Archive for ‘USA’


Chinese consul general calls for stronger people-to-people bonds with U.S.


Guests attend a celebration marking the 40th anniversary of the establishment of China-U.S. diplomatic relations, in Los Angeles, the United States, Jan. 19, 2019. Chinese Consul General in Los Angeles Zhang Ping on Saturday called for concerted efforts to develop strong people-to-people bonds between China and the United States. (Xinhua/Qian Weizhong)

LOS ANGELES, Jan. 19 (Xinhua) — Chinese Consul General in Los Angeles Zhang Ping on Saturday called for concerted efforts to develop strong people-to-people bonds between China and the United States.

Zhang made the remarks at a celebration held in Los Angeles marking the 40th anniversary of the establishment of China-U.S. diplomatic relations, with over 500 people participating.

Zhang said that over the past four decades, despite various ups and downs and twists and turns, China-U.S. relations have achieved historic progress, bringing huge benefits to the two peoples and contributing greatly to world peace, stability and prosperity.

“As we look at the journey that the bilateral relations have gone through, we are gratified to see that the relationship is getting wider support from different walks of life in both countries,” he said.

Chinese and American people have fond sentiments towards each other, Zhang said.

People-to-people connections and friendship between the two countries constitute the foundation of their relationship, he added.

He spoke highly of the contributions of the Chinese community to the United States in boosting understanding and friendship between the two countries.

Former U.S. Ambassador to China Max Baucus recalled his days in Beijing, saying he enjoyed his post as ambassador for two reasons. “One is the Chinese people, (who are) practical, pragmatic, getting things done, upbeat, positive. Second was the reward by getting involved in a relationship. U.S.-China relations are the most important bilateral relationship in the world.”

Baucus explained his principle for dealing with China-U.S. relations, namely, being patient, positive and persistent. He expressed confidence in the future development of bilateral ties.

Sher Li, president of the Chinese American Federation, a non-profit organization registered in California, said that as beneficiaries, practitioners and witnesses of China-U.S. relations, Chinese Americans cherish the friendship between both countries, and will continue to promote trade cooperation and cultural exchanges, as well as understanding between both countries and peoples.

Source: Xinhua


China-U.S. relations contribute to world peace, prosperity

SAN FRANCISCO, Jan. 18 (Xinhua) — China-U.S. relations have achieved remarkable development over the past 40 years, delivering huge benefits to the two peoples and making significant contributions to world peace and prosperity, a senior Chinese diplomat said here Friday.

Addressing an event marking the 40th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and the United States, Chinese Consul General Wang Donghua said the older generation of Chinese and U.S. leaders broke the ice of isolation between the two countries “with extraordinary strategic vision and political wisdom” to establish bilateral diplomatic ties.

“The establishment of China-U.S. diplomatic relations has had a huge and profound impact on the development of our bilateral relations and the maintenance of world peace,” Wang said.

San Francisco Mayor London Breed said at the event that the 40 years of China-U.S. relations have been “a time of growing exchanges and understanding.”

“We have realized the great possibilities of cooperation between our two nations, and this anniversary is a chance to remember that we have an enormous stake in each other’s success,” she said.

“In an interconnected world, countries would be more prosperous when we work together as one,” said Breed.

Heidi Kuhn, founder and CEO of Roots of Peace, a California-based humanitarian NGO dedicated to the removal of landmines and rebuilding of war-torn regions, said her family has maintained very close relations with China and the Chinese people for 150 years.

“I look forward to the next 150 years ahead. I’m so proud of the formal diplomatic relations between the United States and China,” Kuhn said.

Johannes Hoech, a San Francisco-based businessman who travels to China two to three times a year, said he has very close relations with China and made many Chinese friends.

“The prospect for the two countries is very positive. There’s a lot of mutual interest. There is a lot of curiosity about each other’s cultures and each other’s backgrounds,” he said.

“Since both countries’ interests are much larger than their differences, I am sure they will find a way to work out a solution to those disputes,” Hoech said.

Source: Xinhua


China offers to ramp up U.S. imports – Bloomberg

(Reuters) – China has offered to go on a six-year buying spree to ramp up imports from the United States in order to reconfigure the relation between the two countries, Bloomberg reported on Friday, citing people familiar with the matter.

By raising annual goods imports from the United States by a combined value of more than $1 trillion (£776 billion), China would seek to reduce its trade surplus, which last year stood at $323 billion, to zero by 2024, one of the people told Bloomberg.

