Congressional-Executive Commission on China 2017 Annual Report on Human Rights in China & Hong Kong

Posted on Thursday, October 5, 2017 by Project2049Institute

(Residents of Hong Kong host a vigil service outside the Chinese Liason Office of Hong Kong following the death of Human Right Activist and Nobel Peace Prize Winner Liu Xiaobo on July 13, 2017. Source: Geovien So / Barcroft Images)
The following excerpt includes the "Executive Summary" and "Recommendations to Congress and the Administration" from the Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC) 2017 Annual Report on Human Rights in China & Hong Kong.



Seventeen years after the establishment of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China, the Commission’s mandate to monitor human rights and the development of the rule of law in China remains wholly relevant and urgently necessary.

China has benefited immensely from the international rules-based order in driving its growth and lifting millions out of poverty, but the political reform many believed would accompany China’s economic transformation and accession to the World Trade Organization has failed to materialize. Chinese government claims of global leadership in areas such as trade, environmental protection, and the building of international institutions—as expressed by President and Communist Party Secretary Xi Jinping at several high-profile international forums this past year—are belied by the reality of the Chinese government’s actions, which are not that of a responsible stakeholder.

While China stresses the need for global connectivity and openness, it continues to strengthen the world’s most sophisticated system of Internet control and press censorship and forges ahead with what it calls “Internet sovereignty,” the notion that nations should have total control over the Internet within their borders. The Chinese government’s expansive notion of sovereignty gives officials license to decry international criticism of their human rights record as one country interfering in the affairs of another. All the while, the Chinese government extends its own “long arm” to threaten and intimidate political and religious dissidents and critics living abroad; establishes Confucius Institutes at colleges and universities around the world, influencing these academic environments with its political agenda; and invests heavily in overseas media, exporting state propaganda and exercising soft power to shape movie production and other cultural media. Moreover, Chinese officials’ complaints of other nations’ “interference” into China’s affairs fail to take into account that the Chinese government is obligated to respect the fundamental rights of its citizens under its own constitution, and under international conventions it has willingly signed.

The Commission is mandated to document cases of political prisoners in China— individuals who were detained or imprisoned by the Chinese government for exercising their civil, religious, and political rights. Steadfast advocacy on behalf of individual political and religious prisoners, more than 1,400 of whom are active cases in the Commission’s far from exhaustive Political Prisoner Database, remains vital. These men and women, whose “crimes” intersect with nearly every issue area covered in the Commission’s Annual Report, represent the human toll exacted by China’s repressive and authoritarian one-party system. The death from liver cancer in July 2017 of Liu Xiaobo—a Chinese intellectual and 2010 Nobel Peace Prize laureate who was serving an 11-year sentence for “inciting subversion of state power” in connection with his pro-democracy work—brought renewed attention to the government and Party’s shameful treatment of political prisoners. In his last days, authorities repeatedly denied Liu Xiaobo medical treatment abroad, counter to his wishes and those of his wife, Liu Xia.

During this reporting year, we were inspired by the outspoken bravery of several of the wives of Chinese lawyers and rights defenders detained during the sweeping July 2015 crackdown on human rights advocates. In case after case, these women took up the mantle of their husbands’ plight, often at great risk to themselves and their children. By their own telling, many of these women had not previously been involved in their husbands’ efforts to pursue justice and accountability from their own government. However, as Chinese authorities conspired against them and their families—as their spouses’ unjust detentions grew from days to weeks to months—they became advocates in their own right. Their personal accounts of intimidation, harassment, and social marginalization stemming from official pressure—landlords refusing them housing, their children being denied entry to local schools, their lives under constant surveillance and movement restricted—coupled with their compelling public defense of their husbands’ innocence, have, in the words of one scholar, opened up a “new line of struggle that we have not seen before in China.”

Chinese government repression may temporarily satisfy the Communist Party’s desire to control its citizenry and maintain its grip on power, but as these women have shown, such measures often have the unintended consequence of stoking resentment and prompting activism in individuals who may have otherwise chosen not to engage. Even as the Commission’s reporting documents a continued downward trajectory in human rights protections since Xi Jinping’s ascent to power, there are other stories that demand telling: As the Chinese government suppresses authentic religious expression, the number of religious adherents multiplies; as the government censors the Internet, circumvention tools proliferate; as they brutally represses rights lawyers, their loved ones open up a “new line of struggle.”

Change in China will ultimately arise from within. However, the United States and other like-minded nations have a responsibility and a legitimate national interest in pressing the Chinese government to uphold human rights norms, respect the rule of law, and comply with its international commitments. It is in this context that we, as Chairman and Cochairman of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China, submit the Commission’s 2017 Annual Report.

