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Trump and Xi Jinping Haven’t Spoken, But China Outlines Expectations With Coaxing and Threats  

Yaxue Cao, November 13, 2016



People’s Daily calling for Trump’s victory 45 minutes earlier than AP and Bloomberg. The Communist Party mouthpiece seems elated. Photo via: China Digital Times


On November 9, around 6:30 am EST (7:30 pm in Beijing), Chinese state news agency Xinhua reported that Chinese president Xi Jinping’s had sent the U. S. president-elect Donald Trump a “congratulatory telegram.” A telegram, really? How do you send a telegram to a New York billionaire in 2016? It sounds like Mao Zedong sending a telegram to comrade Enver Hoxha in Albania in 1961.

Whether or not a telegram was sent, Mr. Trump hasn’t received it. Nor has he tried to reach out to Xi, though he spoke to nine world leaders within 24 hours of his victory, and by Friday, he has spoken with or heard from “most” leaders except for Xi.

The Chinese Communist Party’s mouthpieces, however, have lost no time to lay out their expectations of the president-elect.

China and the U.S. Must Continue to Cooperate

A couple of hours later, around 10 am EST, November 9, Xinhua published a commentary titled “Hoping for the China-U. S. Relationship to Make Bigger Advances From a New Starting Point.” When Trump takes office at the beginning of next year, it begins, it will be the 45th Anniversary of Shanghai Communique, and it will present the two countries “a big opportunity…to make a new step forward.”

Our relationship has been normalized for 40 years, the commentary goes on, and we have achieved so much in trade, dialogues, dealing with regional and global challenges, and we have been cooperating more and more deeply. “It’s a win-win for both if we cooperate, and it will hurt both if we fight.” Our common interests greatly outweigh our differences, it indicated.

The word “cooperation” appeared 10 times in this brief commentary of 1,200 characters.

It’s Just Campaign Rhetoric, Right?

Mr. Trump vowed to “put America first” and voiced objection against globalization. He promised to designate China as a “currency manipulator,” and said the U. S. would slap a 45% tariff on Chinese imports. He plans to reinforce the American military presence in Asia.

But surely, the commentary says, “campaign language is just campaign language.”

“Reasonable people have realized that, after decades of development, trade cooperation has become the brightest part of the China-U. S. relations. The two countries are seeing mutually beneficial trade relations displaying these trends: the areas of our cooperation continue to multiply, the scope of our cooperation continues to expand, and the level of our cooperation continues to elevate.  Trade and economic cooperation is the ‘ballast’ and the ‘propeller’ of the China–U. S. relationship.”

Isolationism is bad for the America — the commentary cited a researcher named Lee Branstetter and unspecified “American economists.”

Overseas Military Interventionism Is Bad for America

However, China likes Trump’s proposed reduction of overseas military involvement during the campaign.

“History has proved that the U. S. has paid heavy political and economic costs for overseas military interventionism. Instead, China and the U. S. should coordinate and cooperate on hot regional issues as well as global challenges.”

A ‘New Type Great Power Relationship’ and ‘Win-win’

In the early evening, around 6:30pm, EST, on November 9, the People’s Daily published a commentary titled “The Big Picture of the China-U. S. Relationship Won’t Change.” It opines:

“The effort to build new type great power relationship between China and the U. S. is based on the solid and tangible interests of both peoples, and promoting the healthy development of the two countries’ business and trade relationship is an important channel to realize these interests.”

It says that “it’s been proven that the two countries are mature powers capable of handling many complex and sensitive issues, cooperating bilaterally, regionally and globally, and managing their differences constructively.”

As examples of the two countries “consciously cultivating strategic mutual trust,” the piece evokes Xi Jinping and Obama’s meetings at the “Sunnylands meeting” in June 2013, their “Yingtai nightly conversations” inside the CCP headquarters of Zhongnanhai in November 2014, their “autumn chat” in the White House in September 2015, and their “stroll along the West Lake” in Hangzhou in September 2016.


A stroll along the West Lake – for Xi Jinping’s show. 

Repeating pretty much what the Xinhua commentary says, sometimes verbatim, it goes on to coax the President-elect that “it is for the fundamental interest of the two peoples that China and the U. S. develop long-term healthy and stable relationship, which is also the overall expectation of the international community.”

China Will Fight Back….

On November 11, Global Times, another mouthpiece of the Communist Party, published an article recommending that China “should stand ready to fight back if Donald Trump rolls out measures against China after he is sworn in as US president.” These include “establish[ing] trade barriers for American imports,” naming Apple for example. “If Trump plans to persuade American enterprises in China to return to the U.S., which would take jobs away from China,” China should consider the 80,000 jobs its investments have created in the U. S.

(To put the matter in perspective, the number of U. S. jobs outsourced to China since 2001, according to one statistic, is 3,200,000.)

“Without a doubt, China has plenty of chips with which to bargain with the U.S. …China should also develop contingency plans to prepare for the worst, if the U.S. does provoke a trade war. In the meantime, Beijing is likely to seek dialogue with Trump to ensure a smooth transition in Sino-U.S. ties.”

‘What Concerns Us Most Is Globalization’

On November 12, Ms. Hu Shuli (胡舒立), the editor-in-chief of Caixin Media, believed to be closely tied to the Party’s disciplinary czar Wang Qishan (王岐山), opined on Caijing’s Weibo (later published in Caixin) about Trump’s win. She observes soberly that, with Brexit and the election of Donald Trump, globalization will be undergoing tumultuous changes, and “all of these are highly relevant to China.”

“To maintain stable economic development, deepen reforms and open-up, and realize the goal of a prosperous society, China needs a smooth and bright global economic environment that robustly pulls forward. From 1978 when China initiated reforms, to 1992 when China revamped reforms, to the beginning of the 21st century when China accelerated opening up, China has been enjoying just such an international environment. It’s true that the Chinese economy is not as open as the American economy. Right now China is planning to continue to open up, but the U.S. is signaling a closure. What is China going to do?”