It was unclear how the offer differed from what China pledged when U.S. President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping met in Buones Aires in December. At that meeting, China offered more than $1.2 trillion in additional commitments on trade, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said.

Reuters reported on Jan. 9 that U.S. officials used three days of trade talks with Chinese counterparts in Beijing to demand more details on China’s pledge to make big purchases of American goods. China offered similar commitments, albeit on a smaller scale, during talks in Washington last May.

The Bloomberg report on Friday helped drive a rally on Wall Street where main stock indexes were on track for their fourth week of gains, in part on hopes the United States and China would strike a deal to end a trade war between the world’s two biggest economies. The two sides have imposed tit-for-tat tariffs that have disrupted hundreds of billions of dollars of commerce.

While increased purchases of U.S. goods have been part of the talks, American negotiators have also focused on issues that would require structural change in China. Those include finding ways to end the misappropriation of intellectual property from U.S. companies and halting industrial subsidies.

Halfway through a 90-day truce in the U.S.-China trade war agreed to on Dec. 1 when Trump and Xi met during the G20 summit in Argentina, there have been few details provided of any progress made. On Tuesday, a Republican senator said U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer had told him he had seen no progress on structural issues.

Data on Monday showed China’s exports unexpectedly fell the most in two years in December and imports also contracted, pointing to further weakness in the world’s second-largest economy in 2019 and deteriorating global demand.

The Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday that U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin discussed lifting some or all tariffs imposed on Chinese imports and suggested offering a tariff rollback during trade discussions scheduled for Jan. 30.

Lighthizer has resisted the idea, and the proposal had not yet been introduced to Trump, according to the Journal.

Chinese Vice Premier Liu He will visit the United States on Jan. 30 and 31 for the latest round of trade talks aimed at resolving the bitter trade dispute. The Trump administration is scheduled to increase tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods to 25 percent on March 2 from 10 percent.

The Trump administration has urged China to take steps to protect U.S. intellectual property, end policies that force American companies to turn over technology to a Chinese partner, allow more market access for U.S. businesses and reduce other non-tariff barriers to American products.

China has repeatedly played down complaints about intellectual property abuses, and has rejected accusations that foreign companies face forced technology transfers.

Reporting by Rishika Chatterjee in Bengaluru; Writing by Nick Zieminski in New York; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Jonathan Oatis

Source: Reuters


US, India discuss potential missile defence cooperation: Pentagon

The Pentagon’s announcement in the 81-page ‘Missile Defence Review’ report released by US President Donald Trump gains significance in view of India placing a USD 5 billion order to purchase S-400 air defense system from Russia, for which the US has publicly expressed its displeasure.

INDIA Updated: Jan 18, 2019 14:51 IST

The Trump administration has discussed a potential missile defence cooperation with India as part of its effort to deepen the bilateral strategic partnership, the Pentagon has said, asserting that New Delhi is a “key element” in America’s Indo-Pacific strategy.(AFP/DRDO/Representative Image)

The Trump administration has discussed a potential missile defence cooperation with India as part of its effort to deepen the bilateral strategic partnership, the Pentagon has said, asserting that New Delhi is a “key element” in America’s Indo-Pacific strategy.

The Pentagon’s announcement in the 81-page ‘Missile Defence Review’ report released by US President Donald Trump gains significance in view of India placing a USD 5 billion order to purchase S-400 air defense system from Russia, for which the US has publicly expressed its displeasure.

Noting that the threats posed by offensive missile capabilities are no longer limited to a few regions around the world, the Pentagon in its report said there were now a number of States in South Asia that are developing an advanced and diverse range of ballistic and cruise missile capabilities.

“Within this context, the United States has discussed potential missile defence cooperation with India. This is a natural outgrowth of India’s status as a Major Defence Partner and key element of our Indo-Pacific Strategy,” said the Pentagon report on Thursday.

The report, which identifies missile development projects by Russia and China as major threats to the US, did not give any further details about its potential missile defence cooperation with India.

The US has shown reluctance to offer its missile defence system to India.

Given the tough neighbourhood that India is in, New Delhi several years ago had approached US and expressed its desire to acquire a missile defence system from it, particularly the Terminal High Altitude Area Defence system popular as THAAD.

The previous Obama administration was not very forthcoming in sharing its advance missile defence system with India, following which New Delhi went ahead to procure it from Russia.

As part of its Indo-Pacific strategy, the Trump administration now seems to be more than inclined to let India procure its missile defence system with talks between the two countries having already started.

