Thoughts from my recent Beijing trip (Bill Bishop’s Sinocism China Newsletter)

The whole post is great – and scary. Say what you will about Trump or Obama or USA politics but global relations between USA and China souring – is not good for anyone.

No matter where you live.

The stuff on the economy below is not good.

Thoughts from my recent Beijing trip:

US-China — While we have no public idea what if anything happened at Beidaihe, I heard consistently that the key theme of any discussions about US-China relations that may have occurred was whether it made sense to find a way to make concessions to the US without looking weak, or whether the trade pressure is just one piece of a multi-dimensional strategy to “thwart China’s rise”. Before you dismiss the idea that President Trump could be strategic remember that there are some very knowledgeable, “hawkish” and experienced “China hands” working in key parts of the bureaucracy. And even if there is not one the Chinese side will always lean towards embracing the idea of a broader conspiracy and strategy.

I believe that Xi has decided the US is intent on keeping China down, and while there may be some exploratory efforts to see if a palatable deal exists that mitigates some of the worst of the trade tensions for as long as possible, I do not expect the PRC side to make concessions approaching those demanded by the US in May, even if they are now being slightly watered down. Assuming President Trump holds firm, the tariffs and other measures will likely only increase in intensity over the coming months, perhaps until one or both sides have felt enough pain to reconsider.

Outside the trade issues I see little reason for optimism. If Xi and his team have come to believe the real goal of the US is to keep China down across all dimensions then we should expect much more friction and competition. Bloomberg had an interesting story Friday about this shift. I would not be surprised if we spoke to some of the same people:

This is also freaky:

I recommend this article by Zach Dorfman – Botched CIA Communications System Helped Blow Cover of Chinese Agents:

It was considered one of the CIA’s worst failures in decades: Over a two-year period starting in late 2010, Chinese authorities systematically dismantled the agency’s network of agents across the country, executing dozens of suspected U.S. spies. But since then, a question has loomed over the entire debacle.

How were the Chinese able to roll up the network?

Now, nearly eight years later, it appears that the agency botched the communication system it used to interact with its sources, according to five current and former intelligence officials. The CIA had imported the system from its Middle East operations, where the online environment was considerably less hazardous, and apparently underestimated China’s ability to penetrate it…

The former officials also said the real number of CIA assets and those in their orbit executed by China during the two-year period was around 30, though some sources spoke of higher figures. The New York Times, which first reported the story last year, put the number at “more than a dozen.” All the CIA assets detained by Chinese intelligence around this time were eventually killed, the former officials said.

If this account is accurate, it matters not only because it shows shocking negligence but also because US intelligence likely went from having decent visibility into the PRC leadership and its intentions through the latter years of the Hu Jintao period, to probably being nearly blind as Xi Jinping rose to power and into today. This loss of visibility could not have happened during a worse or more dangerous period. And now we understand better the Party’s recent, increased obsession with foreign spies…

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