She prescribed continuous globalization and domestic reforms that will benefit more of the people, but China watchers are anything but sanguine about the changes Xi Jinping has been implementing since taking power.

Climate Change

On the eve of the U.S. election, China’s Climate Minister Xie Zhenhua (解振华) and one of his top negotiators Zou Ji (邹骥), warned that Trump should not pull the U.S. out of the Paris Agreement as he said he would during the campaign.

“If Trump were to insist on doing things his own way, then he would pay a heavy price both politically and diplomatically,” said Zou Ji, deputy director of the National Center for Climate Change Strategy, part of China’s state planning apparatus.

“The U.S. would suffer the greatest harm and of course, the rest of the world would also be implicated,” he told reporters on Nov. 4.

Zou’s comments marked the second occurrence in a week of a Chinese official commenting on a foreign election, both of whom condemned Trump’s threat to spurn the Paris Agreement, made by nearly 200 governments, which takes effect on Nov. 11.

On Nov. 1, China’s top climate change negotiator rejected Trump’s plan to back out, saying a wise political leader should make policy in line with global trends.

While it’s amusing to see China touting itself as “a responsible country,” China’s worries about the U.S. withdrawing from the climate change pact may have more to do with just climate change.

In an essay in 2014, political scientist Wu Qiang (吴强) pointed out that Obama’s deal with Xi Jinping on reducing China’s carbon emission was “almost the sole instance of progress the Obama administration has made in U.S.-China relations at a time when the relationship is becoming more difficult.” He argued that climate change was the bond that would be the engine driving the relationship.

“During the Clinton administration, Most Favored Nation Trade Status was the issue that bound the relationship. During the Bush administration, the bond was the war on terrorism. Now that these bonds are gone, emissions promises are becoming the new bond that keeps the two countries in a cooperative relationship in which they clash often but not break up.”

What Will Trump’s China Policy Look Like?

I will not guess, but this piece of colorful advice from a Trump advisor caught my eyes the other day:

To deal with China, he says, the United States should act like an aggressive patient at a dentist’s office: “Here’s how the patient deals with the dentist: sits down in the chair, grabs the dentist by the nuts, and says, ‘You don’t hurt me, I won’t hurt you.’”

I’m all for grabbing Xi Jinping by the balls, just not lying on a dentist chair.

Trump’s Brief Encounter With the Chinese Judiciary  

On May 18, 2015, the Beijing Superior People’s Court upheld a lower court ruling that denied the registration of Trump as a trademark in China.


Yaxue Cao edits this website. Follow her on Twitter @YaxueCao.



Donald Trump’s Peace Through Strength Vision for the Asia-Pacific, Alexander Gray and Peter Navarro, Foreign Policy, November 7, 2016.

A Trump-China Reading List, Graham Webster, November 9, 2016.

China Claims Rights Lawyers and Dissidents Are Part of Vast American Conspiracy in 4-Minute Video, August 3, 2016.




Chinese Leaders Are Living in a Dangerous Illusion

Arthur Waldron, October 17, 2016

This is a speech delivered on October 2, the first day of the three-day conference on the prospect of a democratic China in New York City, organized and attended by overseas Chinese scholars and dissidents. With Professor Waldron’s permission, we are pleased to post the text of his speech here. – The Editors


Good morning, my dear friends, it’s a great honor to be here.

The first demonstration against dictatorship in China took place outside of the Chinese Consulate in New York more than 30 years ago. I knew it was going to happen, so I went there. There was no press, just me sitting in a café. About 12 people appeared wearing grocery bags over their heads, and they unfurled a banner saying “Democracy for China.” The Consulate was absolutely silent, the windows sealed, but I said to myself: “You have just seen the beginning of a river that’s going to grow and grow and grow.” And I think I’m right.

Since July 9 of last year more than 300 Chinese human rights lawyers have been abducted or threatened by the Beijing authorities and two dozen of them have been incarcerated, tried, and given heavy sentences or are awaiting trial. One is Xie Yang who was abducted in Changsha, July 11 of last year, and tortured in the hope of eliciting a confession, but now looks set to be put away for a long time.

Here is what Xie told the Beijing agents as they threatened him: “I will not confess, because these two charges against me are spurious. I will never dismiss my own lawyers, and I want to meet with my lawyers according to normal procedure. I hope that more lawyers will take part in my case.”

He and those like him, even in prison, represent something new and important for China. A class of fearless people, who are not frightened, and refuse to lie, has appeared. They cannot be intimidated and they cannot be bought.

My argument this morning is that they are writing the future of China, that great civilization.

We must keep these people always in our minds. Tens of thousands of them. We must keep lists, raise names and wrongs at every opportunity, and never forget.

In the pitch black of a prison basement, hungry, shackled, attacked by rats and vermin, just to stay sane is a challenge. If you know that thousands of people outside have you constantly in mind and in the public eye, however, your hope will not die.

Let me now turn to the People’s Republic of China, sixty-seven years and one day old today, an aspiring great power.

China has decided, sometime under Hu Jintao, to abandon her tactical military connection with our country to become flagship of the dictatorial fleet, and oppose the United States and other free countries. China now has the largest military forces in the world equipped with technology that often matches ours, and they have decided that they have no need for the U.S. to counterbalance the USSR, gone a quarter of a century.

Democracy is not somehow new and alien to the Chinese who are, it is thought by some foreigners, natural slaves who need a master – a khozain as they say in Russian. My dear younger son returned from the politically intense Princeton in Beijing summer program unhappy at the attempt to brainwash him, but convinced that democracy in China would mean chaos, which is the Party line.

In fact China had elections from the turn of the last century, a parliament into the 1920s whose building can still be found in Beijing, a truly democratic constitution in 1946, local elections in 1947, and national elections the following year. Yes, pre-communist China was not entirely stable. But she was like a rock of stability compared to the PRC, where more than fifty million people have died in peacetime and good weather.

Even Mao Zedong pretended to be a democrat and fooled both many Chinese and most Americans specialized in the country.

