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tv   Washington Journal Weifeng Zhong  CSPAN  March 23, 2021 7:04pm-7:33pm EDT

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sa discussion on efforts to change and even discontinue the use of the filibuster. massachusetts democratic congressman jim mcgovern and oklahoma republican tom cole talk about their hearing which took place examining the war powers act, and reasserting congress's role. watch "washington journal live 7:00 a.m. eastern wednesday morning, and join the discussion with year texts and tweets. announcer: "washington journal" continues. host: we talk about the state of u.s.-relations -- u.s.-china relations. we are joined by dr. weifeng zhong. guest: good morning. host: how would you describe the current relations between the u.s. and china? guest: the current relations are
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just as tense as when president biden -- former president trump was in office. this is a continuation of increasing tensions between the u.s. and china and the aspect of national security. the united states has been engaging, sort of in a romantic way, in china economically. there has been increasing security concerns coming from china, and now last friday in alaska, the contentious meeting is on full display. host: that is part of the reason we are having you on, to check in on u.s.-china relations. this was the first significant meeting between leaders of china and the u.s. government could secretary of state antony blinken there, and the leader of the foreign affairs chief or the chinese communist party.
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he was there as well. what was the stated purpose of that meeting? guest: the purpose was because china was trying to make connections with the u.s. officials in charge. the purpose has been for decades peaceful relations with the western world so they can rise as a global state. what is a surprise to many people was people thought the biden administration was going to be in some sense relatively softer on china compared to former president trump. those people will have to think again after this meeting because in my opinion, i think
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presidents in the u.s. do not matter to chinese policy. what drives china policy is the calculation between trading of economic benefits of engaging with china versus security concerns. while the chinese side certainly wants to get some sort of reset with u.s. officials, remember all of these china measures put on by the trump administration, they are kept in place by president biden. the chinese side was wanting to get some reset to get certain sanctions removed and possibly tariffs taken down. that did not come true. this also underscores the security competition between the two nations. host: before we get to callers, you touched on this, you said
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they wanted to do a reset, the chinese, after trump. where do you think things started to grow wrong with the trump administration's relations with china? or, do you think we are in a stronger position? guest: i do not think anything has particularly gone wrong in the past four years in trump's china policy because what we have seen so far -- as i wrote in the national interest -- presidents, whether democrat or republican, doesn't really matter to china because tensions have been increasing. that was going to happen regardless of a biden presidency or a trump presidency. the result would be the same.
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for a long time, when the u.s. was engaging with china economically, the assumption was there was a lot of economic benefit from trading with them, which has been true. in the beginning, when china first joined the wg outcome of the assumption was china was not going to impose serious concerns on the u.s., which also kind of has been true. but, the problem started before former president trump came to office. during the second term of obama, the u.s. has become more aware of security concerns over the south china sea. what we have seen, including the first two months of biden is the continuation of escalation in those areas. host: we'd like to open up phone lines to hear from our listeners.
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if you are a democrat, (202) 748-8000. republicans, (202) 748-8001. independents and others, (202) 748-8002. you can pose a question by text, (202) 748-8003. before we get to calls and comments, let's listen to what antony blinken, secretary of state had to say at that alaska meeting on how the u.s. plans to engage china. [video clip] >> our administration is committed to leading with diplomacy to advance the interests of the united states and strengthen the rules-based international order. that system is not an abstraction. it helps countries resolve differences peacefully, coordinate multilateral efforts effectively, and participate in global commerce with the assurance that everyone is following the same rules.
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the alternative is a world in which might makes right and winners take all. that would be are far more violent and unstable world for all. today, we will have an opportunity to discuss priorities domestic and global so that china can better understand our administration's intentions and approach. we will also discuss our deep concerns with actions by china, including hong kong, taiwan, cyber attacks and economic coercion. each of these actions threaten the rules-based order that maintains global stability. that is why we feel an obligation to raise these issues today. host: how different is antony blinken's message from the
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message of the trump administration? guest: it sounds the same. which gets back to the point where i see more continuation in china policy than difference. not only because all of these china measures but ouch toward the end of the trump administration are still there, but the rhetoric. they have been saying the same thing for years. the competition in china is no longer about trade deficit, but more on national security. all of these issue areas that secretary blinken mentioned, hong kong, taiwan, they are all of huge concerns of the ethnic world. to understand this, we have to think back 20 years since china joined wto.