Senator Marco Rubio                                              Congressman Christopher H. Smith
Chair                                                                        Cochair


Embed Human Rights Throughout Bilateral Relations. The Administration and Congress should develop an action plan to facilitate interagency coordination on human rights in China and develop a coordinated approach that prepares all agencies interacting with Chinese government counterparts to pursue measurable, results-oriented human rights and rule of law outcomes. All agencies should be prepared to better articulate the link between human rights improvements in China and U.S. economic, security, and diplomatic interests.

Make Reciprocity a Priority. The Administration should open high-level discussions to create a rules-of-the-road agreement that ensures reciprocal treatment for U.S. institutions, businesses, and nationals operating in China. The Administration should take appropriate and reciprocal actions to ensure that U.S.-based media outlets as well as academic and non-governmental organizations have the same freedoms afforded to a growing number of Chinese government-sponsored and funded think tanks, academic institutions, and media entities in the United States, while ensuring that independent Chinese media and organizations remain welcome. In addition, any bilateral investment treaty (BIT) with China should effectively facilitate and enable market access for U.S. media companies and education institutions.

Hold Officials Accountable for Abuses. The Administration should use existing laws to hold accountable Chinese government officials and others complicit in torture, severe religious freedom restrictions, repatriation of North Korean refugees, or those participating in forced abortions or sterilizations, including by using the sanctions available in the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act, the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998, and the Foreign Relations Authorization Act of 2000. Congress should consider allocating resources to identify and investigate Chinese government officials responsible for human rights violations.

Seek a Law Enforcement Agreement That Upholds Global Standards. Chinese government officials have sought repatriation of Chinese citizens overseas in connection with the government’s anticorruption investigations, offering the Administration an opportunity to press for a comprehensive law enforcement agreement that establishes diplomatic assurances guaranteeing verifiable prisoner due process protections and an end to torture in detention and forms of arbitrary detention, including “residential surveillance at a designated location.” The U.S. Government should not agree to any additional repatriations until the Chinese government can demonstrate that they are meeting the standards set forth in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and other international human rights instruments regarding the treatment of criminal suspects.

Respond to Digital Protectionism. The Administration should consider seeking a high-level trade agreement to address the Chinese government’s growing digital protectionism that would include commitments on the free flow of news and information and the non-discriminatory treatment of U.S. digital products. The Administration should consider initiating a World Trade Organization dispute to challenge continued discrimination against U.S. technology and media companies and prepare targeted trade sanctions if the Chinese government continues to impose onerous requirements, including data storage in China and the disclosure of source code and encryption keys. The Administration should provide Congress more detailed information about the effects of Internet censorship on U.S. businesses in China and use existing legal provisions to address intellectual property theft and the privacy concerns of U.S. citizens due to Chinese cyber espionage. The Administration and the committees of jurisdiction in Congress should work to find ways to use the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States to respond to unfair industrial policies that threaten national security, including by expanding its mandate to look at foreign investment in media and technology sectors.

Promote a Free Internet. The Administration, in collaboration with Congress and the Chief Executive Officer of the Broadcasting Board of Governors, should develop a comprehensive, multi-year strategy that partners with civil society, businesses, key technology industries, religious leaders, and human rights defenders to counter efforts by the Chinese government to promote “Internet sovereignty”; develop effective technologies that provide or enhance access to the Internet; and conduct research on ways to counter threats to Internet freedom, including the Chinese government’s intent to block access to virtual private networks (VPNs) starting in early 2018. The Administration and Congress should consider expanding programs providing digital security training for civil society advocates and projects that track, preserve, and recirculate media and Internet content deleted by Chinese government censors.

Expand Mandate of FARA To Counter Propaganda. The Administration and Congress should work together to expand the mandate of the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) to encompass individuals working for foreign state-owned media, government-backed think tanks, or other non-profit organizations operating in the United States. In addition, the Administration should develop a “whole-of-government” strategy to respond to Chinese government propaganda, including by fully equipping the Global Engagement Center at the State Department to research and counter disinformation and by considering an expansion of resources for Voice of America and Radio Free Asia programming in China.

Speak With a Unified Voice on Human Rights. The Administration should, where appropriate, lead efforts with allies to develop coordinated responses to human rights violations, including by working together at the United Nations, by creating a multilateral human rights dialogue or jointly funding technical assistance and capacity-building projects, or by engaging in joint advocacy and the sharing of prisoner lists. The Administration should also coordinate with businesses and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to develop a unified message about unfair industrial policies, digital protectionism, and the harm to U.S. and global interests from the PRC Law on the Management of Overseas NGOs’ Activities.

