What the Bush-Obama China Memos Reveal

Newly declassified documents contain important lessons for U.S. China policy.

APRIL 29, 2023, 6:00 AM Foregn Policy

By Michael J. Green, the CEO of the United States Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, and Paul Haenle, the director of Carnegie China.

As U.S.-China relations transition from an era of engagement to one of strategic competition, some in the Biden and former Trump administrations have claimed to be abandoning four decades of naive American assumptions about Beijing. Past U.S. policy, they say, was based on a futile view that engagement would lead to a democratic and cooperative China. This, however, is not only a misreading of past U.S. policies but also dangerous analytical ground upon which to build a new national security strategy.

The fact is that no administration since that of Richard Nixon has made U.S. security dependent on Chinese democratization. Every administration has combined engagement with strategies to counterbalance China through alliances, trade agreements, and U.S. military power. Throwing out all previous U.S. approaches to China would mean throwing out some of the most important tools the current administration relies on to compete with China. And the Biden administration will not get its China strategy right until it is clear about what has worked in the past.

Hand-Off: The Foreign Policy George W. Bush Passed to Barack Obama; Stephen J. Hadley, Peter D. Feaver, William C. Inboden, and Meghan L. O’Sullivan (eds.); Brookings Institution Press, 774 pp., $39, February 2023

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Alison A. KaufmanBrian Waidelich



This paper examines recent writings from the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) in order to highlight major themes and evolution in concepts of deterrence, strategic stability, and escalation control, particularly between 2017 and 2022.

PRC writings during this period display growing concern that innovations in military technology over the past several decades undermine strategic stability. Many PRC authors argue that the balance of military capabilities that enabled China to maintain a fairly small nuclear deterrent is becoming more fragile, and that as a result, Beijing can no longer be confident in its ability to deter other countries from attacking China with nuclear or other strategic weapons.

This paper provides a baseline for understanding, from a conceptual perspective, how PRC authors frame the challenges that these dynamics pose to China’s strategic deterrent and to strategic stability, and the implications they may have for Beijing’s approach to strategic capabilities.



PRC writings link the concepts of strategic stability, strategic deterrence, and strategic capabilities. Although PRC authors do not explicitly employ an ends-ways-means construct, based on their discussions we may think of strategic stability as the ends, strategic deterrence as the ways, and strategic capabilities as the means.


TikTok CEO in the hot seat: 5 takeaways from his first appearance before US Congress

Catherine Thorbecke

By Catherine Thorbecke, CNN

Updated 5:12 PM EDT, Thu March 23, 2023

03:15New YorkCNN — 

In his first appearance before Congress on Thursday, TikTok CEO Shou Chew was grilled by lawmakers who expressed deep skepticism about his company’s attempts to protect US user data and ease concerns about its ties to China.

It was a rare chance for the public to hear from the Chew, who offers very few interviews. Yet his company’s app is among the most popular in America, with more than 150 million active users.

Here are the biggest takeaways from Thursday’s hearing.

Washington has already made up its mind about TikTok

The hearing, which lasted for more than five hours, kicked off with calls from a lawmaker to ban the app in the United States and remained combative throughout. It offered a vivid display of the bipartisan push to crack down on the popular short-form video app and the company’s uphill battle to improve relations with Washington.

Washington Republican Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, the chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, opened Thursday’s hearing by telling Shou: “Your platform should be banned.”

23 TikTok STOCK

The US government is once again threatening to ban TikTok. What you should know

Chew used his testimony to stress TikTok’s independence from China and play up its US ties. “TikTok itself is not available in mainland China, we’re headquartered in Los Angeles and Singapore, and we have 7,000 employees in the U.S. today,” he said in his opening remarks.

“Still, we have heard important concerns about the potential for unwanted foreign access to US data and potential manipulation of the TikTok US ecosystem,” Chew said. “Our approach has never been to dismiss or trivialize any of these concerns. We have addressed them with real action.”

