U.S.-Sino relations continued to be a Jekyll and Hyde-like story with the two largest emitters of carbon working together in Paris during the climate change talks while simultaneously exchanging harsh words over the U.S. freedom of navigation operation that was carried out at the end of October. However, these develops are nothing entirely new as the two have engaged in a dualistic relationship of cooperation and competition regarding these respective issues for nearly all of 2015. A more recent trend is China’s increasing interest in the Middle East and possible entrance into the international struggle against radical group now being called Daesh by many and also known as IS or ISIL. While China has yet to commit, it is a notable development worth monitoring over the next several months. Here the following we have summarized key topics areas highlighted by the U.S. and China during November 2015.
China to Join Fight Against Daesh?
The U.S. and China both agree on the need to resolve the issues in the Middle East and Africa, especially defeating the terrorist group Daesh. The U.S. stated that they have been making progress through military support, countering ISIL’s finances, countering foreign fighter flows, exposing ISIL’s true nature, and also providing humanitarian aid. China not only agreed on the need to degrade the terrorists which threaten the bottom line of human civilization, but also underscored the international community’s need for communication between allies to avoid tension. According to China, since the coordination between countries has been stressed by the West, China has been encouraged to join as an ally. However, China is hesitating to join the fight against IS because it might encounter difficulties in finance and obtaining public support. In addition, the U.S. and China both addressed and criticized the attack in Mali. The U.S. highlighted ways to prevent terrorist attacks, whereas China strongly asserted that security should be guaranteed for the UN peacekeepers.
Fallout after the Freedom of Navigation Operation
The issue of freedom of navigation in the South China Sea is still stirring up tension between China, the U.S., and countries in the region. The U.S. reaffirmed its strong commitment to maintain security and stability in the Asia-Pacific and reminded all of its willingness to continue to fly, sail, and operate wherever international law allows, while also expressing concerns about the developments advanced by China in the South China Sea. The U.S. also assured its partners that it would continue to provide support for maritime security, and also highlighted the importance of trilateral meetings between China, Japan, and South Korea to foster the rule of law in the region.
China however considers these operations blatant provocations, and accused the U.S. of manipulating international law for its own interests noting that the justifications in the name of safeguarding freedom of navigation are not relevant. Beijing has said it will stand firmly against any attempt to undermine its sovereignty and security interests and further explained that ships from different countries routinely sail through the South China Sea and millions of barrels of oil also travel through the region without incident. China also urged Japan to be cautious about their words and actions, and not interfere in the South China Sea affairs as this can effect and harm their bilateral relations.
The Search for Economic Growth Opportunities
The U.S. believes China is encountering the limitation of its growth model which is dependent on investment and exports rather than domestic demand. U.S Under Secretary Nathan Sheets pointed out that China’s potential challenges and risks are significant. He mentioned that, “as growth slows, it arguably becomes more difficult to implement the very reforms that are essential to setting growth on a more stable footing.” China responded by highlighting its five concepts of innovation, coordination, green, openness, and sharing development will not only set the direction for China’s own future development, but also help to set the stage for the G20 partnership. Additionally, China is negotiating Free Trade Agreements with Korea and Japan as they lead the effort to form the RCEP. The two countries also sought concrete results on intellectual property rights concerns through the annual U.S.-China Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade (JCCT) process. The U.S. obtained firm commitments from China in the areas of competition law, intellectual protect protection that will level playing field for American companies in China. Meanwhile Chinese banks are now free to resume purchasing information and communication technology (ICT) products.
Major Climate Change Meeting in Paris
In the context of the 2015 UN Climate Change Conference which began in Paris at the end of November and the intense smog that has been affecting Bejing and other Chinese cities, the U.S. and Chinese governments are sticking to a narrative of cooperation on climate change. The Joint Presidential Statement on Climate Change that came in September and the Joint Announcement made last year were repeatedly touted as emblematic of U.S.-China cooperation and leadership by the White House. Despite some concerns in the U.S. about China’s transparency in climate related record keeping and continued Chinese defensiveness about outside criticisms, the two largest carbon emitters in the world have both reiterated their stated commitments to limiting emissions.
China’s Vague Intentions on Human Rights
The U.S. commented on the imprisonment of a media rights activist Yang Maodong who was sentenced to six years in prison on charges related to his peaceful advocacy for human rights. The U.S. argued that China cannot achieve its stated aim of building a society based on the rule of law when it uses imprisonment as a tool to punish Chinese citizens’ peaceful expression of their views. On the other hand, China declared that it would cooperate with international organizations to promote equality, human rights, and basic freedoms for all human kind. In this manner, China will remain committed to the UN Charter, donate to UNHCR, and also continue participation in UN development programs. In addition, China has decided to vote against a draft solution “Human Rights Defenders,” since the definition of the term “human rights defenders” is vague and inconsistent through intergovernmental negotiations.
Time Period: November 1 ~ November 30
1. U.S. – China Bilateral Relations: Both Countries Acknowledge Complicated Relationship and International Environment
2. Economic Relations: U.S. Continues to Urge China to Move Away from an Export-oriented Economy and Encourage Domestic Consumption; China Seeks Means to Continue Economic Growth in External Environment
3. Military and Security Relations: Both Countries Seek to Cooperate on Limiting Arms Race in Space; U.S. Rejects Idea of Double Standard on its Cyber Snooping; China Looks for International Cooperation on Fighting Terrorism in China
4. Human Rights and Humanitarian Issues: The U.S. Calls for Transparency and Rule of Law in China; China Pledges More Support with UN Agencies, Touts Humanitarian Aid Provision
5. Climate Change and Environmental Issues: U.S. Active on Climate Change in Led Up to Paris Climate Talks; In China Worries Deepen Over Air Pollution
6. Asia Pacific Issues: U.S. Emphasizes Importance of Rebalance Strategy and Pledges Support for Partners in Asia; China Holds Trilateral Summit with ROK and Japan, Highlights Desire for Cooperation with Neighbors
7. Korean Peninsula: U.S. Continues to Monitor Situation in North Korea; China Pledges Commitment to Denuclearized Korean Peninsula
8. Middle East and Africa Issue: U.S. Continues to Pressure Daesh and Looks for Political Solutions to Syrian Civil War; China Supports Efforts to Find Political Solution in Syria, But Balks at Becoming Directly Involved Militarily
9. Sovereignty and Territorial Disputes: U.S. Defends Freedom of Navigation Operation and Insists More are to Come; China Calls U.S. Operation a Provocation and Urges Japan to Stay Out of the South China Sea Issue; Leaders of China and Taiwan Meet