Help Address China’s “Missing Girls” Problem. The Administration should integrate the provisions of the Girls Count Act (Public Law No. 114-24) into foreign assistance programs and consider appointing a Special Advisor at the U.S. State Department to oversee the creation and coordination of assistance programs to address the social and economic issues created by the Chinese government’s population control policies and sex ratio imbalances, particularly projects that strengthen property and inheritance rights for Chinese women and girls and those that protect women and their families from the most coercive aspects of the population control policies. The Administration should develop talking points so that officials and diplomats can discuss problems linked to China’s dramatic sex ratio imbalance as part of bilateral dialogues on security, legal, trafficking, human rights, medical, and public health. In addition, Congress should continue to link U.S. contributions to the UN Population Fund for use in China with the end of all birth limitation and coercive population control policies in China.

Seek Protections for North Korean Refugees. Congress should reauthorize the North Korean Human Rights Act and consider expanding efforts to channel uncensored news and information into North Korea and to asylum-seekers in China through all possible means, including through North Korean defector communities. In addition, using the tools provided by Congress, the Administration should be prepared to impose secondary sanctions on Chinese corporations, individuals, or banks that profit from North Korean forced labor and those assisting the North Korean government in avoiding international sanctions.

Make Religious Freedom Diplomacy a Priority. Given that countries that severely restrict religious freedom are likely to face domestic instability and may also threaten regional stability, it is in the U.S. interest for the Administration to implement fully the provisions of the Frank R. Wolf International Religious Freedom Act (Public Law No. 114-281) and strategically employ the sanctions and other tools associated with the U.S. State Department’s designation of China as a “Country of Particular Concern” for severe restrictions on religious freedom. The Administration should reestablish the Religion and Foreign Policy Working Group within the Department of State’s Federal Advisory Committee to bring together experts from government, universities, religious and other NGOs to develop an effective multi-year plan to promote and protect religious freedom in China.

Prioritize Efforts To Combat Human Trafficking, Forced Labor, and Child Labor. Congress and the Administration should ensure that the U.S. Department of State’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons and the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of International Labor Affairs have sufficient resources and status within their Departments to effectively combat human trafficking and more accurately report on current conditions, including by reauthorizing the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000. Congress should again consider legislation that improves U.S. Government data collection and reporting on the issue of human trafficking for the purpose of organ removal, globally and in China.

Promote Dialogue Regarding Tibet. The Administration and Congress should work together to press for unrestricted access to Tibetan autonomous areas in China and to facilitate the full implementation of the Tibetan Policy Act of 2002, including establishing a diplomatic office in Lhasa, and urging renewed dialogue between Chinese government officials and the Dalai Lama’s representatives. Administration officials, including the President, should meet with the Dalai Lama in his capacity as a spiritual leader and with the leaders of the Central Tibetan Administration. Congress should consider passage of the Reciprocal Access to Tibet Act (S. 821/H.R. 1872, 115th Cong., 1st Sess.). 

Calibrate Counterterrorism Cooperation To Protect Ethnic Minorities. Due to the Chinese government’s practice of labeling peaceful rights advocates and members of religious and ethnic minority groups as extremists or terrorists, the Administration should consider carefully the nature and scope of its counterterrorism cooperation with the Chinese government and, through the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, create guidelines for such cooperation to ensure that the United States does not condone Chinese authorities’ crackdown on domestic political dissent or restrictions on the freedoms of expression or religion. The Administration should develop interagency talking points to raise issues of human rights in China’s ethnic minority areas during bilateral and multilateral dialogues with Chinese military, public security, or other appropriate government officials.

Ensure American Nationals Are Protected. The Administration should consider seeking revisions to the U.S.-China Consular Convention to clarify that Americans detained in China may meet with a lawyer of their choice, contact their families regularly, privately discuss the details of their case with U.S. consular officials, and have U.S. Embassy officials attend all legal proceedings. The Administration should consider developing a formal strategy to secure the release of American nationals and the family members of American nationals who are extra-judicially detained in China and should work with Congress to ensure regular reports on the number of U.S. citizens detained or not permitted to leave China.

Reiterate U.S. Interest in Hong Kong’s Autonomy. The Administration should continue to issue annually the report outlined in Section 301 of the United States-Hong Kong Policy Act of 1992, subject to Congressional directives. Congress should consider ways to express through public statements, official visits, and resolutions the important connection between a free press, a vibrant civil society, an independent judiciary, and expanded democratic governance in Hong Kong and the mutual interests shared by the United States and China in maintaining Hong Kong as a center of business and finance in Asia. The Administration and Congress should work together to determine whether legislation or other measures are needed to revise the United States-Hong Kong Policy Act of 1992, including by passing the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act (S. 417, 115th Cong., 1st Sess.).

Develop a Code-of-Conduct for Civil Society. The Administration should work with U.S. civil society and non-governmental organizations, including cultural-exchange and sister-city programs, and humanitarian assistance, academic, and religious organizations, to formulate a code of conduct for interacting with the Chinese government in order to protect the academic freedom and universally recognized human rights of staff, faculty, or students living in China and to equip institutions to respond effectively when Chinese authorities attempt to encourage censorship, threaten visa denials or access to China, or dictate who can participate or what can be discussed in various programs, projects, or institutions.