“We will deepen our strategic partnership with India and support its leadership role in Indian Ocean security and throughout the broader region,” said the 2017 National Security Strategy of the US, which has been mentioned in the Pentagon report.

The Missile Defence Review report said that the cornerstone of US’ security and diplomacy in the Indo-Pacific region is its strong bilateral alliances with Japan, South Korea and Australia, and emerging security relationships with others such as India.

Japan and South Korea are working with the US to build missile defence systems that are increasingly interoperable with American defences and increasingly capable against regional offensive missile threats and coercion.

This cooperation includes bilateral missile defence training exercises with the US.

Australia participates in a trilateral discussion on missile defence with the US and Japan. The US and Australia meet annually to discuss bilateral missile defence cooperation. New areas of focus include joint examination of the challenges posed by advanced missile threats, it said.

Source: Hindustan Times


Pentagon warns of global power play behind Chinese projects such as Belt and Road Initiative

  • US Defence Department highlights range of military and non-military challenges to US strategic interests from Beijing’s favoured projects
PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 16 January, 2019, 6:03pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 16 January, 2019, 6:20pm

Monday’s report assessed China’s military and non-military expansion efforts, such as the Belt and Road Initiative and the “Made in China 2025” industrial strategy, and their implications for America around the world.

It coincided with another detailed assessment by the US Defence Intelligence Agency on Tuesday, which said China’s drive to acquire cutting-edge weaponry – including nuclear bombers and a space-based early warning system – was intended to establish itself as a global military power.

In December 2017 US President Donald Trump shifted the focus of US national security policy away from terrorism to make “great power rivalry” with China and Russia his main concern.

Since then the White House has taken a number of measures to counter Beijing, including the multibillion-dollar trade war.

“China’s most substantial expansion of its military access in recent years has occurred in its near-abroad, where territorial disputes in the East and South China Seas persist, but China has also expanded its military operations further from the Chinese mainland,” said the US Defence Department report“China’s pursuit of expanded global military access is thus driven both by new PLA missions to protect overseas interests and by a shifting approach to potential contingencies along its maritime periphery,” it said.

The report, mandated by the US National Defence Authorisation Act for the financial year of 2018, reflects increasing hawkish views among the Trump administration.

The acting defence secretary Patrick Shanahan has recently called for an effort to “sharpen and strengthen US competitiveness”.

Although this year marked the 40th anniversary of the normalisation of the US-China relations, recent months have seen growing suspicion and mistrust between the two sides.

Despite a temporary trade ceasefire he reached with Xi last month, Trump has shown little sign of softening his hardline approach towards China.

The report also raised concerns about Beijing’s economic and infrastructure investments and its acquisition of military and dual-use technology.

In particular, it warned that the Belt and Road Initiative, President Xi Jinping’s push for a transcontinental infrastructure and trade network, and the “21st century Digital Silk Road” were designed to serve “greater strategic purposes”.

Echoing widespread criticism about Beijing’s “predatory loans” and “debt-trap diplomacy”, it cited 17 cases where Chinese investment projects have had a detrimental effect on the host country.

“China’s attempts to gain veto authority over other countries’ decisions, and its coercion directed at US allies and partners in particular, will likely threaten US posture and access if not addressed,” it warned.

The Digital Silk Road strategy, announced by Xi in May 2017 as a plan to boost connectivity in the digital economy, has received little international attention so far compared with the Belt and Road Initiative.

Beijing has revealed few details so far, but Xi said the initiative should involve cooperation and development in “frontier areas”, such as the digital economy, artificial intelligence, nanotechnology, and quantum computing, as well as areas such as big data, cloud computing, and “smart cities.”

The report said Beijing was actively using state-owned or state-affiliated enterprises – including China Telecom, China Unicom, China Mobile, Huawei, and ZTE – to push for forced technology transfer and accelerate its race for tech supremacy with the US.

Huawei, the world’s largest telecoms equipment supplier, has suffered major setbacks in its global push to build 5G infrastructure recently and its alleged ties with the Chinese government and military have prompted increasing suspicion around the world.

Despite a seemingly bipartisan support for a tougher approach on Beijing in the US and frequent hostile comments by Trump administration officials, an article published by the Brookings Institute on Tuesday expressed doubts about the White House’s policies towards China.

It said it was not clear “whether the Trump administration’s objectives are to compel China to alter its behaviour in specific areas of concern, to ‘decouple’ the American economy from China’s through supply chain diversification, or to obstruct China’s rise”.