On September 27, 1945, Mao Zedong (毛澤東) provided written and thus presumably definitive answers to written questions posed by the Reuters correspondent in Chongqing. One was “what is the Chinese Communists’ definition for a free, democratic China?”

Mao answered that “a free, democratic China would be a country in which all ranks of governments, including the central government, would be produced by popular, judicious, and anonymous voting, and the country would realize the ‘of the people, by the people, and for the people’ concept of Abraham Lincoln and the ‘four freedoms’ proposed by Franklin Roosevelt.”

This exchange was published in the newspapers at the time but was not included in the Chinese edition of Mao’s complete works, though it is included in the Japanese edition. Strict control of information. One of the things I love about China is that they screw up all the time. If you go to Baidu, this document will pop right up on your computer. What kind of dictatorship is that?

Today the People’s Republic has decided to abandon even talk of liberalization. She wants a Party dictatorship without end. She has no interest now in the United States.

We Americans do not yet entirely recognize that this change of course has been determined in China. We are all, as it were, Emersonians. We believe other cultures will understand our gestures as we mean them: our hand proffered for a handshake, our attempt to walk a mile in their moccasins, our gestures of restraint, will signal desire for peace and understanding, even friendship. That is the message we are trying to send.

How does the Chinese government receive it? Not at all as intended, but as the opposite.

The official Chinese reaction will be, “We have successfully intimidated Washington to the point she won’t even mention us. The Americans are weak, irresolute, and when it comes to it, craven. We can deal with them and drive them out of Asia.”

“Compromise” is a scarce concept in Chinese theories of conflict. Rather the phrase they use is ni si wo huo (你死我活) —“you die, I live.” That is not “win-win.” We do not understand the culturally-determined difference between the message sent and the message received.

China’s rulers suffer from the dangerous delusion that the Communist Party can maintain stable and continuing control over China by dint of terror and arrests at home, combined with red carpet welcomes and intimidation abroad.

Let me conclude with my deepest worry, which is the acceptance and normalization, as it were, of the largest and longest lived and hideously oppressive PRC. HHDL comes in past the garbage cans to the White House. We are the United Bloody States of America, as Churchill might have put it. We are a super power and our ideals if not always our actions, are of sublime goodness. So since when does Beijing get to tell us how to treat our guests? We should tell them – write a protest, hand it to our deputy under assistant secretary and we will file it. And the Dalai Lama should go in from the front door and into the Oval Office.

Now, since 2009 Liu Xiaobo (劉曉波) has been imprisoned in Liaoning Province, I believe the United States should say to China that, until he is released, we will have no high-level exchanges, no visits of the Chinese presidents, our president doesn’t go over there, because all the work of diplomacy can be done by an ambassador, the rest of this is fluff. Just tell them: look, if you want to come and have the red carpet, dinner at the White House, you have to release these people. Otherwise, we can wait.

The White House has told the Pentagon, secretly, to stop speaking about China’s growing military strength.

Chinese money has infiltrated our system in staggering quantities. One of my colleagues is tracing how many of our so called scholars, think tanks, foundations, etc. take money from the PRC, and are bought intellectually.

But the best deception is self-deception. Our current China policy comes from Henry Kissinger, a man entirely ignorant of the real China. Zhou Enlai he almost worshiped, and trusted completely.

Myself and scholar/diplomat Jay Taylor—he working through Taiwan and me working through China—have now shown that all of the ultra-secret China policy [of the United States] that Kissinger secretly confided to Zhou Enlai was in fact shared immediately from about 1969 onwards with Chiang Kai-shek in Taiwan. And it was discussed – Zhou and Chiang had discussions about how to handle this American approach.

This is an astonishing discovery. But the thing is, we never even suspected the Chinese. This is absolutely certain. It’s confirmed in Taiwan, and it has been confirmed to me by Chinese who are authoritative on this. Some people doubted, but this is absolutely true.

Two of those who went with Henry in 1971 are persuaded; Mr. Kissinger has never answered any of my very polite notes and indirect inquiries.

For decades we Americans told ourselves fairy tales about how China was going to liberalize and democratize. I think she will, but how and at what cost is the question. Now we have stopped talking about liberalization and democratization. Our view is, “that’s just how the Chinese are. They disappear people, they beat people up, they run a tight dictatorship. We have to accept this—not as a communist but as a Chinese characteristic—if we are going to get along. So we accept it.”

As an American I am deeply ashamed of this approach, which is both unrealistic and corrupt. But we too are sitting in China’s school room. I am confident that China’s dictators will teach us the lessons we need to know.

Democracy has been the key theme of Chinese history and politics for well over a century. It continues to be the key word. It cannot be stopped though it can be persecuted and delayed. I believe, and I know you all believe too, that in the end it will win.

Thank you all.


arthur-waldronArthur Waldron has been the Lauder Professor of International Relations in the Department of History at the University of Pennsylvania, since 1997. He works mostly on the history of Asia, China in particular; the problem of nationalism, and the study of war and violence in history.






A Young Political Prisoner in the Grand Picture of US-China Diplomacy in the Wake of June 4th Massacre

By Yaxue Cao, May 11, 2016



Wu Jianmin in 1989.


Former Chinese Foreign Minister Qian Qichen (钱其琛) wrote a memoir titled Ten Episodes in China’s Diplomacy soon after retiring in 2003. With sweeping promotion by the Party’s propaganda apparatus that directs much of the state media, it became a bestseller. One of the ten episode deals with the China-U.S. diplomacy after the June 4th Massacre. Of course, that’s an objectionable term for the Chinese Communist Party, so Mr. Qian refers to it as “[that period] in the late 1980s and the early 1990s.” The English edition was published in 2006 by HarperCollins, with the endorsement of Harvard professor Ezra Vogel, who proofread the translation and provided a foreword.    