Consistently Advocate for Political Prisoners. In meetings with Chinese government officials, Administration officials and Members of Congress should raise cases, both publicly and in private, of individuals detained or imprisoned for the peaceful expression of political or religious beliefs and those promoting legal reforms and human rights. The Administration should also consider creating a Special Advisor for Political and Religious Prisoners to coordinate State Department and interagency advocacy on behalf of political prisoners. Experience demonstrates that raising individual cases can result in improved treatment, lighter sentences, or in some cases, release from custody, detention, or imprisonment. U.S. officials are encouraged to consult the Commission’s Political Prisoner Database for credible and up-to-date information on individual prisoners or groups of prisoners. Please see representative cases of concern on the following pages.


The Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC) was created by Congress in October 2000 with the legislative mandate to monitor human rights and the development of the rule of law in China, and to submit an annual report to the President and the Congress. The Commission consists of nine Senators, nine Members of the House of Representatives, and five senior Administration officials appointed by the President. 

Read the full CECC 2017 Report here

The Chinese Communist Party's Political War on Taiwan: The Assault on Taiwan's Diplomatic Allies

Posted on Monday, August 14, 2017 by Project2049Institute

(Panama’s Foreign Minister Isabel de Saint Malo and China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi toast the establishment of formal diplomatic relations. Source: AFP) 

This article examines the Chinese Communist Party’s coercive actions to deny Taiwan international legitimacy and seize its diplomatic allies.

By Emily David

The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has wasted no time capitalizing on the establishment of formal diplomatic relations between Panama and the People's Republic of China (PRC). On June 12th, Panamanian President Juan Carlos Varela Rodríguez announced the severing of ties with the Republic of China (ROC, Taiwan) in exchange for formal relations with the People's Republic of China (PRC, China), as the CCP successfully turned another of Taiwan's dwindling diplomatic allies. That same day, it was reported that a Chinese firm began work on a $1.8 billion deepwater port and container terminal in the Panama Canal, which would double the capacity of the Canal and serve as a crucial component of China's One Belt One Road initiative. Since then, China and Panama have agreed to cooperate on trade, investment, maritime affairs, and tourism, in addition to law enforcement and security. Panama's switch represents Beijing's latest conquest in a broader strategy to wage an intensified, concerted offensive against the ROC and Taiwan's formal diplomatic allies. Such tactics by the PRC serve as a threat to the current international order, endangering the resolution of transnational challenges, liberal values, and the peace and stability of the Asia-Pacific region.

Following the culmination of China’s civil war in 1949, in which the defeated Nationalist/Kuomintang (KMT) government fled to the island of Taiwan, and the CCP founded the People’s Republic of China, the ROC ceased to exist in the eyes of the Party. Given that Taiwan could stand as an alternative liberal/democratic Chinese government in the international community, the CCP has long sought to subjugate Taiwan and limit its global presence under its “one country, two systems” principle that asserts there is only one China (the PRC), that Taiwan is part of China, and that the PRC is the sole representative of China. 

As such, the PRC has insisted that states in the international community must hold formal diplomatic relations with either China or Taiwan, but not both—as dictated in the PRC’s “one-China” principle. Due to China’s population, geographic size, massive economic clout, and its political strong-arm tactics, the PRC has amassed a preponderance of formal allies vis-à-vis Taiwan’s mere twenty.

While the CCP’s charm offensive strategy and recent successes in winning Panama and São Tomé and Príncipe’s loyalties have been well documented, the broader issue regarding Taiwan and the CCP’s ongoing strategy of coercing Taiwan’s formal diplomatic partners has been underemphasized. Beijing’s strategic effort to globalize its “one-China” principle aims to further tip the scales of the global community in its favor, in a plan that intends to delegitimize Taiwan’s government and minimize its international space. 

Not only does the CCP’s assault on Taiwan’s diplomatic allies have implications for understanding China’s political tactics and broader geostrategic aims, but, also, it has direct repercussions for Taiwan’s international participation, and for the health, safety, and dignity of Taiwan's people. 

Recently, the CCP has increased its efforts in a coordinated campaign to compel, and at times intimidate, Taiwan’s modest alliance group to abandon their support for the ROC and switch their affinity to the PRC in exchange for tremendous economic and political incentives. While often irresistible to developing countries yearning for significant investment and political advantages, Taiwan's President, Tsai Ing-wen, has refused to partake in the CCP’s “diplomatic bidding war.”

