A few items of news by way of links.
- Alongside the U.S.–China Strategic and Economic Dialogue last week, I offered my pessimistic assessment that little would come of this round of meetings in regard to cybersecurity. The issue, I argued, is seeing little progress but if left unaddressed will undermine strategic stability between the United States and China. This was my first contribution to the very lively new English-language publication Nikkei Asian Review, which has people spread around East Asia.
- South China Morning Post reporter Teddy Ng quoted me today on prospects for U.S.–China relations after the S&ED. The thrust of the story is one I largely agree with: that U.S.–China trust and cooperation is on a downslope. My quote, however, represents what I think is the reality of the situation: that security and economic fundamentals mean the two countries have huge common interests, but also that emerging factors such as cybersecurity risk undermining stability despite commonalities. My quote:
Graham Webster, a Beijing-based senior fellow at the China Centre at Yale Law School, said both countries had compelling reasons to resolve their differences. “The US and China have far more common interests than conflicting ones. Both countries need a peaceful Asia-Pacific region and a stable world economy if they want to thrive.”
He said there was a looming risk of escalation if the two nations failed to develop confidence over cybersecurity.
The joint cybersecurity working group was suspended following the US indictment of five Chinese military officers for hacking into US companies. “A crisis of [large] scale is unlikely in the short term, but without real effort, it could become a real risk in coming years,” Webster said. [read more]
- I am presently in the process of moving my home base from Beijing, where I have been based as a fellow for the Yale Law School China Center for two years, to New Haven, where I will be setting up shop as a senior fellow at the same center. My Track II work will continue, and so will my frequent trips between the United States and China, but I am delighted to dig into the Yale community and its libraries, as well as some new research projects.
U.S. Vice President Joe Biden’s motorcade drives west for his meetings with President Xi Jinping at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on Dec. 4, 2013. (Photo: Graham Webster)
As U.S. Vice President Joe Biden visits East Asia, a lot of the media focus has centered around the recent Chinese announcement of an air defense identification zone (ADIZ) in the East China Sea, a move apparently directed at Japan and the two countries’ territorial dispute over the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands. In an AFP story yesterday by Carol Huang, I am quoted cautioning that this long-planned Biden visit is not just about the most recent flare up.
Biden and Chinese leaders — he is also expected to meet Xi and Premier Li Keqiang — were unlikely to let ADIZ friction derail broader efforts to strengthen relations, said Graham Webster, a Beijing-based fellow at the Yale Law School China Centre specialising in US-Chinese ties.
“I don’t think it will be the main topic of conversation on this trip despite the recent news,” he said.
The overarching goal from such senior meetings was “about continuing the spirit of high-level cooperation and bilateral work in the common interest”, he added. [Full Story]
I was also an attendee at the Council for Security Cooperation in the Asia Pacific (CSCAP) conference in Beijing this week (where Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin said alliances in the Asia-Pacific—implying the U.S. hub-and-spoke relationships with Japan, South Korea, the Philippines, Australia, etc.—are “an outdated concept in international relations”).
On the way out of the conference, I noticed a police presence that was, it turned out, preparing for Biden himself to cruise by (above).
In my latest piece for China-US Focus, I look at the impact of Obama’s decision to cancel planned travel to Asia and suggest that he can make up for missed opportunities.
Obama’s Missed Asia Trip Is No Disaster—If He Follows Up Strong
As the financial crisis gripped the United States in September 2008, Senator John McCain “suspended” his campaign for president to return to Washington and attend to Senate business. His opponent, Senator Barack Obama, refused to follow suit, saying “I think that it is going to be part of the president’s job to deal with more than one thing at once.”
President Obama’s cancellation of his trip to Asia this week indicates that the government shutdown and the possibility of a default on U.S. government debt in the coming days have, in a sense, “suspended” U.S. foreign policy. Canceling this trip does matter, but it does not nullify broader U.S. policy on Asia, including the rebalance to the Asia Pacific. Instead, the cancellation is an unwelcome reinforcement of the perception that the Obama administration is neglecting its Asia policy.
Most journalists and commentators have argued that Obama’s cancellation is either disastrous for U.S. Asia policy or not a big deal. The truth, as usual, is somewhere in between. In the following four points, I argue that: the cancellation was unfortunate but not a disaster; the shutdown might be a disaster; and there are still good options for the Obama administration and U.S. relations with Asia and China.
