I’m afraid engagement is deader than a doornail,” said Orville Schell, the director of the Center on U.S.-China Relations at the Asia Society. “I think that was one of the great tragedies of Xi Jinping’s reign … that he, in effect, destroyed it, made it unviable.”

Still, the hatching of the hawks happened in the Washington policymaking machine, where popular ideas can quickly become canon and leave little room for debate.

 “The danger whenever you have this consensus is it evolves into an echo chamber that boxes in the administration, as opposed to supporting them and giving them the tools they need for long-term competition,” said Evan Medeiros, a professor at Georgetown University who served as a director for China, Taiwan, and Mongolia on Obama’s National Security Council (NSC).

With the China hawks flying high, is there any way to escape the slow roll toward crisis?

In the summer of 1994, U.S. Defense Secretary William Perry sent a memo to top military brass about the future of U.S.-China relations. China, Perry wrote, is “fast becoming the world’s largest economic power, and that combined with its [permanent U.N. Security Council] status, its political clout, its nuclear weapons and a modernizing military, make China a player with which the United States must work together.”

Perry was getting ready for a trip to China later that fall, as the Clinton administration was seeking to forge closer ties with Beijing. The relationship had been frozen following the Chinese government’s brutal crackdown on protests that culminated in the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre. In his 1994 memo, Perry instructed the service chiefs to start opening talks with their Chinese counterparts, noting that the “military relationship with China could pay significant dividends for [the U.S. Defense Department].”

The memo showcased what would become the prevailing viewpoint in Washington for decades -- one of optimistic engagement. With careful diplomacy and continued economic cooperation, this line of thinking went, the United States could help shepherd China into its role as an emerging global power and integrate it into the post-World War II international system. The Cold War was over, and the Soviet Union was in disarray. This was a unipolar world at the “end of history,” and U.S. policymakers were sure they could domesticate the dragon just as they beat the bear.

The Clinton administration began outreach efforts, especially in trade. These reached their apex under President George W. Bush, when China finally joined the World Trade Organization and started its two-decade march to become, by some measures, the largest economy in the world.

That march lifted hundreds of millions of Chinese out of poverty and was one of the most spectacular economic transformations in history. But it came at a cost for people in rich countries, especially the United States, who saw their share of global trade and manufacturing gradually gobbled up by low-cost Chinese competition. China’s share of global GDP skyrocketed from 1.6 percent in 1990 to 16 percent in 2017, and the U.S. annual trade deficit with China exploded to more than $375 billion.

Perry’s memo would be heresy in today’s Washington, where lawmakers are champing at the bit to reorient the United States to compete with China. House Republicans, with broad backing from Democrats, have established a select committee on China to oversee the U.S. government’s strategic shift against Beijing, and the State Department is busy building out a China House to monitor and blunt Beijing’s growing economic and political footprint in places such as Latin America, Africa, and the Middle East. The Biden administration has not only maintained trade tariffs enacted under former President Donald Trump but also escalated an offensive against Chinese technology.

 “We need to reduce our economic dependency on China. We need to make sure that we are surging hard power west of the international dateline in defending Taiwan,” Republican Rep. Mike Gallagher, the chairman of the new China committee, said in December, before the new Congress started. “The Chinese Communist Party is our foremost threat in the world today.”

Meanwhile, other U.S. lawmakers are in and out of Taiwan in a steady stream of trips that have incensed officials in Beijing.

One of those lawmakers is Republican Sen. Todd Young, who visited Taiwan to meet President Tsai Ing-wen in January. “Because the CCP has engaged in coercion and in the threat of further coercion, it makes sense for people like myself to demonstrate that we’re not going to back down in the face of that,” he told Foreign Policy.

Top U.S. military and Biden administration officials assess that China has set its sights on recapturing Taiwan, even via military means, with some predicting a conflict in the next two to five years -- though those assessments aren’t shared by everyone in Washington.

That has put the United States in a pickle. Officially, Washington still adheres to the “One China” policy, where it limits its formal diplomatic recognition to Beijing and only supports Taipei on the sly. But Biden in various interviews has gone above and beyond the strictures of that policy, vowing to defend Taiwan militarily if China should invade.

With similar signals coming from Capitol Hill, no China watcher can point to one single moment when the wheels started coming off the roughly 50-year plan of integration with China. Instead, it was a series of moments, mishaps, and scandals. One of those seminal moments involved a young college graduate from Michigan, $120 in cash, and a woman who called herself “Amanda.”

In December 2009, a 28-year-old Michigan native, Glenn Shriver, received word that he was to report to Washington, D.C., to begin the process of joining the CIA. For the past four years, Shriver, who had lived and worked in Shanghai as a teacher, had sought out a career in U.S. national security, repeatedly taking and failing the U.S. foreign service entrance exam before applying to the CIA.

