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enodo economics
China and America - The Great Decoupling
Your questions answered as the relationship evolves
enodo economics
China and America - The Great Decoupling
Your questions answered as the relationship evolves

The international order is undergoing a tectonic shift, as the rules of engagement between the existing superpower, the US, and the aspiring superpower, China, are being rewritten.

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The two countries are rapidly drifting apart and this divergence is set to shape global politics, economics and markets in the years to come.

To help you navigate these choppy waters, Enodo Economics has created The Great Decoupling, a website where you can find publicly available information to make it easier to grasp how the Sino-US relationship is evolving and how it impacts you – the investor, analyst, policymaker or business leader.

Key News

Key News

  • 4th May 2018

    Xi Jinping called for China to become self-sufficient in emerging technologies as officials pledged to produce domestic optoelectronic communication chips for commercial use by 2025. 

    China's State-backed semiconductor fund will close a Rmb120bn investment round for a second fund to support the domestic chip sector and cut reliance on imports. 

    In a major breakthrough for China with computer chips, ARM Holdings ceded control of its Chinese operations to a joint venture involving itself and Chinese partners.

    The US is considering measures to block Chinese citizens from performing sensitive research at American universities and research institutes. Washington worries China will vault ahead in artificial intelligence because Beijing can collect and manipulate vast volumes of data without the privacy concerns that constrain Western governments and companies.

  • 11th May 2018

    Europe shares Donald Trump’s frustration with China over its trade and investment practices. As US and Chinese officials held fresh trade talks in Washington, pending a visit by Xi’s top economic adviser, Europe appeared set to tighten controls over foreign investment by Chinese firms.

    A Bloomberg survey showed unmistakable signs of wariness across Europe of China’s efforts to become a dominant global economic power. At least 15 of the European Union’s 28 member states actively or tacitly support draft legislation that would screen investments from outside the bloc. 

    The European Chamber of Commerce in Beijing has been an increasingly vocal critic of what it sees as an unlevel playing field for foreign businesses in China.

  • 18th May 2018

    Days after Washington crippled ZTE Corp by banning it from buying US components, another U-turn by Donald Trump as he promised to help the Chinese firm “get back into business, fast”. 

    In return, China scrapped punitive tariffs it had imposed on imports of US sorghum, and denied on Friday that it had offered to slash the surplus by $200bn.

    Trump was criticised by U.S. lawmakers, who called the firm a security threat. FBI Director Christopher Wray told a Senate panel that he was “deeply concerned” about any company like ZTE gaining positions of power in the U.S. telecommunications market.

    State media called Chinese Premier Li Keqiang’s Japan visit a new chapter in bilateral ties; it appeared part of a charm offensive by Beijing at a time of strained trade relations with the US.

  • 25th May 2018

    The US and China declared a trade war truce but a solution to Trump’s demand that China reduce its $375bn trade surplus by $200bn looked as distant as ever. Talks in Washington ended with a bland agreement to increase trade and cooperate on IP protection.

    As Washington readied to lift its ban on U.S. firms supplying Chinese telecoms gear maker ZTE Corp, Congress was furious with Trump and passed a bill to punish the company. 

    Trump’s decision to ease sanctions on ZTE and to hold off imposing tariffs on Chinese goods partly reflected White House concern about harming negotiations with North Korea.

    China landed bombers on islands in the South China Sea. In response to Beijing’s militarisation of islands, the Pentagon withdrew an invitation to China to join a major U.S.-hosted naval drill.

    An industry white paper revealed China seeking to take the lead in adopting blockchain.

  • 1st June 2018

    China announced cuts in import tariffs on a range of items including home appliances, apparel, cosmetics and fitness products, amid intense criticism by Washington of China’s big trade surplus with the US. Trump reaffirmed his intention to impose a 25% tariff on $50bn worth of Chinese imports.

    The US President wants to reduce the surplus by $200bn by 2020 and to preserve America’s technological lead by disrupting Xi Jinping’’ “Made in China 2025” industrial upgrading plan. 

    The White House statement confirming the coming tariffs on China said they would focus on goods containing “industrially significant technology”.

    “We hope the US will stop acting on impulse. But we will not be afraid if the US takes a tough line,” Xinhua commented. “China will firmly defend the interests of the country and its people at all costs.”

  • 8th June 2018

    Beijing’s unexpected cut in solar subsidies, coupled with a freeze on new solar installations, showed Beijing means what it says about cutting excess capacity. 

    Shares in big US solar companies also plummeted, on anticipation of a solar panel glut dragging down prices globally - not what Trump had in mind when he slapped tariffs on Chinese solar panels in January.

    ZTE agreed to pay the $1bn fine imposed by Trump, in return for ending a ban on its purchases of US components. 

    China’s annual college entrance exams began in tandem with extraordinary high-tech efforts to prevent cheating, further proof of Chinese tech progress. 

    China entered its first international AI competition in 2011, and Chinese organisations now take four of the top five places in Stanford’s Question Answering Dataset.

  • 15th June 2018

    Beijing was one of the big winners of the Trump-Kim summit in Singapore, according to pundits, not least because the US president seemingly promised to scrap regular US-South Korean military exercises. 

    But anti-Chinese protests in Vietnam showed yet again that China’s ambition to play a greater role in the region is meeting push-back.

    China’s navy carried out new drills in the South China Sea to simulate fending off an aerial attack, a day after China and the US traded barbs over who is responsible for heightened tensions in the disputed waterways.

  • 22nd June 2018

    Both sides made efforts but doubts remained that the looming US-China trade war, largely responsible for Chinese equity markets tumbling, could be averted. 

    A number of White House officials attempted to restart talks with China before the tariffs take effect on July 6, and Xi Jinping enlisted the help of foreign chief executives - including the CEOs of some US companies.

    Beijing wants to avoid firmer measures against the US, observers say, but may consider moves that would restrict US investment in China and make it difficult for Chinese companies to transact business with US firms.

  • 29th June 2018

    “No other country will be able to compare,” said one expert after China Telecom announced its “Three Clouds” 5G network structure, another example of China leading the world in the development of the fifth generation of mobile technology, allowing far greater data processing speeds than current 4G technology, and challenging US tech dominance. 

    The US government passed a bill to tighten foreign investment rules, spurred by concerns about Chinese acquisitions of companies producing politically sensitive or sophisticated technology. 

    Congress also advanced laws to toughen national security reviews of foreign deals , with investment sanctions targeting sectors such as aerospace and robotics mentioned in Beijing’s “Made in China 2025” industrial plan. 

    Despite many differences, China and the EU planned a working group to revamp the WTO and counter US unilateralism.

  • 6th July 2018

    China continued to insist it will not use its currency as a weapon in any trade war, yet recent yuan depreciation likely reflects investor concerns to the contrary. 

    Central bankers vowed to keep the currency stable - Yi Gang, PBoC governor, published an article on the bank's website promising to "keep the exchange rate stable at a reasonable and balanced level".

    The weaker the yuan, the stronger China’s position would be in any trade war, but any escalation from China immediately after Washington’s trade tariffs come into effect would appear highly provocative, so it seemed unlikely Beijing would manipulate the currency so soon. 

    For the time being, the central bank appeared to have friends, both at home and abroad.

  • 13th July 2018

    President Trump announced tariffs on a further $200bn of imports from China, raising the stakes in the trade war between the two nations and prompting angry reaction from Beijing, which called the move "totally unacceptable". 

    China’s yuan and stock indexes fell. A spokesperson for China's Ministry of Commerce vowed that countermeasures would be taken, although no specific actions were mentioned.

    Beijing said closer ties with North Korea were key to its economic revival plans. Trump claimed China was “exerting negative pressure” on North Korea.

    As trade tensions tighten, the US upped the geopolitical stakes by sailing two US warships through the Taiwan Strait, prompting Beijing to slam Washington for "playing the Taiwan card".

  • 20th July 2018

    Rumours spread of whispers in the corners of the State Council building in Beijing that could spell trouble for President Xi Jinping. Some claim tensions arising from the Sino-US trade war are being leveraged against Xi.

    Many have dismissed these rumours, but such whispers often find a way of sticking, and long-term political risk has certainly increased in China. 

    The biggest current concern is that Xi's anti-corruption campaign has amassed far too much power in the months since its launch and could be leveraged in moves that ultimately could be Xi’s undoing.

  • 27th July 2018

    Worried about the impact on economic growth of the trade war with the US, and the de-risking campaign, China's policy makers took action. 

    New moves aimed at averting an excessive domestic slowdown came from both the monetary and fiscal sides. The central bank reportedly told some banks that it will relax a specific capital requirement to support lending.

    The State Council, responding to calls for more fiscal spending, announced it would pursue a more active fiscal policy to help tackle the uncertainties facing the economy, offered deeper cuts in tax and nontax fees, and faster issuance of local government special bonds amounting to Rmb1.35trn to support ongoing infrastructure projects.

  • 3rd Aug 2018

    While Trump raised the stakes in the Sino-US trade war, threatening to double the tariff rates on Chinese goods, US Treasury officials reportedly held private talks with China's Vice Premier Liu He on how to re-engage in negotiations

    As Beijing’s language descended into accusations of blackmail, Congress passed a bill seeking to tighten US national-security reviews of existing Chinese deals and revamp controls on US technologies going abroad.

    Washington has issued restrictions on several Chinese companies, including state-owned military technology developers, for reasons of national security. 

    As China extends its $1tn "Belt and Road Initiative", the Trump administration responded with a $113m package of energy and infrastructure initiatives in emerging Asia.

  • 10th Aug 2018

    Trade tensions with the US caused China’s yuan to lose ground against the dollar, but the People’s Bank of China has grown wary of traditional intervention - selling billions of dollar reserves to buy yuan - in favour of using foreign-exchange swaps to “guide expectations in the forward market”.

    The state re-introduced a requirement that financial institutions hold a deposit at the central bank when they purchase foreign exchange forward contracts for their clients. 

    Beijing’s moves raised hopes the yuan will regain some of its recent sharp losses against the dollar and appreciate over the next year - if trade tensions between Washington and Beijing subside.

  • 17th Aug 2018

    Trump signed a $716bn defence bill that included controls on government defence contracts with China’s ZTE Corp and Huawei Technologies Co. China’s defence ministry criticised the bill for being "filled with a cold-war mentality" that advocated confrontations between the two countries.

    As the Philippine President publicly criticised China’s South China Sea policy, and warned of a "flashpoint" for conflict, China reported progress on a new satellite system for closer monitoring and tighter control, and the US Navy kept up “Freedom of Navigation” operations.

    Amid the growing tensions, a delegation from China's commerce ministry will head for Washington by late August for the first trade talks since the US imposed tariffs on Chinese goods. 

    China’s central bank said it won’t use the yuan as a tool to cope with trade tensions with the US, and that it won’t conduct any “strong” economic stimulus.

  • 24th Aug 2018

    The US slapped tariffs on a further $16bn of Chinese imports , triggering reciprocal levies by Beijing even as negotiators from the two governments met in Washington to explore ways of defusing the trade war. 

    Two American airlines cut routes between China and the US, underscoring increasingly tough competition from state-backed Chinese rivals.     

    China won’t resort to competitive currency devaluation, or to strong stimulus to support the slowing economy, said senior officials from the central bank. Their rare news conference followed a sharp drop in the yuan, that Trump claimed showed Beijing was deliberately manipulating its currency

  • 7th Sep 2018

    While trade conflict has soured relations between China and the US, increasing détente across Asia-Pacific raised hopes for the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership. The US will not attend November talks, which could provide impetus for the 16 nations to finalise the world’s biggest regional free-trade agreement.

    Two years before the next Presidential election, and a small group of manufacturers in eastern Zhejiang province already know the result: orders for Trump merchandise exceeded all forecasts. The baseball cap manufacturer in Zhejiang appeared just as invested in Trump’s future as the Pennsylvanian steelworker. 

  • 14th Sep 2018

    As Washington prepared details of new tariffs on a further $200bn of Chinese goods, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin invited senior Chinese officials for talks on the escalating trade war. 

    A new trilateral forum of the US, Japan and European Union represented a potentially critical shift in the confrontation between Washington and Beijing.

    The US grabbed back from China the crown of “world’s fastest supercomputer” this summer, but a Chinese team used domestically developed technology to build a next-generation computer to compete on speed with the US, Japan and the EU. 

    China boasts the world’s biggest e-commerce market, with sales in the first half of 2018 eclipsing by more than half the $250bn in online retail sales seen in the US in the same period.

  • 21st Sep 2018

    Trump launched another package of punitive tariffs: from 24 Sept 2018, the US will impose 10% tariffs on an additional $200 billion worth of Chinese products, rising to 25% from 1 Jan 2019 unless China makes concessions. 

    If Beijing retaliates, the President promised a further round, meaning almost all imports from China would be subject to higher duties.

    China’s government responded by imposing tariffs on $60 billion worth of US goods. This escalating trade war could last for “decades”, warned Alibaba founder Jack Ma

    US officials will demand two key Chinese propaganda platforms, Xinhua and CGTN, register as “foreign agents”, to curb their access and influence. 

    The US may impose special sanctions against China for its repression in Xinjiang, where up to a million Uighur Muslims have been detained without trial in re-education camps.

  • 28th Sep 2018

    “He may not be a friend of mine anymore,” Trump said of Xi Jinping as the US President added a new complaint against China to his growing list: Beijing is meddling in the upcoming US midterm elections, as payback for Trump’s tough trade stance. 

    Beijing rejects the charge, and insisted it remains open to talks but not with a knife at its throat.  China’s foreign minister spoke of “total destruction” to the US-China relationship should Washington retain a “cold war mentality”.  

    While the trade war dominated headlines, the machines of war shadowed each other on and above the high seas. US B-52 bombers conducted transit operations in the South China Sea and East China Sea this week; Japanese and British warships conducted drills in the Indian Ocean before heading towards the contested seas. 

    Military talks between the US and China are currently postponed.

  • 5th Oct 2018

    Washington hoped that its revamped NAFTA deal with Mexico and Canada will hurt China’s economy and weaken its position in the global trading system. 

    Combined with punitive tariffs, the USMCA could convince foreign firms to move investment out of China, and force Beijing to make concessions. One provision prevents Chinese firms from using America’s neighbours as a "back door" to ship products tariff-free into the US.

    A Chinese destroyer’s near collision with a US warship in the South China Sea was the latest in a lengthening list of confrontations. The US Navy planned a major show of strength in the South China Sea and the Taiwan Strait in November. 

    Beijing is spending big on military hardware, including a new laser satellite tipped to become a "Death Star" for submarines; the Pentagon also worried about US reliance on Chinese suppliers.

  • 12th Oct 2018

    The Sino-US rivalry continued to build on multiple fronts as the trade war escalated. China’s monthly trade surplus with the US reached a record high September, and Trump warned there was much more he could do that would hurt China's economy further. Beijing represents the greatest long-term counter-intelligence threat to the United States.

    Stop finding excuses for US unilateralism and trade protectionism, shot back a Chinese spokesman. VP Pence’s highly damning speech gathered weight as an inflection point in US-China relations. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin warned Beijing not to engage in the competitive devaluation of its currency, yet Washington appeared unlikely to label China a currency manipulator.

  • 19th Oct 2018

    Declining to help Trump escalate his trade fight, the Treasury stated in a report that Beijing was not intentionally devaluing its currency. 

    Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin still warned China about lack of transparency and the yuan’s relative weakness, and his department sharpened its language in what appears a final warning.

    PBOC governor Yi Gang insisted the government would continue to let the market play a decisive role, and refrain from weaponizing the yuan. In Geneva, Washington pushed the WTO to confront China’s trade abuses, and Beijing defended its preferential rights as a “developing” nation. 

    Trump signalled US withdrawal from a 144-year-old international postal body that allows China major discounts. Sidestepping the trade war, Exxon Mobil planned to open its first import and storage hub for LNG in China. Progressing with ‘Made in China 2025’, Beijing hopes home-grown 5G mobile technology will push it to the forefront.

  • 26th Oct 2018

    After months of talking about talks, the US and China agreed to meet in Brazil in late November. Washington was refusing to resume trade negotiations until Beijing produced a concrete proposal to address forced technology transfers and other complaints. 

    The US declined to send senior officials to attend the Xi-backed import expo in Shanghai.

    The former commander of the US Army in Europe warned that it is very likely the United States will be at war with China in 15 years.

    One area of potential conflict may see real concessions from Beijing: a new, top-level court is planned, to hear appeals in IPR cases.

  • 2nd Nov 2018

    The central bank denied devaluing its currency to weather the trade war, while Trump said trade discussions are “moving along nicely” ahead of a dinner date with Xi on 1 December. 

    Two prominent Chinese economists broke with Communist party orthodoxy to blame the China Model for the trade tensions. 

    The US charged ten Chinese spies with hacking into aviation firms to steal trade secrets, and Attorney General Jeff Sessions ordered the FBI and the Justice Department to step up enforcement actions against Chinese companies.

    Taiwan’s deputy defence minister said it had budgeted several billion US dollars for arms procurement to build up its defence industry in the next two years; Washington has been approving arms deals at a much faster pace

    National reunification will not be stopped by any force, stressed China’s Taiwan affairs chief. Xi Jinping told Chinese soldiers to “prepare for war”.

  • 9th Nov 2018

    In Singapore, Xi’s envoy Wang Qishan told a forum that China is willing to engage with Washington amid their escalating trade war, but he warned that the country wouldn’t again be bullied and oppressed by foreign powers. 

    Henry Paulson, long a champion of US engagement with China, said it’s failing and an economic "iron curtain" may soon fall between them.

    The World Internet Conference in east China reaffirmed Beijing’s vision of (tight) internet governance. Tesla, Amazon, Microsoft and Qualcomm were the only four foreign firms to receive special mention in Wuzhen, a sign Beijing still favours them despite the US-China war. 

    Washington is unnerved by China's "military-civil fusion" on AI, a party demand that new technologies developed by the private sector must be shared with the military.

  • 16th Nov 2018

    China delivered a written response to U.S. demands for wide-ranging trade reforms, including possible concessions, but the US still planned to raise tariffs on Chinese goods in January, as the two Presidents will likely at best agree to a "framework" for further talks on the trade war, said Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross.

    VP Pence spoke of a new “Cold War” and “aggression” at sea, and a commission of security and economic experts convened by Congress warned that China’s tech prowess threatens US national security

    American executives who once pushed for engagement have also become sceptics and follow Trump in agitating for confrontation. One prominent VC expected the US to lose its technological edge over China in the next five years thanks to Beijing’s support.

  • 23rd Nov 2018

    China allowed a US aircraft carrier into Hong Kong as a goodwill gesture ahead of the crunch bilateral meeting between Trump and Xi on December 1 in Buenos Aires. 

    The last US-China encounter offered little hope of reaching a trade deal: Xi and Mike Pence traded barbs at APEC in PNG. China engaged in "tantrum diplomacy" there – “pushy, insecure, out of control” – yet Beijing blamed the US for the summit’s failure.

    The US planned to tighten export controls against China – citing national security threats in its request for public comment identifying emerging technologies with dual civilian and military applications. 

    One of Trump’s advisers suggested China could be "evicted" from the WTO.

  • 30th Nov 2018

    Trump flew to Brazil for the G20 - and a supper with Xi that stole the spotlight. “I think we’re very close to doing something with China but I don’t know that I want to do it,” teased the US President, claiming that the US enjoyed billions of dollars in Chinese tariffs. 

    US Trade Rep. Lighthizer examined all available tools to raise tariffs on Chinese vehicles to the 40% Beijing charges on US-produced vehicles.

    Some of the most ardent US supporters of engagement with China accused Beijing of trying to influence American politics and society and undermine democratic values. 

    Their report called for “constructive vigilance”, while the Trump administration considered new background checks and other restrictions on Chinese students in the US, underlining widespread concern about Chinese spying and IP theft.

