U.S. President Donald Trump used his Twitter megaphone to declare on November 15 that “our great country is respected again in Asia,” and later gave a speech in which he further boasted that America’s “standing in the world has never been stronger than it is right now.” But in at least one major hot-button Asian issue, America’s standing appears to be notably declining, and China’s notably rising: the South China Sea.
- The New York Times notes (paywall) that though Trump made references to the conflict, saying that “no one owns the ocean” and that “freedom of navigation and overflight are critical,” he “did not single out China for criticism, continuing a pattern of soft-pedaling on a dispute that could annoy United States allies.”
- The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), which in previous years has “noted concerns ‘expressed by some’ leaders” about China’s actions in the South China Sea, this year made no mention of concerns in a statement, the Nikkei Asian Review reports (paywall). This is a “clear diplomatic victory” for China, Nikkei says.
- Japan, also, seems to be newly reluctant to criticize China’s claims in the South China Sea. The South China Morning Post reported on November 15 that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe “has repeatedly raised the South China Sea issue during his last five years in office – much to Beijing’s irritation – so his silence this week was a marked contrast to the past.”
- SCMP attributed Abe’s silence to his efforts to further diplomacy on North Korea, but the New York Times says (paywall) that experts suggest that “Mr. Abe appears keenly aware of Mr. Trump’s erratic swings in opinions and loyalties,” and is “naturally wondering if the United States may make some kind of deal with China that could put Japan at a disadvantage.” Trump’s “failing to press China on its military buildup in the South China Sea” has reinforced the perception that China is “taking advantage of an American retreat,” analysts say.
- North Korea
China says ‘dual suspension’ proposal still best for North Korea / Reuters
“Speaking on his return from Asia on Wednesday, Trump said he and Xi had rejected a ‘freeze for freeze’ agreement, but it was not clear if he was referring to the ‘dual suspension’ idea, which China’s foreign minister announced in March.”
Panama president to make historic visit to China / Global Times
“Panama President Juan Carlos Varela Rodriguez will visit China and inaugurate his country’s embassy in Beijing five months after diplomatic relations were established.”
- U.S.-China relations
Opinion: China could sell Trump the Brooklyn Bridge / NYT (paywall)
- Zimbabwe after the coup
China says ‘friendly policy’ toward Zimbabwe won’t change / Reuters
- Communist Party
Believe in socialism not sorcery, China tells party members / The Guardian
The Chinese Communist Party’s guide to moral living / NYT (paywall)
Thailand plans joint arms factory with China / Reuters
- Guo Wengui (?)
Voice of America fires three staff over explosive Guo Wengui interview / SCMP