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US-China: Crisis & Opportunity

On Plugged In…

China’s new national security law ...

bringing Hong Kong closer..

to Beijing’s power and control …

The State Department says.. ..

That China was not forthcoming..

in recent talks in Hawaii…

between Secretary of State..

Mike Pompeo ...

And a top Chinese diplomat

In Hawaii….

And North Korea threatening...

to redeploy troops …

and resume military exercises

near the border with South Korea...

after blowing up…

the Inter-Korean liaison building.

On Plugged in…

US – China:

Crisis and Opportunity


Hello and welcome to Plugged In.

I’m Greta Van Susteren, reporting from my home in Washington DC.

With a backdrop of a global corona-virus pandemic and the resulting global economic recession, tension between the world’s two economic superpowers is rising.

On June 17th, the top diplomats from the U.S. and China met in Hawaii.

Diplomatic sources say China asked for the meeting.

Flashpoints between the United States and China include a trade war, cyber-security, human rights, North Korea, Hong Kong and the coronavirus, just to name a few.

Plugged In’s Steve Redisch reports.

((Report by Steve Redisch))


“…the Kung Flu…”


U.S. criticism of China does not stop at its handling of coronavirus.

((President Donald Trump))

“The Chinese government's move against Hong Kong is the latest in a series of measures that are diminishing the city's longstanding and very proud status...."


And President Trump has threatened to decouple the countries’ economic relationship as a new trade deal is stalled.

A meeting June 17th in Hawaii between US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and China’s top diplomat Yang Jiechi resolved little.

China called the talks constructive.

The U.S said China was not forthcoming and is waiting to see a reduction in China’s aggressive behavior.

Two days after the meeting, Pompeo warned the Copenhagen Democracy Summit about China’s intent:

((Mike Pompeo, U.S. Secretary of State))

“It’s pushing disinformation and malicious cyber campaigns to undermine our governments to drive a wedge between the United States and Europe and is saddling developing nations with debt and dependency. You’ve seen this all. Everyone in this room knows that the Chinese Communist Party strongarms nations to do business with Huawei, an arm of the CCP’s surveillance state. And it’s flagrantly attacking European sovereignty by buying up ports and critical infrastructure, Piraeus to Valencia. We must take off the golden blinders of economic ties and see that the China challenge isn’t just at the gates; it’s in every capital, it’s in every borough, it’s in every province. Every investment from a Chinese state-owned enterprise should be viewed with suspicion.”


China accused Pompeo of trying to drive a wedge between China and other nations.

((Zhao Lijian, China Foreign Ministry Spokesperson))


"Pompeo once again made groundless accusations against China in his video address, attempting to sow discord between China and other countries. China strongly opposes this. This U.S. politician's China-related remarks go against basic facts and the basic norms governing international relations. It contributes to nothing but further exposes his deep-seated Cold War mentality and ideological prejudice.”


The Secretary of State outlined the choice nations face:

((Mike Pompeo, U.S. Secretary of State))

“I know that there’s fear in Europe that the United States wants you to choose between us and China. But that’s simply not the case. It’s the Chinese Communist Party’s that’s forcing this choice. The choice isn’t between the United States; it’s between freedom and tyranny.”


Meantime, China and India have reportedly agreed to disengage from further confrontation after a border clash last week left 20 Indian soldiers dead.

Steve Redisch, VOA News, Washington


As the rivalry between Washington and Beijing plays out - the massive protests we saw in Hong Kong last year demanding autonomy from China have been largely silent.

But China’s attempts to impose new controls and security measures on the former British colony is receiving a strong pushback from the British government.

More from Henry Ridgwell in London.

((A Path to the UK – Henry Ridgwell report))

June 2019 - hundreds of thousands of protestors filled the streets of Hong Kong demanding the withdrawal of a bill to allow the extradition of criminal suspects to mainland China. The law was eventually abandoned – but the pro-democracy protests continued.

One year later, the coronavirus pandemic has largely silenced the streets. In May, Beijing approved a ‘national security bill’ that critics say would end Hong Kong’s political freedoms.

The territory’s chief executive – an appointment approved by China’s central government – welcomed the proposed law.

((Carrie Lam, Hong Kong Chief Executive (in Cantonese) ))

“The people of Hong Kong want to see stability again.”