  • 7th Dec 2018

    Mike Pompeo promised a new democratic world order in which Washington stops “bad actors” such as China, Russia and Iran by reshaping the post-World War Two system on the basis of sovereign states, not multilateral institutions. 

    In a stunning development, Huawei’s CFO was detained in Canada ahead of possible extradition to the US on sanctions-breaking charges. The firm denied any wrongdoing.

    Meng Wanzhou was held on the same day Trump had a “wonderful” dinner with Xi Jinping - Trump may not have known but members of his team did

    The head of MI6 warned of Huawei’s growing security threat, and BT confirmed it will strip Huawei equipment out of its core 4G network within two years. 

    China moved to address intellectual property theft, announcing an array of punishments for Chinese firms if they continue to cheat.

  • 14th Dec 2018

    Washington and Beijing made trade talk progress as China agreed to some early concessions. IPR protection and punishments could be boosted with an amendment to China's patent law, said a Chinese official. 

    Secretary Ross said it was clear China has been de-emphasizing “Made in China 2025”, Beijing’s masterplan for global technological dominance 2025 plan, “but that doesn’t mean they’ve dropped it.”

    Chinese economic espionage comprises America’s “most severe counterintelligence threat”, warned a senior FBI official. 

    While China’s threat to US tech dominance is debatable, it’s fast catching up in military technology. Huawei’s Meng Wanzhou achieved bail in Canada ahead of extradition hearings brought by the US government. 

    President Trump said he would intervene with the Justice Dept if it would help secure a China deal, but a US official insisted that justice is not “a tool of trade”.

  • 21st Dec 2018

    As talks about further talks continued, Beijing readied to buy two million more tonnes of US soybeans - to the relief of American farmers. 

    The US hit back at years of Chinese cheating by charging hackers linked to Chinese state security with stealing information from at least 45 U.S. tech companies and government agencies to boost its own firms and military.

    “China’s goal, simply put, is to replace the US as the world’s leading superpower and they’re using illegal methods to get there,” said the FBI director. Beijing denied the accusations

    The scholar who warned about the Thucydides Trap of conflict said the pair are “in a dangerous period”. Their sparring will hurt global growth and could spark armed conflict next year, concluded a US think tank. Some US funds continued to add Chinese stocks to their holdings in recent months, while locals exited the bloodbath.

  • 4th Jan 2019

    Amid the trade war “truce”, a US delegation will shortly head for talks in Beijing, four decades after the USA and China established diplomatic relations. 

    The State Dept’s new travel warning for China urged “increased caution”. A clash of civilisations lies at the heart of the bitter geostrategic competition, explained one expert.

    China’s top prosecutor declared there is “no doubt” the two Canadians detained in retaliation for the arrest of Huawei’s CFO broke Chinese law. 

    China’s Chang’e 4 lunar spacecraft made history as the first probe to visit the far side of the moon. And score a major geopolitical win for Beijing in its military-backed space race with Washington. “Today the fight (between China and the US) is on trade. Tomorrow it can be on the moon,” said one researcher.

  • 11th Jan 2019

    Trade talks in Beijing delivered modest progress – China will buy more US goods and services – but left multiple hurdles to clear if the tariff war is not to resume come March 1. 

    US suspicion of Chinese tech was highlighted by two senators seeking to create a White House office to fight state-sponsored technology theft. “We are not saying don’t invest in China or with China, but know the risk,” warned the head of a US government campaign against foreign hackers. More than 90% of economic espionage cases brought by the US Justice Department since 2011 have involved China.

    As car sales fell for the first time in two decades, Elon Musk broke ground in Shanghai for the Tesla “Gigafactory”, and was so effusive China´s Premier offered him a green card

    A strong yuan was helped by the Fed’s lack of rate increases.

  • 18th Jan 2019

    The verdict of US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, after trade war negotiations in Beijing last week: No progress on structural issues, but some analysts sounded upbeat that a short-term resolution will happen by the summer

    While US lawmakers introduced bills to ban the sale of US chips to Chinese telecoms firms that violate sanctions or export laws, the Huawei founder rejected spying claims and said he would never harm his customers or other countries.

    China’s army is “on the verge of fielding some of the most modern weapon systems in the world,” noted a major new US assessment. “In some areas, it already leads the world.” 

    In one potential flashpoint, the UK and US held joint naval drills in the South China Sea. Top planner Lian Weiliang pledged that China will press ahead with investments in AI and 5G in 2019.

  • 25th Jan 2019

    Ahead of trade war talks in the US, US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross warned that the two sides remain “miles and miles” from resolving trade issues such as the structural reforms Washington seeks, and enforcement mechanisms. But Ross estimated there´s a fair chance of reaching a deal.

    At Davos, foreign executives told one of China’s top regulators their concerns about intellectual property, the ownership structure of state-owned enterprises, and the Made in China 2025 policy. 

    Xi didn’t attend – and so missed being called the “most dangerous opponent of open societies” by billionaire financier George Soros. “China is not the only authoritarian regime in the world but it is the wealthiest, strongest and technologically most advanced,” said Soros.

  • 1st Feb 2019

    The US Justice Department filed nearly two dozen criminal charges against Huawei. The indictments, marking an escalation in the US-China confrontation, represent a primer on “how they do IP theft”, suggested one US lawyer. 

    The FBI is investigating Chinese economic espionage in nearly all of its 56 field offices nationwide. “China writ large is the most significant counterintelligence threat we face,” warned its director.

    Trump met Xi’s top economic aide, Liu He, after trade talks in D.C. The President cautioned that no final deal will be made until he met “my friend President Xi” to “agree on some of the long standing and more difficult points”. 

    China is rushing through a new foreign investment law to supersede existing legislation. The move, timed to influence the trade talks, should ban “forced” technology transfers.

  • 8th Feb 2019

    There’s “a lot of work left to do”, admitted US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin as he headed to Beijing for the third round of talks to resolve the trade war before the March 1 deadline and a dramatic rise in tariffs between China and the USA. 

    In his State of the Union address, Trump insisted any trade deal “must include real, structural change to end unfair trade practices, reduce our chronic trade deficit and protect American jobs.”

    The US’ top cyber diplomat warned that allowing Huawei and other Chinese firms into next-generation telecoms networks would permit Beijing to expand its surveillance state globally. 

    Huawei asked suppliers to move some production to China ahead of possible restrictions on access to essential US technology.

  • 15th Feb 2019

    Further trade talks in Beijing continued without a breakthrough. The negotiations are like “pulling teeth”, said one source, although Trump sounded conciliatory about pushing back the deadline for imposition of higher tariffs on Chinese imports. 

    After many broken promises in the past, US Trade Rep Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Mnuchin were urged to create an effective enforcement mechanism.

    As other Western nations considered restrictions on Huawei , the firm lashed out at Trump’s “co-ordinated, tactical political campaign”.

    A US commander pushed for more funding to counter Beijing’s attempts to “bend, break and replace the existing rules-based international order”.

  • 20th Feb 2019

    Chinese leader Xi Jinping 习近平 was set to meet senior US officials on Friday after further trade talks in Beijing.

    However, Trump appears ready to push back the deadline for imposition of higher tariffs on Chinese imports by 60 days. “If we’re close to a deal where we think we can make a real deal and it’s going to get done, I could see myself letting that slide for a little while,” said Trump in a conciliatory moment.

  • 22nd Feb 2019

    The US-China trade war talks switched to DC, and some optimistic signs followed. Negotiators drafted memorandums of understanding on six structural issues of great concern to all companies and countries doing business with China: forced technology transfer and cyber theft, intellectual property rights, services, currency, agriculture, and non-tariff barriers to trade. 

    Beijing may buy an additional $30bn a year of US agricultural products. 

    While a wing of British intelligence concluded Huawei is a manageable risk for 5G operations, and Germany unlikely to ban Huawei equipment outright, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned that the US won´t partner or share information with countries that adopt Huawei systems.

  • 24th Feb 2019

    With the 1 March deadline looming for an end to the truce, and a sharp escalation in US tariffs, Trump said he would extend that deadline and plan to meet his counterpart Xi Jinping to seal a trade deal. 

    “The U.S. has made substantial progress in our trade talks with China on important structural issues including intellectual property protection, technology transfer, agriculture, services, currency, and many other issues,” the US President Tweeted. 

    “As a result of these very productive talks, I will be delaying the U.S. increase in tariffs now scheduled for March 1. Assuming both sides make additional progress, we will be planning a Summit for President Xi and myself, at Mar-a-Lago, to conclude an agreement. A very good weekend for U.S. & China!”

  • 1st March 2019

    No new deadline appeared after Trump extended the trade war truce. After abandoning unsuccessful talks with North Korea, he suggested he could do the same with China: “I am always prepared to walk,” he said. 

    US Trade Rep Robert Lighthizer played down hopes of a quick deal and warned that new problems are likely.

    One apparent breakthrough: an enforcement mechanism for promised reforms, with punishment if complaints are not resolved, but plenty of experts consider enforcement difficult if not impossible

    The structural reforms to economic and trade policies demanded by Washington could take years to enact, warned China’s ambassador. 

    Huawei pleaded not guilty to US charges of trade secrets theft, and its chairman argued the US CLOUD Act was a greater security risk than Chinese telecoms equipment.

  • 8th March 2019

    The US trade deficit with China widened to an all-time record of $419.2bn, and Beijing’s purchases of agricultural commodities, energy products and manufactured goods as part of a trade deal may only make a short-term “dent” in the deficit. 

    Trump sounds optimistic that a landmark trade deal is close, with some whispering of a 27 March summit with Xi. But Chinese officials worry that the final terms may be less favourable.

    Beijing will make forced technology transfer illegal, a top official promised, while Huawei took on Washington. Citing the US Constitution, Huawei challenged a law signed by Trump in August, and accused the US of hacking into its servers to steal source code. 

    China hit back against Canada for arresting Huawei’s CFO: two Canadians were accused of stealing state secrets and canola seed shipments were stopped from a Canadian supplier.

  • 15th March 2019

    The NPC passed China’s new foreign investment law, which had been rushed through to address issues raised by Washington in the Sino-US trade war, such as unequal treatment on market access and government procurement, and forced technology transfer to Chinese partners. 

    A meeting between Presidents Trump and Xi to finalise an agreement appeared more likely in April at the earliest, as the US President claimed he was “in no rush” to strike a deal.

    US public opinion has soured on China, but decoupling from the US is “not realistic”, said Premier Li Keqiang, who also denied China would ask tech firms to spy. 

    The US increased pressure on Europe to avoid Huawei in building 5G telecoms. Two US B-52 strategic bombers flew over the contested South China Sea week, ignoring Chinese objections to make the second such flight in 10 days.

  • 22nd March 2019

    Trump threatened to keep high tariffs against Chinese goods until he’s certain Beijing is complying with any new trade agreement. 

    US officials downplayed the likelihood of a quick deal, as the US trade representative and Treasury secretary readied for another Beijing trip next week. He pushed his team to get China to “double or triple” its offer to buy US goods.

    The US-China trade war could cost the American economy US$1trn over the next decade. Senators are considering a partial ban on Chinese trains and buses, while several US colleges have closed their Beijing-backed Confucius Institutes. 

    US firms are helping build China’s Orwellian state, as tech partnerships empower new methods of control and surveillance. EU leaders weighed a more defensive strategy on China, ending the unfettered access Chinese business has enjoyed in Europe.

  • 29th March 2019

    Trump’s negotiators are in Beijing again for trade war talks, with a Chinese delegation bound for DC next week. 

    These negotiations could stretch for weeks or months, warned economic adviser Larry Kudlow. “This is not time-dependent. This is policy- and enforcement-dependent,” he said. 

    Beijing has made proposals that go further than before, including on forced technology transfer, US officials told Reuters. Yet history haunts the discussions as China, very conscious of the “unequal treaties” imposed after the first Opium War, pushes back against US demands. 

    As Huawei celebrated joining the likes of Apple in the ranks of multinational technology companies with revenue of $100bn, Steve Bannon and others revived a Cold War-era advocacy organisation to lobby the US public about the “existential and ideological threat” posed by China today.

  • 5th April 2019

    Smiles, but no celebrations. “If we have a deal, we’ll have a summit,” said President Trump, with China’s top negotiator at his side. It might be another four weeks before he could announce a meeting with Xi

    Their war-ending accord could be “very monumental,” once they clear the remaining sticking points: intellectual-property protection, tariffs and enforcement. “We’ve agreed to far more than we have left to agree to,” he said.

    China hands said Trump risked falling into a familiar trap: believing in “mythical reformers” Beijing conjures to deflect foreign demands. If China becomes this century’s dominant power, “there is a risk the United States and the world will be less free, less prosperous, and less safe,” warned the Center for American Progress.

    US national security adviser John Bolton offered Taipei strong backing after China despatched two fighter jets across the “median line” dividing the Taiwan Strait.

  • 12th April 2019

    No timetable for finalising a US-China deal to end the trade war, but the latest round of talks produced one major breakthrough with agreement to set up enforcement offices to monitor each other’s implementation of trade pledges. 

    The US has insisted on an enforcement mechanism, while China worried that checks by US officials would infringe its sovereignty. 

    “While things look positive, it’s never over till it’s over with the Chinese,” warned Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue about reducing Beijing’s tariff on US ethanol products.

    In the US, the mystery deepened over the Chinese “spy” caught at Trump’s Florida resort, and the businessman with multiple identities whose association had “troubling connections to the Chinese government”. 

    In the South China Sea, the US sent a message to China by dispatching a fighter-jet-carrying warship to join drills near the disputed Scarborough Shoal for the first time.

  • 19th April 2019

    The US will emerge from the trade war with China as a winner, no matter what happens, boasted Trump .

    What happens next is two more rounds of talks by early May, with Robert Lighthizer and Steven Mnuchin headed to Beijing in the week of 29 April, and Liu He to DC the following week, which officials hope will lead to the announcement of a deal and a signing summit in late May.

    A senior US official denounced as “coercion” Chinese military drills near Taiwan, while the commander in charge of US military operations in the Pacific asked for more money to counter the threat from Beijing

    The chairman of the Federal Communications Commission opposed China Mobile’s application to provide cell service to Americans on security concerns. Frustrated US businesses can no longer be counted on as a “positive anchor” in US-China relations, said AmCham in China.

  • 26th April 2019

    Critical of Xi Jinping’s Belt and Road Initiative, the US sent no senior representative to Xi’s high-profile forum this week in Beijing, where he pledged the global infrastructure drive would deliver green, sustainable “high quality” growth for everyone.

    At the largest naval parade China has ever held, China showed off recent additions including the Type 055, the biggest destroyer ever built in Asia, and the world’s second most powerful vessel of its class after the US Navy’s Zumwalt-class destroyer.

    Trump said he would soon host his Chinese counterpart at the White House, raising hopes of agreement to end the trade war. Two of Trump’s top negotiators visit Beijing next week, with Vice Premier Liu He bound for DC the following week. 

    Agenda items include intellectual property, where China continues to engage in “unfair and harmful conduct” that damages US IPR, said Washington.

  • 3rd May 2019

    “Productive” talks between Sino-US trade negotiators in Beijing spurred hopes that next week’s round in DC will prove conclusive. The two sides are reported to be close to a deal on rolling back some of Trump’s tariffs.

    The US President may have dropped one central demand, as Washington prepares to accept a watered-down commitment to reduce cyber-theft. In an important concession from Beijing, China announced plans to open up its massive financial sector to the world.

    As more US spies for China are charged, the FBI Director described the “multi-layered threat” from a nation “determined to steal its way up the economic ladder at our expense.” 

    The State Department controversially warned of a clash of civilisations and races. “It’s the first time that we will have a great power competitor that is not Caucasian.”

  • 8th May 2019

    Frustrated that trade talks were moving too slowly, Trump tweeted on 5 May that the US would raise tariffs from 10 May on $200bn worth of Chinese goods from 10 to 25%. 

    His top trade rep added that China has been retreating from commitments already made in many months of negotiations.

    After speculation he would cancel his planned trip to DC, Beijing confirmed that Xi Jinping’s top negotiator, Liu He, will still travel for talks 8-9 May, but with a smaller delegation and for a shorter visit. 

    The Communist Party newspaper, the People’s Daily, insisted that Beijing will not make concessions in trade talks in response to Trump’s latest tariff threats.

  • 10th May 2019

    Just as many observers hoped a deal was close, President Trump surprised global stock markets by raising tariffs from 10 May on $200bn worth of Chinese goods from 10 to 25%. 

    He’s also “starting the paperwork” to impose a 25% tariff on the $325bn untouched so far by the trade war.

    His top trade rep explained that China has been retreating from commitments already made in many months of negotiations. Xi’s chief negotiator, Liu He, still travelled for talks in DC this week, but there was no time or sufficient will to avert the tariff hike.

    “Good man,” Trump said of Liu, “but they broke the deal.” Beijing quickly vowed to take “the necessary countermeasures.”

  • 11th May 2019

    US and Chinese trade negotiators ended the talks in Washington on Friday without an agreement because of differences in “significant issues of principle”, according to Vice Premier Liu He

    The two sides will continue the discussions, but according to the FT, “both sides felt the need to manage market expectations and avoid the perception of a full breakdown”.

    China’s Ministry of Commerce expressed "deep regrets" at the United States' move to impose additional tariffs on Chinese imports and vowed to take necessary countermeasures. 

    Meanwhile, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said, “The President also ordered us to begin the process of raising tariffs on essentially all remaining imports from China, which are valued at approximately $300 billion.”

  • 13th May 2019

    As anticipated, and despite tweeted warnings from Trump not to retaliate, China’s finance ministry said it plans to set import tariffs of  between 5% and 25% on approximately $60bn worth of US goods.  

    The tariffs are due to take effect on June 1.

    “China’s adjustment of tariff-adding measures is a response to US unilateralism and trade protectionism,” said China’s Ministry of Finance in a statement.  

    Full statement can be found here (in Chinese).

  • 17th May 2019

    Beijing will fight “to the end” in the trade war, warned China’s state broadcaster, as the government announced its response to Trump’s tariff hike: raised duties on $60bn of American goods from 1 June, with tariffs rising up to 25% from the original 10%. 

    “After 5,000 years of wind and rain, what hasn’t the Chinese nation weathered?” said the anchor in a widely-watched, punchy commentary. 

    Despite tough rhetoric from both sides, Trump predicted “a very fruitful meeting” with Xi late next month at the G20 in Japan.

    In a double-pronged attack, Trump blacklisted Huawei from buying parts and components from US companies without US government approval, and issued an executive order declaring a national emergency that blocks US firms from using telecoms equipment made by companies considered a threat to national security.

  • 24th May 2019

    “Now there is a new Long March, and we should make a new start," said Xi Jinping at the place where the Communist Party began its survival trek in 1934. 

    Instead of Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalists, the Americans are today’s foes, but they won’t succeed in blocking China’s path to national rejuvenation and global respect, insisted China’s media.

    With no new trade war talks scheduled, the rhetoric is hardening and the nationalism rising on both sides. Xi toured a major processor of rare earths, a key export which could be used as a bargaining chip. 

    Trump plans further restrictions on exports of hi-tech goods to China, making life difficult for many Chinese firms that rely on such products. Huawei is suffering from lack of access to Google’s Android operating system, and chip-maker ARM’s technology. 

    Washington maintained its naval challenge too, sailing warships near Scarborough Shoal and through the Taiwan Strait.

  • 31st May 2019

    Escalation alert. “We advise the US side not to underestimate the Chinese side’s ability to safeguard its development rights and interests. Don’t say we didn’t warn you!” said the People’s Daily, the Communist Party’s mouthpiece. 

    The warning threatens US access to China’s rare earth minerals, used to make US fighter jets, missiles and far more besides.

    “China is becoming a very weakened nation” and “would love to make a deal with us,” Trump insisted on Thursday. New Chinese tariffs come into effect on 1 June, and further “goodwill” purchases of US soy have been put on hold.