This has taken place amid a backdrop of four important developments. These include the 2016 election of President Tsai and the elevation of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) to power (securing a majority in the Legislative Yuan), the congratulatory phone call between President Tsai and then President-elect Donald Trump, President Tsai’s continued resolve against capitulating to General Secretary Xi Jinping’s calls to recognize the PRC’s principle of “one country, two systems” and the 1992 Consensus, as well as the upcoming 19th National Party Congress in Beijing this fall. 

With a president and a political party that emphasize the unique Taiwanese identity, the CCP fears greater distance across the Strait, and the inability to capture the "hearts and minds" of the people on Taiwan. President Tsai's electoral victory also gave rise to a shift in the political leadership's stance toward the 1992 Consensus--which the CCP employs to gain ROC assent to the PRC's "one-China" principle. While former President Ma Ying-jeou of the KMT made his affirmation of the 1992 Consensus a primary feature of cross-Strait relations during his administration, the current President respects the historical fact that the meeting took place, yet stops short of acknowledging the 1992 Consensus. Ahead of the 19th Party Congress, which will unveil the emerging CCP leaders for the next five years, and which will be utilized to shore up political support for General Secretary Xi and his policies, Beijing wants to ensure allegiance from the Party's hardliners who endorse a more assertive position on issues regarding the PRC's territorial sovereignty, which they perceive to include Taiwan. Clearly unhappy with the current state of affairs, these developments could have influenced Beijing to take a more direct role in determining Taiwan's fate.

Of the most recent diplomatic defectors, Gambia cut formal ties with Taiwan in November of 2013, citing “national strategic interest.” China attempted this tactic with Burkina Faso and Swaziland, but failed to persuade either African state with its prowess. In addition, in the latest of such moves prior to Panama’s abandonment of Taiwan, China was able to successfully pressure São Tomé and Príncipe to renounce the ROC in favor of the PRC in December 2016. Moving forward, analysts are most concerned about China’s actions towards the Vatican, Nicaragua, and the Dominican Republic, which are three of Taiwan’s 20 remaining allies. 

Although the CCP relentlessly insists they do not interfere in the affairs of other states, the CCP's coercive actions take gratuitous measures to decimate Taiwan's alliance system, constrain Taiwan's international space, and forcefully reassert China's "one-China" principle among the PRC's existing partners. Such action requires greater scrutiny from American researchers and policymakers. These threats to Taiwan are significant in and of themselves, and should be acknowledged as such, yet they also carry strategic importance to the United States and our allies in the region. Although the CCP's continued efforts to turn Taiwan's formal diplomatic allies do nothing to alter Taiwan's legitimacy, or the objective reality that it exists as a sovereign state as outlined in the ROC constitution, Beijing's work to dismantle Taiwan's alliances in order to bolster its own geopolitical tactics harms three important elements of the current international order: addressing transnational challenges, liberal values, and the peace and stability of the Asia-Pacific region.

First, the CCP’s actions aim to constrain Taiwan’s legitimate cause to participate and contribute public goods to the international community. Taiwan’s allies play a crucial role in garnering support for its expanded participation in international organizations, as Beijing attempts to shut Taiwan out of critical global institutions such as ICAO, WHA, and others. Taiwan’s participation in such organizations provides substantial public goods to the international community, offering solutions to transnational issues through their contributions to humanitarian aid and disaster relief, epidemic prevention, counterterrorism, and environmental protection, among others. Particularly notable are Taiwan’s global efforts to provide assistance relief to the Southeast Asian countries afflicted by the 2005 tsunami, and to stop the spread of Ebola in 2014. Any further exclusion of Taiwan from the international community would only serve to deprive the world of an actor willing to assume the burden of working to solve our common global challenges. 

Second, Beijing’s coercion works to dismantle the liberal and democratic ideals on the island of Taiwan, and, by extension, liberal values throughout the international community. Through the promotion of values such as liberty and equality, Taiwan stands as a beacon of liberalism in the Asia-Pacific that serves to create a more stable, peaceful, and prosperous world. This can be evidenced through a number of different measures. For one, Taiwan shares common elements of other liberal societies such as freedom of assembly, freedom of the press, judicial impartiality, and equal rights for all.  In Freedom House’s latest “Freedom in the World” report, Taiwan scored 91 out of 100, placing it as a country with some of the most robust civil liberties and political rights in the world today. The U.S. State Department’s 2017 “Trafficking in Persons Report” placed Taiwan within the “Tier 1” designation, indicating that Taiwan fully meets the minimum standards of the United States’ Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA). In addition, Reporters Without Borders recently opted to open its first Asia Bureau in Taiwan, due to Taiwan’s ranking as the freest place in Asia according to its annual “Press Freedom Index” report. Taiwan is a vibrant democracy, championing liberal international values that should be encouraged and supported. A threat to Taiwan’s democracy is a threat to all democracies, especially to emerging democracies in the Asia-Pacific. 

