Monthly Archives: May 2018

Redefining US-China relationship

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According to The Epoch Times, as President Donald Trump appoints increasingly hawkish foreign policy hands to assert U.S. trade interests, a veteran China expert whose views closely mirror that of new national security adviser John Bolton suggests that exposing human rights abuses is the best tool for redefining relations with an aggressive China.

Dan Blumenthal is the director of Asian studies at the American Enterprise Institute and previously advised the U.S. government on China issues for over a decade. He said that while the United States is locked in a strategic competition with China around the world, an effective pushback cannot be a purely military endeavor, but must include an organized effort to expose abuses by the Chinese communist regime.

“The No. 1 weapon we should never give up is human rights,” said Blumenthal, who delivered a keynote speech at the SAIS Asia Conference on March 30. “[Human rights] is a powerful tool for the United States to stay in the center in China and to stand with those who are oppressed.”

Blumenthal pointed to the Chinese regime’s persecution of Uyghurs, the Muslim ethnic group in China’s Xinjiang region, as a topic that should be targeted by U.S. human rights efforts. Doing so could help decouple China’s strategic relations with Muslim majority countries such as Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Gulf states, all of which are at the frontier of China’s global expansion of power.

“China’s policies in Xinjiang are some of the most oppressive toward the Muslims in the world, yet few people know about them,” Blumenthal said, arguing that the U.S. State Department needs to “step up to the competition” and set up an information office similar to the ones established in the Cold War to highlight bad behavior by China.

Blumenthal’s comments follow Trump’s announcement on March 22 that Bolton, a former U.S. ambassador to the U.N., will replace H.R. McMaster as national security adviser, starting April 9.

US might retreat from its tough policies towards China

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According to Asia Times, US President Donald Trump’s recent switch from engaging to confronting China has put the world on edge. China’s quick response in vowing a “tit-for-tat” on US tariffs imposed on its goods prompted a free fall in the US stock market, with a combined loss totaling nearly 6 percent in the week ending March 23, the worst in more than two years, though it has rebounded since.

This market volatility coupled with outcries from US businesses against Trump’s “tough” policy stances seem to have an impact on the US president or his senior officials. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin called his Chinese counterpart, Vice-Premier Liu He, on Saturday to discuss the issue. In that telephone call, Liu was reported to have told Mnuchin that China would retaliate against the US if Trump followed through with his tariff proposal, where to buy liquor.

The fact that Mnuchin is opening the door for negotiations to address issues with China’s “economic czar” is a good sign of a pragmatic approach to addressing differences between the world’s two largest economies. That will avert a trade war, at least for now.

What’s more, Mnuchin’s gesture seems to indicate the recognition that the kind of trade threats leveled against Japan, the UK, France, and Germany in the 1980s will not work against 21st-century China.

The United States’ huge trade deficit with Japan in the 1980s led to the signing of the Plaza Accord in 1985 among the so-called Group of Five: the US, the UK, Japan, Germany, and France. The main purpose of the accord was to weaken the US dollar against the other four countries’ currencies.

Between 1980 and 1985, the greenback appreciated as much as 50 percent against the yen, pound, franc, and mark, prompting US companies such as General Motors, Caterpillar, Motorola, and others to ask for protection against foreign imports (notably from Japan). What’s more, the US had incurred a merchandise trade deficit of almost 3.5 percent of gross domestic product with the four powers and had just emerged from a recession.