The article was written by Jeffrey Bader, an Asia adviser to US presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton, along with senior Brookings fellows David Dollar and Ryan Hass.

“There also is little clarity on the Trump administration’s strategy for achieving its objectives … Such comments reflect an attitude, but not a strategy,” they said.

Source: SCMP


US issues fresh travel warning after China detentions

  • 4 January 2019
Michael Spavor (L) and Michael Kovrig (composite image)Image copyrightAFP
Image captionCanadians Michael Spavor (L) and Michael Kovrig are being detained in China

The US state department has urged Americans to “exercise increased caution” when travelling to China after a spate of high-profile detentions.

Its updated advice says dual US-Chinese nationals are at particular risk from so-called exit bans that prevent them from leaving.

Canada also revealed that 13 Canadians had been detained since 1 December.

On that day, a top Chinese executive was arrested in Canada at the request of US prosecutors.

Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou was detained in Vancouver and faces extradition to the US to face fraud charges, which she denies, that are linked to allegations of avoiding US sanctions on Iran.

China has dismissed the US travel warning as unjustified.

“To be frank, the issuance of such a travel advisory by the US side does not hold water,” foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang said.

“From January to November 2018, 2.3 million visits to China were made by Americans, which means 70 per 10,000 American people made the trip, a ratio far higher than that of the Chinese visiting the US.

“So, this figure is a testament to China’s safety.”

What is the latest US travel advice?

The new advisory warns that dual US-Chinese nationals are at particular risk from so-called exit bans, which it says can be used to prohibit US citizens from leaving China – in some cases keeping them in the country for years.

The exit bans are also being used to try to lure other individuals back to China, it warns.

It advises citizens travelling to China to use their US passport with a valid China visa. They should ask officials to notify the US embassy immediately if they are detained or arrested.

The state department says that as dual-citizenship is not recognised under Chinese law, “US-Chinese citizens and US citizens of Chinese heritage may be subject to additional scrutiny and harassment”.

The advisory says exit bans are being used to “compel US citizens to participate in Chinese government investigations” and “to aid Chinese authorities in resolving civil disputes in favour of Chinese parties”.

What do we know of the recent detentions?

Three US citizens were accused of committing “economic crimes” and barred from leaving China in November.

Victor and Cynthia Liu, who are the children of a fugitive businessman, and their mother, Sandra Han, have reportedly been detained since June.

The businessman, Liu Changming, is wanted in a $1.4bn (£1bn) fraud case in China and the family has said their detention is an attempt to lure him back to face charges.

Beijing has defended its decision to bar the three US citizens from leaving the country.

A foreign ministry spokesman told reporters that they “all have… valid identity documents as Chinese citizens” and are “suspected of having committed economic crimes”.

On Thursday, Global Affairs Canada revealed that 13 Canadians had been detained in China since 1 December, although eight have since been released.

Meng Wanzhou, chief financial officer of Huawei, 2 October 2014Image copyrightEPA
Image captionMeng Wanzhou, the chief financial officer of Huawei, was arrested in Canada at the request of the US

Among the Canadians who remain detained are former diplomat Michael Kovrig and businessman Michael Spavor.

Canadian teacher Sarah McIver who was reportedly released last week after she was held for “unlawfully working in China”. China and Canada both said the case was different to that of Mr Kovrig and Mr Spavor who stand accused of harming national security.

China insists the detention of both men is not linked to Ms Meng’s arrest, but many analysts believe it was a tit-for-tat action.

On Thursday, China’s prosecutor general said the pair had “violated our country’s laws and regulations” and were being investigated.


Commentary: 40 years on, cooperation still set to define China-U.S. ties


File photo taken on April 15, 1971 shows Chinese table tennis player Yang Ruihua (L) shaking hands with U.S. athlete Dick Miles prior to a friendship match, who had met each other since the 1959 World Table Tennis Championships, in Shanghai, east China. Exactly 40 years ago, Beijing and Washington officially established diplomatic relations, thus ending nearly three decades of isolation, hostility and even confrontation between two big countries with a combined population of over 1 billion, and resetting the course of history and international politics. Just like the “Ping-Pong Diplomacy” that marked a thaw in China-U.S. relations, the establishment of diplomatic ties was another wise and resolute decision made by then Chinese and American leaders with great political courage and far-reaching vision. In the past four decades, their successors have followed their footsteps, guiding the China-U.S. relationship through all complexities and difficulties to maintain a generally steady and smooth development. (Xinhua/Fang Guocai)

by Xinhua writers Zhou Xiaozheng, Xu Feng

BEIJING, Jan. 1 (Xinhua) — Exactly 40 years ago, Beijing and Washington officially established diplomatic relations, thus ending nearly three decades of isolation, hostility and even confrontation between two big countries with a combined population of over 1 billion, and resetting the course of history and international politics.