By Qian’s account, on June 21, 1989, a mere two weeks after the massacre in Beijing, President George H. W. Bush wrote a secret letter to Deng Xiaoping “asking to send a special envoy to China to have a frank talk with Deng.” (p. 131)*  On July 1, Bush’s national security adviser Brent Scowcroft, accompanied by Deputy Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger, flew to Beijing. The trip was so secret that even the U.S. Embassy in China was not notified. To make sure no one knew, the C-141 military cargo plane carrying the envoy was disguised as an ordinary commercial carrier with its Air Force markings removed. The plane flew 22 hours, refueling in midair, so it wouldn’t have to land before its destination. It carried its own communication equipment so that Scowcroft would not have to use the equipment in the U. S. Embassy in Beijing. While in Beijing, “no national flags were displayed at the venues for meetings, talks, or banquets, or on the car Scowcroft used, or at the hotel where he was staying. No news reports were released about his arrival or when he left Beijing. All photographs were… sealed as historical materials.” (p. 133)

In the wake of June 4, the U.S. recalled its ambassador and the Congress passed sanctions. According to Qian Qichen, Scowcroft told Deng that President Bush was “uneasy about this [the greatest disturbance in the US-China relationship since Nixon’s first visit to China] (p. 136), so he had chosen Scowcroft for this secret trip to make contact with the Chinese leaders to safeguard Sino-American relations.” Scowcroft explained to Chinese leaders “the difficulties faced by President Bush, and Bush’s determination to safeguard, restore, and improve Sino-American relations.” (p. 135)

On July 28, President Bush wrote another secret letter to Deng Xiaoping: “In spite of a U.S. Congress that continues to try to compel me to cut off economic ties with China, I will do my best to keep the boat from rocking too much.” (p. 138)

Bush continued, practically begging: “Please understand that this letter has been personally written, and is coming to you from one who wants to see us go forward together. Please do not be angry with me if I have crossed the invisible threshold lying between constructive suggestion and ‘internal interference.’ …. This future is one of dramatic change. The United States and China each have much to contribute to this exciting future. We can both do more for world peace and for the welfare of our own people if we can get our relationship back on track. ” (p. 138)

On November 6, 1989, Bush wrote to Deng Xiaoping again, assuring him that the forthcoming U.S.-Soviet summit in Malta “would not impair China’s interests.” (p. 139)

As this letter reached Deng Xiaoping, “it so happened that Henry Kissinger was visiting China at this time.” (p. 139) Deng asked Kissinger to convey to Bush a package of proposals to solve the Sino-U.S. impasse. This included China allowing the physicist Fang Lizhi and his wife, sheltered at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing, to leave China; the U.S. lifting sanctions on China; the two countries working to reach several major economic deals; and the U.S. inviting Jiang Zemin, the Party Secretary, to visit the United States.

This proved to be too much for even the very eager President and his envoys. On his second visit that year—this time it was open, on December 9, 1989—Scowcroft told his Chinese hosts that “Bush was not a man who would act on these matters without any restraint,” and he hoped China would understand the complexity of American politics. According to Qian, Scowcroft told him that “the sanctions on China announced in June were intended to satisfy the demands of the American people.” (p. 142)

In proposing a toast to the People’s Republic of China in the state banquet held for the American guests, Scowcroft said: “We come to reduce the negative influence of irritants in the relationship.”

Between then and 1991, the communist bloc in East Europe collapsed, the Soviet Union was about to disintegrate, and the Gulf War was fought. On November 15, 1991, Bush sent the Secretary of State James Baker to visit China, hoping to save a “troubled marriage,” to use Baker’s words. According to Qian Qichen, after two days of talks, the U.S. promised to support China’s entry to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade and lift sanctions, including allowing satellite export to China. China in return promised to strengthen protection of intellectual properties.  

Human rights was high on Baker’s priority, not so much out of principle, but out of President Bush’s need to appease the Congress and secure most-favored-nation trade status for China. This is made clear by Baker himself in his recollection of the visit (The Politics of Diplomacy, pp. 588-594). In his first meeting with his host, he gave the Chinese a list of 733 protesters with a request to know their status, believing they were in custody. According to Baker, at the very end of his last meeting, Qian told him that he couldn’t find 340 of them.

Qian wrote in his memoir (p. 149):

The United States produced a long list of detained Chinese “dissidents,” which was full of mistakes. Some names were written only in Roman letters, without Chinese characters, so it was hard to identify who was meant. There was a Wu Jianmin on the list. I told Baker that the director of the Information Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was called Wu Jianmin, and he was right here in the room. And Wu Jianmin said, “Yes, I am here.” Baker joked, “Oh, you’ve been released.” Everyone burst out laughing.

Baker didn’t hide the fact that his visit was hardly a success, but on the other hand, Qian declared that “the visit was generally considered a success for China’s diplomacy.” (p. 149)



Students leaving Nanjing on their march to Beijing in late May, 1989.


The Wu Jianmin on the List

The Wu Jianmin on Baker’s list was indeed a student leader. The noted “Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements in China” (香港支联会) had made efforts to rescue him.

In 1989 Wu was a student at the little-known Jiangsu Business Management College in Nanjing, but over the course of the demonstrations, he became a leader. At the end of May when students in Beijing had been on hunger strike for days, martial law had been announced, and the government had shown little willingness to have a dialogue with the students, Wu Jianmin mobilized his peers to walk north to Beijing to support fellow students there. The idea was to stop at colleges along the way and encourage more and more students to join on the march.

Recalling Wu Jianmin giving a speech in Nanjing University, an anonymous female participant in that event portrayed the speaker as a sunny and optimistic young man. “We are going to go north toward Tiananmen,” Wu Jianmin told the crowd. “We will shout out our messages to the central government, to Li Peng. We are not rioters; we are true patriots.”

When the news of the massacre in Tiananmen Square reached them, Wu Jianmin and the 1,000-strong Nanjing students were marching in Chuzhou, Anhui (安徽滁州). They were stopped and sent back to Nanjing by armed police.

In the months that followed, even though the political climate was extremely harsh and everyone was interrogated and key participants punished, Wu Jianmin led a small group of students who wrote and published a journal, along with other political activities. In 1990, he and three others were arrested by the national security bureau in Nanjing. As the main “culprit” he was detained in a military detention facility where, for six months, he was locked in solitary confinement. His only human contact was the few seconds when a warden slid in food from the little opening on the iron door.