Third, with every move to convert Taiwan’s diplomatic allies, the CCP demonstrates its ultimate goal of reuniting Taiwan with the mainland. Although Beijing is currently unprepared to mount an invasion at this time, it is rapidly improving its capabilities and is increasingly becoming more prepared to take Taiwan by force.[i] If China does attempt an invasion of the island in the future, this would create a security imbalance in the region that could prompt other powers in the Pacific to take action to help secure Taiwan’s defense such as the United States, as outlined in Section 2.b.6. of the Taiwan Relations Act, and possibly Japan via secondary support. This would add to the existing instability already incited by the PRC through its assertive actions over the disputed territories in the East and South China Seas, and over border disputes with countries like India

Yet, despite China's coercive moves, Taiwan has remained calm, pragmatic, and resolute. Following the loss of Panama as Taiwan's diplomatic ally, President Tsai Ing-wen reaffirmed Taiwan's existential reality as a sovereign state under its constitution, its continued status as a valuable member of the international community, and its determined desire to promote peace in the cross-Strait relationship. President Tsai also announced the appointment of seven "ambassadors-at-large" to promote and spread Taiwan's values worldwide, in a seemingly pointed message to the PRC that the promulgation of Taiwan's principles, and all that Taiwan represents, will not and cannot be quashed by the CCP.

On the part of the United States, greater action to support Taiwan in accordance with the guiding documents of U.S. policy toward Taiwan including the United States’ “one-China” policy, the Taiwan Relations Act, and the “Six Assurances” is necessary.  

Such action has already been taken in the form of the Trump administration’s forwarding of the seven existing arms sales notifications to Congress for approval. Congress has also been proactive as of late with the Taiwan Travel Act, which urges the U.S. government to encourage visits between U.S. and Taiwanese officials at all levels, and the Senate Armed Services Committee’s inclusion of a provision in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for 2018 to re-establish regular ports of call between the U.S. and Taiwanese Navies. Additional action could manifest in the United States’ extension of Rim of the Pacific Exercise (RIMPAC) observer status to Taiwan, and in the initiation of a formal mechanism for people-to-people exchanges. Additionally, the U.S. could use creative leadership to expand Taiwan’s international space such as utilizing efforts by U.S. embassies to work jointly with Taiwan's current diplomatic allies on established platforms like the Global Cooperation and Training Framework (GCTF). The U.S. could also support Taiwan’s participation in bodies that do not require statehood for membership, or help to facilitate the establishment of new institutions that reflect Taiwan’s unique strengths, among other actions.  
The United States cannot stand idly by as the Chinese Communist Party threatens Taiwan, America's core values, and the peace and security of the international community. The time to act is now.

Emily David is a Fellow at the Project 2049 Institute where her research focuses on the Chinese Communist Party, cross-Strait relations, and U.S.-Taiwan relations. She recently completed her Master’s degree in Chinese Politics, Foreign Policy, and International Relations at Tsinghua University in Beijing, China.

[i] Ian Easton, “How China Would Invade Taiwan (And How to Stop It),” The National Interest, March 25, 2017, at

China’s Fault Lines: Challenges, Instability, and Response

Posted on Tuesday, July 25, 2017 by Project2049Institute

(Villagers Staging a Protest in Wukan, Guangdong Province, China in June 2016. Source: Getty Images)

Watch a video of the conference here.

By Ian Burns McCaslin

Chinese leaders have projected an image of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) as an inevitable regional and global leader. However, controls on information, assembly, and capital outflows suggest the Chinese government and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) are paying closer attention to domestic concerns than the projected image would lead one to believe. The Congressional Executive Commission on China's (CECC) 2016 annual report detailed the anger and discontent felt by many Chinese citizens, who are increasingly calling for more government accountability, transparency, and justice. With the CCP’s 19th National Party Congress on the horizon, it is crucial to assess the CCP’s underlying instability and the key threats to the regime’s long-term resilience. 

Expert Conference on China’s Fault Lines

On March 30th, 2017, the Project 2049 Institute hosted a conference titled "China's Fault Lines: Challenges, Instability, and Response." The conference brought together a distinguished group of experts to address China's challenges and sources of instability, as well as Beijing's potential response to both. It was followed by two panel discussions on how China's current challenges will impact U.S.-China relationship. Based on these factors, participants also examined how the U.S. and its allies could more effectively engage with China in the future.