Just like the “Ping-Pong Diplomacy” that marked a thaw in China-U.S. relations, the establishment of diplomatic ties was another wise and resolute decision made by then Chinese and American leaders with great political courage and far-reaching vision. In the past four decades, their successors have followed their footsteps, guiding the China-U.S. relationship through all complexities and difficulties to maintain a generally steady and smooth development.

“There are a thousand reasons to make the China-U.S. relationship work, and no reason to break it,” Chinese President Xi Jinping said while meeting with his U.S. counterpart, Donald Trump, for the first time, at the Mar-a-Lago estate in the U.S. state of Florida in 2017. Indeed, the China-U.S. relationship is regarded by many as the world’s most important bilateral relationship.

The progress of China-U.S. ties in the past 40 years is nothing but staggering, far exceeding most people’s expectations. Bilateral trade grew from a negligible 2.5 billion U.S. dollars in the late 1970s to over 580 billion dollars in 2017, while the stock of two-way investment rose from practically nil to more than 230 billion dollars.

Even more amazing are the fast-paced changes in people-to-people relations. The Chinese, who once regarded having “overseas relations,” especially families or friends in the United States, as a political and social taboo, are now fervently sending their children — some 200,000 to 300,000 a year — to study in the United States. The Americans have also seen off the so-called “Red Scare” and started to embrace Chinese kung fu, giant pandas and even the learning of the Chinese language as their understanding of the once “mysterious Communist state” deepens.

The Pacific Ocean, which used to serve as a “natural moat” blocking direct transportation between the two countries, is now overflown by more than 300 two-way direct flights each week that carry a total of over 5 million visitors each year.

The 40th anniversary of China-U.S. diplomatic ties comes on the heels of the 40th anniversary of China’s reform and opening-up. The tremendous economic success and social progress China has scored over the past 40 years result primarily from the diligence, creativity and dedication of the Chinese people, but also benefit from the support and assistance from the rest of the world, including the United States.

In return, the rapidly developing China has never stopped merging with the wider world and playing its role as a responsible member of the international community. When the global financial crisis broke out in 2008, China, upholding an all-in-the-same-boat spirit, took swift action and joined the others in a concerted effort to contain the crisis and help bring the hard-hit U.S. and world economy back on track.

Forty years on, cooperation, which might just be one of the many options for China and the United States on Day One of their mended relationship, has turned out to be the best and only correct option. China-U.S. collaboration has not only created immense development opportunities and brought substantial benefits for both countries and both peoples, but also helped reshape the world order, accelerate globalization and improve global governance, thus serving as a major driving force of global peace and prosperity.

Without doubt, the past four decades have not been a smooth ride for China-U.S. relations. Even their economic and trade relations, now reputed as the “ballast stone for bilateral ties,” have experienced twists and turns, from the tough “textile and apparel quota restrictions” and tedious annual reviews of the “Most Favored Nation” status, to the prolonged talks on China’s entry into the World Trade Organization, as well as the ongoing economic and trade frictions. It also seems to be a topic for endless debate in the United States whether China should be seen as a “partner” or a “threat,” and whether the United States should adopt a strategy of “engagement” or “containment.”

As two major countries with different social systems, development paths and historical and cultural backgrounds, it is natural for China and the United States to have disagreements and encounter problems. But such disagreements and problems did not prevent the two countries from normalizing bilateral relations 40 years ago, nor should they be allowed to derail the sound development of bilateral ties today.

Both being great nations with great peoples, China and the United States need not be afraid of any fair, rational and healthy competition, but must be smart enough to avoid a zero-sum game, which harbors a high risk of dragging both nations back into a lose-lose situation of conflicts and confrontation.

At a time when the world is undergoing unprecedentedly profound changes and is fraught with risks and uncertainties, the global community expects even closer collaboration between the two largest economies, so as to help reinforce mankind’s response to numerous common challenges, such as climate change, terrorism, nuclear proliferation, and transnational crimes.

Forty years on, the China-U.S. relationship is once again at a critical point, leaving many on tenterhooks or in a state of speculation. Should the past 40 years be any guide, increasing understanding and win-win cooperation will overcome difficulties and challenges, and cooperation should and will remain at the core of bilateral ties in the long run.