    Still firmly in the eye of the tech/trade storm, Huawei filed a legal motion to declare a US defence law unconstitutional, part of its fight against US sanctions. “Huawei is an instrument of the Chinese government,” said Secretary of State Pompeo. “They’re deeply connected. It’s something that’s hard for Americans to understand.”

  • 7th June 2019

    Trump threatened tariffs on another $300bn of Chinese goods – but agreed to decide only after meeting Xi Jinping at the G20 in late June.

    “China does not want to fight a trade war, but also is not afraid of one,” replied China’s commerce ministry. Countermeasures should include a blacklist of “unreliable” foreign companies that the ministry plans to draft soon, and “weaponising” China’s dominance of the supply of rare earths

    The US Department of Defence was set to anger Beijing with the wording of its Indo-Pacific Strategy Report, released on June 1st.  In an apparent break with long-standing US adherence to a one-China principle, it lists Taiwan as a "country" in a section detailing US efforts to strengthen partnerships with democracies in the region; the section cites Singapore, Taiwan, New Zealand and Mongolia.  Reports about a proposal to sell over $2bn worth of weapons to Taiwan is also escalating tensions. 

    Both defence ministers talked tough. “If the U.S. wants to talk, we will keep the door open. If they want to fight, we will fight to the end,” said Wei Fenghe. China uses a “toolkit of coercion” to steal tech and militarise the South China Sea, said Patrick Shanahan.

  • 14th June 2019

    “We will end up making a deal with China,” said Trump. “We have a very good relationship, although it’s a little bit testy right now.” He repeated his threat to put tariffs on Chinese imports not yet subject to US levies. “I have no deadline. My deadline is what’s up here,” he said, pointing to his head.

    Three weeks before proposed talks with Xi Jinping at the G20 in Japan, expectations are low for progress towards ending the trade war. Google is speeding up the shift of hardware production from China, and Crocs planned to cut by more than two thirds the volume of China-made products for the US market. 

    One clear White House deadline gives two years to implement a ban on federal contracts with companies that do business with Huawei, part of a multifaceted US push one US business group called comparable to “murder”.

  • 21st June 2019

    After they spoke by phone this week, Presidents Trump and Xi will meet next week at the G20 in Japan. Their teams are scrambling to make a plan, since the negotiators haven’t talked for six weeks. 

    While US senators target Chinese facial recognition tech firms and genomics companies, the White House delayed action to punish Chinese officials over the abuse of Muslim minorities in Xinjiang, for fear sanctions would disrupt the leaders’ meeting.

    A US business group pleaded to end the costly trade war with China, while Apple calculated the cost of shifting up to 30% of its China production capacity to Southeast Asia. 

    The US assault against Huawei may cost it $30bn in sales growth over the next two years, admitted founder Ren Zhengfei. But the firm will not be “beaten to death” by Washington, said Ren, who insisted there are “absolutely no backdoors” in his equipment.

  • 28th June 2019

    Overshadowing the whole G-20 again, Trump and Xi have less than two hours scheduled for talks on 29 June in Osaka. 

    While Trade Secretary Mnuchin said “we were about 90% of the way there [with a deal] and I think there’s a path to complete this,” Chinese media pronouncements underscored Beijing’s will to fight and endure the costs of decoupling. 

    The two sides have tentatively agreed to another truce to resume talks but Xi’s preconditions include the US removing its ban on the sale of US technology to Huawei.

    Huawei filed its fourth lawsuit against the US government this year, and denied it has close ties or co-operative projects with China’s military. 

    Washington blacklisted several Chinese supercomputer firms - a sector with profound military and technology implications and one where the world’s No. 2 economy poses a credible threat to US dominance.

  • 29th June 2019

    US President Donald Trump says trade talks with China have been successfully revived and new tariffs are on hold after his highly anticipated meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

    The US president says that negotiations about telco giant Huawei will be left to the end of the negotiations with China. In the mean time he has allowed US companies to sell equipment to Huawei

    Following the G20 summit, the White House is drafting an official invitation to North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un to meet President Donald Trump

    North Korea requested the invitation after Mr Trump tweeted on Saturday that he would be willing to meet Mr Kim at the DMZ, the demilitarised zone that separates South and North Korea. He is scheduled to spend two days in South Korea after the G20 summit in Osaka.  

  • 5th July 2019

    The world’s most powerful pair hit pause. As Trump and Xi agreed a trade war truce, the Americans appeared to concede more: a new tariff threat was put on hold and restrictions eased to allow US suppliers to resume selling parts to Huawei.

    Trade talks should restart in earnest next week, said Trump officials. Yet confusion remains over the new Huawei policy, and Beijing may only keep its promise to buy more US agricultural products once it sees the supply ban easing. 

    The tussles have sparked conflict among the US China-watchers – while 100 experts wrote an open letter to Trump, insisting China is “no enemy”, others argue that Xi’s China proves the pro-engagement strategy is long dead.

    In one potential flashpoint, the Pentagon called an anti-ship ballistic missile test in the South China Sea “disturbing” and contrary to pledges Beijing would not militarise the waterway.

  • 12th July 2019

    “China is letting us down in that they have not been buying the agricultural products from our great Farmers that they said they would,” Tweeted Trump as US government data showed China actually slowed its purchases of American farm products following the G20 meeting in Japan, despite DC’s understanding the trade war truce would mean the opposite.

    Trump’s negotiators spoke by phone with their Chinese counterparts, but the same issues remain that snagged talks two months ago

    White House adviser Larry Kudlow warned that the US and China may never reach a trade deal because of the difficulty in resolving these remaining issues.

    Beijing is winning the “silent war” to dominate the South China Sea, while its broader maritime expansion into a major naval power “reflects a curious mix of ambition and paranoia”, guided in part by deep insecurity.

  • 19th July 2019

    “I used to say he was a good friend of mine,” said Trump of Xi Jinping. “We’re probably not quite as close now.” The US President also threatened new tariffs, which Beijing said could derail any deal.

    Slow progress on key initial demands from Trump and Xi raises doubts about whether the US and China will actually return to the negotiating table to overcome their much deeper differences, reported Bloomberg.

    Movement has stalled while Trump’s team considers Beijing’s demands to ease restrictions on Huawei.

    Despite Trump’s claims, US government figures showed revenue collected from tariffs on imported Chinese goods is not nearly enough to cover the cost of financial support to farmers and other affected sectors.

    China threatened to impose sanctions on US firms involved in a $2.2bn arms deal to Taiwan.

  • 26th July 2019

    Shanghai was the setting for a famous Communique during Richard Nixon’s breakthrough 1972 visit, but hopes remain modest for next week’s visit to Shanghai by Trump’s trade negotiators

    They tackle familiar ground: intellectual property, forced technology transfer, non-tariff barriers, agriculture, services, the trade deficit, and enforcement.

    In a goodwill gesture, Beijing has given the go-ahead for five companies to buy up to 3 million tonnes of US soybeans free of retaliatory import tariffs, reported Bloomberg, with more waivers possible depending on the talks. 

    China is stealing “its way up the ladder”, said the FBI Director. “If China is fighting a war, it is a just war to defend its legitimate rights and interests,” countered Beijing. 

    In a defence “white paper”, China sharpened a warning that it could use force to prevent Taiwan from declaring independence, and vowed to increase military cooperation with Russia.


  • 2nd Aug 2019

    After Shanghai trade talks ended in failure, Trump stole the show by announcing that the US will impose new tariffs on $300bn worth of Chinese imports from September 1. 

    He blamed Beijing’s lack of farm purchases and failing to stop opiate sales to the USA. Ending a temporary truce, the new levies will hit consumer goods in the US from cell phones and laptop computers to toys and footwear.

    “Adding tariffs is definitely not a constructive way to solve the economic and trade frictions,” responded Foreign Minister Wang Yi. “It is not a correct way.” The move “will drive the Chinese from the negotiating table,” worried the US-China Business Council.

    China is pushing hard to conclude the world’s largest regional trade agreement - the RCEP, which doesn’t include the USA. China even has the chance to turn “a crisis into an opportunity”, said the Politburo.

  • 9th Aug 2019

    China wasted no time in retaliating after what it said was Washington's "serious violation" of the consensus Xi and Trump reached at G20 in Osaka in a manner calculated to hurt Trump’s base by stopping buying U.S. agricultural products

    On August 5th China let its currency weaken 1.4%, sending it past the key 7-per-dollar level for the first time in more than a decade, sending foreign exchange markets into a spin. 

    The US responded by designating China as a currency manipulator at Donald Trump's behest. Meanwhile, China's state media went into overdrive, reassuring the country’s millions of small savers that the move was justified, market-driven and unlikely to mark the start of a larger depreciation. 

    Citing national security concerns, the Trump administration announced a ban on federal agencies buying equipment and services from Chinese companies such as Huawei. 

    The political crisis in Hong Kong is deepening, not easing, and no one is more worried than the Communist Party of China. Beijing issued its strongest warning yet that it would not allow the Asian financial hub to descend into chaos after a strike caused disruptions to business across the city. 

    Although US and Chinese negotiators are still expected to meet in Washington next month for another round of talks, the dispute is widening. 

  • 23rd Aug 2019

    “This is not my trade war, this is a trade war that should have taken place a long time ago, by a lot of other presidents,” said President Trump. “Somebody had to do it. I am the chosen one.” China has been “ripping off” America for 25 years or more, he claimed. 

    While his team insists their strategy isn’t hurting the US economy, JP Morgan Chase estimate the tariffs cost the average American household $600 per year, and the planned return of US jobs isn’t happening. 

    Pompeo believes the trade war could end by the 2020 US presidential election. US and Chinese officials will speak in the next week to 10 days, and possibly meet thereafter. 

    Commerce Secretary Ross granted a 90-day reprieve for US firms to “wean themselves off” Huawei, but Washington also kept pressure up by adding 46 more Huawei affiliates onto a blacklist.

  • 24th August 2019

    Trump announced an additional tariff increase of 5% on imports from China, raising its tariffs on $250bn of Chinese imports from 25% to 30%, starting on October 1st.

    He also said planned tariffs on $300bn of other Chinese goods will be raised to 15% from 10%.

    The move came shortly after he hit out at Chinese plans to hit $75bn of US goods with duties.

  • 30th August 2019

    The two sides appear to be in talks about talks in September, but Trump’s flip-flopping and determination to depict China as caving in negotiations have confirmed Beijing’s worst fears -he can’t be trusted to cut a deal, Chinese officials told Bloomberg. 

    As both sides planned tariff hikes, China’s commerce ministry said the possibility of progress at talks likely in September hinges on whether Washington can create favourable conditions.

    While American farmers are frustrated by the trade war, US companies keep piling into the PRC, with a small increase in investment in H1. US companies operating in China are increasingly profitable, “but the ongoing trade dispute is putting at risk years of steady progress.” 

    Two Chinese officials likened the country’s trade war approach to the US during the Korean War, saying it “consisted of fighting while talking, and using fights to speed up talks.”

  • 6th September 2019

    Unlucky for some? The USA and China will resume talks in DC early next month - their 13th attempt at resolving the trade war. Scepticism remains widespread but some analysts expressed hope the renewed dialogue will lead to breakthroughs

    President Trump warned he would be “tougher” on Beijing in a second term if the trade talks dragged on - and “China’s Supply Chain will crumble and businesses, jobs and money will be gone!”

    The latest tariff hike means US shoppers will start to notice price rises for clothes, shoes and other items as more than two-thirds of the consumer goods the US imports from China will now face higher taxes. 

    It’s costing China too. Several economists have cut their forecasts for GDP growth in 2020 to below 6%. Asian tech leaders warned that trade tensions are accelerating the fragmentation of the global industry.

  • 13th September 2019

    The US and China played a little nicer than usual. Beijing unveiled 16 products to be exempt from upcoming additional tariffs; Trump delayed a tariff hike on Chinese goods from 1 to 15 October, and these goodwill gestures could be backed up by China buying more US farm goods

    Mnuchin said they have a “conceptual” agreement on enforcement concerns, ahead of talks in mid-October.

    The Pentagon is compiling a list of Chinese companies with ties to the Chinese military “to help reduce the chances of US weapons supply chains being compromised”. 

    Huawei offered to sell its 5G tech to a Western buyer to help create a rival and level the playing field amid widespread distrust, but “few believe that a sale would placate America’s national-security apparatus, at least in the short run.”

  • 20th September 2019

    US and Chinese trade negotiators met face-to-face this week, for the first time in nearly two months, to lay the groundwork for high-level talks in early October that optimists hope will deliver an interim trade deal. 

    A 30-strong Chinese delegation met counterparts at the US Trade Representative’s office near the White House.

    Chinese agriculture officials will make a goodwill visit to American farm regions next week. 

    Trump said China has started to buy US agricultural products again, which can‘t come too soon as the trade war pushes more American farmers into retirement or bankruptcy.

    While Huawei launched another bid to undo a restrictive US law, the Trump administration proposed new rules to exert greater control over foreign investment, a move primarily aimed at preventing China from gaining access to sensitive American technology.

  • 27th September 2019

    A deal to end the nearly 15-month trade war could happen “sooner than you think”, President Trump claimed this week. 

    Chinese importers will buy US soybeans and pork, China’s Ministry of Commerce confirmed, as the two governments made conciliatory gestures ahead of trade talks early next month.

    China’s top diplomat Wang Yi warned of “endless troubles ahead” if the two nations decouple. The U.S. should “avoid picking a misguided fight with the wrong country,” he said. “Decoupling from China’s economy would be to decouple from opportunities, and the future.”

    America should retool national security policy, said leaders in Washington, as Beijing is increasingly tapping private Chinese firms to acquire foreign technology for its military

    This “military-civil fusion” drive will upgrade China’s arms industry and build a world-class military capable of challenging the US in Asia and beyond.

  • 4th October 2019

    Amid the impeachment probe, Trump shocked all by publicly asking China to investigate election rival Joe Biden. The extraordinary request risked further accusations of abuse of presidential power, and may give China leverage in the trade war. 

    During a phone call with Xi in June, Trump raised Biden’s political prospects and offered to remain quiet on the Hong Kong protests as trade talks progressed.

    “I have a lot of options on China,” Trump said of talks set to resume in DC on 10 October, “but if they don’t do what we want, we have tremendous power.” 

    For now, his administration is denying reports that Chinese equities will be blocked or delisted from US exchanges, and limits imposed on US investment in Chinese firms and markets. 

    Beijing’s October 1 military parade showed off new missiles and drones many experts believe are eroding US power and influence in Asia.

  • 11th October 2019

    US and Chinese trade negotiators began two days of talks in DC as business groups expressed optimism they could reach a limited deal to delay a US tariff hike from 15 October. 

    Beijing may boost annual soybean purchases, and the White House may roll out a previously agreed currency pact as part of an “early harvest” deal.

    Hopes for a breakthrough persisted despite Beijing’s anger at new US restrictions against companies and officials involved in the abuse of Muslim minorities in northwest China. 

    Beijing will respond with tighter visa restrictions for US nationals with ties to “anti-China” groups.

    As the Trump administration considered ways to inflict more economic pain on Beijing, the clash of political systems and ideals was highlighted by China banning the NBA, and South Park.

  • 11th October 2019

    Donald Trump outlined the first phase of a deal to end a trade war with China and suspended a threatened tariff hike, but officials on both sides said much more work needed to be done before an accord could be agreed.

    It "will offer some respite to the global economy and could calm markets...... However, it would fall short of the sweeping reset in US-China economic relations that Mr Trump has sought from his early days in the White House, and on the 2016 presidential campaign trail". 

  • 18th October 2019

    A “lovefest”, President Trump called the US-China relationship under his watch. It birthed a mini-deal last week, that US and Chinese trade negotiators are working to nail down into a “Phase 1” trade deal text for their presidents to sign at an APEC summit in mid-November in Chile.

    Plenty of doubts persist, about China’s commitment to open up its markets, its ability to police IPR, and its purchases of US farm goods. 

    Beijing is pushing the US to drop plans to impose new 15% tariffs on $156 billion in consumer goods starting December 15 and could use the farm purchases as leverage.

    After decades of US diplomats in China enduring restrictions on their movements, the Trump administration now requires Chinese diplomats in the United States to give advance notice of any official meetings

  • 25th October 2019

    Rather than de-coupling from China, the US seeks engagement with China, and not to contain it, claimed US Vice President Mike Pence, but “all that Beijing is doing today” demonstrates that the Chinese Communist Party “has been ‘de-coupling’ from the wider world for decades.”

    While Trump presented farm goods sales as a win for the US, Bloomberg reported that China will buy at least $20bn of agricultural products in the first year of the proposed trade deal year, merely returning imports to pre-trade war levels, and would only rise to the $40 - 50bn Trump claimed if he removes remaining punitive tariffs.

    His administration is divided over how aggressively to restrict China’s access to US technology as it seeks ways to protect national security without undercutting American industry, said the New York Times. 

  • 1st November 2019

    The Trump-Xi meeting in Chile, to finalise some kind of trade agreement, has to be rescheduled elsewhere, after the kind of protests Xi would never allow at home cancelled an APEC summit this month

    Chinese officials “are casting doubts about reaching a comprehensive long-term trade deal” with the US even as they edge closer to signing a “phase one” agreement, reported Bloomberg.

    Beijing simply won’t budge on the thorniest issues. Trump’s demand that Beijing commit to big purchases of American farm products has become a major sticking point.

    While China has “stepped up its charm offensive” to attract US and other foreign companies, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo began a series of speeches on “the challenge of China” by saying that Beijing’s policies were hostile to Western interests.

  • 8th November 2019

    Possible breakthrough? China and the US have agreed to cancel in phases the tariffs imposed during the trade war, the Chinese commerce ministry said on Thursday 7th November - but without specifying a timetable. 

    “If China, US reach a phase-one deal, both sides should roll back existing additional tariffs in the same proportion simultaneously based on the content of the agreement, which is an important condition for reaching the agreement,” said a spokesman.

    While Beijing insists that Xi Jinping and Donald Trump have been in continuous touch through “various means”, their meeting to sign a long-awaited interim trade deal could be delayed until December as discussions continue over terms and venue, reported Reuters. London may provide the stage.

  • 15th November 2019

    US-China trade negotiations to reach a “skinny” trade deal in the coming weeks are stalling as Beijing continues to drive a hard bargain over differences on agricultural purchases and other commitments the Trump administration demands from Beijing. 

    The US will increase tariffs on China if the first step of a broader agreement isn’t reached, he threatened. Cancelling tariff hikes is an important condition to reach an agreement, replied a Chinese Ministry of Commerce spokesperson.

    A Bloomberg investigation into Trump’s China plans concluded that “one man’s impetuousness has confounded attempts at strategy”. 

    As former Chinese finance minister Lou Jiwei warned the nations’ rivalry is at risk of becoming a “financial war”, a US bipartisan commission recommended that Congress enact a raft of legislation to counter China’s “unfair economic practices”, saying the US must gird itself for a prolonged strategic competition.

  • 22nd November 2019

    Little progress in a week when Trump renewed his threats to raise tariffs if Beijing doesn’t meet his demands, and Henry Kissinger said the US and China were in the “foothills of a Cold War”. 

    Hopes of a limited “phase-one” pact this year remain stymied by their core differences, although some sources claimed that negotiators are on the “doorstep” of a deal, and will likely postpone tariffs set for December 15 that would hit smartphones and other popular items for the first time.

    China’s top trade negotiator has invited his American counterparts for a new round of face-to-face talks. The US Hong Kong bill may prove another obstacle, and is only one of more than 150 other pending bills that aim to counter China on multiple fronts. 

    In the South China Sea, US Navy warships angered Beijing by twice sailing near islands claimed by China.