(Senator Cory Gardner, Chairman of the Foreign Relations Subcommittee on East Asia, the Pacific, and International Cybersecurity. Source: The Project 2049 Institute)

Senator Cory Gardner: Beijing Must Put Pressure on North Korea and Follow Its International Legal Commitments Abroad

Senator Cory Gardner called on China to use its leverage with North Korea to bring the regime back in line with international norms and laws, especially in regard to its nuclear and missile programs. Senator Gardner emphasized that “China must work beyond a mere articulation of concern” and truly push North Korea to denuclearize. China must implement existing U.N. sanction agreements such as Resolution 2270, which covers cargo, aviation fuel, and rare minerals, and Resolution 2321, that sets restrictions on coal, iron, and iron ore. The Senator called on the Trump administration to enforce the North Korea Policy and Sanctions Enhancement Act, which calls for secondary sanctions on any Chinese entities aiding Pyongyang. He also singled out Beijing’s decisions to establish an irregular ADIZ and to create militarized, artificial islands in the East and South China Seas as destabilizing actions that must stop. 

In order to support U.S. national interests, the Senator discussed the “Asia Reassurance Initiative Act” (ARIA). ARIA aims to strengthen U.S. security commitments with allies and build partner capacity, promote economic engagement, and secure U.S. market access. It will also enshrine the promotion of democracy, human rights, and transparency as key U.S. policy objectives in the Asia-Pacific region. If the U.S. becomes divorced from its allies, regional stability and prosperity will suffer, and China will make further inroads at the expense of both the United States, and international laws and norms.

China’s Domestic Fault Lines

A Checkup on the CCP

As Xi Jinping completes his first term in office as General Secretary of the CCP, President of the PRC, and head of the Central Military Commission (CMC), it is pertinent to look back on the policies implemented during his tenure. China’s economy continues to grow, albeit at a slow rate, and more people than ever have joined China’s burgeoning middle class. However, some policies implemented under Xi have been disruptive to people’s daily lives. The anti-corruption campaign has netted large numbers of officials, yet while some commentators continue to laud Xi for going after ‘tigers and flies,’ others point to the use of the campaign as a tool for Xi to remove his potential political rivals.

The anti-corruption campaign has created a tense environment for the bureaucracy. Quite a few officials have pulled back from performing their duties as usual out of fear that the ‘old way’ (corrupt or not) is no longer politically correct. Foreign—especially American—companies are also feeling pressure; not just from the anti-corruption campaign netting business partners and regulators, but from the increasingly nationalist atmosphere that the CCP and PRC government have been propagating. These companies are increasingly pessimistic about their future in China as economic espionage, coerced technology transfers, and legal discrimination has grown. The 2017 American Business in China White Paper revealed just how pessimistic American companies in China have become, with 80% of those surveyed saying they were less welcome in China than before. 

(Left to Right: Piper Stover, Sheena Chestnut Greitens, Kaoru (Kay) Shimizu, Sarah Cook, Megan Fluker, and Rachael Burton. Source: The Project 2049 Institute)

The ‘World’s Economic Growth Engine’ Is Not What It Used to Be

Even using China’s notoriously unreliable official statistics, the trend toward a "new normal" of lower economic growth is undeniable. All types of firms—domestic and foreign, private and public—are facing slower growth in the Chinese market. 

(Forecast of specific sectors' industry's market growth. Source: AmCham China, Bain & Company)

This change is already having a ripple effect with Chinese firms warning of potential layoffs; this has even extended to workers in state-run firms in strategic sectors, such as steel manufacturing and coal. A lower rate of wage increases is another new reality, frustrating workers who have been accustomed to double-digit raises. Businesses and the working class are facing challenges associated with limited access to unemployment insurance and coverage, and contribution to other social insurance mechanisms remain too low to effectively deal with the likely increase in unemployment.

Another challenge is a lack of options for workers seeking collective action via unions. In China, the only legal union, the All-China Federation of Trade Unions (ACFTU), is controlled by the CCP, which severely weakens the union's ability to advocate on behalf of its members. While about 20% of the population are members, the union operates more on behalf of labor management, the Party, and the government, than it does workers. Its failure can be seen by the drastic rise in the number of strikes and worker protests, which the Union discourages, that doubled from 2014 to 2015. Amidst these issues, the "new (economic) normal" will force Chinese authorities to make hard choices, and confront challenges that can no longer be papered over.

Growing Religious Repression

The religious revival in China is being attacked by an increasing campaign of repression by the government. At least 100 million people―1/3 of the total estimated believers in China―belong to groups facing high or very high levels of persecution, while about 250 million experience relatively low levels of interference in their day-to-day religious activities. Tibetan Buddhists, Protestant Christians, and Hui and Uyghur Muslims have experienced a particular increase in repression. The ways in which religious repression has manifested itself has also grown.