It is all the more comforting and encouraging that both Xi and Trump, in their exchange of congratulatory messages upon the anniversary as well as on multiple other occasions of top-level interaction, vowed to push for more cooperation and further progress of China-U.S. ties.

History has proved that cooperation is the best choice for both sides, Xi said in the message, while Trump said it is his priority to promote cooperative and constructive U.S.-China relations.

From Mar-a-Lago to Beijing and Buenos Aires, meetings and direct communication between the two heads of state, featuring good personal chemistry and rapport at work, have played an irreplaceable role in navigating bilateral ties through uncharted waters. The world has high hopes for them to succeed.


An ‘atheist’ empire? Trump aides rally evangelicals in China fight

  • Religious freedom is a growing theme of President Donald Trump’s confrontation with Beijing, and it’s resonating with Christian leaders
PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 01 January, 2019, 5:07pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 01 January, 2019, 5:07pm

Vice-President Mike Pence infuriated Beijing when he gave a speech in October warning that China had become a dangerous rival to the United States. While he focused on familiar issues such as China’s trade policies and cyber espionage, Pence also denounced the country’s “avowedly atheist Communist Party”.

Citing a crackdown on organised religion in the country, Pence noted that Chinese authorities “are tearing down crosses, burning Bibles and imprisoning believers”.

“For China’s Christians,” Pence said, “these are desperate times.”

Pence’s remarks, which also addressed the repression of Chinese Buddhists and Muslims, illustrated how religious freedom is a growing theme of President Donald Trump’s confrontation with Beijing, which some foreign policy insiders warn could develop into a new cold war.

It is a subject that resonates in the US heartland, some Christian leaders say – parts of which, including rural areas, are disproportionately at risk of fallout from Trump’s trade fight with the Asian giant.

The issue has gained new resonance with Beijing’s arrest this month of a prominent Christian pastor and more than 100 members of his congregation.

The arrests have drawn close coverage from evangelical outlets such as Pat Robertson’s Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN), whose website published an open letter by the jailed pastor, Wang Yi, declaring his “anger and disgust at the persecution of the church by this Communist regime”.

Days after the arrests, Trump’s ambassador for international religious freedom, the former Kansas Republican governor Sam Brownback, decried the crackdown and said that in the weeks since Pence’s speech, religious freedom concerns “have only grown”.

While China’s religious persecution draws less media attention than issues like soybean tariffs and cyber espionage, it is closely tracked by conservative Christian activists and outlets like CBN, where a typical headline recently reported: “Chinese Government Destroys Christian Church, Bills Pastor for Demolition.”

In September, Providence Magazine, which covers US foreign policy from a Christian perspective, wrote that in 2018 China’s religious repression has reached “a sustained intensity not seen since the Cultural Revolution”.

The Trump administration has repeatedly criticised China on such grounds.

In a report on international religious freedom released earlier this year, the State Department noted that throughout China there were reports of “deaths in detention of religious adherents as well as reports the government physically abused, detained, arrested, tortured, sentenced to prison, or harassed adherents of both registered and unregistered religious groups for activities related to their religious beliefs and practices”.

Religious activists note that Pence, Brownback, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and other top Trump aides are people of faith with genuine concerns about religious freedom. But even they acknowledge the subject happens to be a potent political message for religious conservatives and may help rally them behind Trump’s confrontational China policy.

Some religious leaders even hear an echo of history: cold war-era denunciations of “godless” Soviet communism by past US presidents, notably Ronald Reagan

“In the great heartland of America, where there tend to be higher levels of people who care about faith, reminding people that a regime – whether then the Soviet Union or today’s communist China – rejects God and has an official policy of atheism is helpful in getting them to understand why our government is taking certain actions in the foreign policy area,” said Gary Bauer, a longtime conservative Christian leader whom Trump appointed to the US Commission on International Religious Freedom.

“Evil empire” was the famous label then-president Reagan applied to the Soviet Union in 1983. Less remembered is the fact that Reagan was addressing the National Association of Evangelicals.

Reagan vowed at the time that the Soviets “must be made to understand: … We will never abandon our belief in God”.

Trump himself rarely addresses religious freedom or human rights, and when it comes to China he focuses mainly on Beijing’s trade practices. But his administration – backed by an evangelical base that stood for Trump in 2016 and continues to supporthim enthusiastically – has strongly emphasised international religious freedom.

