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April 08, 2022

  • No Divorce

    The U.S.-China trade relationship remains tumultuous, as the Court of International Trade this week ordered the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative to reconsider and justify some of the tariffs imposed on China by the Trump administration — but stopped short of eliminating the tariffs or reimbursing importers for them. The USTR may still consider industry comments and conclude that it did not have adequate justification for imposing the tariffs. Many U.S. companies continue to advocate for less tariffs, and a recent report by the U.S.-China Business Council found that 858,000 American jobs are supported directly by exports and services to China.

    In public comments on the trade relationship, U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai stated that the Biden administration's focus is on "realignment in the global economy," rather than a complete decoupling from China. Having called the trade relationship with China "unduly difficult," she said the Administration will address a lack of visibility, accountability and diversity in supply chains that it believes has led to disruptions in recent years.

    "I would focus really on the kinds of changes that we're trying to bring, which are really not about stopping trade or trade divorce," Tai said. "They're really about bringing reform and a more strategic approach to trade."

    Read more in "Going Gently into the Night," by Matt Geraci, a Research Associate at the Institute for China-America Studies and Manager at the ICAS Maritime Affairs Program.

  • Demanding Oil

    As Western sanctions mount against Russia over its invasion of Ukraine, China's top liquefied natural gas importers are looking to purchase additional Russian oil that has been shunned by other countries, as Beijing looks to take advantage of cheap prices.

    As the war in Ukraine drags on, most oil importers around the world won't buy Russian energy out of fear of future sanctions or damage to their reputations, and while Chinese state-owned firms do not wish to be seen as openly supporting Moscow, Beijing has started buying Russian energy before the energy sanctions sink in.

    China, the world's largest oil importer, is the top buyer of Russian crude oil, half of which is supplied via pipelines under government-to-government contracts. But, under global pressure, Beijing has said it will strictly control new capacity in its oil refining industry and will accelerate the elimination of inefficient and outdated production capacity.

    However, as strict COVID-19 lockdowns have left millions of people in lockdown in Shanghai and throughout the country, oil demand is expected to drop due to falling consumption of gasoline and jet fuel. Several tankers carrying 22 million barrels of Russian, Iranian and Venezuelan oil are also stalled off the coast of China, as the country faces logistical hurdles in its worsening outbreak. 

    Read more in "Saudi Arabia's Oil Exports and the Yuan," by Christopher A. McNally, a Professor of Political Economy at Chaminade University.

  • End of an Era

    Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam said she wouldn't seek a second term after a tenure marked by protests, a security crackdown, the impacts of Covid-19, and the launch of an ambitious infrastructure plan that calls for the construction of hundreds of thousands of new homes. Lam's five years in office also saw Beijing gain more control over the coastal city. 

    "I will complete my five-year term as chief executive on the 30th of June this year, and I will also call an end to my 42 years of public service," Lam said at a news conference. She thanked her team of local officials and the central authorities in Beijing, and said she plans to spend more time with family, which is her "sole consideration." Lam also noted that she informed Beijing of the decision in March 2021. 

    Lam's successor will be picked in May and local media outlets have reported that Hong Kong's No. 2 official, John Lee, is Beijing's top pick for candidacy. China's cabinet approved the city's former chief secretary's resignation earlier this week to pave the way for his run in the leadership race.

    "Having been in the government for over 40 years, to serve the people of Hong Kong is a glory," said Lee. 

    Many of Hong Kong's business leaders also threw their support behind Lee, including several property moguls such as the leaders of Sun Hung Kai Properties Ltd., the CK Group, Henderson Land Development Co. and New World Development Co.

About China This Week

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.

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