Britain says the bill represents a clear breach of the Sino-British Joint Declaration signed when it handed over the territory to China in 1997.

((Dominic Raab, British Foreign Secretary))

“We've made a historic commitment to the people of Hong Kong to protect their autonomy and protect their freedoms and more importantly, so has China.”


Now it seems Britain may offer an emergency exit.

Britain issued so-called British Nationals Overseas passports to Hong Kong residents before the handover. The government says around 350,000 people currently hold such a passport – and 2.5 million people are eligible to apply.

The British government is proposing to make it easier for holders of those passports and their immediate family to move to Britain, with what it calls a ‘clear pathway to citizenship’ after five years.

((Steve Tsang, Professor, University of London))

((Mandatory cg: Skype logo))

“Implicit in the British plan is the possibility that Hong Kong could lose a very significant percentage of its talented people. From the perspective of Beijing, they want Hong Kong to do well. They are not however prepared to pay any price to keep the talent in place in Hong Kong, particularly if those talents also happen to be, in quotation marks, ‘troublemakers’ for Beijing.”


Until the legislation is passed, British ministers have proposed emergency measures to allow BNO passport holders easier entry rights into Britain. It’s the biggest change in policy since the handover, says Johnny Patterson of the advocacy group, Hong Kong Watch.

((Johnny Patterson, Hong Kong Watch))

((Mandatory cg: Skype logo))

“It’s a really significant watershed and it signals not only an incredibly generous and meaningful immigration shift but also a sea-change in Sino-British relations potentially.”


But there is a lack of policy detail, argues Professor Steve Tsang.

((Steve Tsang, Professor, University of London))

((Mandatory cg: Skype logo))

“I think the ambiguity is very much by design. What the British government has offered Hong Kong essentially is to send a message both to people in Hong Kong that they are not forgotten and a message to China that there will be responses from the U.K. (and) hopefully the Chinese government will back off.”


But Beijing warns that the British citizenship offer would itself breach the 1997 Joint Declaration. Until recently, Britain agreed with that verdict - but China’s attempt to impose the new security law on Hong Kong has changed the calculation in London. ((Henry Ridgwell, for VOA News, London))


The Covid-19 pandemic and social distancing have diminished the once massive protests across much of Hong Kong.

But in many parts of the city smaller demonstrations are still going on.

VOA spoke with some students to learn more about their concerns and what they say the Chinese government is doing to Hong Kong.

((Student Protester 1))

“It is a threat to everybody in Hong Kong. It is a threat to our freedom of speech and our freedom of expression.

Once this law is passed I think they can pretty much pick and choose whom they will be suing and whom they will be arresting. Just based on whether they like this person or not.”

((Student Protester 2))

“The national security law will not allow us to go to protests like this anymore. And every time if we go to protest we’ll have to.. they’ll claim that we’re threatening national security, that will definitely lead us into going to prison, or it is a definite threat to our freedom.”

((VOA producer))

If you have a chance to leave Hong Kong will you leave or still stay?

((Student 2))

“I have thought about leaving but now I do not think that I will leave because I find that I have a responsibility to keep on fighting for my own place.”


Months of turmoil have sharpened the focus on the question of what will happen to Hong Kong in 2047 when the "one country- two systems" arrangement expires.

For more on Hong Kong's history and complex relationship with mainland China.

I spoke with Michael O'Hanlon, Senior fellow at the Brookings institution.

((Greta Interviews Michael O’Hanlon, Sr. Fellow, Brookings Institution))

MOH: Hong Kong was sort of taken from China by Imperial Europeans, and that's the history. And just because in China's mind, you know, Europeans may think of Hong Kong now as some thriving neutral middle ground between East and West, if you will. The Chinese still see it as historically theirs. They've got long memories, and they're not particularly forgiving when it comes to seeing what they consider their own country broken up. So that's the broad argument and the more specific one of course, is that they really are trying to clamp down on anything that smacks of dissent in or near China, under President Xi Jinping. And the gradual trend towards openness and reform that we have seen through many of his predecessors 10 years in office has ended. And, and therefore, there's really a desire here to push things back categorically in any place that China has influence, because they think otherwise the sort of liberalizing trend could spread to their own country and they're definitely afraid of that.

GVS: All right, now it's created pressures with the United States right?

