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Strategic Dialogue in the Old Days (Courtesy of Gerald R. Ford Library)

Strategic Dialogue in the Old Days (Courtesy of Gerald R. Ford Library)

Some recent reports surrounding U.S. Defense Secretary Hagel’s visit to China claim that the United States “release[d] cyber warfare plans to China” in December in an effort to encourage greater Chinese transparency. It is more likely that the United States has simply shared the contours of a doctrine already widely known, particularly after Edward Snowden’s release of a classified presidential directive (read it here). In any case, the U.S. has previously held several bilateral cyber war games with China under the auspices of think tanks, which would have provided China with more useful information about how U.S. officials think about these issues than a prepared briefing.

In general I am supportive of these discussions, but I have several concerns about where we are headed.

First, the most immediate cyber security concerns, particularly with China, are commercial and deeply linked with broader worries about state-sponsored intellectual property theft (like the Google mess of 2010). So long as Chinese firms benefit more from state-sponsored industrial espionage than they stand to lose to theft by others, the incentives don’t seem to be on our side. To the extent that our outreach to China is aimed at dissuading the Chinese government from using military cyber resources to steal commercial secrets from U.S. firms, I wonder if we really have much leverage, particularly acting alone.

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China, Publications, U.S. Policy »

[9 April 2011, Comments Off on Let’s Negotiate an Investment Treaty with China, Tags: , , , , , , ]

Apple's first retail store in China, located in Beijing. A bilateral investment treaty would give U.S.-based companies like Apple greater rights in China, while attracting more Chinese investment into the United States.

Date: 8 April 2011.

Publication: The Huffington Post.

Author: Daniel Michaeli.

In recent years, Beijing has asked repeatedly for a treaty that would give U.S. investors in China greater and more enforceable rights. It is high time for the Obama administration to respond seriously — by concluding its open-ended review of bilateral investment treaties and working one out with China. The U.S. and China should work aggressively over the next several weeks to prepare to announce a timeline for negotiations at the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue in Washington next month.

American firms have nearly $50 billion invested in China, and a recent survey of companies investing in China indicates that most intend to increase their investments substantially this year. The performance of these investments is crucial to the U.S. economy: they enable American companies to access China’s huge domestic market and catalyze American exports — U.S. multinationals send half of their total exports from the United States to their own foreign affiliates. American corporations, when successful overseas, bring jobs and investment back to the United States. Recent data indicates that U.S.-based multinational corporations locate more than half of their employees in the United States, where they have 70 percent of their operations and spend 87 percent of their research and development budget.

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China »

Turmoil in the Middle East and Prospects for the Chinese Communist Party

Public Security Bureau car at Tiananmen Square; photo by author, 2008

In recent weeks, many in the West, and even some in China, have speculated about the resilience of China’s authoritarianism. Could what happened in Egypt happen in China? (For some U.S. perspectives, see a Forbes.com article by Gordon Chang from January 30th and a Wall Street Journal article by Loretta Chao from a couple weeks ago.) China is clearly playing it safe as it reacts with force to even the smallest hints of protest this week.

The Tiananmen Square massacre remains the template for authoritarian responses to popular pro-democracy movements. “The unity of China is more important than those people in Tiananmen Square,” Muammar Qaddafi said last Tuesday. (In fact, Qaddafi was attempting to justify actions so appalling that even China has voted in favor of a unanimous UN Security Council resolution that said those attacks against civilians “may amount to crimes against humanity.”)

So, what would it take for another revolution in China? And what would China’s communist party (the CCP) be willing or able to do to stay in power?

Here are some things to think about.

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China, Press, U.S. Policy »

[18 January 2011, Comments Off on Hu Jintao’s State Visit (Radio Interview), Tags: , , , , , , , , ]

Media: Colombia National Radio – “Coffee and News” Morning Show (Live).

Subjects: Issues likely to come up in the state visit; human rights; valuation of the Chinese Renminbi and risk of a “currency war.”

Length: 8:07.

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China, Miscellaneous, U.S. Policy »

Can the United States Keep China at Bay?

Southeast Asians want the United States active and engaged in the region, and the U.S. is clearly trying to deliver. But Southeast Asian countries cannot hope to receive full U.S. support in the South China Sea until they resolve ongoing disputes among themselves.

This burst of U.S. activity in Southeast Asia is, in part, a response to China’s recent assertiveness, particularly in the maritime space (more on that here). Southeast Asians hope drawing the United States more deeply into the region can help balance China’s heft in multilateral organizations and deter China from using force to resolve territorial disputes, even as Southeast Asians beef up their own defense capabilities.

Map of the South China Sea (1988). (Source: University of Texas Perry-Castañeda Library Map Collection)

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China, Miscellaneous »

Consequences of the Cheonan Attack

U.S. Navy photograph by Photographer's Mate 2nd Class Richard J. Brunson

On Friday, the UN Security Council came out with a weak statement that failed to assign blame for the attack and sinking of a South Korean naval ship in March. China and Russia declined to participate in an international inquiry, watered down the Security Council statement, and now willfully look the other way as North Korea continues denying its involvement. The Council’s statement mentioned the results of the internationally-backed inquiry that showed a North Korean torpedo was responsible, but that was all.

Frankly, Korean president Lee Mung-bak failed to take advantage of the considerable leverage he had to press China to take a harder line against North Korean provocations. Lee made the understandable decision to reassure investors by ruling out military retaliation early on. But in doing so, he also took away what appears to be the only thing that would change China’s calculus on North Korea: the possibility of major escalation.

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China, Miscellaneous »

China-Taiwan Trade Agreement Could Help Re-Integrate Taiwan in Asia
[30 June 2010, Comments Off on Progress in the Taiwan Strait, Tags: , , , , ]

Taiwan's president Ma Ying-jeou campaigned on the idea that economic growth depends upon better relations with the mainland (Photo by Daniel Michaeli, Taipei, March 2008)

An Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) between China and Taiwan was signed yesterday in Chongqing, promising a substantial boost to Taiwan’s export industry. (A Taiwan government-sponsored study claims the deal will create 260,000 jobs and add 1.7 percentage points to Taiwan’s GDP growth each year over the next seven years.) This agreement has been called a “game changer” by both proponents and opponents, though it still requires the approval of Taiwan’s legislature.

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