Advancing Reciprocity in U.S.- China Diplomatic Relations

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For years, the Chinese Communist Party has imposed significant barriers on American diplomats working inside the PRC.

Specifically, the Chinese Communist Party has implemented a system of opaque approval processes, designed to prevent American diplomats from conducting regular business, attending events, securing meetings, and connecting with the Chinese people, especially on university campuses and via the press and social media.

Today I’m announcing the State Department has established a mechanism requiring approval for senior Chinese diplomats in the United States to visit university campuses and to meet with local government officials.  Cultural events with groups larger than 50 people hosted by the Chinese embassy and consular posts outside our mission properties will also require our approval.

Additionally, we’re taking further steps to ensure that all official PRC embassy and consular social media accounts are properly identified as government accounts, Chinese Government accounts.

I have David Stilwell, our Assistant Secretary of East Asia-Pacific Affairs, with me today.  He’ll take questions.

We’re simply demanding reciprocity.  Access for our diplomats in China should be reflective of the access that Chinese diplomats in the United States have, and today’s steps will move us substantially in that direction.

Further on China:

Under Secretary Krach sent a letter recently to the governing boards of American universities, altering them to the threats the Chinese Communist Party poses to academic freedom, to human rights, and to university endowments.

These threats can come in the form of illicit funding for research, intellectual property theft, intimidation of foreign students, and opaque talent recruitment efforts.

University governing boards can help ensure their institutions have clean investments and clean endowment funds by taking a few key steps:

Disclose all PRC companies invested in endowment funds, especially those in emerging-market index funds.

Divest from Chinese companies on the Commerce Department Entity List that are contributing to human rights violations, military coercion, and other abuses.

And simply understand the recommendations issued by the President’s Working Group on Financial Markets, which examined the risk to investors of Chinese companies that are listed on U.S. stock exchanges.

Staying on China, but moving beyond our borders:

We’re hoping for a peaceful resolution to the situation on the India-China border.  From the Taiwan Strait, to the Himalayas, and beyond, the Chinese Communist Party is engaged in a clear and intensifying pattern of bullying its neighbors.

That bullying is also evident in the South China Sea.  Last week, the United States imposed sanctions and visa restrictions on Chinese individuals and entities responsible for the CCP’s imperialism there, doing things such as unlawful energy surveillance, activities in the economic zones of our ally the Philippines and other countries.

We also remain concerned – we’ve talked about this before – the activities of more than 300 Chinese-flagged vessels near the Galapagos, which are almost certainly engaged in illegal fishing.

In light of this maritime lawlessness, it’s no surprise that Beijing’s candidate in the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea election last week received more abstentions than any other candidate.

China is the most flagrant violator of the Law of the Sea Convention, and nations all across the world are registering their disapproval.

We’re also concerned about Chinese actions in Tibet, in light of the general secretary’s recent calls to “Sinicize” Tibetan Buddhism and fight “splittism” there.  We continue to call upon Beijing to enter into dialogue with the Dalai Lama or his representatives without preconditions, to reach a settlement that resolves their differences.

For years, the PRC has imposed significant barriers on American diplomats working in the PRC that are far beyond diplomatic norms. PRC authorities implement a system of opaque approval processes designed to prevent American diplomats from conducting regular business and connecting with the Chinese people. U.S. diplomats’ attempts to host cultural events, secure official meetings, and visit university campuses are regularly obstructed.

In the United States, by contrast, PRC diplomats have enjoyed open access to American society, while ignoring sustained U.S. entreaties to improve the balance. In response to the PRC’s longstanding restrictions on U.S. diplomats and refusal to engage in good faith on fundamental matters of reciprocity and mutual respect, the Department of State is compelled to impose certain new requirements on PRC diplomats.

The Department of State will now require senior PRC diplomats in the United States to receive approval to visit U.S. university campuses and to meet with local government officials. Cultural events with an audience larger than 50 people hosted by the PRC embassy and consular posts outside of mission properties will also require Department of State approval. The Department of State will also take action to help ensure that all official PRC embassy and consular social media accounts are properly identified as PRC government accounts, since the U.S. Embassy is denied unfettered access to PRC social media and PRC citizens are blocked from using Twitter and Facebook, amongst other social media platforms.