(Levels of religious persecution in China by province or special administrative region. Source: The Battle for China’s Spirit: Religious Revival, Repression, and Resistance under Xi Jinping by Sarah Cook)

In Muslim-majority areas, authorities increasingly respond to incidents with excessive force in comparison to non-Muslim majority areas. Due to a downturn in sales, as more people gave up alcohol and cigarettes for religious reasons, authorities began to promote ads for these goods in Muslim villages. In Xinjiang, state media has provided heavy coverage of a beer festival and drinking competition to “squeeze the space for illegal religious promotion.” There have also been restrictions on the ability of children to participate in religious practices, as seen in Uyghur communities. Acts of repression against Christians now regularly include the arrest of lawyers who represent Christians, and the obstruction of religious celebrations, such as Christmas. Even state sanctioned churches, at times, have been victims of violent suppression.

Yet, efforts to persecute religious groups out of existence are broadly failing. Believers have responded with courage, using creative ways to keep their faith. For example, the Falun Gong protested their persecution by using letter-writing campaigns to detail their positive experiences with their faith. The level of persecution experienced by religious groups has not been uniform across China, though. Some local authorities appear to have chosen not to persecute Falun Gong residents as they once did. Other local authorities have taken to warning churches about upcoming raids so they can be prepared.

Although the persecution of religious groups has worsened, those suffering have endured in their faiths, responding to restrictive laws with creativity and determination. Despite this resilience, however, the central government continues its religious crackdown.

Doubts on the Reputation of China’s Infamous Domestic Security Budget

In order to carry out its various campaigns of repression, the government has had to increase its domestic security budget.[i] Yet, misperception and misconception of China’s domestic security budget has hampered informed discussion of said budget. Regular headlines paint that budget as being massive, and larger than the military's, but these numbers are misleading. In the final budget total, some items are regularly counted twice or are excluded outright. Some expenses that are considered to be a domestic expense, such as the People’s Armed Police (PAP), are, in fact, commonly put in the defense budget. On the other hand, the domestic security budget often includes the maritime law enforcement vessels that operate outside of China’s internationally recognized borders to enforce control over disputed claims. The decisions behind the allocation of items for inclusion in either budget are due to the Chinese leadership’s conception of their uses. For example, Beijing views the use of the maritime law enforcement vessels as a ‘domestic’ issue in the case of the disputed claims in the South China Sea, because it demarcates those areas as part of the PRC; however, such use is not in conformity with international law.

While there has been an increase in repression, there is more nuance to the domestic security budget than the idea that an increase in resources directly equates to an increase in human rights abuses. While China’s budget as a whole has been growing exponentially for years, as a percentage of the national budget, the allocation for domestic security decreased from 2007-2012 (the last years for which such information is available). When the domestic security budget is broken down, usually about 60% of it goes to average ‘beat cop’ police work, courts, etc. This means that an increase in this portion of the budget does not necessarily equate to more resources going towards repressive 'police state' items.

(Categories of Internal Security (IS) spending as Proportion of Budget. Source: Sheena Chestnut Greiten, “Assessing China’s Coercive Capacity: De-Mystifying the Domestic Security Budget” Presentation, March 30, 2017)

Ordinary crime has been rising for years, and China still has one of the lowest police per capita rates in the world. Many local areas, such as the central and western regions of China, lack the fiscal base to fund increased policing. Additionally, tough terrain and poor infrastructure make monitoring expensive and difficult.  In all, there are far more complexities to China’s domestic security situation than is often discussed in the public domain.

False Dichotomy: Human Rights or Security 

(Left to right: Ely Ratner, Randy Schriver, and Dan Blumenthal. Source: The Project 2049 Institute)

The speakers illustrated that the narrative commonly touted of China’s government as a monolithic entity that is a paragon of efficiency, economic growth, and control is false. The less than ‘picture perfect’ reality in China reveals another important fact; human rights are inextricably tied to traditional security. In recent years, the U.S. government has pulled back from giving human rights a prominent place in engagement with China. This conference emphasized that this is a mistake, given that human rights are critical to traditional security, and are an important part of U.S. global leadership. For the U.S. government to ignore human rights would be to ignore one of the most critical tools available to it, which has been missing from its recent China policy. Disregarding human rights only strengthens China’s authoritarian government, the CCP’s protected status, and the repression of huge swaths of people both within China and abroad.


As this conference by the Project 2049 Institute demonstrated, beneath the surface façade of social harmony in China lie deep fault lines that are challenging the Party, government, and society. Given the increasingly interconnected nature of the world, China’s challenges and how it chooses to respond to them will have impacts that reverberate across the globe. In particular, its response will inevitably influence the foreign policies of the United States in the coming years. Gaining an improved understanding of these challenges presents new opportunities for countries to interact with, and potentially influence, the Chinese leadership as well.

Ian Burns McCaslin is an Intern for the Project 2049 Institute where he focuses on the PLA and Chinese influence operations. He received his MA from the National University of Singapore. 

[i] Sheena Chestnut Greitens, “Rethinking China’s Coercive Capacity: An Examination of PRC Domestic Security Spending,1992-2012,” The China Quarterly, July 3, 2017, at

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