MOH: Well, there's no doubt. I mean the United States of course as you well know is committed to global human rights but also partly because of our alliance with Britain but our independent relations with Hong Kong, we have a great deal of affinity for respect for that entity as it has existed in modern times, which is essentially as an autonomous entity that may be technically part of China, that may be fully reverting to China by mid-century under the deal by which the British left in the late 20th century. But nonetheless, is really its own thing and it's a place where there are a lot of American businesses, a lot of Americans travel.

And I think when China tried to apply its legal system to Hong Kong and that gave rise of course to last year's unrest. They made a big mistake in Beijing when they decided to do that. And I certainly am sure most Americans are completely on the side of the protesters. It is worth noting however, that at some point China relented and yet the protesters sort of in the words of one of my colleagues, wouldn't take yes for an answer. So they essentially got China to revert at that time and go back on his previous promise to try to apply Chinese law to Hong Kong. But by that point the protesters had started to sense that you know China was in a bullying mode. And even if they managed to claw back the legal protections they have previously had for another 27 years as you point out or, you know, think about the 50 year transition period, and almost halfway through it now, even if they got back that one legal protection, they still didn't like the way in which politics was dominated in Hong Kong by Beijing.

And they started to get hungrier for more genuine autonomy, and not just in terms of, you know, protecting the individual rights but really developing a long-term vision for the city. So they expanded their demands and they weren't very cohesively organized to begin with. And so you really got into a standoff that almost could not be ended, because there was no plausible negotiating path forward, and really not a clear set of partners with which Beijing could negotiate. and China was not under President Xi jinping in a mood to really extend more political authorities to Hong Kong residents, that's where China's making I think its big mistake. But for a country that is so committed to autocracy. You know the People's Republic of China, you, you don't really expect them to do anything differently than that, but it's still a huge mistake. We know that China PRC has largely given up its communism. It's hard to think of it as really the People's Republic in the way it used to be, but it certainly has not given up autocracy one party rule, whatever the ideology may now be for the Chinese Communist Party, it still has every intention of keeping its hands on the reins of power inside of China, and therefore, opening up politics in any place where China has a say, there's just not going to be in the world view or the agenda of leaders in Beijing.

GVS: Is there any chance of a flashpoint where China actually goes into Hong Kong, now with the military. Do you foresee that or is it mainly just saber rattling at this point?

MOH: I don't rule out a military move. I don't think you would have a Tiananmen Square debacle. I think China would understand that even, you know, even on its own territory another Tiananmen Square is really not something that it can afford. That would lend much more support and momentum to the whole decoupling movement that we're seeing many companies and countries pursue just for economic reasons where they don't want to have the dependencies on China for commodities or, you know, or for intermediate goods or for assembly of final goods that they once did. They want to mitigate those vulnerabilities. And that kind of a decoupling move, which of course is still being sorted out and is a work in progress, would be reinforced by any brutal use of Chinese force of a type that you know, I was just alluding to with Tiennamen square but having said that, I think China could move its military into some strong points, and you wouldn't have to do it in a violent way. It could take a page out of the way, Vladimir Putin moved little green men into Crimea in 2014, you know, present a fait accompli. It's not really clear why it would want to, because once they were in position those troops could become a target themselves, and I'm not recommending that China do this as a way to quell protests, it could have the exact opposite effect that was intended. But I wouldn't put it past the Chinese to make that kind of a mistake. And again there are ways they could do it that would be relatively more clever, or relatively less violent at least in the first instance, which is why there may be a certain ... again I think it would be a big mistake because there's no way of telling, in David Petraeus’s famous words you know how this ends, tell me how this ends? Once you've done that, it's not really clear what the next step would be, but I don't put it past Beijing to attempt it.

GVS: Let me pretend you have a crystal ball, tell me what we're having this conversation at 10 years from now, what's your guess on what you'd be saying about China, what do you think is gonna happen to them in the next 10 years?

MOH: Well, I think that like most Americans I've given up on the notion that they're just going to be in a more enlightened place so to speak or a more democratic place. I think my near-term and medium-term concerns are about making sure that their security and military behavior are more conditioned and constrained by the American Alliance, by our demonstrated willingness to push back, but also that we've managed to avoid anything that could lead to direct conflict. So that's my top level concern far and away.