  • 29th November 2019

    Trump angered Beijing by signing the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act. While China had warned of consequences, the main one appeared anger, as observers said Beijing was unlikely to retaliate in a way that would undermine ongoing trade talks

    “We’re in the final throes of a very important deal,” Trump claimed, and China promised to raise penalties for IPR violations, but with little progress on a phase one deal an ambitious “phase two” deal appeared even less likely.

    The US launched a new Mandarin-language news network, to counter Chinese influence, but Beijing overtook the US to claim the largest diplomatic network in the world. And it’s not just building embassies. 

    In the “people’s war” in the South China Sea, China “is rushing ahead with preparations to ensure it would gain the upper hand in any armed conflict over its territorial claims.”

  • 6th December 2019

    The talks are going very well, but maybe I should wait a year till after the election? President Trump sends mixed messages on a possible US-China trade deal. 

    Beijing responded angrily to the Uighur Human Rights Policy Act 2019 bill. Some sources claimed progress in moving closer to agreeing on the amount of tariffs to be rolled back in a phase-one deal. 

    The next US tariff hike on 15 December may not happen, and China announced it would exempt US soybeans and pork from tariffs.

    Trump lobbied NATO allies against involving Huawei in their 5G telecoms networks. The US may also revive a plan to kick Huawei out of the American financial system

    Meanwhile Huawei sued the US telecom regulator. China’s ambassador to the US accused Washington of building a “Berlin Wall” between the two nations. “Cold War II has begun,” said historian Niall Ferguson.


  • 13th December 2019

    “Getting VERY close to a BIG DEAL with China. They want it, and so do we!” Trump tweeted on Thursday. 

    It’s more of a mini-deal – with the official announcement likely on Friday - but multiple US media reported that Washington and China have finally reached consensus on the terms of a “phase one” trade deal.

    Codifying what was agreed in principle in October, this tentative agreement will require China to significantly increase its purchases of US farm goods, open up the financial services sector and enact new protections against IPR theft. 

    In exchange, Trump will cancel the 15% tariff scheduled for this Sunday.

    The trade war to date has already cost the most affected US communities billions of dollars in lost auto sales in 2018, and slowed job growth, due to retaliatory tariffs slapped by China on US products.

  • 15th December 2019

    The much mooted watered down, phase 1 agreement between US and China is announced.   

    As the FT commented, the Chinese detente is heavily dependent on the success of a tricky implementation phase over coming months — during which the Trump administration will scrutinise every economic step taken by Beijing to make sure it is consistent with their pact. This could determine whether the truce evolves into a much more ambitious and comprehensive trade deal, or breaks down in some manner. Few observers are betting on the former.

  • 20th December 2019

    The impeachment of the US President left observers convinced Trump would be too distracted to focus on resolving tensions between the world’s two biggest economies. 

    Steven Mnuchin claimed the trade deal was completely finished, on paper and translated, was just undergoing a technical “scrub”, and would not be subject to any renegotiation before its likely signing in early January.

    As the details have still not been disclosed, US farmers remained sceptical of Trump’s promise China would buy $50bn of US farm goods. 

    No date has yet been set for the two sides to begin “phase two” trade talks, said Robert Lighthizer

    While JP Morgan celebrated becoming the first US bank to win approval for a majority-owned securities venture in China, the US government is weighing new limits on sales of chips and other components to Huawei.

  • 10th January 2020

    Vice Premier Liu He heads to Washington from 13-15 January to sign the long-anticipated phase one deal with the US. 

    There’s still no public version, and potential hurdles include China’s refusal to increase grain import quotas to meet US demands. Whatever gets signed, Trump faces difficulty whenever he travels to China to start “phase two” talks covering issues “so tricky they got excluded from the first round”.

    Uncertainty surrounding the US-China trade war remains the biggest challenge facing the global economy in 2020, according to investment chiefs at ten of the world’s largest fund managers. 

    In tech decoupling news, some Chinese firms shunned this week’s CES in Las Vegas, and China announced that it would complete Beidou, its competitor to the US-operated GPS network, by the first half of this year, thereby increasing the potential for Internet Balkanisation.

  • 15th January 2020

    President Donald Trump and Chinese Vice Premier Liu He signed a phase one trade deal at the White House, thereby calming the nearly two-year-long trade war. 

    Read all 96 pages here, or this Reuters factbox

    The US agreed to halve the tariff rate it imposed on 1st September on a $120 billion list of Chinese goods, to 7.5%; China agreed to increase purchases of American products and services by at least $200 billion over the next two years.

    Trump called it “a transformative deal" It’s “good for China, for the United States and for the whole world, said Xi Jinping

    There was no public decision on when the far trickier phase two negotiations will start. Liu He reassured China’s other trade partners that they wouldn’t miss out, but the European Chamber of Commerce in China called the deal “distortion in the market” and warned it was “rewriting globalisation”.

  • 17th January 2020

    The US and China finally agreed their phase one trade deal. Amid Trump’s celebration of the moment and his team, Robert Lighthizer, the US trade representative, said that “this deal will work if China wants it to work,” an admission that enforcement remains uncertain. 

    Many observers doubt Washington will ultimately achieve the further structural concessions it seeks as Beijing won’t change its economic model to appease the US.

    Tensions over technology continued to simmer. Mike Pompeo warned Silicon Valley firms about the “enormous risk, risk to America’s national security as well” of selling their technology to China. 

    The US government seeks to expand its powers to block shipments of foreign-made goods to Huawei, while senators urged Washington to adopt a $1bn plan to subsidise US firms to compete with Huawei on 5G.

  • 24th January 2020

    We love each other, Trump told Davos about Xi. “Our relationship with China has probably never been better. We went through a very rough patch, but it has never, ever been better.” 

    Washington will gradually roll back its China tariffs during a staged negotiation of a phase two deal that may last beyond the 2020 US presidential election in November, said Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.

    China’s $200 billion, two-year spending spree negotiated with the Trump administration appears increasingly difficult to deliver, according to Bloomberg analysis. 

    Xi sought to reassure European companies that their interests will not suffer as a result of the trade deal. US firms are shifting supply chains elsewhere in Asia amid growing fears that US-China economic decoupling is irreversible, reported the FT.

  • 31th January 2020

    China remained deep in the deadly coronavirus crisis, spreading fear, frustration and tragedy in what should be the lunar new year holiday season. 

    The outbreak could hit Beijing’s ability to meet the purchasing agreement elements of the $200bn trade deal, cautioned some analysts. 

    Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said the virus could help the US, forcing businesses to reconsider supply chains and return jobs and manufacturing from China to the US.

    Amid a crackdown on Chinese influence in the US, a Harvard University professor was charged with lying about his well-paid role in China’s Thousand Talents Plan recruitment programme. 

    US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the US sees the Chinese Communist Party as the “central threat of our times”, but failed to convince Boris Johnson to keep Huawei out of the UK’s 5G network.

  • 7th February 2020

    Xi Jinping told Donald Trump that China’s economic development would not be affected by the coronavirus outbreak, according to state broadcaster CCTV. 

    A White House spokesman said the two leaders reaffirmed their commitment to implementing the phase one trade deal. Yet the huge scale of the coronavirus crisis raises multiple questions. 

    Beijing may even delay its “parliamentary” sessions, but for how long can you pause an economy?

    Xinhua news agency said Xi told Trump that China is deeply concerned about “the negative words and deeds” of the US related to Taiwan, Hong Kong, Xinjiang and Tibet, and repeated long-held complaints that Washington “interfered in China’s internal affairs”.

  • 14th February 2020

    The US increased pressure on Huawei by adding racketeering, obstruction of justice and money laundering to its series of charges against the telecoms giant. 

    CFO Meng Wanzhou, who faces extradition from Canada to the US, is among those indicted

    The US flew surveillance planes over the Taiwan Strait, soon after mainland Chinese war games, in a show of support for Taipei. A top US military commander accused China of threatening sovereignty and stability in the Pacific.

  • 21st February 2020

    The first phase of the hard-won US-China trade deal took effect last Friday, with the reduction or lifting of some tariffs the warring parties had imposed. Live American chickens are now winging their way to Chinese kitchens. 

    Rebuking his own hardliners on China, President Trump moved to block his administration’s plans to block sales of General Electric-made jet engines to China and other proposed restrictions on American exports.

    Beijing expelled three reporters for the Wall Street Journal after the US designated five Chinese state media outlets as “foreign missions”. “This action is long overdue,” Mike Pompeo told Axios. 

    In Munich, top US officials spoke out against Huawei and threatened European allies. You’ve taken a “very dangerous” path, warned Nancy Pelosi. The US must prepare for a possible military conflict with China, testified a senior US defence official in DC.

  • 28th February 2020

    US officials confirmed that Chinese leaders have lifted import restrictions on US poultry and pet food, and taken other steps toward implementing the first phase of the trade deal. 

    Cheap US sorghum has lured back Chinese buyers. Yet mutual suspicion remains high in both countries. There are renewed fears Beijing is targeting American academia

    The CEO at California’s $400bn state pension fund has been accused of being a tool of the Chinese government, and a popular Chinese conspiracy theory claims the US engineered the coronavirus to keep China down.

    A public row is underway over US opposition to China’s candidate to lead the World Intellectual Property Organisation, ahead of elections next week, and reveals US unease at China taking major UN roles. 

    American distrust of Huawei means officials are still considering ways to further curb sales to the firm.

  • 6th March 2020

    China considers the resurgent Joe Biden more “predictable and reasonable” in dealing with US-China relations than rival Bernie Sanders or incumbent President Trump, said Chinese analysts.

    There is a new Cold War,” warned Florida senator Rick Scott, but Washington won one round - slowing China’s march to dominate UN bodies - when Beijing’s candidate failed to take over the UN intellectual property body.

    Secretary of State Pompeo asked Beijing to take a fairer approach toward American media working in China, after the US slashed the number of Chinese media visas in the USA following Beijing’s expulsion of three Wall Street Journal reporters. 

    China’s Foreign Ministry asked the US for a “clear explanation” after claims the CIA had been hacking Chinese targets. Beijing’s outsized ambition and “off the charts” shipbuilding capabilities are making it a formidable adversary, said the top US naval official.

  • 13th March 2020

    A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman spread conspiracy theories that the US military planted the coronavirus in Wuhan, while senior US officials increasingly described Covid-19 as the “foreign”, “Chinese” or “Wuhan” virus. 

    If the epidemic “leads to mass casualties and sustained economic damage in the US then prepare for things to get really ugly” between the two, warned China watcher Bill Bishop.

    US lawmakers proposed legislation aimed at preventing goods made from forced labour in China’s Xinjiang region from reaching the USA. 

    The bipartisan Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC) said forced labour inside and outside of internment camps was part of “systematic repression” of minority groups in Xinjiang. Nike said it’s reviewing its supply chain in China.

  • 20th March 2020

    Diplomatic relations between the world’s two largest economies reached their lowest ebb in more than 30 years, declared the FT, “fuelled by a racially tinged war of words over the coronavirus pandemic and mass expulsions of US and Chinese journalists.” 

    Beijing withdrew the press credentials of at least 13 American journalists at three US newspapers, intensifying a bitter fight that has widened to include the coronavirus outbreak and media freedoms.

    As Trump angered Beijing, and raised the risk of racist abuse everywhere, by repeatedly calling Covid-19 the “Chinese virus”, the war of words included a tough phone call between Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and China’s Yang Jiechi over Beijing’s efforts to shift blame for the spread of the coronavirus.

  • 27th March 2020

    After the G20 virtual meeting of global leaders, the two most important attendees spoke by phone. 

    Xi Jinping called for concrete US steps to push forward cooperation to contain the pandemic, and promised China was “willing to continue to share information and experience with the United States without reservation.” 

    Donald Trump refrained from calling Covid-19 the “Chinese virus”, and claimed “we are working closely together. Much respect!”

    The crisis represents Trump’s biggest test yet on US-China relations. His administration pushed the UN Security Council to call attention to the Chinese origins of the coronavirus. 

    The US ambassador to London wrote that China had endangered the world by suppressing information. Beijing has moved on from cover-up to become a global donor in a soft power play to restore its reputation and fill the leadership vacuum left by the US.

  • 3rd April 2020

    With the US focused on its domestic coronavirus crisis, China has despatched medical aid worldwide, asserting its claim to global leadership “mask by mask”, and making sure everyone knows about it, wrote the Wall Street Journal.

    The US position is undermined by a leader who has held an unequivocal position about China and the coronavirus several of them, noted AP. 

    After years of trade disputes, and weeks of public sniping, the US and China have suddenly shifted to a more co-operative stance, said the New York Times. 

    Administration officials and lawmakers increasingly worry about the national security implications of US medical supply chains relying heavily on China. Officials have agreed to new rules to prevent China from obtaining advanced US technology for commercial purposes and then diverting it to military use.

  • 17th April 2020

    President Trump isn’t buying China’s still remarkably low numbers. And he endorsed the theory that the coronavirus escaped from a Wuhan laboratory. 

    Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the virus lab was close to the wet market and demanded: “The Chinese government needs to come clean.” China said there is no scientific evidence for such claims.

    Most countries are rejecting the model and the message from Beijing, argued a Foreign Affairs essay doubting the pandemic will make China “the world’s leader” even as Trump withdraws from global agencies. 

    While Pompeo pressed his Chinese counterpart Yang Jiechi for full transparency, behind the scenes hundreds of scientists and doctors in both countries have been quietly joining forces. “When it comes to medicine, people’s health, and epidemic control, we can’t decouple from each other.”

  • 24th April 2020

    US businesses, individuals and a state government have all filed Covid-19 related lawsuits in US federal courts holding Beijing liable for deaths and damages. 

    US government mishandling could make Chinese companies and associations file lawsuits against the US government for compensation, retorted the Global Times.

    President Trump warned China should face consequences if it was “knowingly responsible” for the pandemic. Secretary of state Pompeo accused China of destroying coronavirus samples and bullying its neighbours.

    China’s ambassador to the US called for a “serious rethinking” of relations, while the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission warned the crisis could upend Trump’s trade deal

    For now, China is making good on pledges to buy more US crops. The pandemic makes the “decoupling” of the US and Chinese economies a more realistic prospect, said American companies in China.

  • 1st May 2020

    US intelligence agencies concluded that Covid-19 was “not man-made or genetically modified”. 

    But President Trump continued to push the theory that it’s linked to a Wuhan virus lab, and threatened China with fresh tariffs. “China will do anything they can to have me lose this race,” said Trump of the November election. 

    Economic adviser Larry Kudlow denied a report that the administration had considered cancelling some debt held by China, but multiple government agencies have been meeting to discuss retaliatory measures.

    Chinese officials and media complained that a “political virus” has swept America, which blames Beijing for everything. China “is neither the former Soviet Union, nor intent on becoming the next America,” argued Fu Ying. 

    The pandemic “may well lock the US and China into a vicious cycle of escalation, leading directly to full-blown conflict,” warned Minxin Pei.

  • 8th May 2020

    “This is worse than Pearl Harbor” or 9/11, Trump said this week of America’s “worst attack”, that “could have been stopped in China.” Beijing aimed most fire at Secretary of State Pompeo, who changed tack to admit Covid-19 may not have come from a Wuhan lab.

    Trump threatened to terminate the phase one trade deal if China fails to fulfil its promise to buy US$200bn more in American goods and services. 

    The White House and Capitol Hill look to match anti-Beijing rhetoric with steps to curb supply chains and investment flows, reported the FT. But top trade negotiators spoke on Friday, vowing to continue to support the deal.

    The US is rearming - with new weapons and strategy - to counter China’s advantage in land-based cruise and ballistic missiles. China’s new generation supersonic stealth bomber - expected to double the country’s strike range – could debut in November.

    Deputy National Security Advisor Matt Pottinger gave a provocative speech in Chinese praising the heirs of China’s May Fourth 1919 pro-democracy movement in China, namely Li Wenliang, the Covid-19 whistle-blower and victim. The Foreign Ministry said Pottinger was wrong and should mind his own business.

  • 15th May 2020

    Time to go nuclear? “We could cut off the whole relationship,” President Trump told Fox. 

    China has actually been increasing purchases of US soybeans, and other farm goods, but decoupling continued as Trump extended an executive order aimed at Huawei to guard the US telecoms supply chain and moved a federal employees’ fund away from investing in Chinese stocks.

    The CIA believes China tried to prevent the WHO from sounding the alarm on the outbreak in January, reported Newsweek. China’s state media called out US “tricks” to shift blame onto China. China must strengthen its nuclear arsenal, experts told the Global Times. 

    “Over the past decade, in US war games against China, the United States has a nearly perfect record: We have lost almost every single time,” warned a new book.

  • 22nd May 2020

    In the latest push towards financial decoupling, the US Senate passed a bill that could force some Chinese companies to de-list from US exchanges

    Baidu, China’s leading search engine, is now considering its options over its Nasdaq listing. London may benefit, as China resumes vetting applications by companies seeking to list there.

    A new White House strategy paper on China accused the PRC of posing “numerous challenges to United States national interests.” The tech cold war continued, with China finalising a new US$1.4tn plan to seize the world’s tech crown from the USA

    US senators promised legislation to impose sanctions on Chinese officials for violating Hong Kong’s independence. In a sign of phase one trade deal progress, Beijing approved a wider range of American agricultural products for import.

  • 29th May 2020

    Beijing’s new security law means Hong Kong no longer warrants special treatment under US law, declared Mike Pompeo, and Trump could within days issue an executive order on wide-ranging economic penalties against Hong Kong and China

    Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou lost a Canadian court fight in her battle to avoid extradition to the USA.

    The US House of Representatives approved legislation calling for sanctions on Chinese officials responsible for oppression of Uighur Muslims. 

    The PLA expelled a US warship that “trespassed into Chinese territorial waters off the Xisha Islands,” said China, whose top defence official warned that strategic confrontation has entered a high-risk period. China’s foreign minister defended its combative “wolf warrior” diplomacy.

  • 5th June 2020

    After the US revoked Hong Kong’s status as autonomous from China, Trump has yet to specify any retaliatory measures that would directly impact Beijing. Chinese officials and state media revelled in the ongoing US protests, accusing Washington of hypocrisy

    Wall Street’s top regulator backed a bill that could lead to the delisting of Chinese companies from US stock exchanges if American officials aren’t allowed to review their financial audits.

    The USA increasingly looks to the Five Eyes alliance to build an anti-China coalition and support over Beijing’s Hong Kong stance. China said it would ease coronavirus restrictions to allow in more foreign carriers, shortly after Washington threatened to bar Chinese airlines due to Beijing’s curbs on US carriers. 

    China’s first mission to Mars launches in July or August, reaching Mars in February – the same month that Nasa’s fifth mission lands, after a July 17 blast-off.

  • 12th June 2020

    The US and China exchanged plenty of critical words over the pandemic and Hong Kong – but they’re still buying and selling stuff too.

    US exporters reported sales of 720,000 tonnes of soybeans to China, said the USDA, as active purchases by the world’s top soy importer continued for a second straight week - soybean exports last week were the largest in at least 16 months, with the majority headed to China.

    The nations issued reports accusing each other of human rights violations against their own peoples. 

    China’s ‘repression against all religions continues to intensify’, said Mike Pompeo; the American people suffer “grave human rights disasters,” replied a Chinese government-backed group. 

    Twitter removed 23,750 China-linked accounts for spreading disinformation.

  • 19th June 2020

    In 2019, President Trump pleaded with Xi Jinping for domestic political help – stressing the importance of increased Chinese purchases of soybeans and wheat in this November’s electoral outcome - and subordinated national-security issues to his own re-election prospects, former adviser John Bolton claimed this week. 

    And Beijing wants him to win again, concluded Bloomberg, however much Trump argues China is rooting for Joe Biden.

    Mike Pompeo met Yang Jiechi in Hawaii, where the US-China disagreements were laid bare on Hong Kong, Taiwan and Xinjiang, despite Beijing’s announcement the dialogue had been “constructive” with agreement to improve worsening bilateral ties. 