Earlier this year, for instance, the State Department hosted a first-ever gathering of foreign ministers devoted to the subject. (China was not invited and was targeted in a joint statement signed by a handful of countries, including the US.)

“This administration is putting this in the matrix of all of our policy,” said Tony Perkins, another prominent Christian conservative who serves on the religious freedom commission and is close to the White House. “It’s more than just the throwaway line.”

Pompeo, a former Republican congressman from Kansas, has also assailed Beijing for religious persecution, including at a September speech at the Values Voter Summit in Washington, an event affiliated with the Perkins-led Family Research Council.

During an appearance which some critics called inappropriately political, Pompeo decried “an intense new government crackdown on Christians in China, which includes heinous actions like closing churches, burning Bibles, and ordering followers to sign papers renouncing their faith”.

Like Pence, Pompeo also dwelled on the plight of China’s Muslim population, particularly ethnic Uygurs from the Chinese province of Xinjiang. A State Department official recently testified before lawmakers that up to 2 million Muslims are now confined to special camps in China.

“Their religious beliefs are decimated,” Pompeo told Values Voter Summit attendees.

The Chinese government, which often casts Uygur Muslims as potential terrorists, says the camps are designed to teach vocational and life skills. But the State Department official, Scott Busby, said the goal appears to be “forcing detainees to renounce Islam and embrace the Chinese Communist Party”.

While evangelical groups active in Washington tend to focus primarily on the persecution of Christians in China and elsewhere, some make sure to point out that they care about religious freedom for all faith groups, including Muslims. In a past interview with POLITICO, Brownback stressed that he also wants to protect people’s right to have “no religion at all”.

The Trump administration may unveil a set of human rights-related sanctions targeting officials in a range of countries in the coming weeks. Some China observers are hopeful the list will include Chen Quanguo, a top Communist Party official said to have orchestrated the anti-Muslim crackdown and to have had a role in repressing Tibetan Buddhists.

“It’s a critical moment,” said Bob Fu, a US-based pastor and founder of ChinaAid, a group that advocates for religious freedom in China.

Brownback did not offer comment for this story, and a spokesman for Pompeo did not immediately respond to a request for comment. A White House spokesperson said of Pence that “religious freedom throughout the world is a top priority for the vice-president and the administration as a whole”.

Bauer predicted that evangelicals and other voters in the US heartland will continue to support Trump even if he expands his trade war with China. The administration, cognizant of the potential pain for its supporters, has taken some steps to cushion the blow, such as offering farming subsidies.

By retaliating against particular US industries, such as soybean farmers, China is trying to pressure the administration. “I think China will fail in this effort and support for the Trump-Pence policies will remain strong,” Bauer said.

When it comes to pleasing the religious right, the Trump administration has been willing to make some dicey moves.

This past summer, to the shock of the foreign policy establishment, Trump imposed economic sanctions on two Cabinet officials in Turkey – an important US ally and fellow Nato member – due to the questionable imprisonment of an American pastor, Andrew Brunson.

Brunson, whose cause was championed by evangelicals, was eventually freed and the sanctions lifted.

How far the administration will push Beijing on religious freedom could come down to the president himself and what China is willing to do to assuage his concerns on trade.

Trump, after all, has been willing to drop talk of human rights issues when it seems he’s making progress on other fronts – that’s what has happened in his dealings with North Korea.

The Chinese in particular are highly sensitive to their global image, and, like the Soviet Union, China cannot be ignored.

“If this tariff business gets really bad and the economy goes down, I wouldn’t be surprised if [Trump officials] ramp up the ‘evil empire’ language,” said a Senate Democratic aide. “It inoculates them from their base.”

But “if you start using the ‘evil empire’ language”, the aide added, “it’s harder to make up and kiss and be friends.”


Xi, Trump exchange congratulations over 40th anniversary of China-U.S. diplomatic ties

BEIJING, Jan. 1 (Xinhua) — Chinese President Xi Jinping and U.S. President Donald Trump on Tuesday exchanged congratulations on the 40th anniversary of the establishment of China-U.S. diplomatic relations.

In his congratulatory message, Xi said China-U.S. relations have experienced ups and downs and made historic progress over the past 40 years, bringing huge benefits to the two peoples and contributing greatly to world peace, stability and prosperity.

History has proved that cooperation is the best choice for both sides, Xi said.

Currently, China-U.S. relations are in an important stage, he noted.