[Continue reading at China-US Focus]
New at China-US Focus, I argue that there is real potential for progress on cybersecurity in the U.S.–China relationship, but basic differences in the way the governments and peoples view the Internet cannot be brushed aside.
Probe Deep Differences to Make Real Progress on Cybersecurity
In a U.S.–China relationship confronting numerous challenges, perhaps no topic is as hard to discuss as cybersecurity. Unlike other strategic challenges, such as minimizing the potential for inadvertent clashes at sea or in the air, smoothing bilateral economic investment regulations, or even reducing the severity and effects of climate change, cybersecurity cuts across policy areas with a blade of uncertainty and mutual suspicion. Some observers have suggested U.S.–China differences are so deep that dialogue is futile, but even if it doesn’t produce a swift resolution, a recent increase in public and private discussions on the topic can build a foundation of understanding.
Here’s some recent writing I’ve posted at Transpacifica.
- A critical reading of three recommendations in Jon Huntsman and Dennis Blair’s new report on protecting U.S. intellectual property. I made efforts to explain background throughout, but this would be of greater interest to specialists. The short version: I think the report comes out as moderately hawkish.
- Two offerings in the mess of signals and interpretation in Sino-Japanese relations. Transpacifica started out in 2006 as Transpacific Triangle, and I’ve had a long-lasting if not in-depth interest in China-Japan ties as viewed from the United States. First: Is the China-Japan confrontation Xi’s inside political play, or part of a broader move? Second: Did the Chinese government really call Diaoyu/Senkaku a ‘core interest’? (Verdict: unclear, but definitely not as explicitly as some reports would lead you to believe.)
- I’ve been trying to write more about what I read. Today brings a half-formed thought on similarities between British colonialists in Burma (as viewed through Orwell’s Burmese Days) and anglophone expatriates in China. For the true nerds, I offer my first “review” of an academic paper—“How New and Assertive Is China’s New Assertiveness?” by my one-time professor Iain Johnston.
Posted in my work
Tagged Burmese Days, Dennis Blair, Diaoyu, George Orwell, Iain Johnston, intellectual property, Jon Huntsman, Senkaku, Sino-Japanese Relations, Tranpacifica, writing, Xi Jinping
In the tradition of the ever-present “why I am leaving China” posts, I offer instead the news that I will be in the United States—New Haven, New York, and California—for most of April, beginning tomorrow. But really, I wanted to share my first post on Vine, made last night as I went out for an errand. Get in touch if I’ll be passing through where you are.
My latest for Al Jazeera English asks for more recognition of pluralism and ambiguity when governments and firms accuse “China” or the “Chinese government” of hacking.Check it out!
For fun, my first piece for Al Jazeera fought the notion of a “cyber cold war” between the United States and China. In 2011.
[Crossposted on gwbstr.com]
Recent postings have gone to other sites:
First, I offer my frank (and not positive) opinion on the U.S House of Representatives Intelligence Committee’s report that cautioned government and private sector organizations to stay away from gear from the Chinese firms of Huawei and ZTE.
Second, I described my impressions of the latest report on Chinese investment in the U.S. (specifically California), including a note that surprised me: Chinese investors have started buying into California wine producers.
And just now, I share what I’ve discovered on the walls of Peking University, including Huawei’s efforts to relate to the young generation of Chinese, pitches from test prep companies for those who want to study abroad, and … a strange scrawling on a construction barrier:
That’s at 88 Bar, which is going to be a fun place to write. Check out the other images there.
This week marks my long-planned return to life based in Beijing. My arrival was met with two days of absolutely beautiful weather and clear air (obviously the result of my arrival and not the half-day downpour that preceded my landing).
And today, I have my first contribution to the lively and inquisitive 八八吧 :: 88 Bar, a group blog with strengths in design and technology. I fit in as the lone politico, but I’m happy to be there hawking my wares. Academia and the job search have a way of pigeon-holing a person into single-sector analysis, but some academics and some employers demand boundary-crossing work. I’ve always gravitated toward the latter, and my collaborators at 88 Bar—including long-time friend and finally collaborator Tricia Wang—are prime examples of how boundaries can be crossed.
My post today recasts some of the best insights in monitoring Chinese politics, taken from a footnote in a policy analysis. Some comments by Alice L. Miller at Stanford’s Hoover Institution give a solid method for assessing the authoritativeness of various government-affiliated statements in Chinese media. Jason Li, one of the 88 Bar OG‘s, put my schematic scribbles into a great visual form. I look forward to whatever comes next over there.
Check it out.
For now, if you’re in Beijing, drop me a line.