My second level of concern is that we also do partly decouple on some of the crucial commodities and intermediate goods and medical supplies, and other such things that could give China too much leverage over our economies and make us too dependent on them. And I think we'll be able to do some of that decoupling, and that it will actually be on balance, good for us and good for our allies. So on that one I'm slightly hopeful, but the military stuff makes me nervous every day because there are places, starting with Taiwan but extending elsewhere, where an increasingly powerful China is going to want to exercise its muscles. And we're gonna have to find clever ways to push back, but hopefully in a way that resembles you know Judo or wrestling, more than boxing, or more than, you know, sword fighting. In other words, pushing back not winding up in violent encounters. And I think we have a lot of tools to do that, a lot of alliances a lot of partnerships we develop further. Pretty demonstrated commitment to freedom of the oceans, freedom and seas, which I think we will sustain and the Chinese know that. Pretty good forward presence in Korea and Japan that should prevent China from getting too ambitious towards those countries. So I think we have a lot to work with, but it's going to be a challenge every day.


As China asserts its influence in Hong Kong, China’s ally - North Korea is ratcheting up military pressure against South Korea.

North Korea plans to drop thousands of balloons and propaganda leaflets into South Korea.

This - in retaliation against South Korea’s campaign against North Korea’s human rights record.

This latest provocation comes after the destruction of what was once a symbol of North-South cooperation.

VOA’s Bill Gallo has more from Seoul.

((Korean Peninsula Tensions – Bill Gallo report))

The inter-Korean liaison office just north of the border...reduced to rubble in seconds, as shown on state TV. A symbol of crumbling inter-Korean ties.

The de facto embassy was established in 2018, when the two Koreas agreed to expand economic cooperation and dialogue.

Now, the North is threatening to undo all of it. Not only destroying the liaison building.. but also threatening to redeploy troops and resume military exercises near the border.

South Korea on Wednesday pushed back.

((Jeon Dong-jin, South Korean Army Joint Chiefs of Staff))

“This move immediately thwarts the efforts and achievements made by the two Koreas to maintain peace on the Korean peninsula, and the North will surely pay if these measures are put into action."


The North’s campaign of aggression has been led not by Kim Jong Un, but his sister, Kim Yo Jong.

Ms. Kim once seemed mainly an aide to her brother, but has recently taken on a bigger leadership role.

((Andrew O’Neil, Political Science Professor, Griffith University))

((Mandatory Skype logo))

“This may well be a forerunner of Kim Yo Jong being charged with undertaking a mission that really seeks to exact a physical toll against South Korea, and to prove her credentials potentially as a senior North Korean leader.”


North Korea is ostensibly angry at the South for not doing more to stop defectors and other activists from floating anti-Pyongyang leaflets and other materials across the border.

But in reality, the North’s anger appears to be a staged provocation cycle, possibly an attempt to force concessions from South Korea and the United States.

Bill Gallo. VOA News. Seoul.


The US - North Korea relationship remains difficult. But while experts believe China could be doing more, Washington and Beijing have very different views on the subject of North Korea's nuclear capability.

Here's more from my conversation with foreign policy expert Michael O’Hanlon.

((Greta Interviews Michael O’Hanlon part 2))

MOH: For China, the number one issue is not to have war. because they don't want the refugees they don't want war near the border or they don't want to give the United States an excuse to move north of the Han River, you know, and move up closer to the Chinese border as happened in the Korean War the first time around.

For us, and the United States clearly we don't want war either, but we also don't want nuclear proliferation. And so in that sense, the American and Chinese interests in North Korea overlap, but they are not the same. And it's often where we disagree on the prioritization of one of those versus the other. That we wind up in disagreement with Beijing. I think that China has helped. the one thing the North Korean economy has been shrinking at a pace of 3 or 4% a year here during the Trump presidency because of the US sanctions which as you know only were possible because China agreed to support them. China has a veto at the UN Security Council, you cannot impose strong sanctions on any country anywhere in the world without Chinese and Russian help.

And we got help from Moscow and Beijing, after North Korea's sixth nuclear test and its three ICBM tests in 2017. But we do not yet have a realistic concept in my opinion, for what kind of negotiating strategy to pursue in North Korea. I think this one, this one is a problem for the United States, because President Trump I think hasn't figured out, like in my opinion, whether he wants to do a deal with North Korea that's more or less attainable, or whether he wants to insist on complete denuclearization. whereas previous National Security Adviser John Bolton had called the Libya option. And John Bolton is a bright guy but when he used that expression, he almost guaranteed that North Korea could never accept it.

