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Sino/American relations at the end of 2020

The Covid War is over and China has won

Sino/American relations at the end of 2020
Context:

As Covid-19 infections spike across North America and President Trump fights a losing battle in the courts, Americans have focused on things that really matter, the credentials of future First Lady Dr. Jill Biden. You see, Jill Biden isn’t a medical doctor, no. She holds a doctorate in Education, an Ed.D from the University of Delaware. American schools and school districts are quite often run by Ed.D holders and one will hear the doctor honorific throughout schoolboard meetings. But Ed.D holders aren’t medical doctors. With the revelation that Dr. Jill Biden is not a medical doctor, we ask ourselves, who should be calling themselves ‘doctor’.  It is the opinion of this author, who himself can throw some letters after his name, that unless one can crack open someone’s chest and re-start their heart, one shouldn’t call one's self 'doctor'.  Oh well.

In other news, Axios reported that Congressman Eric Swalwell, who sits on the House Intelligence Committee, had a long-term relationship with a Chinese spy named Christine Fang. This is not the first penetration of congress by Beijing. In 2013 the FBI informed California Senator Diane Feinstein, chair and ranking member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, that her driver of 20 years was working for China’s Ministry of State Security.  But the case of Ms. Fang is interesting and goes beyond congressional espionage. She was involved in fundraisers for Democrat politicians throughout the San Francisco Bay area. She also carried on romantic relationships with at least two Democrat mayors in Ohio. Ms. Fang attended California State University, East Bay, and was involved in several student groups.

Beijing has established a presence on American college campuses through various means, including the Confucian Institute. This is a branch of the Chinese Ministry of Education, which seeks to promote ideas, culture and news from China. While Confucian Institutes engage in much useful dialogue, they have been designated a foreign mission by the U.S. State Department which says they spread Chinese government propaganda. At the start of 2020 there were 86 Confucian Institutes on American college campuses and another 500 in K-12 schools. As Confucian Institutes have become controversial, many have shut down.

Beijing also lends considerable financial support to American colleges and universities. The U.S. Department of Education says these have taken more the $1.3 billion from Beijing since 2013. Harvard tops the list at $93.7 million.  Beijing’s efforts include outright espionage on American college campuses, including Harvard. Charles Lieber, the chair of Harvard’s Chemistry and Chemical Biology Department, was indicted by the Feds for failing to disclose his relationship with the Wuhan (!) Institute of Technology. 

Beijing’s reach goes into the private sector as well. Leaked documents from the Shanghai branch of the Communist Party of China reveal that nearly two million CCP members from Shanghai alone, live in the west and work in western corporations of all kinds including banks, pharmaceuticals, auto manufactures, and big tech. CCP members are even employed at Western consulates. To be fair, most of these people are simply party members little different than Republicans and Democrats in America. But they do constitute a security risk and it is likely that some members have passed on information to the CCP.

During his four years in office, President Trump put enormous pressure on China. As Covid-19 spread, Trump lobbed one rhetorical bomb after another at Beijing with references to the ‘Wuflu’ and ‘China Virus’.  He imposed stiff tariffs during the trade war and wrung difficult concessions from Xi Jinping. Trump maintained freedom of navigation exercises in the South China Sea, which China considers its territorial waters. His administration lent diplomatic and moral support to Hong Kong democracy protestors. China seemed to be on the defensive in the beginning of 2020.

Despite American pressure, the Chinese military maintains and expanse its presence in the South China Sea. Beijing put an end to the Democracy protests in Hong Kong and all but ended the city’s semi-autonomous status. While fights on in the courts, the Electoral College has official chosen Joe Biden. Trump will almost certainly be leaving the White House in 2021. Joe Biden has been very critical of Trump’s China policies, and went so far as to condemn Trump’s China travel ban. He has praised China’s rise and said their emergence on the world stage is a good thing. There is also the matter of Hunter Biden, who is being investigated by the U.S. Attorney for Delaware and had business dealings with Chinese firms in both the private equity and energy sectors. Overall it seems China has lost little ground and is in a better position vis a vis the United States at the end of 2020.

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