Phuc, Trump, and geopolitical stabilization in the South China Sea


A summary of the top news in Chinese politics and current affairs for May 26, 2017. Part of the daily SupChina news roundup "A grisly murder by a literary police chief."


Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc is scheduled to meet Donald Trump next week, and Reuters says, “Vietnam could hardly have asked for more: a U.S. warship challenging Chinese claims in the South China Sea, a meeting at the White House and six new coastal patrol boats.”

The six patrol boats that the U.S. just delivered to Vietnam were built by the Louisiana-based shipbuilder Metal Shark, and were ceremonially handed over by U.S. Ambassador Ted Osius to the Vietnam Coast Guard on May 22. According to Maritime Executive, the U.S. Coast Guard also “transferred a high-endurance cutter, USCGC Morgenthau, to the Vietnam Coast Guard during a ceremony in Honolulu” on May 25.

The South China Morning Post speculates that during the White House visit, “Phuc’s focus will likely be on the South China Sea and trade,” but that it’s possible that he “won’t ask for direct help with China,” as Vietnam “has managed some geopolitical stabilization on its own of late,” including various successful high-level meetings and mutual promotion of “their ‘comradely ties’ in their respective state media.”

In related news, possibly in response to the U.S. Navy’s maneuvering to challenge China’s South China Sea claims, ABC reports, “Two Chinese J-10 fighter jets came within several hundred feet of a U.S. Navy P-3 Orion over the South China Sea” on May 25, which American officials called “unsafe and unprofessional.”

  • A provincial shuffle shows the power of China’s president / The Economist (paywall)
    “The scale of his recent shake-up [of Party secretaries and governors] has been unusual. Between January 2006 and May 2007 — the comparable midway period in the rule of his predecessor, Hu Jintao — 12 party secretaries and 11 governors were replaced, only half the number shifted during the past 16 months.”
  • Opinion: Rethinking the next China / Project Syndicate
    Stephen S. Roach, former chairman of Morgan Stanley Asia, teaches a course on “The Next China” at Yale. He writes, “The Next China is shaping up to be more outwardly focused, more assertive, and more power-centric than I envisioned when I started teaching this course in 2010. At the same time, there appears to be less commitment to a market-based reform agenda featuring private consumption and SOE restructuring.”
  • China police arrest 44 in $140 million online scam / Reuters
    “China’s police have arrested 44 people over a scam that saw as many as 93,000 people contribute start-up capital to ‘unfreeze’ assets smuggled overseas when the Nationalist government was overthrown in 1949.”
  • China activists fear increased surveillance with new security law / Reuters