Through all the job applications for secretive positions, Shriver was holding onto a secret of his own: Chinese intelligence officials were grooming him to be a spy. It began in Shanghai, where the cash-strapped college graduate was living when he answered a job listing in a newspaper ad to write a report on U.S.-China relations. A woman who called herself “Amanda” paid him $120 for it. From there, “Amanda” and other agents of China’s premier state intelligence service, the Ministry of State Security, began paying him tens of thousands of dollars to apply for U.S. government jobs with the State Department and CIA, as U.S. attorneys would later recount in public documents on the case.

U.S. law enforcement officials caught wind of the gambit, and Shriver was detained and eventually pleaded guilty to attempting to spy for China. But his case served as a shot across the bow for the U.S. national security and intelligence world: China was upping its espionage game in the United States. Shriver was one of nearly 60 defendants who faced federal prosecution over charges of attempting to spy for China during a three-year period alone between 2008 and 2011. For those in intelligence and law enforcement, the Shriver case was emblematic of a new, increasingly aggressive China. For policymakers, that realization would only come much later.

When Shriver was nabbed by the FBI, Obama had yet to meet with Xi at Sunnylands, and then-U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was still a year away from declaring a U.S. “pivot” to Asia.

There were plenty of diplomatic initiatives that suggested U.S.-China relations weren’t destined for disaster. China helped Obama seal the 2015 Iran nuclear deal. It started cooperating on climate change and on ending North Korea’s nuclear weapons program and even proffered some olive branches on the military front. In 2014, the United States extended an invitation to China to participate in the big annual multinational military exercise in the Pacific Ocean, known as RIMPAC.

Still, a small but growing chorus of China hawks in Washington began gaining traction in policy debates on the economic and political fronts, spurred at least in part by Shriver’s and other high-profile espionage cases. And then Xi fed the fire.

China announced a massive, multibillion-dollar global infrastructure investment program in 2013, later dubbed the Belt and Road Initiative, aimed at building infrastructure in Eurasia, exporting China’s excess economic capacity, and connecting new global trade routes. Some in Washington likened it to an economic Trojan horse that allowed Beijing to wield infrastructure projects and public debt in foreign countries for geopolitical influence. Then, in 2015, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management revealed that Chinese hackers had swiped sensitive data for more than 22 million current, former, and prospective federal workers, as well as their friends and family, a breach that alarmed U.S. officials and heightened tensions.

China also began a campaign of building artificial islands in the contested South China Sea. It stacked them with military-capable airfields and infrastructure that could threaten important international sea lanes in the region. “Concerns began to grow, particularly toward the end of the Obama administration with China’s reclamation in the South China Sea,” said Jessica Chen Weiss, a professor at Cornell University and former senior advisor to the Policy Planning Staff at the U.S. State Department.

Obama’s face-to-face meetings with Xi began to grow increasingly frosty following the 2013 Sunnylands meeting, as the diplo-speak of international summits shifted from “warm” exchanges to “candid” discussions on “significant concerns,” barely containing a groundswell of tensions between the major powers. In China, a newer, more aggressive strain of anti-Americanism and nationalism swept through the CCP under Xi’s leadership. Even the goodwill gesture of inviting China to RIMPAC came with its own dour footnote: China dispatched four ships to the exercise but also quietly sent one uninvited spy ship to snoop.

By late 2016, during Obama’s final year in office, the high hopes of the U.S. strategy of integration with China were beginning to fade -- and fast. “Where we see them violating international rules and norms … we’ve been very firm, and we’ve indicated to them that there will be consequences,” Obama told CNN that September.

So unused to being challenged, the United States has become so filled with anxiety over China that sober responses are becoming nearly impossible.

Under Xi’s predecessor Hu, “there was still hope of additional opening and liberalization of the economy and perhaps the government,” said Cole Shepherd, a former China specialist at the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency. But during Xi’s second five-year term, he said, “things started to change, primarily when it became clear that Xi Jinping was not going to continue down the liberal or opening-up road of Hu Jintao and [Hu’s predecessor] Jiang Zemin.”

At the G-20 meeting in Hangzhou, China, just days after Obama’s CNN interview, Chinese authorities rolled out the red carpet for a slew of world leaders. Chinese officials never sent the rolling staircase to Air Force One, forcing Obama to leave the aircraft through a less-than-dignified maintenance entrance in the plane’s belly in what was seen as a calculated diplomatic snub.

