Last week, President Xi visited Manila, the capital of the Philippines, marking the first time a Chinese leader has visited the city in 13 years. With the relationship between the Philippines and China only recently on the mend, the purpose of President Xi's visit was threefold. Firstly, he hoped to push past conflicting territorial claims in the South China Sea. Secondly, according to Stephen Nagy, senior associate professor at the International Christian University in Tokyo, China has been trying to "woo Manila away from Washington's political orbit," in order to bolster its position in the upcoming trade talks at the G20. Finally, President Xi looked to strengthen Beijing's relationship with Manila, providing China with an additional regional ally.
While President Xi made stops throughout the Asia Pacific, the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) released a report concluding that, "China has not fundamentally altered its unfair, unreasonable, and market-distorting practices that were the subject of the March 2018 report." The report expressed the Trump administration's stance that China has not taken sufficient action to address U.S. concerns that sparked the initial round of tariffs. Geng Shuang, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman, said that China has already responded to U.S. complaints in detail via a government white paper that was issued in September and recommends that "the U.S. side read it in detail." Overall, the USTR report has magnified the importance of the upcoming meeting between President Xi and President Trump regarding the escalating trade war.
Additionally, President Xi has arranged to meet with President Juan Carlos Varela of Panama in the days following the summit, emphasizing China's efforts to increase its influence in Latin America. According to China-US Focus contributor Tom Harper, China's increased involvement in Latin America is a key part of "wider global recognition," an integral aspect of the country's expanding foreign policy under Xi Jinping.
Amidst concerns that China and the U.S. are locked in a battle for technological supremacy, the Fortune Global Tech Forum in Guangzhou, being held on November 29-30 will gather technological experts from from both China and the U.S., hoping to amass ideas on artificial intelligence from a range of perspectives. The event will bring the individuals from the two powers together to discuss advancements in the technological era, aiming to create a mutually beneficial relationship that will further advance technological interests for both countries. "China's ecosystem and economy depends on our technology," said Jensen Huang, CEO of the American computer chip maker, Nvidia. "It's actually vitally important that the world continues to have a collaborative trading and open business relationship."
Artificial intelligence is a key focus of China's technological goals as illustrated by the government's moves to support A.I. companies politically and financially. With Chinese startups making up one-third of the global computer vision market in 2017, the country expects to become the world leader in A.I. by 2030.
The New York Times reports, creating startups in smaller, more affordable cities using a new generation of low-wage workers will help power China's technological ambitions. Companies like Didi Chuxing, the world's largest ride-sharing company, want to become a global leaders in their sectors by investing in A.I. In the words of the Vice President of Didi Research Institute Dr. Fengmin Gong, "Our top priority is to continue to attract and retain the next generation of technology leaders from all backgrounds. We're looking for brilliant, innovative minds to join us in solving some of the world's toughest problems." China-US Focus contributor Leonardo Dinic noted earlier in 2018, that the differing approaches of the U.S. and China towards the development of A.I. technology may determine the future home of these innovations. As Dinic states, "Differences in policy implementation will likely determine the leader of the upcoming AI revolution."
This past Saturday, elections were held throughout Taiwan to determine leadership for local posts. These elections were seen as a test for President Tsai Ing-wen and her Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) amid tense U.S.-China relations and incidents of diplomatic isolation by Beijing. Results delivered pivotal blows to the DPP, with the party losing mayoral elections in key cities, such as the southern port stronghold of Kaohsiung, where the party had held local power for over 20 years. Such losses make a victory in the 2020 presidential election highly likely for the former ruling party, the Kuomintang (KMT), which has expressed a desire for friendly relations with Beijing.
In light of the staggering defeats, President Tsai resigned as the head of the DPP; while this move will not directly affect governance of the island, it dramatically decreases chances of her re-election in two years. Commenting on the elections during a press conference Saturday night, Tsai noted, "Today, democracy taught us a lesson. . .We must study and accept the higher expectations of the people."
In addition, voters approved a referendum that opposed the legalization of same-sex marriage while also defeating a proposal to change the name of the official Olympic team from 'Chinese Taipei' to 'Taiwan'. Although these results on both ballots are advisory only, both have implications beyond Saturday's elections. The referendum on the Olympic team name was viewed by many as a test of domestic support for independence; while the vote regarding same-sex marriage clashes with a May 2017 constitutional court ruling, which instructed lawmakers to make same-sex marriage legal within two years.
Focus contributors Cheng Li and Diana Liang examine the China-U.S. relationship after the American midterm elections, noting that the Democrats and President Trump remain united on increasing pressure on China. To overcome this obstacle, the authors note that identifying the the main sectors where China and the U.S. remain divergent will be crucial to informing any debate over new, strategic approaches to China. Read the full article here.
Prepared by China-US Focus editorial teams in Hong Kong and New York, this weekly newsletter offers you snap shots of latest trends and developments emerging from China every week, while adding a dose of historical perspective.