In July, 1991, he was sentenced by the city’s intermediary court to 10 years in prison for “organizing and leading a counter-revolutionary group.”

He didn’t know he made an appearance in Qian Qichen’s memoir until recently when he received an email from a friend: “Take a look at Qian’s book, the Wu Jianmin it refers to is you!”

On November 17, 1991, when Chinese foreign minister Qian Qichen and U.S. Secretary of State shared a laugh over his name, Wu Jianmin had just begun serving his sentence in the Longtan Prison (龙潭监狱), Nanjing. He was locked up in a long, narrow cell with a dozen others: the food would be served up at one end of it, while the other was open to an enclosed yard. A small light bulb dangled from the ceiling, burning 24 hours a day. The prisoners slept, lived, and ate on a long platform bed along one wall. Water was supplied three times a day, for 15 minutes each instance. They were allowed yard time two to three times a week, again for 15 minutes. But if the guards weren’t in the mood, the prisoners would be deprived of yard time for several weeks on end.

“When we were let out to get air, it was a patio with six meter-high concrete walls on each side, topped with chain mesh. Sentinels above marched on patrol, watching the captives in the cage,” he told me in a recent interview.  


Wu Jianmin at the June 4th Commemoration held outside the Chinese Embassy in Washington, DC, 2015.

After reading Qian Qichen’s book, Wu suddenly recalled an incident that took place in 1991. “On a frigid day in the winter of 1991—I remember it was after I slipped on for the first time my old down coat sent in by my parents—a couple of officials came to visit me in jail,” he wrote in a rebuttal published online. “With a look of arrogance, one of them told me that I would only be treated leniently if I changed my ‘reactionary’ stance and confessed my guilt and regret to the government, to act as an example of repentance to ‘educate’ others. Otherwise, no one would be able to help me, including any hostile foreign force. ‘Even if the American government wanted to help you, Baker wouldn’t be able to, Bush wouldn’t be able to,’ they said. When I heard this, I thought it was ridiculous—I was a student, not even in Beijing [where the attention was]. How could I possibly even fancy that the U.S. government, let alone James Baker or President Bush, would come and save me as I languish in my cell?”

But now it all makes sense.

In other words, Qian Qichen knew perfectly well who the Wu Jianmin on the name list was, but without batting an eyelid, he deceived the U.S. Secretary of State, and was immensely pleased with himself for his wit. Indeed, this is how Qian concluded his 1989-1990 diplomacy with the Americans: “Under comrade Deng Xiaoping’s direct leadership we have dared to struggle and adeptly respond, and very quickly we’ve broken through the various sanctions, restrictions, and stemmed the anti-China sentiment.”** “History has proven that the Great Wall of China is impregnable.” (p. 127)

The Information Department chief on site, Wu Jianmin, also knew who the Wu Jianmin on the list was—but like a faithful lackey, he also went along with the performance and feigned ignorance. In something of a coincidence, Wu Jianmin the Information chief is also a Nanjinger, and the two Wu Jianmins were alumni of the the same high-school. The senior Wu Jianmin was widely regarded by his Western counterparts as a moderate and a dove, someone they could work with and pin their hopes on.

Today, a quarter century later, the former political prisoner Wu Jianmin has two remaining questions about the laughter his case inspired in 1991: Were Americans fooled by the Chinese officials? The way it’s put by Qian Qichen, Baker is just stupid: we used a 50-year-old official with the same name to stand-in for a 20-year-old student leader, and he believed it, even laughing along, easing the embarrassment!

Or, is it perhaps that Baker was very clear that they were “putting Zhang’s hat on Li’s head,” but played dumb to please the Party, going along with the charade to get what he wanted? Just what are American interests? Why must American interests be hidden from the American people, media, Congress, and known and controlled by only a select few?

According to Washington insider Michael Pillsbury, “in the wake of the uprising and crackdown, Bush ordered the Pentagon to complete a promised delivery of torpedoes, radar, and other military supplies to China.” How was that for the interests of the United States? (p. 90, The Hundred-Year Marathon

In the beginning of 2015, Wu Jianmin came to the United States and applied for political asylum because he faced imprisonment again for organizing the memorialization of Zhao Ziyang on the 10th anniversary of his death. Pu Zhiqiang (浦志强) and Yu Shiwen (于世文) had previously been arrested for commemorating June 4th. His application hasn’t yet been approved.

Wu isn’t in the least surprised at hearing about the Communist Party’s rogue and shameless behavior. But he still wants to hear it from American politicians, diplomats, and even Baker himself: After the June 4 massacre, how did the United States demonstrate its values in its dealing with the Chinese Communist Party? Are American values always treated as frivolously as they were on November 17, 1991, in a bout of laughter with communist officials over a supposed name mix-up?

The CCP knows that its core interests are to maintain one-Party dictatorship in China. Since the Tiananmen massacre, this has been a bedrock consensus for all in the Party, whether the so-called reformists or the conservatives. You hope dearly that the American Presidents, the National Security Advisers, and the Secretaries of State know what America’s core interests are.


*Unless otherwise noted, all page numbers refer to Ten Episodes in China’s Diplomacy, by Qian Qichen. HarperCollins, 2006.
**This sentence is my own translation of what Qian writes literally in the Chinese original. The English edition whitewashed it into, “China fought back courageously and wisely, and it did not take long before we triumphed over the sanctions and survived the crisis.” (p. 127)


Yaxue Cao is the founder and editor of this website. Follow her on Twitter @yaxuecao



How the Tiananmen Massacre Changed China, and the World, Hu Ping, June 2, 2015.

In the Wake of the Sino-American Summit, the Potential for a New Cold War, Wu Qiang, October 12, 2015

China’s Future: Unstable and Unsettled, Mo Zhixu, April 6, 2016




In the Wake of the Sino-American Summit, the Potential for a New Cold War

By Wu Qiang, published: October 12, 2015

“The coming new Cold War will be nothing less than a fight for our own freedom, a conflict in which the free world will be forced to contend with a China that is reverting to a 1984-style totalitarian state.” 