    Amid Bolton’s allegations, Trump signed into law a Beijing-angering bill that authorises sanctions against Chinese officials over the mass internment of Uighurs, and Tweeted that the US has the option of a “complete decoupling from China”.

  • 26th June 2020

    The hard-won US-China trade deal “is over”, said Trump adviser Peter Navarro. Nope. “The China Trade Deal is fully intact,” Trump Tweeted, as the confusion roiled markets. 

    Despite no evidence that coronavirus spreads through food, China is testing the deal by asking international shippers of meat and soybeans to sign a document attesting their cargoes aren’t contaminated.

    The US Senate approved legislation that would strengthen the US government’s ability to sanction those violating China’s commitments to Hong Kong

    The Pentagon compiled a list of Chinese firms with ties to the military amid efforts to make it harder for Beijing to secure US investment and sensitive technologies. 

    The risk of military conflict between China and the US is higher than ever, reported the South China Morning Post, yet analysts insist that Beijing wants Trump to prevail in November.

  • 3rd July 2020

    “As I watch the Pandemic spread its ugly face all across the world, including the tremendous damage it has done to the USA, I become more and more angry at China,” President Trump tweeted. 

    Secretary of State Pompeo lamented Beijing passing the national security law as a “sad day for Hong Kong and for freedom-loving people across China”, and promised that Washington will not stand idly by.

    Behind the rhetoric, and tit-for-tat threats over media outlets and officials, the feud is quietly getting nasty with red tape as the weapon. The two sides are exchanging regulatory punches that threaten a wide range of industries, warned the US Chamber of Commerce. 

    And Beijing warned Washington that US pressure over “red lines”, matters China considers off limits, could jeopardise trade deal purchases of farm goods and other US exports.

  • 10th July 2020

    Good news for Californian farmers - their avocadoes are now available in the Chinese market - amid mostly negative developments and sentiments, like the FBI Director warning that China seeks to become the world’s only superpower, with a government-directed “campaign of theft and malign influence”

    Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi called for reconciliation, and suggested three lists to identify and resolve disputes.

    The Trump administration barred senior Chinese officials from entering the US due to China’s treatment of Xinjiang’s Uighurs, “human rights abuses” in Tibet, and because Beijing obstructs travel to Tibet by US diplomats, journalists and tourists. 

    Another sanction under consideration is banning the short video app TikTok in the US. In the South China Sea, jet fighters from two US aircraft carriers put on one of Washington’s biggest displays of naval power.

  • 17th July 2020

    As more than 100 US diplomats and family members flew to China, on the second of many flights required to return over 1,200 personnel, their employer warned US citizens living in or travelling to China that they may face arbitrary arrest

    And the Trump administration is considering a sweeping ban on travel to the US by members of the Chinese Communist Party and their families, who may total 270 million citizens.

    China made its largest ever purchase of American corn. US Attorney General William Barr warned US businesses including Disney and Apple they have to disclose links to China

    President Trump took two actions against China due to Hong Kong’s national security law: an executive order ending preferential trade treatment, and enacting a sanctions bill. The US also hardened its stance over the South China Sea.

  • 24th July 2020

    Diplomats at China’s Houston consulate burned documents into the night after the US gave China 72 hours to close “to protect American intellectual property and Americans’ private information”. 

    Beijing then ordered the US shut its consulate in Chengdu, southwest China.

    Secretary of State Mike Pompeo angered Beijing and the World Health Organisation by telling British lawmakers China had “bought” the WHO head

    In the fourth speech in a month critical of Beijing from a top US official, he called on China’s citizens to join an international effort to “change the behaviour” of their government.

    China plans to equal US naval strength in the Pacific. Defence Secretary Mark Esper said the US is equipping its forces across Asia for a possible confrontation with China, yet he still hopes to visit China this year to improve “crisis communications” channels.

  • 31st July 2020

    China must buy more. By the end of June, Beijing had bought about 23% of the total purchase target for US goods in 2020, according to Bloomberg, meaning China needs to buy about $130 billion in the rest of the year to comply with the agreement. 

    Trade negotiators from both sides may hold formal talks in August even as bilateral relations appear at their worst for decades, with consulates being closed in Chengdu and Houston, and bizarre developments such as mystery seeds being posted to US households.

    Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi told his French counterpart he blames the US – “Such behaviour is stark power politics that can be captured by one word: hegemony.” 

    TikTok is now undergoing a national security review by US federal regulators, and US senators appealed to the Justice Department to investigate TikTok and video conferencing tool Zoom for their ties to Beijing.

  • 7th August 2020

    Citing national security concerns, President Trump ordered a sweeping but unspecified ban on dealings with the Chinese owners of WeChat and TikTok. 

    The two executive orders, taking effect in 45 days, represent a sharp escalation of the administration’s confrontation with China, and likely to provoke retaliation. 

    Trump accused the pair of providing a channel for the Communist Party to obtain Americans’ proprietary information, keep tabs on Chinese citizens abroad and carry out disinformation campaigns to benefit China’s interest.

    Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said Beijing rejected any attempt to create a new Cold War or revive McCarthyism. China has no intention of unseating the United States as a superpower, he said. 

    “It is increasingly plain from the impatience in Xi’s language that he wishes to see Taiwan return to Chinese sovereignty within his own political term,” warned Kevin Rudd.

  • 14th August 2020

    “I had a great relationship with President Xi. I like him, but I don’t feel the same way now,” after the pandemic, said President Trump, admitting they haven’t spoken “in a long time”. 

    Their negotiators should speak this weekend, as trade talks resume with plenty on the (virtual) table, including US restrictions on TikTok and WeChat.

    The spike in tensions has stoked fears in China of a financial iron curtain, shutting it out of the global dollar system, and reviving calls to bolster the yuan’s global clout and bypass dollar settlement with a digital version. 

    Beijing imposed sanctions on 11 US citizens, in response to Washington’s sanctions on officials accused of curtailing political freedoms in Hong Kong. 

    “Those who play with fire will get burned,” warned Beijing after US health secretary Alex Azar became the highest ranking US official to visit in decades.

  • 21st August 2020

    “I cancelled talks with China,” said President Trump. “I don’t want to talk to China right now.” 

    Despite this public stance, US and Chinese trade negotiators plan to confer by video in the coming days over progress in fulfilling terms of the “Phase One” trade deal, and US actions against Chinese technology firms.

    The latest move could prove a deadly stranglehold on Huawei: new US rules to cut off the supply of computer chips and stop Huawei from bypassing earlier sanctions by sourcing products via third party buyers. 

    Like a celebrity couple splitting on account of irreconcilable differences, China and the US may leave a huge mess, and tech firms may have to pick sides, said the Wall Street Journal. Although more flights are resuming, thousands of China-based US business executives may never return, reducing a traditional buffer in conflict.

  • 28th August 2020

    Top US and Chinese trade officials this week held their first formal dialogue since early May (by phone), reaffirming commitment to the Phase 1 deal. 

    Beijing is set to buy a record amount of American soybeans this year, possibly enough to salvage the deal even if not reaching the promised total.

    The PLA launched four anti-ship ballistic missiles into the South China Sea on Wednesday, the same day that Washington blacklisted 24 Chinese companies and targeted individuals over construction and military actions in the busy and contested waterway. 

    China said it warned off a US guided-missile destroyer deployed after the launch. Beijing has been conducting military drills almost simultaneously in four sea regions, a rare move likely signalling its readiness to handle a confrontation with the US and Taiwan.

    Meanwhile, another critical piece in the precarious global geopolitical picture fell in a dangerous way. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Japan’s longest-serving premier, announced his resignation because of poor health.

  • 4th September 2020

    The Pentagon warned of China’s “staggering” amounts of new military hardware, including a doubling of its arsenal of nuclear warheads over the next decade as the PLA races to become a “world-class” force

    China has already achieved parity with – or exceeded – the USA in several modernisation areas. 

    China’s military is enhancing its readiness to prevent Taiwanese independence - and invade if needed. Recent visits, agreements, US diplomatic support and military sales to Taipei indicate a US “adjustment” in response to increased Chinese aggression, said a top US diplomat. 

    The US will require senior Chinese diplomats to get State Department approval before visiting universities or holding certain events. Mike Pompeo hoped that Chinese Confucius Institute cultural centres on US campuses would all be shut down by the end of the year.

  • 11th September 2020

    Beijing accused Washington of violating human rights after the US confirmed it has since June revoked more than 1,000 visas of Chinese nationals deemed security risks. 

    US officials prepared orders to block imports of cotton, tomato products and five other imports from Xinjiang over accusations of forced labour, ahead of a formal announcement.

    Their phase one trade deal seems to remain on track, as Beijing continues to buy more US farm goods and Trump needs the deal for his re-election, claimed the Global Times. Typhoons and flooding may force more Chinese purchases of US corn

    The digital war continued, as Beijing countered the US Clean Network effort, to ringfence networks of like-minded allies from Chinese technology, with its own initiative to set global standards on data security.

  • 18th September 2020

    China’s recent actions around the world were those of a “lawless bully”, not a responsible global actor, said the top US diplomat for East Asia. As the latest sanctions against Huawei took effect, multiple chipmakers applied for waivers. 

    The WTO found that the US government breached global trading rules with multibillion-dollar tariffs in Trump’s trade war with China. Investment between the world’s two largest economies hit a 9-year low in H1, and negotiations continued over the TikTok ownership deal.

    China’s third aircraft carrier is taking shape with ambitions to challenge US naval dominance. Calling China its top security threat, the US defence chief outlined plans for a larger, “more lethal” navy. 

    A US diplomat arrived in Taiwan for the second visit by a high-level American official in two months, as Washington prepared to sell Taiwan as many as seven major weapons systems, worth $7bn.

  • 25th September 2020

    Sino-US decoupling took its most prominent global stage to date when Donald Trump and Xi Jinping took each other on at the 75th United Nations General Assembly. 

    “We must hold accountable the nation which unleashed this plague onto the world, China,” said Trump. 

    “Any attempt of politicising the issue or stigmatisation must be rejected,” said Xi, urging countries to respect the WTO and not bury their heads in the sand “like an ostrich” to avoid globalisation.

    “We are moving in a very dangerous direction,” warned António Guterres, the UN secretary general. “Our world cannot afford a future where the two largest economies split the globe in a great fraction, each with its own trade and financial rules and internet and artificial intelligence capacities.”

  • 2nd October 2020

    Increased Chinese purchases of soybeans, corn and cars have failed to significantly move the needle towards meeting Beijing’s commitments in the phase one trade deal ahead of a US presidential election now in question after Trump tested positive for COVID-19. 

    “We built the greatest economy in history, we closed it down because of the China plague,” Trump said at the first debate, where Biden criticised Trump for undue praise of China’s response under Xi Jinping.

    The US identified China as the global hotspot for goods made with forced labour. Beijing will launch an antitrust probe into Google, revealed Reuters. 

    China’s most ambitious and fastest-growing firms once flocked to US markets to raise money, but rising US hostility and the increased attractions of “homecoming” are tipping the scales toward Hong Kong and Shanghai, reported the WSJ.

  • 9th October 2020

    Xi Jinping wished Donald Trump a speedy recovery from COVID-19, but it failed to change the patient’s tune. “China’s going to pay a big price, what they’ve done to the world. This was China’s fault,” Trump insisted this week. 

    In a clear, Cold War swipe at China, the US released guidance on its immigration laws that will make it almost impossible for members of a Communist party “or any other totalitarian party” to be granted permanent residence or citizenship of America.

    SIMC, China’s biggest chipmaker, is facing export restrictions on its US suppliers. The US is also exploring curbs on Ant Group and Tencent, as the Trump’s team sees a security risk in Chinese payment services. 

    China’s tech companies will face a tougher time globally as digital decoupling accelerates, said the Hinrich Foundation.

  • 16th October 2020

    In the Trump administration’s latest swipe at China, the State Department has proposed adding Ant Group to a trade blacklist. Military aerospace giant AVIC, China’s Boeing wannabe, may also land in US government crosshairs, wrote Bloomberg. 

    Yet Wall Street shows strong appetite for China profits, and enjoys better than ever access. Beijing sold dollar debt directly to US buyers for the first time

    Time is on China’s side and it’s not on the United States’ side,” said Ray Dalio, founder of Bridgewater, which plans to expand in China.

    Focus on “preparing to go to war” Xi Jinping told marines at a Guangdong military base. The USS Barry passed through the Taiwan Strait this week, enraging China. 

    At least 60 American warplanes conducted close-up reconnaissance flights near China in September, and the US may be preparing for future long-distance missions.

  • 23rd October 2020

    Competition in space exploration is set to soar after Washington signed the Artemis Accords with seven other nations, excluding China and Russia. 

    Down on earth, Trump’s national security adviser Robert O’Brien accused China of trying to steal COVID-19 vaccine research, and cast it as a malign rival seeking to monopolise every important industry. The Five Eyes spy alliance has received renewed requests to accept new members.

    The State Department approved the potential sale of three weapons systems to Taiwan. 

    In a Korean War anniversary speech, Xi Jinping warned that “China is ready” to stand up to American imperialists once more. American citizens in China may become diplomatic hostages in response to US prosecution of Chinese military-affiliated scholars. Beijing also vowed retribution against US journalists in China.

  • 30th October 2020

    Just ahead of the US election, the Trump administration assured voters that new agricultural trade data showed a win for US farmers, with Beijing on track to fulfil its commitments in the US-China trade deal by the end of 2020. 

    But analysts said the claims are misleading and “overly optimistic”. China accelerated purchases of US farm products last month, but remains far behind on its overall commitments.

    As for manufacturing, Trump’s trade war didn’t achieve the central objective of reversing a US decline in manufacturing, despite tariffs that reduced the trade deficit with China in 2019. 

    A senior White House official attacked Xi Jinping’s “totalitarianism” and called on Chinese people to research the “truth” about oppression of Uighur Muslims. Xi emerged from a key party meeting newly emboldened, with a road map for many years to come.

  • 6th November 2020

    The next US administration should meet China halfway, manage differences and push China-US ties along the right track, hoped Vice-Foreign Minister Le Yucheng as the US election vote count continued. 

    Trade talks could provide the catalyst for repairing US-China relations, insiders told the South China Morning Post.

    Whoever wins the White House, ties between US and Chinese financial markets are only set to deepen, concluded Reuters. Not so fast, cautioned the Wall Street Journal. China is opening to the world again, but the world’s hearts and minds are closing to China.

    Among multiple thorny issues to tackle, the Trump administration approved the latest in a series of arms sales to Taiwan: Beijing’s new five-year plan highlighted the use of “disruptive technologies” to gain a military edge over the USA

    Military chiefs from both sides managed to hold talks on crisis communication last week.

  • 7th November 2020

    Biden captures the US presidency. The Associated Press declared him the victor in his native Pennsylvania at 11:25 a.m. EST, November 7th, 2020.  That got him the state’s 20 electoral votes, which pushed him over the 270 electoral-vote threshold needed to prevail.

  • 13th November 2020

    Secretary of State Michael Pompeo said the US is “not finished yet” when it comes to getting tough on China

    Beijing is biding its time before congratulating the President-elect, but analysts warned that China should not expect a total about-face in ongoing tensions.

    Trump fired US Defence Secretary Mark Esper, triggering worries in Beijing about the increasing risk of accidental conflict and more hard-line Pentagon action. In a rare example of cooperation, Chinese and US armed forces started three days of video conference talks.

    China’s biggest chipmaker, SIMC, warned that its business was suffering delays and uncertainty due to US restrictions, while American Airlines announced it will resume service to China, bringing to 10 the number of weekly flights by US carriers. 

    Boeing expects Chinese airlines to buy 8,600 new aeroplanes worth $1.4 trillion over the next 20 years.

  • 20th November 2020

    China strives to revise the world order, “serving Beijing’s authoritarian goals and hegemonic ambitions”, concluded the US State Department. 

    “Another anti-China lie”, said Beijing. After China launched two ‘aircraft carrier killer’ missiles into the South China Sea, the USA shot down a mock ICBM over the Pacific. 

    The US also sent two long-range bombers into China’s ADIZ, while the Chinese navy conducted a series of massive drills.

    Trump’s Secretary of the Navy called for a new fleet to be established, possibly out of Singapore. 

    A new permanent US base in the region would cause much more alarm in Beijing than governments in the neighbourhood could stomach, warned the South China Morning Post.

  • 27th November 2020

    Xi Jinping finally congratulated his next US opposite number on his election victory, despite Joe Biden calling Xi, more than once on the campaign trail, a “thug” for his human rights practices. 

    Senior Trump administration officials said they were pushing for new hard-line measures against Beijing, even as Trump winds down his final two months in office.

    As China’s most ambitious moon mission yet headed off to gather rock samples, NASA Tweeted the hope that China shares its data “like our Apollo missions did & the Artemis program will.” 

    The moonshot is “a significant step” towards establishment of a permanent Chinese presence on the moon, warned the top Science Committee Republican Frank Lucas. 

    China is a threat that could block American access to space, said US Space Force General John Raymond.

  • 4th December 2020

    Joe Biden will not immediately cancel the trade agreement that Trump struck with China, nor take steps to remove tariffs on Chinese exports. 

    “The best China strategy, I think, is one which gets every one of our - or at least what used to be our - allies on the same page,” he said.

    The US House of Representatives passed a law to kick Chinese companies off US stock exchanges if they do not fully comply with auditing rules. 

    The Trump administration expanded economic pressure by banning cotton imports from Xinjiang’s powerful, quasi-military organisation XPCC. 

    China accused American officials of harassing Chinese airline and shipping crews that arrive in the US in attempts to single out Communist Party members. 

  • 11th December 2020

    US Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross called China the major economic and military threat to Asia, as the outgoing Trump administration called on Beijing to fulfil its commitments under the two countries’ interim trade deal. 

    But Trump does not plan to impose additional tariffs on Chinese goods before Joe Biden takes office in January, claimed White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow.

    China imposed reciprocal sanctions on US administration officials and congressional and NGO staff in retaliation for US sanctions against 14 vice chairpersons of China’s National People’s Congress Standing Committee.

    Washington imposed the sanctions to amplify its opposition to Hong Kong’s national security law, and targeting those it deemed responsible for implementing the legislation.

  • 18th December 2020

    The US and Chinese militaries blamed each other for the PLA’s ‘no-show’ at a virtual meeting to ensure sea and air safety, the latest sign of tensions in the military sphere. 

    The US Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard released a joint strategy document to make preparations for a high-end war with China, and counter the day-to-day competition, sometimes called gray-zone operations, that China currently conducts.

    President-elect Biden should keep pressing China to stick to the “Phase 1” trade deal and use tariffs as leverage, said US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, who admitted that Beijing has done a “reasonably good job” implementing parts of the deal. 

    Biden said his nominee, Taiwanese-American Katherine Tai, will target abusive trade practices by China in a possible sign the trade war will continue.

  • 8th January 2021

    China enjoys chaos at US Capitol/Trump bans apps/New Taiwan & Tibet Acts:

    The Trump-led chaos at the US Capitol lent Chinese officials and state media the perfect opportunity to mock US hypocrisy

    His administration kept up efforts to punish Beijing: a move to ban transactions with eight Chinese apps including Alibaba’s Alipay, 

    WeChat Pay and Tencent’s QQ Wallet, for threatening national security, and possibly adding Alibaba and Tencent to a blacklist of firms connected to the Chinese military. 

    The NYSE will proceed with a plan to delist China’s three main telecoms companies, another security threat.

    China expressed anger after Trump, in late December, signed into law measures to bolster support for Tibet and Taiwan

    The US ambassador to the UN will visit Taiwan, said Mike Pompeo, who called Taiwan “a reliable partner and vibrant democracy that has flourished despite Beijing’s efforts”.