“I attach great importance to the development of China-U.S. relations and am willing to work with President Trump to summarize the experience of the development of China-U.S. relations and implement the consensus we have reached in a joint effort to advance China-U.S. relations featuring coordination, cooperation and stability so as to better benefit the two peoples as well as the people of the rest of the world,” Xi said.

For his part, Trump said Jan. 1, 2019 marks the 40th anniversary of the establishment of U.S.-China diplomatic relations.

Great progress has been made in the development of bilateral ties over the past years, he noted.

Trump said it is his priority to promote cooperative and constructive U.S.-China relations, adding that his solid friendship with President Xi has laid a firm foundation for the great achievements of the two countries in coming years.


Trade wars cost U.S., China billions of dollars each in 2018

CHICAGO (Reuters) – The U.S.-China trade war resulted in billions of dollars of losses for both sides in 2018, hitting industries including autos, technology – and above all, agriculture.

Broad pain from trade tariffs outlined by several economists shows that, while specialized industries including U.S. soybean crushing benefited from the dispute, it had an overall detrimental impact on both of the world’s two largest economies.

The losses may give U.S. President Donald Trump and his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, motivation to resolve their trade differences before a March 2 deadline, although talks between the economic superpowers could still devolve.

The U.S. and Chinese economies each lose about $2.9 billion annually due to Beijing’s tariffs on soybeans, corn, wheat and sorghum alone, said Purdue University agricultural economist Wally Tyner.

Disrupted agricultural trade hurt both sides particularly hard because China is the world’s biggest soybean importer and last year relied on the United States for $12 billion worth of the oilseed.

China has mostly been buying soy from Brazil since imposing a 25 percent tariff on American soybeans in July in retaliation for U.S. tariffs on Chinese goods. The surge in demand pushed Brazilian soy premiums to a record over U.S. soy futures in Chicago, in an example of the trade war reducing sales for U.S. exporters and raising costs for Chinese importers.

“It’s something that’s crying for a resolution,” Tyner said. “It’s a lose-lose for both the United States and China.”

Total U.S. agricultural export shipments to China for the first 10 months of 2018 fell by 42 percent from a year earlier to about $8.3 billion, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The most actively traded soybean futures contract averaged $8.75 per bushel from July to December 2018, down from an average of $9.76 during the same period a year earlier.

As of Dec. 28, futures in the last month of the year were averaging $8.95-1/2 a bushel. That was down from $9.61-3/4 for all of December last year.

To compensate suffering farmers, the U.S. government has allocated about $11 billion to direct payments and buying agricultural goods for government food programs, after consulting economists, including Tyner.

In North Dakota, which exports crops to China through ports in the Pacific Northwest, soy farmers face at least $280 million in losses because of Beijing’s tariffs, said Mark Watne, president of the North Dakota Farmers Union.

“You could almost put another $100 million on top of this because all commodity prices are down and that affects North Dakota farmers indirectly,” Watne said.

FILE PHOTO: Shipping containers are seen at a port in Shanghai, China July 10, 2018. REUTERS/Aly Song

China’s tariffs improved margins for U.S. soy crushers such as Archer Daniels Midland Co (ADM.N) by leaving plentiful supplies of cheap soybeans on the domestic market.

Chinese soybean mills, on the other hand, front-loaded soy purchases ahead of the tariffs. This led to an oversupply that reduced Chinese processing margins and led factories this summer to make the biggest cuts in years to the production of soymeal used to feed livestock.

China resumed purchases of U.S. soybeans in early December following a trade truce agreed to by leaders from the two countries during G20 summit in Argentina. But Beijing kept its 25 percent tariffs on the oilseed from America, which effectively curbed commercial Chinese buying.

“With the tariffs, the beans can’t go into the commercial system,” said a manager at a major Chinese feed producer, speaking on condition of anonymity. “The buying will have a very limited impact on the market.”

China also suffered as products such as phone batteries were hit by U.S. tariffs, and customers began looking to buy from other countries.

A study commissioned by the Consumer Technology Association showed U.S. tariffs on imported Chinese products cost the technology industry an additional $1 billion per month.

The conflict also squeezed U.S. retail, manufacturing and construction companies that had to pay more for metal and other goods.

“Input price pressures remained elevated in part due to tariffs, particularly in manufacturing and construction, and firms were struggling to pass these higher costs onto customers,” the Dallas Federal Reserve said.

The Big Three Detroit automakers – General Motors, Ford and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles – have each said higher tariff costs will result in a hit to profits of about $1 billion this year.

The pain is ongoing, economists say: Ford and Fiat expect a similar hit in 2019.

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