Perhaps Sino-American relations really have reached a turning point: during Chinese President Xi Jinping’s recent week-long official visit to the United States, his only contact with American President Barack Obama was one state dinner and a single day of talks. Nor did the long-awaited summit – the run-up to which began on September 3, 2015, with a massive military parade in Beijing to mark the 70th anniversary of Japan’s defeat in WWII – yield any stunning achievements. At press conferences before and after the summit, the discrepancies between the two sides were very much in evidence. Not since Deng Xiaoping’s state visit in 1979 has a China-U.S. summit been marked by such stark differences of opinion.

How serious are these differences of opinion, and how much will they matter in the long run? What impact will they have on the diplomatic assessment of Xi Jinping’s official visit? To answer these questions, we must look to the fundamentals of Sino-American diplomacy.

The Sino-American relationship has long been China’s top diplomatic priority

We know that from 1949 to the present, Sino-American relations have been defined by the efforts of two generations of political strongmen: first Mao Zedong, then Deng Xiaoping. In his later years, Mao Zedong used Kissinger and Nixon’s visit to China as an opening to normalize Sino-American relations and to help China emerge from its Cold War isolation and the chaos of the Cultural Revolution.

For those in the Communist camp, Sino-American détente was the turning point in a long chain of destabilizing events – the death of Stalin, the 1953 East German uprising, the 1956 Poznań protests in Poland, Khrushchev’s secret speech denouncing Stalin, the Hungarian Uprising, and the “Prague Spring” of 1968 – that threatened to upset the political equilibrium and expose splits within the Communist bloc. All of the achievements of China’s current “reform & opening” [economic liberalization] policies are built upon this political legacy. Deng Xiaoping both inherited and continued Mao’s policies: soon after taking office, Deng made an official visit to the U.S. that inaugurated a “honeymoon period” in Sino-American relations, while at the same time launching a border war with Vietnam and consolidating his political power at home.

The technocratic leaders who succeeded Deng Xiaoping have invariably made the Sino-American relationship their main diplomatic priority: focusing on issues such as access to American markets, China’s most-favored-nation trading status, and 21st century counter-terrorism operations has allowed them to maintain stability, promote economic development and ensure uncontested political dominance at home. Despite some ups and downs, both sides have employed active diplomacy to defuse conflicts ranging from the minor (the 1999 Yinhe container ship incident and the 1999 Wen Ho Lee case) to the major (the 1989 Tiananmen Square killings, the 1999 U.S. bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade, and the 2001 collision of a U.S. Navy spy plane and a PLA jet fighter near Hainan Island), so as not to disrupt the overarching theme of Sino-American cooperation.

The 2015 Sino-American summit: reversing course

On Xi Jinping’s first official visit to the U.S., made three years after he assumed office, something seems to have gone awry. Other than a few agreed-upon topics such as climate change and technical cooperation, there was scant progress in resolving major differences, particularly in the areas of Internet security, South China Sea, and human rights.

Regarding Internet security, although Xi led a large Chinese delegation to Seattle where they spent three days wooing Internet giants, they were unable to mitigate the fundamental differences on Internet security that emerged during bilateral discussions with the White House. Regarding human rights, although Xi Jinping and China’s First Lady Peng Liyuan (彭丽媛) personally stepped up by making appearances at the United Nations General Assembly in New York and the Global Leaders’ Meeting on Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment: A Commitment to Action, where they pledged support for the High-level Roundtable on South-South Cooperation and a women’s poverty alleviation fund, respectively, neither could match up to Hillary Clinton’s one-word rejoinder about China’s hypocrisy on the women’s rights front: “shameless.”

For the first time, a Sino-American summit backed by years of preparation – including an ostentatious September 3 military parade held in Beijing during the run-up to the summit – yielded no strategic consensus, no common ground on which to base strategic cooperation, and no softening of the serious differences of opinion on either side. This is an inauspicious beginning.  For the first time, China’s senior leadership did not exert sufficient personal influence to patch rifts in the Sino-American relationship or to stabilize U.S.-China bilateral cooperation. Even the predictably cautious diplomacy of the Jiang Zemin-Hu Jintao era would have been an improvement over this summit, in which Sino-American relations seem to be a back-sliding course since Kissinger’s 1971 visit to China.

In fact, beginning with his policy speech in Seattle, Xi’s diplomatic rhetoric already paved the way for the failure of this summit. His speech was filled with negative syntax, repudiations of fact, refusals to take responsibility, and a generally dismissive attitude toward Sino-American differences of opinion regarding Internet security, navigation rights in the South China Sea, and human rights conflicts. This is the habitual Chinese bureaucratic response to dispute resolution: the only surprise was that it was being applied so cavalierly to the competing core national interests of two major world powers. It seems cut from the same cloth – or at least informed by the same mindset – as the Japanese approach to dealing with similar conflicts before the outbreak of the Pacific War, and it probably carries a similar potential for danger.

The results of the summit were unsurprising: during the post-summit press conference, Obama made no attempt to gloss over the differences between the two sides, and even expressed doubts about Xi’s willingness to resolve those differences. Judging from the response within American political and media circles, both before and after the summit, it is clear that there are enormous differences between the U.S. and China, and that future conflict is all but unavoidable. You would expect the diplomatic corps to have done everything to ensure that Xi Jinping, during his trip to Washington D.C., had the opportunity to speak to the U.S. Congress, to meet face to face with American legislators, and to mitigate and explain his positions on a variety of issues. The fact that it did not happen is a diplomatic failure of the greatest magnitude.

The fact that the diplomatic corps threw so much effort into a largely symbolic speech at the U.N. General Assembly and yet was unable to create a better opportunity to address the more significant challenges of Sino-American diplomacy not only demonstrates the rigidity and timidity of the bureaucracy, it also highlights the ad-hoc nature of President Xi’s foreign policy and his tendency to underestimate the severity of diplomatic disputes.