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the past 20 years have emphasized the non-economic consequence of trade. why do i say that? trade has economic benefits, but the problem is sometimes they lead -- trading does lead to security consequences which is not economic. if a nation trades with north korea, economically speaking, the companies involved in the bilateral trade would benefit commercially, but kim jong-un is going to get the surplus on trade and invest that in his nuclear program. this is a classic example of what in economic literature is called security externalities of trade. when the u.s. engagement with china -- the assumption was there would not be as such
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severe security externalities, but what turns out to be not quite true is that china has been getting stronger in its own model. this is why secondary blinken emphasized new international order because that is different from what the chinese government has in mind. host: go ahead and finish. guest: my research focuses on analyzing propaganda talking points like this coming out of china, and from there we have been trying to predict what the thinking is behind the chinese government. what we have detected is that china has been -- conditions for the world. that is why the rule-based system is an obstacle to china. host: i would love to get the calls in a moment, what you heard in the comments by the foreign affairs chief or the communist party at that summit. [video clip]
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>> china is firmly opposed to u.s. interference in china's maternal -- internal affairs. we have expressed opposition to such interference and we will take firm action in response. our human rights, we hope the united states will do better on human rights. china has made steady progress in human rights. the fact is that there are many problems within the united states regarding human rights, which is admitted by the u.s. itself. the united states has also said countries cannot rely on force in today's world to resolve challenges. it is a failure to various means to topple the so-called authoritarian state. the challenges facing the united states in human rights are
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deep-seated they did not just emerge over four years. black lives matter, it did not come up recently. for our two countries, it is important that we manage our respective affairs well instead of deflecting the blame on somebody else in this world. host: to be clear, those are the translated words of yang jiechi. how different was his tone from a similar summit between the trump administration or the obama administration? guest: before i answer, let me point out, i was listening to the original words from mr. yang jiechi in mandarin. the interpreter mentioned black lives matter, but mr. yang was saying "massacre."
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the interpreter chose not to translate that term as is but chose to emphasize black lives matter. i thought that was interesting. the chinese official was certainly trying to take a harsh line in criticizing the u.s.. that is underscoring the -- of china. as you may know, the chinese government has been publishing human rights reports on the u.s. for over 20 years, starting in 1988. they have been saying for a long time that the u.s. has human rights problems. i think this is the first time that chinese officials have -- are so openly and aggressively criticizing human rights records of the united states. the reason china is able to do that is because of the impressive rise in its economic
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power around the world. they have been able to gather a lot of allies from the developing world. that is what is supporting the much harsher talking points so openly in front of journalists. that is what we have not seen in the past four years when the chinese officials were talking to trump administration appointees. host:host: how much should be keep in mind that a lot of messaging is aimed at people at home? people in china, or in secretary blinken's case, people in the united states? guest: what chinese officials were saying in alaska certainly scored a lot of points. the next day, if you check the website ali baba, the amazon equivalent in china, there were merchandise selling printing those words coming from the
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official's mouth. it is appearing tonight -- appealing to nationalism. as much as western nations are criticizing the chinese regime, the chinese president is still tremendously popular. host: we've got fran in annapolis, maryland. guest: i am scared of china. -- caller: i am scared of china. they are large and powerful, and we are complacent. people say we are afraid of russia and this and that, but if they open their eyes and pay more attention to china. guest: i agree. i think engagement -- what u.s. policymakers and the american
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public have overlooked is engagement could enhance the practices we consider undesirable. forced labor. you would think that trade, when we think back to china's acceptance into wto, many people thought that trading with china would change their minds because that would open them up to how -- works in the western world. what actually happened was that china has been having forced labor for a long time. in the old economy when you could trade with other nations, every country is going to focus on what that country can do better, relatively speaking. forced labor in open trade with the western world without restrictions or punishments or sanctions, you would focus on producing more cheap goods using
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forced labor. that actually enhanced the practice of forced labor that is considered undesirable by western values to actually make them more resilient in the system where china is fully engaged with western economies. i agree with what the caller said that we should pay more attention to what is happening in china because we just assume the way engagement works and it is not necessarily true and the past 20 years has proven u.s. policymakers wrong. host: the wall street journal reporting, abusive -- abuse of uyghurs draw sanctions. a coordinated blacklisting has sparked the biden administration's efforts to forge coalitions against beijing. let's hear from andrew in fort
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monmouth, new jersey. caller: good morning. you do a wonderful job. first, i want to say that i do not trust the chinese government. they have had a track record of some of the worst human rights violations. also, there is evidence that when the vietnam war ended, american pows were shipped to china and russia and these governments have never come clean. as far as i'm saying that we have human rights violations in this country, people who live in glass houses should not throw stones. china, the government, sponsors the worst human rights violations. when are they going to come clean? i do not believe they should have been allowed into the wto because this allowed all kinds of crazy stuff coming into this
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country, drywall with formaldehyde, dog food with chemicals, and who is answering for this? where is the united nations? i do not trust the chinese government. host: dr. weifeng zhong. guest: the caller points out something important, international organizations such as the wto and others have shown us that the who has a similar problem, when a player enters such as china in a way that is irresponsible that damages the rules that nations in those organizations are abiding by, the challenge comes when that behavior considered violating rules occurs. how are those nations in the international organizations going to punish china?
