Trade negotiators from the U.S. and China resumed face-to-face talks in Washington this week, which are expected to lay the groundwork for top-level negotiations between U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Vice Premier Liu He in October. The latest round of talks come on the heels of heightened tensions between the two world powers, as retaliatory tariffs and punitive measures have sunk the relationship to its lowest levels in years. The Trump administration has announced a temporary release of tariffs on various Chinese products, such as single-cup coffee filters, plastic straws, dog leashes, patio torches, Christmas lights, and skateboards.
Following the meetings, a delegation of Chinese trade negotiators was supposed to visit Montana and Nebraska to meet face-to-face with the farmers, who have been hit hardest by the trade war, but have rolled back the proposition since President Trump told reporters that he didn't feel any pressure to reach a deal before the 2020 presidential elections. Earlier in the week, President Trump confirmed that China will be buying more agricultural produce from the United States, and signaled optimism that a U.S.-China trade deal will be reached before the 2020 Presidential election.
Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, along with republican Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas, has asked the Federal Communications Commission in a letter to consider barring China Unicom and China Telecom, two major Chinese telecommunications companies, from doing business in the United States. Citing national security concerns, the Senators said that "the evolving national security environment and increased knowledge of the Chinese government's role in economic and other forms of espionage" calls for a re-examination of previous measures against espionage. The letter goes on to describe how the Chinese government could pose serious risks to American telephone lines, fiber-optic cables, cellular networks, and satellites, by possibly rerouting communications through China.
While many American experts echo the Senators' concerns, others are calling them "overblown" due to the noncompetitive nature of the two telecommunications companies. China Unicom and China Telecom provide services to Chinese consumers and companies in the United States, according to James Lewis, a senior vice president at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
The bipartisan attempt to revoke the licenses of China Telecom and China Unicom is the latest in a series of accusations of Chinese espionage, and coincides with President Trump's attempt to ease trade tensions with China.
Two countries, the Solomon Islands and Kiribati, formally severed ties with Taiwan this week after withdrawing their recognition of the self-governing island in favor of Beijing. The severing of diplomatic relations reduces the number of countries that recognize Taiwan as a country down to fourteen and the Vatican, a diplomatic coup for Beijing. A third country, Tuvalu, is also said to be considering switching ties to Beijing since the Polynesian island chain elected a new Prime Minister this week.
"The end of our relations with the Solomon Islands reflects China's unceasing efforts to lure away our allies, damage the morale of the Taiwanese people, & force us to accept 'one country, two systems,'" Tsai Ing-wen said on Twitter. Since last year, three of the island's allies have switched ties to Beijing. The Prime Minister may miss the United Nations General Assembly over the fallout of the diplomatic switch, with one source citing concerns over the stability of Taiwan's government if the Prime Minister were to leave.