Internet security: the main battleground in the “New Cold War”

There are two disagreements at the heart of Sino-American diplomacy: one is the issue of the South China Sea; the other is the issue of Internet security. Despite U.S. insistence that it is a disinterested party with a responsibility to ensure freedom of navigation in the South China Sea, and despite China’s denials of any strategic intent in its large-scale program of island construction, the South China Sea dispute is well-trodden geopolitical ground that touches on oil supply, free trade, and the balance of power in Southeast and Northeast Asia. In that “Mediterranean of the Pacific,” that nexus of extraordinarily sensitive overlapping national interests, all of the neighboring Southeast Asian disputants are emerging nation-states whose hyper-nationalist sentiments are, if anything, even stronger than China’s. Given the tense state of affairs in the South China Sea, neither China nor the U.S. would risk any rash action; the more likely path is détente, with both parties exploring channels that would lead to a negotiated solution.

The issue of Internet security and Internet freedom is a thornier problem, however: because it lies outside the customary purview of geopolitics and challenges traditional notions of the nation-state, it is the most explosive and unpredictable element in the future of Sino-U.S. relations.

To put it in slightly different terms, when war broke out in the Caucasus in 2008, some international voices (this author included) called it the beginning of a new Cold War, but not many agreed. Most felt that it was simply a continuation of old-style regional conflict, and that it was a matter of sheer luck that Russian troops managed to pass through the Roki Tunnel without being thoroughly annihilated. It was only after last year’s Ukrainian and Crimean crises that the world seemed to come to its senses at last and resolve to impose multilateral sanctions against Russia.

The small-scale conflicts that we see now are a prelude to a new Cold War characterized by a clash of ideology.

With the small number of world leaders standing beside Xi and Putin on the Tiananmen Square rostrum during the Chinese military parade on September 3rd, it was clear that some kind of new Cold War international alliance had made its appearance. Prior to that, China had already followed in Russia’s footsteps by enacting strict controls on foreign NGOs and the Internet, and stifling civil society and press freedom. All signs seemed to point to the rapid formation of a global bloc opposed to civil society and Internet freedom. Looking back at Xi Jinping’s tenure, his successive overtures toward Africa and Latin America, and his “One Belt, One Road” or “economic Silk Road” initiative, it is not hard to discern a strategy to export and expand the Chinese model of authoritarian control. And Xi’s recent speech at the U.N. General Assembly seemed intent on using the United Nations as a platform from which to entice southern hemisphere nations to join China’s “bloc” in exchange for economic assistance.

Against this backdrop, the old Cold War conflict – “U.S. vs. U.S.S.R.” or “capitalism vs. socialism” – has been replaced by a conflict over Internet security, thus transforming the Internet into a new ideological battleground. Examples include American and Israeli use of a computer virus to attack Iranian nuclear plants, as well as the blackouts that hit the U.S. in 2003 (an investigation into the cause of the blackouts found that after hackers had penetrated the power grid and realized the damage they caused, they posted a Chinese-language message that read “Zao le!” or “Oh shit!”) Other conflicts touch on Internet freedom and freedom of speech, as when the Chinese government launched a series of initiatives to “clean up” the Internet. Almost all of these restrictions on Internet public opinion – such as the arrests and public denunciations of “Big Vs” [opinion leaders whose Chinese micro-blog accounts boast a large number of followers], the crackdown on independent NGOs, the support and training of the “50-cent army” or “little pinks” [paid pro-government or pro-Chinese Communist Party online commentators] – have been incorporated into China’s new draft National Security Law under the broad category of “Internet sovereignty” that continues to exist within an outmoded nation-state framework.

Today, however, the Internet is so highly integrated into the power grid, the Internet of things, and most every aspect of political, economic and social life, that even a small, local error could trigger a cascade of events that in turn cause the collapse of the entire system. Small individual choices can, like the flick of a switch, set off a series of high-frequency, small-scale shocks that eventually trigger larger-scale transformations, such as the 2011 Jasmine Revolution in Tunisia. Therefore, the Internet has a dual significance, with implications for both national security and for social revolution. It is imbued with great ideological value, and capable of becoming both a battlefield and a weapon. Simply put, Internet warfare will become the main ground of the new Cold War. This is why, in recent years, both China and the U. S. have spared no effort in developing their cyber-warfare capabilities.

There is no escape from Internet totalitarianism

The Xi-Obama summit’s inability to forge a path toward resolving differences between the two parties signals an intensification of the conflict, but it is not yet clear what shape this conflict will take. A recent article on the Foreign Policy website reveals that the U.S. National Security Agency is constructing a massive new computing center; the sheer size of the center, and the scale of the pumping station needed to cool the facility, may be a concrete emblem of a new Cold War. But U.S. President Obama has recently rejected a proposal to retaliate with nuclear weapons in the event of an outbreak of cyber warfare or the destruction of this new facility, so perhaps thermonuclear war will not figure in the calculations of a new and quiet Cold War. But if economic and other forms of cooperation and exchange prove insufficient to dispel the most recent and deep-seated ideological divisions – that is, if there ever comes a time when Silicon Valley Internet companies’ market prospects in China are not enough to deter conflict – then the Internet will become the inevitable battleground in a new ideological Cold War.

We have moved beyond the old-fashioned geopolitical “oil- and carbon-based production and consumption model” and into a “silicon-based political order” centered on the transmission of information. For this reason, we may find that freedom and freedom of thought come at a much higher price than ever before. Restricting freedom of thought requires no nuclear weapons or machine guns, only more law enforcement, more Internet police. The coming new Cold War will be nothing less than a fight for our own freedom, a conflict in which the free world will be forced to contend with a China that is reverting to a 1984-style totalitarian state.

When it comes to the Chinese Communist Party’s totalitarian control of the Internet, no one is immune. For example, during China’s “July 9 crackdown” involving large-scale arrests of human rights lawyers, a German-based server of the Telegram instant messaging system [which some say has enabled Chinese human rights lawyers to carry out their work] experienced an unprecedented DDOS attack. The future has already begun, and it may well prove tragic.