  • 15th January 2021

    US blacklists more Chinese firms/Change to Taiwan relations/Beijing hits back:

    In its final days, the Trump administration raced to increase the pressure on Beijing. The US placed new restrictions on Chinese companies, adding CNOOC and Xiaomi to government blacklists, and gave the federal government more power to block technology imports. 

    But it scrapped plans to blacklist Chinese tech giants Alibaba, Tencent and Baidu.

    Mike Pompeo lifted longstanding restrictions that limit US diplomatic relations with Taiwan.

    The US announced an import ban on all cotton and tomato products from Xinjiang over forced labour allegations. China has committed crimes against humanity “and possibly genocide” in its treatment of Uighurs and other minority Muslims in Xinjiang, said a bipartisan commission of the US Congress. 

    Beijing moved to hit back at US sanctions with new rules countering “unjustified” laws and restrictions imposed by foreign countries on Chinese companies and citizens.

What Others Are Saying

The Main Players

  • Cong Liang
    Secretary General of the NDRC (2018); Spokesman at the NDRC (2018). Born December 1971

    An economist by training, Cong has spent more than 20 years at the NDRC, where, in his current role, he oversees policy research, planning and reform at the agency. He was appointed as one of the NDRC’s spokespeople in 2018 and his name appeared in the list of Chinese officials who took part in negotiations with U.S. officials in Washington in February 2019 to try to end the trade stand-off.

    After joining the National Planning Commission, the predecessor of the NDRC in 1997, Cong worked his way up through the bureaucracy, becoming Director of the Comprehensive Department in 2016.

  • Cui Tiankai
    Ambassador to the U.S. (2013). Born October 1952

    Cui is the face and voice of the Chinese state in the U.S., having been ambassador to the country since 2013. As part of his diplomatic activities, he plays a prominent role in the media – writing op-eds as well as giving interviews and comments – and on the think-tank circuit, putting forward and defending the Chinese government’s stance on U.S.-China relations.

    Cui has been particularly busy since the eruption of trade tensions back in 2017 and has been responsible for negotiating the maze of the Trump administration. In an interview with Fox News in October 2018, he said it was “very confusing” trying to find out who the decision makers were. He has been part of the Chinese team involved in the trade negotiations in Washington.

    Cui has reached retirement age and is likely to step down in 2019. Zheng Zeguang, currently a vice foreign minister, is in the running to succeed him.

  • Ding Xuedong
    Deputy Secretary General of the State Council (2017); Member of the CPC Central Committee (2017); Member of the Financial Stability and Development Committee (2018). Born February 1960

    A veteran financier and bureaucrat, Ding is Deputy Secretary General of the State Council, a ministerial rank and a powerful position within the executive branch. Ding is involved in the day-to-day management of government and has direct access to the most important officials in the State Council, including Premier Li Keqiang and the five vice premiers, including Liu He. Holders of this position are usually promoted to higher positions, possibly a minister or a provincial governor or party chief. He is also a member of the Chinese team negotiating with the U.S. to end the trade war.

    Ding spent his early career at the Ministry of Finance, working his way up to assistant minister in 2006. He was appointed deputy secretary general of the State Council for the first time in May 2010, the youngest person to ever hold the position. In July 2013 he was tapped to lead China Investment Corp. (CIC), the country’s sovereign wealth fund, taking over from Lou Jiwei who was promoted to finance minister. Ding concurrently held the position of Chairman of China International Capital Corp., the country’s first joint venture investment bank, from 2014 and led its initial public offering in Hong Kong in 2015.

    These high-profile positions, which reflected the party leadership’s trust in him, propelled Ding on to the international stage – CIC was one of the world’s biggest sovereign wealth funds with $220 billion of overseas assets at the time – and 2016 he was ranked 41 on Forbes’s annual league of the world’s most powerful people. Ding stepped down in February 2017 amid speculation that he was destined for promotion, and he returned to the State Council for his second stint as deputy secretary general.

    Ding is also a member of the FSDC, sitting at the same table as Liu He, Yi Gang, and Guo Shuqing.

  • Ding Xuexiang
    Director of the General Office of the CPC Central Committee (2017); Member of the Politburo (2017). Born September 1962

    Ding has become an important political aide to Xi Jinping and his current position, which is directly under the CPC Central Committee, is often referred to as the “gatekeeper” or “head eunuch” because of its key role in controlling access to the top leadership.

    Ding spent his political career entirely in Shanghai and came to Xi’s attention when the latter was appointed party secretary of the city in 2007. Ding at the time was deputy secretary general of the city’s CPC committee and was promoted to secretary general later in 2007.

    Although Xi was only in Shanghai for a year, Ding clearly made an impression on him. After Xi became general secretary of the party in November 2012, he moved Ding up to Beijing to become deputy director of the General Office of the CPC Central Committee, which is in charge of the routine administrative affairs of the Central Committee and the Politburo, including drafting and circulating party directives and internal memos, arranging logistics for major meetings.

    In 2017 Ding was promoted to director of the office, a sign he is destined for greater things. Directors often later join the Politburo Standing Committee and one previous incumbent, Wen Jiabao, went on to become premier. However, it isn’t always a good omen. Ling Jihua, who occupied the position from 2007 to 2012 was later brought down in a graft scandal, one of the highest profile targets of Xi’s anti-corruption campaign. 

  • Mark Esper
    U.S. Secretary of Defence (July 2019); member, National Security Council (July 2019); Date of birth: September 17, 1947

    A military veteran and a classmate of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Esper took over a position vacant since December 2018 when incumbent Jim Mattis, who had served in the job since Trump came to office, resigned over policy differences with the president. Esper, who served as Secretary of the Army from November 2017 until his appointment as acting secretary of defence in June, is now in control of the army, the marine corps, the navy, the air force and the coast guard.

     Most recently vice president of government relations at Raytheon, a U.S. defence contractor, Esper comes from a military background. He graduated from the U.S. Military Academy in 1986 with a degree in engineering and served in the army, both on active service and in the reserves, for more than 20 years, which included combat duty during the 1990–91 Gulf war. Esper moved into politics in 1998, serving as a senior staffer for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee. From 2002 to 2004 he served as deputy assistant secretary of defence for negotiations policy in the administration of George W. Bush and was director for national security affairs for the U.S. Senate from 2004 to 2006. He then moved into the business world as a corporate lobbyist and government relations specialist, joining Raytheon in 2010.

     In written testimony and in his confirmation hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Esper said that he was prepared to take “tough decisions” on confronting Beijing, which he said had made significant technological advancements in weapons systems designed to defeat, or drastically reduce the effectiveness of U.S. forces. China wanted to “reorder the global order” and was a long-term threat to the U.S., he said. But he said the aim was to deter any military conflict and that the U.S. needed to take a “whole of government” approach to China which would encompass diplomacy, foreign aid and the military. He later told reporters that the trade war was as much about national security as it was about the economy.

     Although Esper’s comments before, during, and after his confirmation hearing indicate he will take a tough approach toward China, his appointment is unlikely to lead to any major change in the Pentagon’s policy.

  • Kevin Hassett
    Chairman, Council of Economic Advisers (September 2017). Born March 20, 1962

    As head of the Council of Economic Advisers, Kevin Hassett advises the president on economic affairs and assesses the impact of planned policies on the economy. Previous incumbents include Alan Greenspan, Janet Yellen and Ben Bernanke.

    Some commentators have questioned how much influence Hassett has over Trump, however, because the president decided to strip the position of its Cabinet-level status. A moderate-leaning Republican, his appointment aroused the consternation among many Trump supporters because of his pro-immigration views. He is also seen as in the dovish camp with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin when it comes to dealing with China. Although he has not directly criticised Trump’s imposition tariffs, he warned in January 2019 that the trade war was damaging U.S. businesses with interests in China.

    Back in 2010 Hassett criticised politicians for “China bashing,” describing such action as a way for elites to ignore their own failures. He warned that continuing to attack the country could have real costs, potentially causing a trade war “reminiscent of the one that put the world economy into a death spiral in the 1930s.” It was also a distraction from the need for government policies to help the economy and create jobs.

    An expert on taxation, Hassett was a well-known fixture in conservative economic circles long before he joined the Trump administration. He served as a policy consultant to the Treasury Department during the administrations of both George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton and was an economic adviser to the campaigns of three Republican presidential candidates – John McCain, George W. Bush and Mitt Romney.

    Before his appointment, Hassett spent 20 years at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), a conservative think tank, where he focused on tax policy and reform. He joined in the AEI in 1997 as a resident scholar and rose to become its director of research for domestic policy. He was an advocate of corporate tax cuts as a means of creating jobs and argued that increases in the minimum wage harmed the economy.

    In what was rather unfortunate timing, Hassett co-wrote a book “Dow 36,000: The New Strategy for Profiting from the Coming Rise of the Stockmarket” which was published in October 1999, three months before the benchmark index peaked and the bursting of the dotcom bubble began.

  • He Lifeng
    Chairman of the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) (2017); full member of the CPC Central Committee (2012). Born February 1955

    He, a close ally of Xi Jinping, is head of the powerful economic planning agency that holds sway over vast swathes of the economy, from setting industrial policy to approving infrastructure investment, setting petrol prices and overseeing enterprise bond sales. The NDRC is also responsible for formulating the government’s Five-Year Plans, blueprints for medium-term economic development, overseeing industries including energy, and pushing forward with industrial restructuring.

    As head of the NDRC, He plays a key role in implementing and refining Xi’s supply-side structural reform strategy, which has included campaigns to cut excess capacity in the coal and steel industries. Although the NDRC’s remit doesn’t directly include overseas trade, He has been part of the Chinese delegation negotiating with the U.S. to resolve their trade dispute and will have provided important input into the domestic impact of any concessions demanded by Washington. He accompanied Xi to the G20 summit in Argentina in November 2018 where the president held talks with his U.S. counterpart Donald Trump that led to a ceasefire in the trade war.

    He met Xi as they both worked their way up the political ladder in Fujian province in the 1990s and early 2000s before Xi moved to Zhejiang province. He was deputy director and then director of the Xiamen municipal government’s finance bureau, coinciding with Xi’s stint as deputy party chief and vice mayor of Xiamen.

    He spent most of his career in various positions in Xiamen, including party chief, but moved to Tianjin, a municipality close to Beijing, in 2009 as deputy party chief. In 2014, two years after Xi came to power, He was appointed vice chairman of the NDRC and was responsible for overseeing Xi’s Belt and Road Initiative. He was elevated to chairman in February 2017, replacing Xu Shaoshi who had reached retirement age.

  • Huining Luo
    Director, Liaison Office of the Central People’s Government in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (January 2020); Director, Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office of the State Council (January 2020); Member of the Central Committee of the 19th Communist Party Congress (October 2017). Born October 1954.

    Veteran politician Luo Huining was unexpectedly dragged out of semi-retirement in January 2020 and thrust into the hot seat as the Chinese government’s top official in charge of relations with Hong Kong, replacing Wang Zhimin who was sacked following months of unrest in the former British colony. 

    Luo had just stepped down as Party Secretary of the northern province of Shanxi after a four-year stint that saw him execute a sweeping anti-corruption campaign in the coal-rich, graft-ridden region. He had hardly warmed the seat in his new job as deputy director of the financial and economic affairs committee of the National People’s Congress (NPC) – a position normally given to newly retired officials – when he was handed the task of restoring order to Hong Kong. 

    Luo had, until November 2019, spent his entire career in provincial government, starting as an official with the foreign economic relations and trade commission in Anhui province in 1985 and moving up the ranks to become a member of the Party’s standing committee in the province in 1999. In 2003, he was appointed Deputy Party Secretary of the western province of Qinghai, becoming Governor in 2010 and Party Secretary in 2013. In 2016 he was moved to the top position in Shanxi. He has been a full member of the Central Committee since 2012 giving him close contact with all the elite politicians including then Vice President Xi Jinping. 

    As a provincial party secretary, a position that carries the rank of minister, Luo comes from a far more senior background than the two previous heads of the Hong Kong Liaison Office (HKLO). This, along with his lack of experience in Hong Kong affairs, suggest a new approach by the Party leadership to handling the SAR which erupted in protest in June 2019 against a proposed extradition law with China. Luo’s close relations with the top leadership and his achievements as Party Secretary in two difficult provinces, mean he is well aligned with the Party’s thinking and his views are likely to carry more weight in Beijing than his predecessors. 

    The HKLO and its director have traditionally kept a low profile in Hong Kong and taken a relatively hands-off approach to governing the territory, allowing it to enjoy the limited autonomy granted by the “one country, two systems” principle in place since the city was handed back to China by the UK in 1997. Luo’s experience in dealing with political issues from his years in provincial politics suggest that the HKLO will become far more involved in local affairs and in rebuilding the pro-Beijing constituency that was routed in local elections in December 2019. His lack of connections and experience in dealing with Hong Kong also suggest the Party is seeking to make a clean break with the traditional cozy relationships in the city and will take a hard-line approach to the demands of protesters. 

  • Larry Kudlow
    Director of the National Economic Council (NEC) (April 2018). Born August 20, 1947

    A financial analyst who started his career at the New York Federal Reserve, Larry Kudlow was appointed head of the NEC after Gary Cohn resigned. He endorsed Trump’s presidential campaign and served as an informal adviser. He defended Trump’s plan to rebuild an existing wall along the U.S. border with Mexico, saying it was necessary to stop terrorists entering the country.

    As Trump’s chief economic adviser, Kudlow helps formulate economic policy and oversees implementation of the president’s economic agenda. He appears regularly in the media to expound on Trump’s views on a range of economic and trade issues and has been one of the main spokesmen for the administration on the progress of trade talks with China, along with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. He suffered a mild heart attack in June 2018 but returned to work soon after.

    Kudlow is known as an advocate of free trade who, along with Mnuchin, has tried to persuade Trump to make a deal with China rather than impose tariffs and endure a potentially damaging trade war. That’s led to clashes with Peter Navarro, Trump’s key adviser on China policy, over the best approach to dealing with Beijing. He once accused Navarro of doing the president “a great disservice” by making hawkish comments about the trade talks.

    Although he has no formal economics qualification, he was an associate director for economics and planning in the Office of Management and Budget during Ronald Reagan’s administration. He also served as the chief economist at Bear Stearns from 1987 until 1994 when he was fired for his cocaine and alcohol addiction. He then became a media commentator on economic issues and hosted several shows on CNBC.

    He has described himself as an advocate of Reagan’s supply-side economics and approved of tax cuts and deregulation. Although known as a committed supporter of free trade, he backed Trump’s steel and aluminium tariffs after his appointment as head of the NEC.

    Kudlow is not famed for his economic predictions – in a 2015 book, “Superforecasting,” the authors, Philip Tetlock and Dan Gardner, referred to Kudlow as a "consistently wrong" pundit, using record of failed predictions to clarify common mistakes that poor forecasters make.

  • General Li Zuocheng
    Chief of the Joint Staff Department of the CMC (2017); General, People’s Liberation Army (2015); Member of the CPC Central Committee (2017); Member of the Central Military Commission (2017). Born October 1953

    General Li, chief of staff of China’s military, is seen as firmly in Xi’s camp and a supporter of a military overhaul that began in 2015 to transform the PLA into a more effective, modern fighting force. Li’s promotions have been relatively swift since Xi came to power – he was named commander of the Chengdu Military Region in 2013, one of seven military regions before a major reorganisation in 2015, was promoted to full general in 2015, and made head of the new PLA Ground Force in 2016. In 2017 he was appointed the military’s chief of staff, replacing Fang Fenghui who disappeared from public view and was put under investigation for corruption. Fang was sentenced to life in prison in February 2019 after being found guilty of bribery and amassing wealth he couldn’t account for.

    Li is one of the few top generals in China with combat experience and is a veteran of the country’s bloody war with Vietnam in 1979. He was awarded the title of Combat Hero for his command of his company during a battle on the Vietnamese border that lasted for 26 days.

  • Liao Min
    Vice Minister of Finance (2018); Deputy Director of the Office of the Central Financial and Economic Affairs Commission (2018). Born December 1968

    A veteran of the country’s banking regulatory commission, Liao is seen as a rising star in the Chinese government and works directly under Liu He at the Central Financial and Economic Affairs Commission. Liao was brought in to the ministry for his experience in international finance.

    A fluent English speaker, Liao has a master’s degree in economics from Peking University and an MBA from the Judge Business School at Cambridge University. He was a portfolio manager in the Treasury division of the PBOC’s international department and has held senior positions at Bank of China, one of the Big Four state-owned commercial banks, and China Everbright Group.

    He spent 13 years working for the China Banking Regulatory Commission, including three years as the head of its Shanghai branch, and in December 2016 was appointed to head the international economics department of the Office of the Central Leading Group for Financial and Economic Affairs, which later became the Central Financial and Economic Affairs Commission. Chinese media reports say he was recommended for the job by Fang Xinghai, a previous incumbent who had left to become vice chairman of the China Securities Regulatory Commission.

    Liao was promoted to deputy director of the office in early 2018, making him second in command to Vice Premier Liu He. Liao accompanied Liu to the U.S. for trade talks in May 2018 and has played a key role in formulating China’s tactics and strategy to deal with U.S. trade tensions.

  • Robert Lighthizer
    United States Trade Representative (USTR) (May 2017). Born October 11, 1947

    Robert Lighthizer, a veteran trade negotiator and lawyer, has emerged as one of the most influential officials in President Trump’s administration with regard to trade policy and China. A longtime sceptic of globalization and an advocate for tougher policies to deal with Beijing’s trade and economic practices, his views are closely aligned with Trump’s – as far back as 2011, he defended Trump’s stance on trade and China.

    Lighthizer was tapped for the job of USTR shortly after Trump’s election. He is no stranger to Washington politics, international trade, or China – he was chief of staff to the Senate Finance Committee in the early 1980s, and was deputy USTR from 1983 to 1985 during the administration of President Ronald Reagan where he helped broker trade agreements and threatened other countries with tariffs if they failed to cut steel exports to the U.S. He then joined law firm Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP as a partner and led its international trade practice for more than 30 years, defending American businesses, especially steel companies, against what they saw as unfair trade practices by foreign companies.

    Lighthizer has described China as an unprecedented threat to the world trading system, and maintains that the World Trade Organization (WTO) is not equipped to deal with the problem. As a result, the U.S. needs to find other ways to defend its companies, workers, farmers, and its economic system to ensure that a market-based economy prevails, he has said. One of those other ways has been to draw on the little used Section 301 of the 1974 Trade Act, which allows the U.S. president to take unilateral action against trade policies he deems to be unfair. Lighthizer seized on this tool when he became USTR to begin an investigation into China’s trade practices which formed the basis of Trump’s tariff campaign that began in March 2018.

    As USTR, Lighthizer has proposed taking a much harder line against China than others in the administration, such as Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who were also involved in China policy and urged Trump to make a quick deal with Beijing to calm markets and head off a damaging trade war. Lighthizer won out and by mid-2018 it became clear that he would in future take the leading role in formulating economic and trade policy with regard to China. His position was solidified in December 2018 when he was named to lead talks for the U.S. side after Trump and Xi agreed to call a truce in the trade dispute, taking over from Mnuchin who had led previous rounds of talks.

    As part of any agreement, Lighthizer has sought firm commitments from Beijing that can be verified and assessed rather than accepting what he has described as empty promises. He is said to keep a single-page chart listing decades of failed trade negotiations with Beijing which he passes around whenever he senses Trump or other officials might be going soft on China.

    Lighthizer has a reputation as a blunt, shrewd and effective negotiator who is not afraid to use colourful language. He is apparently known as the “missile man” in Japan, a reference to an incident in the mid-1980s when he grew so frustrated during talks with Tokyo that he took one of its proposals, turned it into a paper airplane and floated it back at the Japanese negotiators. In February 2019, when talks between Chinese and U.S. negotiators at deputy level hit an impasse, Lighthizer stepped in and “read them the riot act,” according to White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow.

