Talks Continue as China US Relations Hit by Spy Charges and War Games

The US will emerge from the trade war with China as a winner, no matter what happens, boasted President Trump. Other tussles affecting US China relations this month included spy charges and war games, while the State Department controversially warned of a clash of civilisations and races: “It’s the first time that we will have a great power competitor that is not Caucasian.” This article is a summary of important US China news in April 2019.

The US President may have dropped one central demand, as Washington prepares to accept a watered-down commitment to reduce cyber-theft, reported the FT. As more US spies for China are charged, the FBI Director described the“multi-layered threat” from a nation “determined to steal its way up the economic ladder at our expense.” 

Critical of Xi Jinping’s Belt and Road Initiative, the US sent no senior representative to Xi’s high-profile forum in Beijing, where he pledged the global infrastructure drive would deliver green, sustainable “high quality” growth for everyone. At the largest naval parade China has ever held, China showed off recent additions including the Type 055, the biggest destroyer ever built in Asia, and the world’s second most powerful vessel of its class after the US Navy’s Zumwalt-class destroyer.

Trump said he would soon host his Chinese counterpart at the White House, raising hopes of agreement to end the trade war. Two of Trump’s top negotiators were set to visit Beijing, with Vice Premier Liu He later bound for DC. Agenda items included intellectual property, where China continues to engage in “unfair and harmful conduct” that damages US IPR, said Washington.

A senior US official denounced as “coercion” Chinese military drills near Taiwan, while the commander in charge of US military operations in the Pacific asked for more money to counter the threat from Beijing. In the South China Sea, the US sent a message to China by dispatching a fighter-jet-carrying warship to join drills near the disputed Scarborough Shoal for the first time.

The chairman of the Federal Communications Commission opposed China Mobile’s application to provide cell service to Americans on security concerns. Frustrated US businesses can no longer be counted on as a “positive anchor” in US-China relations, said AmCham in China.

One round of talks produced a breakthrough with agreement to set up enforcement offices to monitor each other’s implementation of trade pledges. The US has insisted on an enforcement mechanism, while China worried that checks by US officials would infringe its sovereignty. “While things look positive, it’s never over till it’s over with the Chinese,” warned Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue about reducing Beijing’s tariff on US ethanol products.

The mystery deepened over the Chinese “spy” caught at Trump’s Florida resort, and the businessman with multiple identities whose association had “troubling connections to the Chinese government”. 

China hands said Trump risked falling into a familiar trap: believing in “mythical reformers” Beijing conjures to deflect foreign demands. If China becomes this century’s dominant power, “there is a risk the United States and the world will be less free, less prosperous, and less safe,” warned the Center for American Progress.

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