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punishment is what we consider a public good. one nation publishing china will benefit other nations who also want to punish china but may not necessarily want to show the economic cost. the trump administration has been conducting an experiment to unilaterally punish china. the trade war with china is certainly an example. it comes at a high cost to american consumers and american businesses. what the biden administration now is trying to do, including the news that came out yesterday about coordinated sanctions against forced labor in the uyghurs region of china, that is an example of the biden administration trying to sanction china together. such that the cost of
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sanctioning, economically, is not too high. i think it has yet to be seen how effective that coordination is because this is not the first time western nations are working between their allies to counter china. it has not been that effective in the past 20 years. i think u.s. policymakers are going to have to work harder in terms of coming up with a more effective way to deter china in a way that preserves western values. host: uyghurs -- dr. weifeng zhong, george mason university. we welcome your call sent comments. (202) 748-8000 for democrats. (202) 748-8001 for republicans. for independents, (202) 748-8002 . i see in the information about you that you are building, or have built a large database of
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policy change index looking at propaganda and other information coming out of china. how do you put this together and what is its purpose? guest: this is an interesting development on my part because i was born and raised in china. growing up in china, i have been exposed to a lot of chinese propaganda. what impressed me back then when i heard those talking points from state media was not really how not truthful the information was, but how effective even propaganda could change minds. a lot of people in china are actually -- were actually convinced by a lot of talking points given up by state media. if you ask a regular person in china whether they know about the uyghurs genocide, most likely they would have no idea. this shows how effective
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propaganda has been in a closed information environment. because propaganda is so effective, it has to be a policy instrument by the chinese government. if the things you say can manipulate people's minds, it you would think really hard on what you are going to say to benefit you from the policymaking perspective, the perspective of the government. if somehow you could figure out how to analyze words coming from the mouthpiece of the government, which is what i do, we collect every single word ever published by the official newspaper published by the chinese comet's party and from there we figure out what is driving those messages and what the policy intentions the government has in its mind. that is why we were able to, with this policy change index program, figure out for a couple
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of years that china has been emphasizing harsher talking points to comes to foreign policy. this should come as no surprise to anyone if you are paying attention to chinese propaganda that china is taking hardline policies to overtake taiwan, which has been the forefront of a battleground between china and the west. these kinds of important policy intentions can be picked out if you can "read the tea leaves." this is what i do in building computer programs to achieve that. host: let me ask you about the military challenges. the washington times this morning, former reagan administration official christopher -- "talk is cheap, but deterring china will not me -- not be." "biden bus send a clear message that america is prepared to fight."
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do you think that danger of war with china is real? guest: what we have detected, interesting you mention, we have detected during the second quarter last year in 2020 that china was showing unusual emphasis on military power in state media. the chinese new paper -- newspaper was saying it was emphasizing readiness, the importance to be ready for battle. chinese media did not specifically say where the cinema would be, and based on what we have seen on the news this past year, there are several candidates. taiwan being one. it could also be the border between china and india which has seen conflict. what this shows is that china is more ambitious. i think western nations have responsibilities on them because
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when china was meddling with affairs in hong kong, western nations had not come up with effective ways to deter china. these are things -- these are where thing started to go wrong because when china's aggression in its own territories do not face significant consequence, chinese policymakers are going to learn the wrong lesson. they will think that if they go further, western nations will not interfere. that is why i think it is important to monitor what is happening in taiwan. even if we think about it economically, without thinking about geopolitical conflict, thinking about taiwan economically, it is the leading producer of semiconductor chips in the world. if you think about electronics, semiconductors is just like crude oil for the global economy. from that perspective, we should
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think about taiwan and the way we think about the middle east. with time on sitting so close to mainland china, i think it would be a major concern that is worth a lot of attention. host: peter in franklin park, new jersey. caller: thank you for taking my call. just my thought on the events with china and u.s. policy, my thought is that i never really thought u.s. policy or western policy toward countries like china have ever been influenced primarily to human rights needs. i think they are examples of where our foreign policy completely what against -- went against what the human rights needs were. not that i am in support of what china is doing to the uyghurs, but at the same time it is somewhat hypocritical that could
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be said about a foreign policy initiative for western powers to claim human rights as a reason to impose sanctions on china. i think it would be naive to think that is the actual stated goal backed up by what states -- that is my thought. host: i -- guest: i think the callers right. when the u.s. and other economies engage with china, in a way i would call romantic back when china entered wto, the primary motivation is economic. china is a huge market and engagement with china in that way opens up china to western companies. we have to keep in mind that american business has benefited
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tremendously from economic engagement with china. what went wrong -- of course, back then people were saying that opening up china would not only benefit businesses economically

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