吴强 (2)Wu Qiang (吴强) is a Beijing-based political commentator, and until recently, he was a political science professor at Tsinghua University.



Fear of Losing Control: Why China Is Implementing an Internet Security Law, by Mo Zhixu, China Change, October 4, 2015.

The Coming Information Totalitarianism in China, by Mo Zhixu, April 6, 2013


中文原文《吳強:中美峰會之後可能到來的新冷戰》, translated by China Change.



Engaging China with Moral and Strategic Clarity

By Yang Jianli and Han Lianchao, published: September 26, 2015


26 years ago, after the bloody massacre in Beijing in 1989, we came to Washington to urge the U.S. government to link China’s most-favored-nation (MFN) status to China’s respect for human rights. Without such a linkage, we argued, continuing normal trade with China would be like a blood transfusion to the Communist regime, making it more aggressive and harming the interests of both the American and Chinese people.

But our warning fell on deaf ears. After a lengthy debate, the U.S. government decided to grant permanent MFN to China in 1992. We were assured by U.S. policymakers that democratic development would inevitably follow from economic development.

26 years on that warning has become a reality. With money and technology pouring in from the U.S. and other Western countries, the Chinese Communist regime not only survived the 1989 crisis, it catapulted into the 21st century. The country’s explosive economic growth lifted it from one of the poorest countries in terms of GDP per capita to become the number two economy in the world; but China remains firmly near the bottom of indicators on democratic development.

The Chinese Communist regime has instead grown into a Frankenstein’s monster, terrorizing peoples both domestically and internationally.

Xi Jinping reviewing troops in early September, 2015.

Xi Jinping reviewing troops in early September, 2015.

China is using the economic power it has gained with the help of the West to build a formidable, modern military that can reach every corner of the earth. As its power grows, China is demanding a re-write of international norms and rules. China wants to create a new international order with China at the center of the Asia-Pacific region, bringing regional and world peace under threat.

What went wrong with America’s engagement policy?

First, China upturned the traditional linkage between economic prosperity and democracy and re-wrote the rules of development. While China’s model of political repression paired with economic freedom is showing signs of cracking, nevertheless it has achieved tremendous economic gains over the past twenty years.

Secondly, the United States has encouraged this uneven development with its lack of moral and strategic clarity in its dealings with China.

The origin of the error can be traced back to the early 1970s when then Secretary of State Henry Kissinger claimed that by integrating Beijing into the international community economically and politically, China would behave responsibly, abiding by international norms and rules.

This amoral, geo-politically pragmatic strategy failed to recognize the evil nature and hegemonic ambitions of the communist regime, as reiterated in President Xi Jinping’s “China Dream” of a great red empire, to challenge, and eventually supersede, the western civilization with the so called China model.

Washington policymakers also failed to understand that economic growth may be a necessary condition, but not a sufficient one, for cultivating democracy. Consequently, this policy has fundamentally undermined America’s national interests and security.

The alternative is to engage China with a moral strategic compass: China under the Chinese Communist Party’s rule cannot rise peacefully, and its transition to a democratic country that respects human rights, rule of law, freedom of speech and religion, is in everyone’s best interest, including China’s own. In other words, the U.S. must push for a peaceful democratic transition in China.

The reason for this is simple:

To support China’s totalitarian regime, a regime that ruthlessly represses its own people, denies universal values to justify its dictatorship, and that challenges the existing international order to seek its dominance, is morally corrupt as well as strategically unsound.

Like Frankenstein’s monster, China is now seeking to revenge against its creator — the West. It will destabilize and endanger the world. We’ve already seen other countries that have copied and are now suffering under the China model, an amoral political system that rewards the corrupt while offering crumbs to its citizens.

While many policymakers in Washington have now realized that it is time to get tough on China, some still believe that the present and future conflicts between the U. S. and China can be managed. Our view is this: Without China’s democratization, a clash between the U. S. and China is unavoidable because the two countries’ strategic goals are on a clashing course and their core interests cannot be compromised.

The only way to prevent a future war with China is to pursue its democratic transformation now.

To start, the Congress should pass a China Democracy Act that flatly states that enhancing human rights and democratic transition in China is decidedly in America’s national interest and that directs the Federal government and all its agencies to make democracy and human rights advocacy the core of all engagement with China.

Current policy allows and even encourages U. S. agencies to assist China just for the sake of engagement, with no regard to any effort to promote political reform and freedom. The act will serve as America’s grand strategy toward China, setting a firm foundation that not only guides U. S. activities with China in all spheres, but also makes clear of the U. S. intentions to the Chinese government and sends an unequivocal message of support to the Chinese people.

Is a peaceful transition to democracy possible in China?

Absolutely. Despite significant restrictions on the internet and the absence of media freedom, access to information has greatly improved and is changing China, particular the younger generations. Civil society is awakening; religious belief is flourishing. The growth of a middle class, as well as the disaffection of certain groups in China, mean that many are longing for a political system that ensures equal opportunity and fairness for all. Even the ruling elite want the rule of law to protect their wealth, because without it no one is safe in China.

Immanuel Kant and modern-day social science has shown that democracies are less disposed to go to war with each other. Long-lasting peace and friendship between the U. S. and China means that China must transition to a democracy.

If the U. S. does not place the highest priority on the development of a democratic China, we worry that China will continue down the perilous path of achieving world dominance through militarism and aggression.  That is a war that the world cannot afford.


Yang Jianli (杨建利) is the founder and president of Initiatives for China, a Washington-DC based advocacy group, and former political prisoner of China. Han Lianchao (韩连潮) is the vice president of Initiatives for China and a research fellow at the Hudson Institute.



The Historic Opening to China: What Hath Nixon Wrought? by Joseph Bosco, Harvard National Security Journal, September 2015.

To Obama – Why China Does Not Have a Nelson Mandela, by Yaxue Cao, China Change, September 23, 2015.