The United States insists on reciprocal access to educational and cultural institutions for U.S. diplomats around the world. These new requirements on PRC diplomats are a direct response to the excessive restraints already placed on our diplomats by the PRC, and they aim to provide further transparency on the practices of the PRC government. Should the PRC eliminate the restrictions imposed on U.S. diplomats, we stand ready to reciprocate.

DEPUTY SECRETARY BIEGUN:  Sure.  Thank you, Rich.  The – as I said in my testimony on Capitol Hill about three weeks ago, we are – our strategy is to push back against China in virtually every domain.  We’re doing it in the security area.  We’re doing it in terms of outsized demands to claim sovereign territory, whether it’s in the Galwan Valley of India on the India-Chinese border, or whether it’s in the South Pacific.  We’re also doing it economically.  The President has led the charge against the predatory practices from the Chinese economy and the Phase One trade deal is just a first step in that to be followed by many other steps in the years ahead in order to equalize and balance out the U.S.-China economic relationship.

Underpinning all of that is a demand for basic reciprocity.  For a very long time I think there had been a desire to extend to China special privileges and benefits, and even the benefit of the doubt among them, in order to bring China into the – into a more modern and prosperous future.  But unfortunately, 20 years ago when that initiative really was launched in earnest with China’s entry into the World Trade Organization, the bet by most policymakers was that eventually, the weight of the institutions that China was joining would slowly redirect the Chinese political system and Chinese interests to a point where China would become much more invested in a rules-based order that if not making them a true democracy, would at least moderate the tendencies of the government in order to make it a better partner for many of us around the world.

Unfortunately, this administration has reached the conclusion that that experiment has failed across all the domains that I mentioned where we’re pushing back against China.  Instead of finding some reasonable balance and shared interests, we’ve found that the Chinese have exploited every opportunity they can from technology theft to assertion of national sovereignty over the territory and territorial waters of other countries, and we are in a concerted effort to push back on all fronts.  But perhaps the biggest failed assumption was that the institutions that China joined would ultimately change China, and what we’ve found is in fact China grew so quickly at the beginning of this century that China’s outsized influence in those institutions is instead seeking to transform those institutions to China’s interests.  That’s unacceptable from our point of view and we’re pushing back in the institutions like the World Health Organization or like the World international – Intellectual Property Organization.  We’re pushing back hard to ensure that organizations either adhere to their core principles or we make clear we’re not going to be a party to those efforts.  So the – there’s a lot of concern about China, but there’s also a – to use a cliche, there’s an all-of-government effort here to turn it back.

Let me just add one thing, Rich, that as you look at these issues, as we look at these issues, it should always be important for us to look at them from the lens of how they look from Beijing as well.  And I have to say that there’s probably ample cause and even real concern inside Beijing as to what they’re confronting.  Internally, China is simultaneously trying to erase Tibetan cultural identity; they’re repressing hundreds of thousands if not more than a million Uyghur Muslims and trying to separate these people from their faith and from their historical tradition.  The Chinese Government is – has breached the U.S.-China – or excuse me, the U.K.-China agreement on the transition of Hong Kong and asserted direct state control from Beijing that has completely abolished the “one China, two systems” commitment that the Chinese made to – made to the U.K. and to the Hong Kong people to uphold through 2049.

But beyond the internal challenges, China is also facing deep strategic and economic tensions with the United States of America, as the United States seeks to push back against these various areas of concern that I highlighted, at the same time that they’re in near hostilities with the Government of India, that they are in a state of hostility with the people of Taiwan, that they are in a competition and sometimes less than – a less than cooperative relationship with Japan, that they’ve had a deep, steep deterioration of their relationship with Australia and to some extent with New Zealand, and they’ve been in a contentious battle of words and more with many of our partners in Europe over COVID-19 disinformation as well as a number of other Chinese behaviors that are deeply disturbing to our European partners.

And so from China’s perspective, whatever they’re doing can’t possibly be seen as working as they’re picking a fight right now on virtually every front and on every area of interest that the People’s Republic of China has.

Deputy Secretary Biegun Remarks at the U.S.-India Strategic Partnership Forum

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