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Strategic Competition and Security Cooperation in the Indo-Pacific

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There is a growing acceptance among countries in the Indo-Pacific region that strategic competition between the United States and China is changing perceptions about security and the adequacy of the existing security architecture. While some have characterized the competition between the two as a new Cold War, it is clear that what is happening in the region is far more complex than the competition that characterized the original Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union. First, the economic integration that has taken place since the early 1990s makes it much more difficult to draw bright ideological lines between the two sides. Further, the Asian context of the emerging competition is one where the two competitors have grown to share power. As the dominant military power, the United States has been the primary security guarantor in Asia and beyond. China, on the other hand, has emerged over the past decades as the primary economic catalyst in Asia and beyond. Currently, each side seems increasingly unwilling to accept that arrangement.

Download the full volume here.

Wendy Sherman’s Remarks at Global China Event

US Department of State





FEBRUARY 15, 2023

Good morning everyone. Thank you, Suzanne, for that introduction, and thank you to the team at Brookings for organizing today’s discussion.

You know, when we first talked about doing an event tied to your Global China program, the topic was, in a sense, evergreen. We could have planned this conversation virtually anytime.

The People’s Republic of China, the challenges it poses, the stakes for global norms and values, the strategies and policy choices demanded from the United States and our partners — these questions have stood front and center from the moment President Biden took office.

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Vietnam exporters fret over potential trade fallout of U.S. rules on Xinjiang

February 14, 20233:32 PM – By Francesco Guarascio

A woman works at a yarn weaving plant in Ha Nam province, outside Hanoi, Vietnam

[1/4] A woman works at a yarn weaving plant in Ha Nam province, outside Hanoi, Vietnam October 7, 2015. REUTERS/Kham/File

HANOI, Feb 14 (Reuters) – Concerned Vietnam-based exporters are seeking to ensure they comply with a U.S. ban on imported products using raw materials from China’s Xinjiang as lucrative trade in goods like garments and solar panels comes under closer scrutiny in Washington.

As U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai visits Vietnam this week, executives and other people familiar with the situation said some industries in Vietnam may be importing, sometimes unwittingly, raw material from Xinjiang – or might find it hard to prove they were not doing so.

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What China’s Surveillance Balloon Says About U.S.-China Relations

Neither the United States nor China is prepared for a serious crisis.

The suspected Chinese spy balloon drifts to the ocean after being shot down off the coast in Surfside Beach, South Carolina, U.S. February 4, 2023.
The suspected Chinese spy balloon drifts to the ocean after being shot down off the coast in Surfside Beach, South Carolina, U.S. February 4, 2023. Randall Hill/Reuters

Blog Post by David Sacks

February 6, 2023 12:01 pm (EST), CFR

On Saturday afternoon, a U.S. Air Force F-22 fighter jet fired one missile into a high-altitude Chinese surveillance balloon, sending it plunging into the Atlantic Ocean and capping a stretch where the world’s most important bilateral relationship was dominated by a slowly moving object crossing the United States.

The incident raises questions about the extent to which China has been employing these balloons – and in the process violating U.S. territorial airspace and sovereignty – and why it has been doing so when its satellites could glean this information. Far more important, however, is what this says about the ability, or more accurately inability, of Washington and Beijing to manage a future crisis.

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The U.S. Needs to Change the Way It Does Business With China

Dec. 18, 2022, 6:00 a.m. ET

A security personnel wearing a face shield and mask standing between the national flags of China and the United States.
Credit…Andy Wong/Associated Press
A security personnel wearing a face shield and mask standing between the national flags of China and the United States.

By Robert E. Lighthizer, New York Times

Mr. Lighthizer was the U.S. trade representative in the Trump administration.

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In a recent speech, Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo suggested an incremental shift in how the United States approaches “competitiveness and the China challenge.” She recognized the serious threat from China, explaining that the United States “will continue to press China to address its nonmarket economic practices that result in an uneven playing field.” She noted, though, that “we are not seeking the decoupling of our economy from that of China’s.”

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Vietnam arming up to serve in US chip war on China

AsiatimesSamsung, Intel, Amkor Technology and others pouring billions into Vietnam’s chip industry as China decoupling gathers pace


NOVEMBER 16, 2022

Samsung’s plant in Thai Nguyen Province, northern Vietnam. Photo: Samsung

The CEO of Samsung Electronics met with Vietnamese Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh and announced a US$850 million investment to manufacture semiconductor components in Thai Nguyen province on August 5, 2022.

The investment will make Vietnam one of only four countries – alongside South Korea, China and the United States – that produce semiconductors for the world’s largest memory chipmaker. Vietnam’s selection over more developed locations speaks volumes about the country’s rising importance in the semiconductor value chain.