    Lighthizer mostly shuns the media spotlight. Unlike Trump and Cabinet members including Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, he doesn’t have his own Twitter account and doesn’t give interviews, leaving Trump, Mnuchin and White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow to make public comments about the progress of trade talks with Chinese officials.

  • Liu He
    Vice Premier of the State Council responsible for economic and financial affairs (2018); Director of the Financial Stability and Development Committee (FSDC) (2018); Director of the General Office of the Central Financial and Economic Affairs Commission of the CPC Central Committee (2013); Member of the Politburo (2017). Born January 25, 1952

    Liu He is one of Xi Jinping’s closest and oldest allies, his top economic adviser, and his point man in negotiations with the U.S. to resolve the trade war. An economist by training and a former professor at some of China’s top universities, he is a fluent English speaker with an MBA from Seton Hall University and an MPA from Harvard University. Low profile and relatively unknown outside the field of economics until his elevation to the Politburo in October 2017, Liu has spent most of his career as an economist and adviser in government research institutes. His international profile took off in January 2018 when he gave a speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos.

    Liu has played an influential role in formulating China’s economic and development policies since 2003 when he was appointed to the Central Leading Group for Financial and Economic Affairs (renamed the Central Financial and Economic Affairs Commission in 2018). There he was responsible for overseeing macro-economic policy planning and drafting speeches for then Party Secretary Hu Jintao. He was also one of a team of policymakers who put together the country’s Five-Year Plans.

    Liu’s election to the Politburo in October 2017 and to the position of vice premier in charge of economic and financial affairs in March 2018 reflect his importance to Xi. He is a proponent of market-oriented reforms, including overhauling the bloated state sector, and is one of the architects of the shift in China’s economic model away from debt-fuelled investment and exports toward a more sustainable consumer-driven path. He is also seen as the man behind supply-side structural reform, an initiative unveiled by Xi in 2015, and the deleveraging campaign that formed a key part of the strategy.

    Liu, sometimes referred to as “Uncle He,” also heads the Financial Stability and Development Committee, a body set up in November 2017 to coordinate and improve financial and macro-prudential regulation, and prevent systemic financial risks.

    Liu has twice been given the title of “special envoy” when leading Chinese delegations negotiating with U.S. officials to end the trade war (in May 2018 and February 2019), a sign of the trust Xi places in him. Success could burnish his credentials, but failure, or domestic criticism that China has made too many concessions, exposes him to blame that could damage his prospects.

    Liu has limited experience in policy implementation at sub-central government level, at a financial institution or large industrial company. His appointment as vice premier made him a rare example of a senior politician in a position of economic management with a background almost entirely in research and academia.

  • Luo Wen
    Deputy director at the NDRC (2019).

    Until recently, Luo was a vice minister at the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT), the ministry with responsibility for Made in China 2025, a blueprint for industrial upgrading announced in 2015 aimed at turning the country into a globally competitive high-tech powerhouse. Its policies to support independent innovation, high-tech industries and industrial transformation have been at the heart of trade tensions between the U.S. and China.

    Luo was one of the negotiators in Liu He’s team involved in talks with the U.S. aimed at resolving the trade dispute. But in February 2019 he was moved to the NDRC where he now heads divisions responsible for the regional economy and regional revitalisation, including the development of the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region. It’s unclear whether he will continue to play a role in the trade negotiations.

  • Steven T. Mnuchin
    Secretary of the Treasury (February 2017); chairman of the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS). Born December 21, 1962

    Despite Trump’s attacks on Wall Street titans, corporate lobbyists and billionaires during his election campaign, he didn’t shy away from appointing members of the financial elite to his Cabinet once elected. Steven Mnuchin, who as treasury secretary holds one of the most important positions in the administration, is among them.

    A veteran investment banker and hedge fund manager who also made a name for himself as a financier of Hollywood films including Wonder Woman, Mnuchin was one of several alumni of investment bank Goldman Sachs tapped for key positions in Trump’s administration.

    Mnuchin, whose net worth is estimated at around $300 million, joined Trump’s presidential campaign in May 2016 as national finance chairman. He also served as a senior economic adviser to Trump, helping craft his economic positions and speeches. He subsequently formed part of the transition team and was later nominated as treasury secretary.

    Trump has described Mnuchin, who had no previous government experience, as a “financial legend with an incredible track record of success,” while Mnuchin has called Trump's economic agenda a “bold” one “that creates good-paying jobs and defends the American worker.”

    Mnuchin initially took a leading role in the administration’s dealings with China as trade hostilities intensified, and was the primary point of contact for senior Beijing officials. He was widely seen as a moderate voice who opposed a drawn-out war, instead preferring compromise to reach a quick settlement and avoid roiling markets and damaging the U.S. economy.

    But he was accused by hardliners of being too soft on China and lost an internal battle with hawks in the administration, including USTR Robert Lighthizer, over how to handle the dispute. Although Trump put Lighthizer in control of China trade policy and negotiations, Mnuchin is still a key figure in the talks and one of the main public faces of the U.S. team, updating the media through interviews and his Twitter account on progress in the negotiations.

    Mnuchin publicly supported Trump’s claim that China was controlling the yuan for its own advantage and in his confirmation hearing, he pledged to name the country a currency manipulator, with the caveat that there should be sufficient evidence. However, since Trump’s election, the Treasury Department has declined to label China a manipulator in its twice-a-year reports on the currency practices of its trading partners. Mnuchin’s tenure has not been without controversy. The Treasury Department opened an investigation into his use of government aircraft after he used a military jet to fly himself and his wife, Louise Linton, to Kentucky, ostensibly for an event relating to the government’s tax overhaul but which also coincided with a solar eclipse. It also came to light that he had requested the use of a military jet for his honeymoon in Europe, a request that was later withdrawn.

  • Peter Navarro
    Director of the Office of Trade and Manufacturing Policy (April 2017), Assistant to the President. Born July 15, 1949

    An outspoken critic of China’s economic and trade policies, Peter Navarro is among the most hostile opponents of the regime in Beijing inside Trump’s administration. A key figure behind the trade war, he has been variously described as a one-man, anti-China trade warrior, and the most dangerous man in Trump world.

    A failed politician and a professor of economics and public policy at the University of California at Irvine, Navarro became an economic adviser to Trump during his election campaign in 2016. As the only academic economist on his team, Navarro helped inform Trump’s thinking on a range of policies and issues including international trade – trade deals are bad, trade deficits are dangerous and tariffs are good – and how to deal with China.

    Navarro was the ideal candidate to implement Trump’s promise to stop China “ripping us left and right.” He was initially named director of the White House National Trade Council, a new office set up specifically for him. The council was subsequently folded into the Office of Trade and Manufacturing Policy, an agency set up in April 2017 with a mission to “defend and serve American workers and domestic manufacturers and advise the president on policies to increase economic growth, decrease the trade deficit, and strengthen the U.S.’ manufacturing and industrial base.”

    In June 2018, the office issued a 36-page report, “How China’s Economic Aggression Threatens the Technologies and Intellectual Property of the United States and the World,” which contained a litany of criticisms of China’s policies and practices that it claimed threaten the U.S. economy and the global innovation system.

    Navarro has expounded on his views about China in several books including: “The Coming China Wars: Where They Will Be Fought and How They Can Be Won” (2006); “Death By China: Confronting the Dragon – a Global Call to Action” (2011) which called for full-scale containment of China; and “Crouching Tiger: What China’s Militarism Means for the World” (2015) which posits that China is a revisionist power readying for conflict with America.

    His extreme policies on trade and economics are seen as unorthodox and misguided by mainstream economists, and his antagonistic views on China carry little credibility among most respected China analysts. In a critique of Trump’s economic plan co-written with Wilbur Ross during the election campaign, Navarro lashed out at China, calling it “the biggest trade cheater in the world” and accusing it of being “destructive to the U.S. growth process.” The plan was heavily criticised by mainstream economists and in November 2016, 370 economists, including several Nobel laureates, issued a letter warning against the economic policies it proposed.

    Nevertheless, Navarro’s ideas have been embraced by Trump who apparently insisted on having the economist by his side when he met Xi at Mar-a-Lago in April 2017. But his hardline views on trade and China have reportedly brought him into conflict with several of the more dovish officials in the administration, who advocate a less confrontational approach. They include the then-director of the National Economic Council, Gary Cohn, who announced his resignation in March 2018 just days after Trump, encouraged by Navarro and other hawks, decided to impose tariffs on imports of steel and aluminium.

  • Ning Jizhe
    Vice Chairman of the NDRC (2015); Director of the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) (2016); Alternate member of the CPC Central Committee (2017). Born December 1956

    Ning, unusually, has two roles – he is the head of the NBS and one of several vice chairmen of the NDRC. Within China he’s known more as the front man who presents GDP figures at press conferences, but he is also part of the NDRC team involved in trade negotiations with the U.S. and has accompanied Liu He to Washington for talks several times starting in May 2018.

    Ning, who has a degree in engineering and a doctorate in economics, started out as a researcher in the NDRC but spent most of his career in the State Council Research Office, an administrative office responsible for formulating policy, conducting research, making policy recommendations to the State Council and providing strategic, organizational, services-related consultancy to the State Council. He became director of the office in 2013.

    In August 2015, Ning moved back to the NDRC and in March 2016, he also took charge of the NBS after its previous incumbent, Wang Bao’an, was sacked for corruption.

  • Robert C. O’Brien
    National Security Adviser (September 2019)

    Robert C. O’Brien, a lawyer by profession, is President Trump’s fourth National Security Adviser since taking office in January 2017. He replaces uber hawk John Bolton who was fired by the president after disagreements on issues including how to handle Iran and Afghanistan.

    The position of National Security Adviser does not require confirmation by the Senate and O’Brien took up his position immediately without having to testify or face a grilling from lawmakers about his views on issues including China.

    But with Trump increasingly relying on his own instincts to conduct foreign and national security policy, O’Brien’s appoint is unlikely to lead to any material change in the administration’s stance toward China, although he may be less confrontational than his predecessor.

    O’Brien was already in Trump’s orbit. He was appointed America’s chief hostage negotiator in May 2018, positioning him as an aide to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo who reportedly played a key role in choosing his long-time friends as Bolton’s replacement. Trump personally sent O’Brien to Sweden in August to help secure the release of U.S. rapper A$AP Rocky from jail for his involvement in a street brawl.

    There are concerns that O’Brien has no background in national security affairs, no practical experience in intelligence, diplomacy or the military, and no experience running a government agency. Described as a policy lightweight whose chief credential for the role is his strong loyalty to Trump, critics say O’Brien may end up acting as a “yes” man given the president’s increasing personal involvement in national security decision-making.

    O'Brien’s hawkish views on foreign policy and national security are laid out in his 2016 book While America Slept: Restoring American Leadership to a World in Crisis which promotes his mantra of “peace through strength.” The book devotes an entire chapter to China, which is described as a “red storm rising,” and warns of the country’s naval expansion in the eastern Pacific and Indian oceans and its bid for influence in Africa.

    O’Brien is no stranger to politics or the Republican Party. He served under President George W. Bush as the U.S. Alternate Representative to the United Nations General Assembly from 2005 to 2006, and later as co-chair of the State Department’s Public-Private Partnership for Justice Reform in Afghanistan. Over the years he has acted as a foreign policy adviser to several Republican presidential hopefuls, including Mitt Romney and Ted Cruz, which could help Trump in his re-election bid. 

  • Mike Pence
    Vice President of the United States (January 2017). Born June 7, 1959

    A seasoned politician with a reputation as a conservative ideologue, Mike Pence is believed to have been chosen by Trump’s presidential campaign as his running mate to please the conservative base of the Republican Party. His views on  trade contrast sharply with Trump’s – his record shows him to be a strong advocate of trade agreements between the U.S. and other countries and a supporter of NAFTA and the Trans Pacific Partnership.

    Pence spent 12 years as a congressman until his election as governor of the state of Indiana in 2013, providing a wealth of experience of wheeling and dealing at the highest level of Washington politics that the president himself lacked. Although not on the front line of economic and trade policy and China strategy, the vice president spreads the administration’s message at home and overseas. In October 2018 he made a wide-ranging attack on China that prompted some analysts to warn of an impending new Cold War. He has spoken out strongly against Beijing’s military aggression overseas, especially in the South China Sea. During a weeklong tour of Asia in November 2018 representing the president at the annual Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meetings and at a summit with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, he criticized China’s Belt and Road Initiative and warned countries who participated in the project that they risked drowning in a sea of debt.

    Pence, who has described himself as “a Christian, a conservative, and a Republican, in that order,” is a firm believer in religious freedom, and has raised the issue of China’s persecution of Muslims, Buddhists and Christians. In a speech in July 2018, he highlighted the incarceration of “hundreds of thousands, and possibly millions, of Uyghur Muslims in so-called ‘re-education camps,’ where they’re forced to endure around-the-clock political indoctrination and to denounce their religious beliefs and their cultural identity as the goal.”

    Pence is playing a key role in fundraising for Trump’s reelection campaign in 2020, targeting wealthy donors who previously shunned the president during the 2016 presidential race.

  • Mike Pompeo
    United States Secretary of State (April 2018). Born December 30, 1963

    A former army officer and three-term Republican congressman, Mike Pompeo is Trump’s top diplomat who exerts considerable influence over the president. He worked on Trump’s transition team and was initially picked to head the Central Intelligence Agency – as a three-term Congressman, he had served on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and the House Intelligence Subcommittee on the CIA.

    A Trump loyalist and a conservative foreign-policy hawk, Pompeo was tapped for the Secretary of State position in March 2018 to replace Rex Tillerson who was fired by the president via social media after just over a year in the job.

    While head of the CIA, Pompeo warned of the “significant security threat” posed by China and said that China had “the capacity to present the greatest rivalry to America… over the medium and long term.” As secretary of state he has continued his tough stance, attacking China on issues ranging from its militarisation of the South China Sea to the Belt and Road Initiative, which he has described as a debt trap designed to give Beijing political influence.

    During a visit to Beijing in October 2018, Pompeo and China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi exchanged unusually sharp words as they criticised their respective governments’ policies, and in a speech in March 2019, he warned that the U.S. would defend the Philippines against any attack on its ships or planes in the disputed waters of the South China Sea, in a pointed reference to China.

    Pompeo has also spoken out against China’s human rights violations and its detention of Uighur Muslims in huge prison camps in the northwest region of Xinjiang. In March 2019 he met survivors of the camps and relatives of those held, and pledged U.S. support to end what he described as China’s campaign of repression against Islam and other religions.

    As secretary of state, Pompeo co-led the U.S.-China Diplomatic & Security Dialogue in Washington in November 2018, where he denied the administration was pursuing a Cold War or containment policy toward China and said that even as the two countries confronted important differences, cooperation remained essential on many issues, including the denuclearisation of North Korea  – Pompeo has been Trump’s point man on North Korea and has taken an aggressive view of the country and its leader Kim Jong-Un.

  • Matt Pottinger
    Deputy National Security Adviser (September 2019)

    After serving 19 months as Director for Asian Affairs on the National Security Council (NSC), Pottinger was named as deputy to Robert C. O’Brien shortly after the latter’s appointment as National Security Adviser (NSA) by President Trump in September 2019. 

    Pottinger is the administration’s top China expert and one of Trump’s longest-serving aides. He has impressed senior officials with his handling of China and North Korea, two of the biggest foreign policy and national security challenges facing the Trump administration. Vice President Mike Pence reportedly supported him for the position and he is likely to have had the backing of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who played a key role in deciding John Bolton’s replacement as NSA.

    Announcing Pottinger’s appointment, O’Brien said, “I think Matt’s one of the most impressive young foreign policy/national defence/national security experts in the government. He’s got a wonderful personality, I think he’s a team player. He’s going to help me bring some cohesion to the [national security council].” Pottinger will remain involved in Asia issues in his new position, O’Brien said.

    A fluent Mandarin speaker who spent seven years as a journalist in China, Pottinger burnished his credentials at the NSC where he was the administration’s top Asia hand, playing a key role in the formulation of policies toward China and North Korea. His views on China have been strongly influenced by his time as a reporter in the country where he was interrogated by the police and punched in the face in a Starbucks café in Beijing by a man he described as a government goon.

    Although he is seen as one of the less hawkish China advisers in the administration, he is said to be in favour of a taking a tough stance toward the country and helped craft a new National Security Strategy that labelled Beijing a revisionist power. He also contributed heavily to the USTR’s investigation into China’s policies and practices related to forced technology transfer and intellectual property theft. The report, which was published in March 2018, helped formed the basis of Trump’s campaign against China’s trade and industrial policies.

    He played a key role in organising Trump’s 12-day tour of Asia in November 2017, which included a state visit to China where he rarely left the president’s side. Pottinger’s other main area of responsibility at the NSC was North Korea. He accompanied Pompeo on his visit to Pyongyang in May 2018 and was heavily involved in preparations for Trump’s first summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un.

    Pottinger, who left journalism in 2005 for a career in the U.S. Marine Corps, was picked as a senior aide to oversee Asian affairs in the National Security Council on the recommendation of its then leader Michael T. Flynn, his commanding officer in Afghanistan. The two men are reported to have been close and co-wrote a report on how to fix intelligence operations in Afghanistan. After five years with the marines Pottinger left active service and returned to the U.S. where he set up his own consultancy and later went to work for a hedge fund.

  • Wilbur Ross
    United States Secretary of Commerce (February 2017). Born November 28, 1937

    After a career as a financier specialising in bankruptcy and corporate restructuring, Wilbur Ross was picked as commerce secretary following his role as a senior policy adviser to Trump during his election campaign.

    Ross was instrumental in crafting Trump’s economic strategy that included massive tax cuts, higher infrastructure spending and a renegotiation of U.S. trade agreements. Known for his opposition to free trade – The Economist magazine dubbed him Mr Protectionism as far back as 2004 – he co-authored a critique of Trump’s economic plan with economist and China hawk Peter Navarro which aimed to demonstrate the beneficial impact the policies would have on the American economy as compared with those of his rival Hillary Clinton.

    A longtime Trump associate, Ross was expected to lead the administration’s trade policy and China strategy as part of his broad portfolio of responsibilities, working with fellow China and foreign trade hawks Robert Lighthizer, the U.S. Trade Representative, and Peter Navarro, who heads the Office of Trade and Manufacturing Policy. 

    After Trump and Xi met in April 2017, U.S. and Chinese negotiators embarked on a 100-day action plan to address the imbalances in their trading relationship and avoid a full blown trade war. Ross headed the U.S. negotiating team, but he made little progress in winning concessions from the Chinese and the talks ended in failure. Unimpressed with Ross’s achievements, Trump stripped him of his role as China tsar and put Lighthizer in charge, although the commerce secretary still plays a major role in the negotiations. 

    Ross has courted controversy, notably around the size of his wealth, inaccurate financial disclosures, and conflicts of interest surrounding his financial holdings. In December 2017, Forbes magazine claimed that he had exaggerated his net worth and that he had only $700 million of assets rather than the $2.9 billion attributed to him in the Forbes 400 list of the richest Americans.

    Before joining the Trump administration, Ross made his fortune as a financier who successfully turned around failed companies, especially in the textile and steel industries, earning him the nickname “king of bankruptcy.”

  • Donald J. Trump
    45th President of the United States of America (January 2017). Born, June 14, 1946

    Donald Trump’s election as U.S. president in November 2016 set the stage for the most radical change in America’s policy toward, and engagement with, China in decades. His surprise victory for the Republican party against Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton followed a campaign run on a populist and nationalist platform embodied in the slogans Make America Great Again, and America First.

    Anti-globalization and trade protectionism were two key planks of Trump’s election campaign and China loomed large in both. He accused China of “raping our country” and vowed to reduce the U.S.’s growing trade deficit with China, stop the theft of intellectual property by Chinese companies, and label China a currency manipulator in his first 100 days in office.

