What to Watch: April 11 - 14
Taiwan Says China Plans to Briefly Close Airspace. Taiwan’s defense minister warned that China is planning to close Taiwanese airspace for 30 minutes next week because of a falling object from a satellite launch vehicle. Initial reports stated that China would close off Taiwan’s airspace for up to three days, a move that would create significant flight disruptions for the region. The restriction was later revised after protests from Taiwan and South Korea. China previously imposed flight restrictions on Taiwan’s airspace in August 2022, when the Chinese military conducted drills around the island.
China Protests U.S. and Philippines Joint Military Exercises. Just days after China concluded a military exercise around Taiwan, the U.S. and Philippines militaries conducted joint exercises around Taiwan. In a statement, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said the drills “should not target any third party and should be conducive to regional peace and stability.” U.S. forces have been permitted develop and stay at nine Philippine military encampments ever since the two nations signed the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement in 2014. The agreement also calls for the U.S. military to provide the Philippines with defense equipment over the course of the next decade. China remains opposed to the agreement since it grants U.S. forces quick access to the Taiwan Strait.
Lula and Xi to Meet and Discuss Ukraine. Brazil’s President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva is expected to meet with President Xi later this week. Lula is expected to raise the war in Ukraine and his proposal for Brazil to mediate peace talks between Russia and Ukraine. Brazil has thus far refused to join other Western nations in aiding Ukraine’s defense, and Lula has previously said Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky shares responsibility with Russian President Vladimir Putin for the ongoing conflict. Xi has also put forth a 12-step resolution plan that has been largely rejected. China is Brazil’s largest trading partner, and Lula’s trip comes as leaders in Beijing attempt to shore up China’s strategic and economic plans. This will be Lula’s third international trip since taking office three months ago, having previously visited Argentina and the United States. The trip is part of Lula’s plan to establish Brazil as a major player on the global geopolitical stage.
Highlight Reel: March 27 - April 10
China Conducts Mass Military Drills Near Taiwan. Over the weekend, the Chinese military conducted three days of military exercises simulating China’s sealing off of the island. The exercises were in response to Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen visiting the United States last week. In a statement, the Chinese military said, “The theater’s troops are ready to fight at all times and can fight at any time to resolutely smash any form of Taiwan independence and foreign interference attempts.” The exercises were similar to the actions China took in response to then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-CA) visit to Taiwan last August.
Macron’s China Visit Raises Questions. French President Emmanuel Macron recently concluded a high-level visit to China, during which he spent six hours in meetings with Chinese President Xi Jinping. In comments to the press during his trip, Macron warned,” is it in our interest to accelerate [a crisis] on Taiwan? No. The worse thing would be to think that we Europeans must become followers on this topic and take our cue from the U.S. agenda and a Chinese overreaction.” Macron’s comments raised questions among leaders around the world about Europe’s resolve to maintain peace across the Taiwan Strait while Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-WI), chair of the U.S. House Select Committee on the CCP, called Macron’s comment’s “embarrassing” and “disgraceful.” The visit was seen as Macron’s attempt to assert a European position in the increasingly fraught relations between the United States and China. The French president appears to be pushing for a closer relationship between the two nations and resisting U.S. calls for economic decoupling.
Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen Meets Speaker Kevin McCarthy and Bipartisan Lawmakers. On April 5, Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen met with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and a bipartisan group of lawmakers—including Reps. Mike Gallagher (R-WI) and Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL), respectively chair and ranking member of the House Select China Committee—in California, as part of a trip that also included travel to New York for meetings between President Tsai and Sens. Joni Ernst (R-IA), Dan Sullivan (R-AL) and Mark Kelly (D-AZ). President Tsai had traveled to Belize and Guatemala earlier in the week, with both countries reaffirming their diplomatic relations with Taiwan. The visit served as a display of solidarity between the United States and Taiwan in response to repeated threats from China’s government, with Speaker McCarthy acknowledging “the friendship between the people of Taiwan and America is a matter of profound importance … [and] critical to maintain economic freedom, peace and regional stability” in joint remarks delivered following the private meeting with President Tsai. The meeting had taken place a day after the Chinese Embassy in Washington, D.C., urged U.S. lawmakers against meeting with Tsai, with a letter sent from the embassy to members of Congress noting China’s government would “not sit idly by in the face of a blatant provocation.” In reaction to the meeting, China launched a three-day “readiness patrol” of dozens of fighter jets and warships near to Taiwan, with 45 Chinese military planes flying across the Taiwan Strait on April 8. Following the military exercises, Rep. Gallagher urged Congress to step up military commitments to Taiwan, including by providing Taiwan with manufacturing technologies to allow Taiwan to independently construct advanced defense systems. John Kirby, National Security Council spokesperson, noted the Biden administration was monitoring the situation along the Taiwan Strait “as closely as [it] can,” adding that the U.S. military will ensure it has “the requisite capabilities and resources to preserve peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific” following China’s actions in response to the meeting.
