Reporting on U.S.-China Relations: Trade Disputes, Protests in Hong Kong, and an Era of Great Power Competition

On October 15, Edward Wong, a diplomatic and international correspondent for The New York Times who reports on foreign policy from Washington D.C., spoke at CSCC about his recent experience reporting on U.S.-China relations and the current political climate and public media discourse on this era of great power competition. 

To begin, Mr. Wong pointed out some nuances on the Trump administration’s stance on China that pundits and media tend to overlook. First, despite the President’s aggressive rhetoric against China, especially in trade, Mr. Wong explained that President Trump does not actually harbor any fundamental or personal animosity towards China. In fact, the Trump administration has focused on trade deficits in its relationships with a wide range of countries, not just exclusively with China. For instance, the administration has sought to renegotiate bilateral and multilateral trade agreements even with allies such as Canada, South Korea, and others. Mr. Wong pointed out that President Trump has been advancing his China rhetoric for his own political purposes - to appeal to his domestic voter base. This approach to China policy has been evident in the President’s lack of interest in other China-related issues. In his rhetoric, the President has rarely discussed more conventional points of friction in U.S.-China relations including Taiwan, strategic military competition, human rights violations, and China’s growing interference and influence beyond its borders, to name a few. 

In addition to U.S.-China trade disputes, the media has also maintained its attention to ongoing protests in Hong Kong. With Hong Kong protestors publicly asking for U.S. support, Mr. Wong observed that the Hong Kong protestors have been calibrating their decisions on their means of protesting based on U.S. reactions. Indeed, when many in Hong Kong became aware of the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act being introduced and debated in the U.S. Congress, they organized a rally to advocate for the passage of the legislation. Of course, the protestors are cognizant of Beijing’s counter-protest narrative regarding the invitation of foreign interference. Mr. Wong highlighted that despite Beijing’s push of its own narrative, the protestors saw the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act as a major source of leverage and would persist despite Beijing’s narrative.

To learn more about Edward Wong’s work, please click here.


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