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What the Biden-Xi Meeting Means for U.S.-China Relations


The meeting between U.S. President Joe Biden and Chinese leader Xi Jinping did not resolve major disagreements, but it could start the process of building guardrails to prevent competition from turning into conflict.

U.S. President Joe Biden and Chinese leader Xi Jinping meet on the sidelines of the Group of Twenty summit in Bali, Indonesia.
U.S. President Joe Biden and Chinese leader Xi Jinping meet on the sidelines of the Group of Twenty summit in Bali, Indonesia. Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

Blog Post by David Sacks

November 15, 2022 9:17 am (EST)

On the margins of the Group of Twenty (G20) gathering in Bali, Indonesia, U.S. President Joe Biden and Chinese leader Xi Jinping met for the first time in person as leaders of their respective nations. Their three-and-a-half-hour meeting came against the backdrop of heightened tensions over Taiwan, unprecedented U.S. export controls on advanced technologies levied against China, ramped up North Korean missile tests, and the ongoing war in Ukraine.

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Xinjiang exports to US dip in September but still higher year on year despite forced labour law

Machinery and mechanical equipment top category of products shipped from region, whose month-on-month decline aligns with weakening in Chinese exportsUS customs chief insists ‘seeing good examples of compliance so far’ with recently implemented Uygur Forced Labour Prevention Act

Published: 2:00am, 25 Oct, 2022

Xinjiang’s exports to the United States dropped in September after soaring for two consecutive months, but were still nearly three times as high as the same month last year, according to the latest Chinese customs data – despite a Washington law that seeks to ban goods from the far-west region of China due to forced labour allegations.

The shipments from Xinjiang to the US have appeared to continue even as officials from the US customs agency insist that they have been effectively enforcing the Uygur Forced Labour Prevention Act, which kicked in on June 21.

Companies from the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region in September exported US$21.05 million worth of goods to the US, slashed by more than half compared with the figure for August, but more than double the tally in June, trade data showed.

The month-on-month decline of Xinjiang exports to the US was in line with the overall weakening of Chinese exports.


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Vietnam won’t be pressured into joining U.S.-led Cold War against China

peoplesworld – October 28, 2022 11:24 AM CDT  BY AMIAD HOROWITZ

Vietnam won’t be pressured into joining U.S.-led Cold War against China

Communist Party of Vietnam leader Nguyen Phu Trong, left, meets with China’s Communist Party leader Xi Jinping in Beijing in 2015. | Xinhua

HANOI—The Socialist Republic of Vietnam will not be coerced into joining the United States-led effort aimed at isolating China and provoking conflict as part of its Cold War 2.0 foreign policy.

That’s a major message expected to come out of the upcoming visit to China by Nguyen Phu Trong, General Secretary of the Communist Party of Vietnam. Trong will travel to China to pay an official visit to the newly re-elected Communist Party of China leader Xi Jinping. Trong will be one of the first world leaders to visit China since the closing the 20th National Congress of the Communist Party of China, earlier this month.

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The semiconductor problem

The military relies on advanced semiconductors. The U.S. doesn’t make any.

Chips on display in Taiwan.
Chips on display in Taiwan.Credit…Ann Wang/Reuters
David Leonhardt

By David Leonhardt

NYTimes – July 14, 2022

The most advanced category of mass-produced semiconductors — used in smartphones, military technology and much more — is known as 5 nm. A single company in Taiwan, known as TSMC, makes about 90 percent of them. U.S. factories make none.

The U.S.’s struggles to keep pace in semiconductor manufacturing have already had economic downsides: Many jobs in the industry pay more than $100,000 a year, and the U.S. has lost out on them. Longer term, the situation also has the potential to cause a national security crisis: If China were to invade Taiwan and cut off exports of semiconductors, the American military would be at risk of being overmatched by its main rival for global supremacy.

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Biden’s missing trade policy

Allies and rivals are striking new deals while the U.S. loses ground.

WSJ – By The Editorial Board

Updated July 5, 2022 7:16 pm ET


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The news leaking from the White House is that President Biden may finally ease tariffs against some Chinese goods—a mere 18 months into his Administration. The extended indecision underscores that Mr. Biden essentially has no trade policy while the rest of the world moves ahead with new trade deals.

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