Bipartisan Congressional Delegation Led by Rep. McCaul Visits Taiwan, Indo-Pacific States. From April 6–8, Rep. Mike McCaul (R-TX), chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, led a bipartisan CODEL to Taiwan as part of a larger visit to the Indo-Pacific, a key region in geopolitical competition between China and the United States the Biden administration has prioritized increasing economic ties with as part of its foreign policy agenda. Other members of the delegation included Reps. French Hill (R-AR), Mike Lawler (R-NY), Ami Bera (D-CA), Young Kim (R-CA), Nathaniel Moran (R-TX), Guy Reschenthaler (R-PA) and Madeleine Dean (D-PA). The delegation met with Taiwan’s vice president, William Lai, as part of the trip that also included meetings with other business leaders and senior government leaders in Taiwan, Japan and South Korea, with Rep. McCaul noting the United States would “stand by and protect” Taiwan in the face of foreign aggression. Rep. McCaul also urged for expedited delivery of military sales to Taiwan, saying it was paramount that the U.S. government and its allies “get those weapons in here to protect and harden Taiwan from threats from outside” in a joint statement given following the meeting with Vice President Lai.
House Unanimously Passes PRC Is Not A Developing Country Act. On March 27, the House of Representatives voted 415-0 to pass H.R. 1107, the PRC Is Not A Developing Country Act. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Young Kim (R-CA), would require the Department of State to take actions to stop China from being classified as a “developing country” by international organizations such as the World Trade Organization, which generally provide countries under the classification with special treatment, such as preferential access to trading opportunities. Rep. Kim noted that China is “the world’s second largest economy,” adding that China uses its classification as a developing country “to game the system and hurt countries that are truly in need” in remarks given on the House floor in support of the legislation. The bill was most recently referred to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on March 28.
Department of Commerce
Department of Commerce Adds Five Chinese Entities to Entity List. On March 28, the Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) added 11 entities to the Entity List for their involvement in supporting human rights abuses around the world, including five entities under the designation of China. BIS added Luopu Haishi Dingxin Electronic Technology Co., Moyu Haishi Electronic Technology Co., Pishan Haishi Yong'an Electronic Technology Co., Urumqi Haishi Xin'an Electronic Technology Co., and Yutian Haishi Meitian Electronic Technology Co., under the designation of China for their implication in “the implementation of China’s campaign of repression, mass arbitrary detention, and high-technology surveillance against the Uyghur people and members of other Muslim minority groups” in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in China. BIS imposes a license requirement to listed entities for all items subject to the Export Administration Regulations (EAR), and reviews license applications under a presumption of denial. Additionally, BIS amended the EAR to explicitly state that entities may be added to the Entity List on the basis of their violating the U.S. foreign policy interest of protecting human rights worldwide as part of the rule.
United States to Participate in Third Indo-Pacific Economic Framework Negotiating Round in Early May. On April 3, the Department of Commerce announced that a U.S. delegation will travel to Singapore from May 8–15 for the third negotiating round of the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF), the Biden administration’s economic initiative to bolster U.S. economic, trade and diplomatic ties with countries in the Indo-Pacific region. The U.S. interagency delegation set to attend the negotiating round will be led by Sharon Yuan, Department of Commerce counselor and chief negotiator for Pillars II-IV—supply chain resilience; clean energy, decarbonization, and infrastructure; and tax and anti-corruption—of the IPEF, and Sarah Ellerman, assistant U.S. trade representative for Southeast Asia and the Pacific (acting) and IPEF Pillar I – trade – chief negotiator.
Department of Defense
Secretary of Defense Says Invasion of Taiwan Not Likely Imminent in FY24 DOD Budget Request Hearing Testimony. On March 29, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley testified before the House Armed Services Committee as part of a hearing to examine the Fiscal Year (FY) 2024 Defense Department budget request. Notably, Secretary Austin reported a lack of evidence that China planned to attack Taiwan militarily in the near term, saying, “I don’t think that an attack on Taiwan is imminent, nor inevitable” as part of his testimony in the hearing, adding “we need to make sure that we maintain a combat-credible force that can deter any adversary from making a bad decision.” Secretary Austin and Gen. Milley also faced questions related to the Department of Defense’s innovation efforts, factors impacting U.S. military readiness, and the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan during the hearing.
U.S. Navy Sends Destroyer to Contested Island in the South China Sea. On April 10, the U.S. Navy deployed the USS Milius, a 7th fleet destroyer to within 12 nautical miles of the Mischief Reef in the Spratly Islands, a reef artificially transformed by China into a manmade island where China’s government has since constructed an airport and other types of infrastructure, as part of a freedom of navigation mission meant to rebuke China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea. The operation followed China conducting simulated missile strikes and military flyovers of the Taiwan Strait in response to meetings between President Tsai and Speaker McCarthy and other bipartisan lawmakers. The U.S. Navy 7th Fleet noted in a statement following the operation, “features like Mischief Reef that are submerged at high tide in their naturally formed state are not entitled to a territorial sea.”
On the Calendar: April 17 - May 2
House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic
Investigating the Origins of COVID-19 Part 2: China and the Available Intelligence
April 18, 9:30 a.m., Event Page
House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Trade
Countering China’s Trade and Investment Agenda: Opportunities for American Leadership
April 18, 2:00 p.m., Event Page
House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Trade
Surrounding the Ocean: PRC influence in the Indian Ocean
April 18, 2:00 p.m., Event Page
House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa
Great Power Competition in Africa: The Chinese Communist Party
April 18, 2:30 p.m., Event Page
Center for Strategic and International Studies
Enjoying Jet Lag: Resuming In-Person Travel and U.S. China Relations
April 17, 8:30 a.m., Event Page
Rebalancing China with New Economic Patriotism
April 24, 5:30 p.m., Event Page
Discussion with Nicholas Burns, U.S. Ambassador to China
May 2, 8:30 a.m., Event Page