    Although Trump backtracked on the currency manipulation pledge, he followed through with his vow to tackle China’s unfair trade and economic practices as part of a broader shift in U.S. trade policy toward protectionism that also saw him pull out of the North American Free trade Agreement (NAFTA) and replace it with a new deal, the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA).

    Trump has surrounded himself with China hawks, and many of the top positions in his administration are occupied by people who share his mistrust and scepticism of China and want to change how the U.S. deals with its growing rival. A National Security Strategy released by the White House in December 2017 mapped out the Trump administration’s stance toward China and how it sees the future relationship. The failure of the U.S.’ decades-long policy toward China – to support its rise and integration into the world economy in the hope that the country would liberalize – now necessitated a new approach, it said. It designated the country a strategic competitor, albeit one with which the U.S. sought continued cooperation, and described it as a revisionist power that, along with Russia, challenged American power and wanted to shape a world “antithetical to U.S. values and interests.”

    Despite Trump’s confrontational strategy toward China, he has portrayed himself as having a good personal relationship with Xi Jinping, the head of the ruling Communist Party and president of the country. Trump invited Xi and his wife to his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida in April 2017 for their first face-to-face meeting to try and build the relationship, he made a state visit to Beijing at Xi’s invitation in November that year, and the two met again on the sidelines of the G-20 summit in Buenos Aires on December 1, 2018, which resulted in a truce in their trade war.

    In an interview with the New York Times after his Beijing visit, Trump said Xi had treated him “better than anybody’s ever been treated in the history of China.” He has also described the Chinese leader as “great,” and revealed in April 2019 that he had called Xi a “king” to his face during his Beijing visit, a title Xi seemed to like, he said.

    Trump has tried to leverage that personal relationship to secure Xi’s help on a range of issues other than trade, such as stopping Chinese exports of the powerful opioid fentanyl to the U.S., and resolving the North Korean nuclear problem. 

    Although Xi has rarely commented publicly on the U.S.-China trade dispute and his relationship with Trump, the U.S. president broadcasts his views on China and everything else daily through his Twitter account, his main platform for communicating with the media and his supporters and a channel for making policy announcements and railing against his critics.

    Trump’s efforts to reset the U.S.’ relationship with China appear to have broad consensus across the political and economic spectrum in the U.S., although there are disagreements about his methods. Trump is up for reelection in 2020, but his strategy has set the stage for a change in U.S. relations with China that will persist for years to come whether he wins a second term or not.

  • Wang Huning
    Member of the Politburo Standing Committee (2017); Director, Policy Research Office of the CPC Central Committee (2002). Born October 1955

    Wang is No. 5 in the pecking order on the elite seven-member Politburo Standing Committee and the top official in charge of ideology, propaganda and party organisation. His elevation to the party’s most powerful decision-making body was a surprise because had never headed a government ministry or been party chief of a province, two of the most usual paths to the top.

    Little known to the wider public before he joined the Politburo Standing Committee, behind the scenes Wang has been a key adviser to the last three Chinese leaders. He has accompanied Xi on several overseas visits, including to the U.S., although his years of study and research have made him critical of democracy, U.S. foreign policy and society. 

    As the party’s chief theorist, Wang was the mastermind behind the “Important Thought of the Three Represents,” set out by then president Jiang Zemin in 2000, and the “Scientific Outlook on Development,” first put forward by Hu Jintao in 2003, guiding principles for the party that were subsequently written into its constitution.

    Wang is also widely thought to be the main architect of Xi’s “China Dream” concept and his political theory “Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era,” which has also been enshrined in the constitution.

    A professor of international politics at the prestigious Fudan University in Shanghai, Wang moved from academia to the Policy Research Office, known as the party’s in-house think-tank, in 1995 and worked his way up to become its director in 2002.

  • Wang Qishan
    Vice President of the People’s Republic of China (2018); Member of the Central Foreign Affairs Commission of the CPC (2018). Born July 19, 1948

    Veteran banker, anti-corruption tsar, and with a reputation as a fixer, Wang Qishan is one of the most experienced America hands in the leadership and one of Xi’s most trusted allies. Wang was forced to step down from the elite Politburo Standing Committee and from his position as head of the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection at the 19th Party Congress in October 2017 because he was past the usual retirement age for senior officials.

    His comeback in March 2018 as vice president, traditionally a largely ceremonial position, was not a surprise given his relationship with Xi, and he was expected to take on a portfolio focused on foreign affairs, particularly China’s relations with the U.S. Widely considered as the “eighth member” of the elite seven-strong Politburo Standing Committee, Wang is a member of the Central Foreign Affairs Commission, the top Communist Party body in charge of diplomacy and foreign affairs headed by Xi himself.

    But so far Wang has taken a relatively low profile, leaving negotiations with Washington to defuse the trade war largely to Liu He. But he has made public appearances to meet with foreign political and business delegations visiting Beijing and gave a speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos in January 2019 that expounded on Xi’s vision of a “community of shared future for mankind.” He has also used his long-standing ties in the U.S. business community, including his friendship with former Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson, to try and understand President Donald Trump’s thinking on trade relations with China.

    Wang has built up years of experience as a banker, economic policymaker and negotiator. He was a vice premier from 2008 to 2013 and played a key role in formulating and implementing China’s response to the global financial crisis. He was also one of the main negotiators dealing with the U.S. over trade and investment issues.

    There is no definitive information about how and when Xi and Wang become close, but Chinese reports say they became friends in their youth when they were both “sent down” to the countryside during the Cultural Revolution in the 1960s.

  • Wang Shouwen
    Vice Minister of Commerce (2015); Deputy China International Trade Representative (2018). Born March 1966

    An engineer and economist by training, Wang is a veteran trade bureaucrat who has worked in the Ministry of Commerce for more than two decades, moving up from an official in the translation and interpretation department to director general of the ministry’s foreign trade department in 2006. He was sent on an 18-month posting to the city of Nanjing as vice mayor in 2009-2010 and was promoted to the position of assistant minister of commerce in 2013, with. As vice minister, Wang’s portfolio includes WTO affairs, foreign investment, and international trade and economic affairs.

    Wang has been a key figure in trade talks with U.S. officials and has been in charge of the nitty gritty aspects of the day-to-day work at vice ministerial level to push the negotiations forward. He has also led advance teams to Washington to pave the way for talks between top officials. He has gained a reputation as a feisty talker, using colourful language in his comments about the trade war. He has described the U.S. as a “trade bully,” and at a briefing in September 2018 asked: “How could you negotiate with someone when he puts a knife on your neck?”

  • Wang Yi
    Minister of Foreign Affairs (2013); Member of the CPC Central Committee (2007); State Councilor (2018); Member of the Central Foreign Affairs Commission (2017). Born October 1953

    A career diplomat, Wang’s expertise lies in Asia. He majored in Japanese at university and joined the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 1982 in the Asian department where he spent much of his career. He is an expert in Japanese affairs and was ambassador to Japan from 2004 to 2007 after serving as vice minister from 2001 to 2004.

    Although still foreign minister, Wang was promoted to state councilor responsible for foreign affairs in 2018, succeeding Yang Jiechi. It is unusual for an official to hold both positions simultaneously and is another sign of the increasing importance of diplomats in the foreign affairs decision-making structure under Xi Jinping.

    Wang has gained a reputation for his staunch and outspoken defence of China’s position in world affairs. In October 2018, he told U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that the U.S. had “escalated trade friction with China, took actions that jeopardized China's rights and interests on the Taiwan issue and unwarrantedly condemned China on its domestic and foreign policies.”

  • Mark Warner
    U.S. Senator (2008); Vice Chairman, Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (January 2017). Born December 15, 1954

    Senator Mark Warner is the top Democrat on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, making him a powerful figure on national security issues. He has a high public profile as vice chairman of the committee and is an outspoken critic of China, frequently raising concerns about the threat the country and its companies, especially telecoms giants Huawei Technologies and ZTE Corp, pose to U.S. national security.

    He has also criticised U.S. companies for working with Chinese companies, singling out search giant Google for developing a search engine for the Chinese market that would censor and control information.

    The committee, which oversees America’s spy agencies and investigated Russia’s alleged interference in the 2016 presidential election, has been heavily involved in aspects of U.S.-China relations related to technology, espionage and telecommunications. In February, Warner and the chairman of the committee, Richard Burr, were among 11 senators who signed a letter to the president urging him to broaden a ban on the use of equipment supplied by Huawei to cover the  U.S. power grid and other utilities infrastructure.

    Warner has raised concerns about the participation of Chinese technology companies in formulating standards for 5G, fifth generation wireless telecommunications technologies. In March 2019, he and Republican Senator Marco Rubio urged Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats to declassify relevant information and issue a public report on China’s participation in international standard-setting bodies for 5G to allow U.S. companies to “assess any existing threats to fair competition and push back on them.”

    Warner and Rubio are also the lead sponsors of bipartisan legislation introduced in January 2019 to help combat technology-specific threats to national security posed by foreign actors like China and ensure the U.S.’s technological supremacy by improving coordination across the government.

    Warner was a vocal opponent of a deal reached between the U.S. Commerce Department and Chinese telecoms group ZTE in June 2018 under which the company agreed to pay a $1 billion fine to end sanctions that threatened to cripple its operations. He and five other senators introduced a bill in September 2018 that would reimpose sanctions on ZTE if it failed to live up to the agreement. Following the arrest of a Chinese national found trespassing at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in March 2019, Warner was among the Democratic members of the committee who called on the FBI to assess the security vulnerabilities of the complex, which has been dubbed the winter White House.

  • General Wei Fenghe
    Minister of National Defence (2018); Member of the Central Military Commission (CMC) (2017); Member of the CPC Central Committee (2012); State Councilor (2018). Born 1954

    A professional soldier, Wei was appointed Minister of National Defence in 2018 after his predecessor, General Chang Wanquan, retired, the latest promotion in a relatively rapid ascent since Xi came to power.

    Wei joined the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) in 1970 and rose through the ranks to become deputy chief of staff in the PLA’s General Staff Department in 2010, the youngest man to ever hold the position. In October 2012 he was appointed commander of the Second Artillery Corps, now known as the PLA Rocket Force. A month later, days after Xi formally took over as head of the party and chairman of the CMC, Wei was promoted to general, making him, at the age of 58, the youngest to ever hold the rank. The move was part of Xi’s strategy to cement his control over the military and a clear signal of his trust in Wei.

    Although the ministry does not control the armed forces – that responsibility lies with the CMC – the minister himself is a key figure in China’s political system. He must be an active military officer and is always a member of the CMC, which allows him to take part in decision-making over the PLA.

    Wei has vigorously defended China’s actions in the South China Sea and has warned the U.S. that it will take “any necessary actions at any cost” if its sovereignty over Taiwan is challenged.

    In a speech in Beijing in October 2018, Wei blamed the U.S. for “seriously jeopardising the U.S.-Sino relationship and mutual trust” after Vice President Mike Pence alleged China was interfering in U.S. politics.  

  • Xi Jinping
    General Secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) (2012); President of the People’s Republic of China (2013); Chairman of the Central Military Commission (2012); Member of the Politburo Standing Committee (2012). Born June 15, 1953

    Xi, like his predecessors, is head of the Communist Party, the state, and the military. He is often described as China’s most powerful leader since Deng Xiaoping, having consolidated his position partly through a ruthless corruption crackdown that purged many of his enemies and a campaign to enforce party discipline. 

    Since becoming General Secretary in November 2012, Xi has shifted power away from the executive branch of government and into the hands of the party, and himself, earning him the nicknames Chairman of Everything and Emperor Xi. Many of Xi’s allies and key policy advisers are officials who worked with him over the years in his various political posts in Zhejiang and Fujian provinces and in Shanghai. 

    Xi’s power was further consolidated in October 2017 when the party approved the addition of his philosophy, "Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for the New Era", to the party constitution. 

    The National People’s Congress, the rubber-stamp parliament, approved its inclusion in the country’s constitution in March 2018, when it also approved the removal of a clause that limits the president to two five-year terms. Coming after potential successors for the party secretary position failed to emerge at the party’s Congress in October 2017, the move fuelled speculation that Xi intends to govern beyond 2022.

    He has set up or restructured numerous commissions and leading groups covering politics, the economy, the military, national security, and international affairs, all of which report to the party. He has also gradually increased his involvement in economic policymaking, a remit traditionally held by the premier.

    Soon after coming to power, Xi started to promote the “Chinese Dream,” his vision for the country’s future  –  building a moderately prosperous society and realizing the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation. 

    That was swiftly followed by what has become his signature foreign policy initiative One Belt One Road, now known as the Belt and Road Initiative, an ambitious but nebulous infrastructure and investment strategy that envisions linking China with western Europe through multiple land and sea routes across central Asia, Africa, the Middle East and eastern Europe.

    At home, Xi’s leadership has been characterised by increased authoritarianism that has involved tightening ideological control on all aspects of society and crackdowns on corruption and dissent, both political and religious. 

    Abroad, his leadership has been characterised by a shift away from China’s traditional low-profile foreign policy toward a much more assertive approach, seeking to boost the country’s stature and presence on the international stage, and to challenge the U.S.’s position as the world’s only superpower.

    Unlike his U.S. counterpart Donald Trump, Xi has rarely commented publicly and specifically on the trade war, leaving pronouncements to the Ministry of Commerce and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. But in speeches, he has sought to project himself as a champion of open markets, free trade and globalisation, and has repeatedly said that confrontation in whatever form, including a trade war, produces no winners.

  • Yang Jiechi
    Member of the Politburo (2017); Director of the General Office of the Central Foreign Affairs Commission of the CPC Central Committee (2017). Born May 1950

    A career diplomat and one of the country’s most experienced U.S. hands, Yang has been a key beneficiary of a shake-up of the foreign affairs bureaucracy initiated by Xi to raise China’s profile and influence on the global stage. As China’s top diplomat, Yang has often accompanied Xi on his overseas state visits and has played a key role in trade negotiations with the U.S.

    Yang is a former foreign minister (2007–2013) and ambassador to the U.S. (2000–2004) and his elevation to the 25-member Politburo, which would have been unthinkable a decade earlier, demonstrates the importance Xi now places on foreign affairs. Yang is also director of the office of the party’s Central Foreign Affairs Commission, which is chaired by Xi and replaced the Central Leading Group for Foreign Affairs as the body in charge of coordinating China’s foreign policy in 2018.

    Yang co-chaired the U.S.–China Diplomatic and Security Dialogue in 2017 and 2018, a forum initiated in 2017 by Donald Trump and Xi Jinping for diplomats and military officials from the two countries to find avenues for cooperation.

    Early in his career, Yang served as an interpreter for Deng Xiaoping and George H.W. Bush and served three tours in the U.S. starting in the 1980s. His experience as a diplomat in the U.S. totals more than 12 years, making him an invaluable presence in Xi’s inner circle as geopolitical tensions have risen and China has increasingly challenged America’s position as the world’s only superpower.

  • Yi Gang
    Governor of the People’s Bank of China (2018); alternate member of the CPC Central Committee (2017); Vice Chairman of the Financial Stability and Development Committee (2018). Born March 5, 1958

    Yi is arguably the most senior figure in China’s financial sector and its regulatory system and a key member of Liu He’s team negotiating with the U.S. to end the trade war. The People’s Bank of China (PBOC) is not independent from the party and government, and while Yi has significant input into monetary policy formulation, major decisions such as interest-rate changes are made by the party leadership. But Yi is the man responsible for implementing monetary policy, managing the yuan, and overseeing the stability of the financial system. He succeeded Zhou Xiaochuan, who retired in March 2018 after 15 years at the helm.

    A U.S.-trained economist and academic and one of the country’s most famous “sea turtles,” a reference to returned overseas Chinese, Yi was an obvious choice to succeed Zhou. A fluent English speaker – he spent 14 years in U.S. academia – he was already well known and respected in the international financial community. He had 20 years’ experience at the central bank, including 10 as vice governor and seven as head of the State Administration of Foreign Exchange. He joined the PBOC in 1997 and moved up the ranks to become vice governor in 2007. But he did not ascend through the party ranks and is only an alternate member of the CPC Central Committee, a relatively low position for a PBOC governor. That explains why Guo Shuqing, a veteran central banker and regulator and head of the China Banking and Insurance Regulatory Commission, was made party secretary of the PBOC.

    Widely seen as pro-reform, Yi is likely to be pushing for more progress in overhauling the financial system and the monetary policy framework, including interest-rate liberalization, capital-account opening, and making the yuan an international currency. The central bank has gained significant additional authority over the financial system since an overhaul of regulators was completed in 2017 which led to the establishment of the FDSC.

  • Zhang Xiangchen
    Ambassador and Permanent Representative of China to the WTO (2017); Deputy International Trade Representative (2015)

    Zhang is a trade veteran who has spent more than two decades at the Ministry of Commerce, most of it involved in World Trade Organisation affairs.

    China is the world’s second-largest economy and the biggest exporting nation. It is also the top target for anti-dumping actions by other members. Zhang’s job is to defend China’s interests at the WTO, especially in the face of increasing hostility from the U.S., and to ensure that Beijing gets a say in the proposed reform of the trade body and in updating its rules. In January, Zhang announced that China was joining 75 other WTO members to start negotiating new rules governing the global e-commerce market, a surprise last-minute development after it had been widely expected to stay out of the talks.

    Zhang regularly clashes with his U.S. counterpart, Dennis Shea, and has taken him to task on many occasions, most recently in December 2018 when the two traded barbs during a closed-door review of U.S. trade policies.

    Zhang was appointed deputy director general of the Department of WTO Affairs in November 2001, a month before China formally joined the global trade body, and was promoted to director in April 2005. In 2008, he was appointed deputy representative and minister of China’s Permanent Mission to the WTO and was promoted to deputy China international trade representative, a vice ministerial-level position, in April 2015. Zhang was made China’s Permanent Representative to the WTO in 2017.

  • Zheng Zeguang
    Vice Minister at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (2015). Born October 1963

    Zheng Zeguang is a rising star in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and currently oversees relations with North America. He is widely tipped to become China’s next ambassador to the U.S. when Cui Tiankai retires.

    Zheng started his career as a teacher but quit after two years and went to study in the foreign languages department of South China Normal University. After graduation he joined the foreign ministry which sent him to the UK to study international law. His first posting to the U.S. was in 1994 as second secretary at the embassy in Washington and he returned for another three-year tour in 2005 as a minister. He was sent to Nanjing in 2010 where he served as vice mayor until 2013 when he returned to the ministry and was promoted to assistant minister.

  • Zhong Shan
    Minister of Commerce (2017); Member of the CPC Central Committee (2017). Born October 1955

    Zhong, another Xi ally, heads the Ministry of Commerce which has been at the forefront of China’s response to the trade war. His relationship with Xi dates back to their time in Zhejiang province where Xi spent five years as party chief from 2003 to 2007 while Zhong was vice governor.

    Zhong has spent most of his career in foreign trade. He was general manager of the Zhejiang Textiles Import and Export Company before moving to the provincial bureau of the foreign trade and economic cooperation ministry (the precursor to the Ministry of Commerce) in 1998. He moved up the political ranks and in 2008 was appointed a vice minister of commerce. Zhong added the ministerial-level position of international trade representative to his portfolio in 2013, throwing him into the front line of trade negotiations. After nine years as vice minister, Zhong was finally appointed Minister of Commerce in February 2017.

    He has been a key figure in negotiations with U.S. officials to try and resolve the trade dispute between the two countries. He has said that while China doesn’t want a trade war, it can handle any challenges and will defend its national interests. At the annual session of the National People’s Congress (NPC) in March 2019, Zhong said negotiations to end the dispute had been “very difficult” due to the significant differences in the economies of the two countries, but he urged Washington to work with Beijing to finalize efforts to reach an agreement.

    Zhong’s other responsibilities include oversight of foreign investment into China and China’s involvement in multilateral trade agreements. On the domestic front, his ministry is responsible for a range of issues including consumer protection and market competition. 

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