 “You had China building artificial islands in the South China Sea. You had Chinese engaging in cybertheft of intellectual property in the hundreds of billions of dollars range. You had an inability to address a range of economic issues, with China shifting to a much more state-led, state-driven economy at the expense of market-based actors and the private sector,” said Paul Haenle, the director’s chair at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and a former NSC director for China, Taiwan, and Mongolia under both Bush and Obama. “These all emerged as real challenges between the U.S. and China, and that was before Trump came into office.”

What came next would only make things worse.

David Feith was a firsthand witness to the sea change in U.S.-China relations. From 2013 to 2017, he worked for the Wall Street Journal in Hong Kong, tracking how China’s economic rise had led to a surge in corporate espionage and assertive state trade policies even as the United States and China deepened their economic relationship. At that point, bilateral U.S.-China trade totaled $636 billion a year, amounting to the largest trade relationship in the world, and U.S. exports to China supported nearly 2 million U.S. jobs.

From afar, Feith also witnessed the political rise of Trump and the dramatic 2016 presidential race that put Trump in the White House and left the Washington establishment (and most everyone else) stunned. Trump distinguished himself from previous presidents by repeatedly bashing China for cheating the United States on trade and intellectual property. “We’re like the piggybank that’s being robbed,” he declared on the campaign trail in 2016. “We can’t continue to allow China to rape our country. And that’s what they’re doing. It’s the greatest theft in the history of the world.”

If Trump’s sharp, blunt style struck a nerve for voters in the heartland, it did the same for a nascent class of China hawks back in Washington, who grew frustrated by what they saw as an outdated mode of wishful thinking on China policy.

The Chinese, by their conduct, “had demonstrated that they absolutely [did] not want to be a responsible stakeholder in a U.S.-led liberal global order and, in fact, they were hostile toward that order and wanted to revise and subvert it,” Feith said.

Feith decided to jump from journalism into the game and in early 2017 joined the Trump administration. He was brought into the State Department by Brian Hook, the then-head of the department’s Policy Planning Staff (a sort of in-house think tank for the State Department), and began working to turn Trump’s campaign platform into U.S. foreign policy. It would turn decades of consensus on U.S. China policy on its head.

Beyond moving to dismantle economic ties in a sweeping trade war, the Trump administration slapped restrictions on the Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei, ramped up weapons sales to Taiwan, and launched the now-defunct China Initiative, a program that, while created to crack down on IP theft, also fueled suspicion and scrutiny of Asian American researchers. In a parting shot, then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo used his last day in office to declare that Beijing’s human rights violations in Xinjiang amounted to genocide.

Nadia Schadlow, a senior fellow at Hudson Institute and former U.S. deputy national security advisor for strategy under Trump, said growing domestic frustration and concern surrounding three key sectors -- manufacturing, defense, and human rights -- all converged to drive these shifts under the Trump administration. It was a “sober wake-up call to what had been happening,” she said.

In 2020, the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic sparked a further breakdown in U.S.-China relations, especially as Trump insisted on referring to the virus as the “Chinese virus” and the origins of the pandemic became the subject of geopolitical suspicion. China poisoned the waters further with a brash new form of so-called “wolf warrior” diplomacy, lashing out at countries that blamed its mishandling of the initial outbreak for the pandemic and spreading bizarre conspiracy theories that the virus originated in U.S. biolabs in Ukraine. Months later, Beijing launched a sweeping crackdown on Hong Kong, sparking a frantic mass exodus as residents scrambled to escape the city -- and further ingraining antagonistic sentiment in Washington.

 “2020 was a year of unceasing action against China,” said Scott Kennedy, a senior advisor at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “The Chinese made it very easy to be hawkish because of the pandemic, the way they responded to individual actions, and their overall tone.”

It was less than two months into Biden’s term in office, and Blinken, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, and a cadre of other top Biden aides had traveled to Alaska for the administration’s first formal face-to-face with Chinese officials. Chinese state media outlets portrayed the meeting as an opportunity to turn the page on the Trump era. Most, including those on the U.S. side, expected the meeting to follow the typical format of a carefully choreographed meet-and-greet.

Instead, they got fireworks. Senior Chinese diplomat Yang Jiechi railed against the complaints the U.S. side brought to the table, accusing Washington of plunging U.S.-China relations into a “period of unprecedented difficulty.”

 “There is no way to strangle China,” he said. Blinken, on the defensive, accused Beijing of actions that “threaten the rules-based order that maintains global stability.”

Yang was playing to the audience back home. Biden was no Trump, but the diplomatic showdown in Anchorage was the clearest sign yet that both sides had misplaced the reset button.

