U.S. Senator Dan Sullivan on Monday called on both the American and Chinese governments to exercise “true reciprocity” in relations, including trade and diplomacy. 


The Republican senator from Alaska, in a speech concerning Chinese outbound investment, and in an interview with VOA afterward, said China has been aggressively buying companies in key sectors such as robotics, biotech, advanced machineries, software, entertainment and media “throughout America and Western Europe. But if you’re an American firm, or a firm from Germany, and you want to go to China and buy Chinese companies in those same sectors, you would be told ‘no;’ you would be prohibited.”


Making “true reciprocity” US policy


Sullivan’s proposed “true reciprocity” is rather simple and straightforward: “If Chinese companies want to invest in America’s biotech sector, then American companies should be able to invest in China’s biotech sector. It’s simple, it’s fair, it’s what China has said it wants to do but it doesn’t do, and we need to be much more serious about implementing it.”


Should China continue to ignore Washington’s calls for equal treatment and a level playing field, Sullivan says he is prepared to introduce legislation aiming at closing what he identifies as China’s “credibility gap,” and making sure that “true reciprocity” becomes official U.S. policy.


The Alaska Republican, who serves on both the Senate’s Commerce and Armed Services Committees, called on the U.S. government to reject “Middle Kingdom diplomatic practices” that fail to grant U.S. diplomats the same level of access Chinese diplomats receive in Washington. 


“Middle kingdom” diplomatic practices


Quoting from a study done by the New York-based Asia Society, Sullivan said “for a number of years, the U.S. ambassador in Beijing was only getting deputy minister level access while we, of course, give higher access to Chinese ambassadors here in Washington.”He called the solution to such unequal diplomatic treatments “a no brainer.” 

“If our ambassador in Beijing only gets deputy minister level access, then that’s what we should provide China’s ambassador in Washington, period. Middle Kingdom diplomatic practices should be firmly and aggressively rejected by the U.S. government everywhere,” Sullivan said.


He agreed that his proposed “true reciprocity” ought to also include issues such as granting journalists visas and access in both countries.


Growing domestic consensus


Sullivan said “there’s growing domestic consensus” in the United States that America’s strategic interests, including strategic economic interests, outweigh the market price of individual transactions, while acknowledging that each individual American businessman or woman naturally want the highest return for their individual product.

“The broader strategic interest of having a strong U.S. economy, and signaling to the next biggest economy in the world, China, that you need to play by the rules we play by, is also very important; and in my view, that importance strategically overrides the interest of the ability of American firms to sell to Chinese investment funds.”

Senator Dan Sullivan: China needs to play by rules we play by




Daniel Twining, counselor and director of the Asia Program at the German Marshall Fund of the United States and an associate of the U.S. National Intelligence Council, thinks the U.S. economic power so far has not been sufficiently utilized to advance the nation’s overall strategic, political and economic interests. 


“The U.S. is used to this traditional foreign policy tool kit that involves the armed forces, the diplomatic corps and development (foreign aid), but there’s really a fourth link here, which is our economic statecraft,” he told VOA.


Twining said other major powers, including China, appear to be much more adept at what he called “geo-economics,” using trade and investment “quite actively” and “quite smartly” to advance overall national interests.“It may be smart for us to think more about our economic strategies in the world,” including acknowledging and adopting strategies accordingly based on the fact that “market forces are not working everywhere, including in an economy like China that is still somewhat closed or controlled in some respects.”

Daniel Twining: Market forces are not working everywhere


Forgoing short-term profit


A newly released report by Baker McKenzie put Chinese worldwide outbound investment at $200 billion in 2016, nearly half of which targeted assets in North America and Europe. 


According to Robert Shapiro, chairman of Sonecon and former U.S. Undersecretary of Commerce for Economic Affairs, the primary goal of China’s overseas investments does not lie in short-term profit but rather in gaining strategic advantage, and that means not necessarily in gaining immediate economic return.

Robert Shapiro: China playing the long game

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