Biden vowed to reverse the remnants of Trump’s foreign-policy agenda. But when it comes to addressing China, Biden’s position remains remarkably similar to his predecessor’s. Many of the main fixtures of Trump’s legacy -- including tariffs and his administration’s declaration that Beijing’s crimes in Xinjiang constituted genocide -- are still firmly in place. In some respects, Biden has gone further.

 “I think a lot of people were surprised at how tough the Biden administration came out of the box,” said Haenle, the former NSC China hand. “The Biden administration put a lot of emphasis on wanting to maintain that bipartisan approach, not wanting the Republicans to sort of claim that they’re tougher on China than the Democrats.”

Two years in, Biden’s presidency has been marked by a full-throttle campaign against China’s tech sector, as he unleashed punishing new export controls targeting China’s semiconductor industry and now weighs severing Huawei’s ties to U.S. suppliers. On Taiwan, both Republican and Democratic lawmakers have rallied to his side after his comments on defending the island militarily if China were to launch an invasion.

Those off-the-cuff remarks have raised eyebrows about the decades-old U.S. doctrine of “strategic ambiguity,” which is now so ambiguous that it’s not just the Chinese who are confused about what the United States might do if Chinese shells start falling on Taipei.

That has left relations in a precarious position. “It is a dangerous situation, but having said that, I think that all the three parties -- China, Taiwan, and the United States -- all recognize the danger,” said Cheng Li, the director of the John L. Thornton China Center at the Brookings Institution. “It’s not inevitable, but it’s a downward spiral. It’s caused by mutually reinforced fear … and animosity.”

It’s hard to find much in Congress that gets bipartisan support, but in late September 2022, lawmakers on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee did just that with the Taiwan Policy Act.

The act, which later passed in an altered form as part of a massive defense policy bill, was considered one of the most comprehensive overhauls of U.S.-Taiwan relations when drafted -- and served as a warning to Beijing that Congress was doubling down on support for Taiwan. Although lawmakers ultimately stopped short of formally designating Taiwan as a major non-NATO ally, one of the Taiwan Policy Act’s most contentious proposals, they set aside up to $2 billion in loans for Taiwan to procure weapons. The initial bill passed through the Senate committee by a 17-5 vote, but among the handful of holdouts were some of Biden’s most important allies in Congress.

“The policy we’ve had on Taiwan has been at its heart of success, and this is not a moment to scrap it,” said Murphy, the Democratic senator. “Proponents of the Taiwan Policy Act would say it does not scrap the ‘One China’ policy and it does not create an explicit security guarantee. While that’s technically true, it comes very close. It’s creating a brand-new Taiwan policy at a moment when many of us don’t believe we need it.”

Depending on whom you ask, it’s either a last gasp of the doves or an opening rift in the Democratic Party’s China policy between centrists and progressives.

Weiss, the Cornell professor, warned that the appearance of a China consensus in Washington has fueled groupthink. “There is a sense of, like, this is the direction that everybody is going, and it’s not politically advantageous or, from a career perspective, wise to be seen as asking too many questions about that general consensus,” she said. “That makes it harder to ask big questions about, where is this strategy taking us? Where is it leading? How can we bend the damaging trajectory that we’re on?

In the coming months, the House select committee on China is set to be a driving force in shaping this debate as it investigates Beijing’s influence and relationship with the United States. Gallagher, the chairman, said one of the committee’s top priorities is focusing on the long-term investments necessary to “win this new cold war with Communist China” -- although such a framing could also come with dangers of its own.

“You can’t use the terminology that we used for our conflict with the Soviet Union for our conflict with China,” Murphy said. “It is apples and oranges. We had virtually no trade relationship with the Soviet Union. Our most vital trade relationship is with China. So I do worry about a bunch of Cold Warriors and Cold War enthusiasts thinking that you can run a competition with China like you ran a competition with the Soviet Union. It’s not the same thing.”

Nonetheless, the moniker seems to be sticking, perhaps because it’s the only shorthand that Americans have for an era of high-wire tensions with another superpower.

The risk in comparing souring U.S.-China relations to a new cold war is that “it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy,” said Paul Heer, a senior fellow at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs and former U.S. national intelligence officer for East Asia. “When you call this a cold war, you are basically saying, ‘Yes, we are engaged in an existential struggle, and only one side can win.’”

Yet the consensus is growing, and Xi appears to be firmly fixed on his own ambitions -- potentially leaving little room for change. His third term as CCP general secretary will end in 2027.

 “You can’t dance with a partner whose feet don’t move,” said Schell of the Asia Society. “And China doesn’t want to dance yet.”

Robbie Gramer is a diplomacy and national security reporter at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @RobbieGramer

Christina Lu is a reporter at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @christinafei


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