Because you and I know what happened in Libya. Moamar Gadhaffi gave up his fledgling nuclear capability, and a decade later, he was overthrown and killed by internal forces that the United States and NATO supported.

So to North Korea, the Libya model means if you give up your nukes, you could be a dead man. And therefore, in my opinion, there's absolutely no realistic way that we can persuade North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons through a negotiated deal. The only thing that I believe is attainable and I really thought President Trump would pursue this I'm surprised he hasn’t, is to do a compromise deal a partial deal, in which we would verifiably dismantle North Korea's nuclear production capability so they can't make any more bombs. Let them temporarily keep the bombs they have, but no more testing, and no more testing of medium and long-range missiles. And then we allow some of the UN sanctions to be lifted so that North Korea's economy can resume. We still keep some of the sanctions, because North Korea still has the nuclear bombs. There has to be sort of an equity here in the deal. But that kind of a interim accord, which still held out the long-term hope of complete denuclearization without aiming for that short term, I think that was the obvious way to go. And I'm really surprised that Trump hasn't done that,

GVS: Do they look to China with trust? and I guess that the reason I ask you that is because if at least North Korea leadership Kim Jong Un or anyone trusts the leadership in China, China would likely have influence on them.

MOH: I don't think they trust the leadership in China no. in fact I'll make another plug for my colleague Chung Pak who wrote this one of the best books of 2020, "Becoming Kim Jong-Un,” and she retraces, the history that a lot of us yeah, remember that I'm sure you do but some may have forgotten the details-- which is when Kim Jong Un had his uncle, killed probably by anti-aircraft fire after sort of a mock trial in the first couple of years of his rule, after taking power as a very young man in, I think late 2011 if l recall correctly. And part of why that was so consequential, it not only proved that Kim was willing to kill family, although in this case, you know, not a blood relative but the husband of his, of his aunt. But nonetheless, also the most senior North Korean leader who had strong ties to China.

And therefore, this was almost a message to Beijing as well, that we will not be intimidated by our dependence on you economically or otherwise.

You know, North Korea is sort of like the little bawling kid at the playground and make so much noise that even the parents become afraid of how he'll act the next time you know they take them out in public or what have you. And so even though North Korea and China are allies, North Korea depends overwhelmingly on China's economy for its economic sustenance. Nonetheless, the Chinese are sort of afraid of North Korea, and we sometimes say to the Chinese “Well, come on, you've got the power, use it.” and what the Chinese say is, you know, since 2017, they've been basically saying okay, but the power is going to be applied through economic sanctions. And we're not going to squeeze them to the point of causing state collapse because that would be at least as dangerous, the nuclear weapons could go missing, you know, the North Korean army falls apart. So the Chinese are applying right now enough pressure that North Korea's economy is in recession. And I think this is the moment to go for an interim deal. And so that's why fall back on that option.


Just when it seemed COVID-19 cases were finally receding in China –

where the coronavirus outbreak was first reported, it appears the Chinese capital Beijing is now in the midst of a second viral outbreak.


June 9th - after discharging its last COVID 19 patient from a local hospital..

Beijing officials appeared at a press conference without face masks to declare “no new cases and no suspected infections”.

The warnings and temperature checks at most office buildings and restaurants came down.

And many businesses and markets started re-opening their doors -- for the first time since January.

But Beijing’s success story may have been premature…

A day after the announcement - Beijing’s 56-day streak of no new Coronavirus cases ended when a 52-year old man tested positive for COVID-19.

After tracing the man’s contacts - 36 new cases were reported…

most linked to one of the city’s largest wholesale fish and meat markets.

And just like that - the city was on lockdown again.

Now with nearly 200 new cases…

public officials are wearing face masks again.

Some stores have closed exclusion zones are up.

Testing has been expanded - and new travel bans are back.


It’s a timely reminder for those of us here in the United States and around the globe on the need to remain patient and vigilant as we ease up on social distancing requirements and move forward to restart our economies.

COVID-19: Fast Facts.

This is a special presentation of Voice of America.

Wash your hands with soap and water – before you eat, after using the toilet, after touching anything many other people touch, like a seat on a public bus.

Scrub thoroughly for 20 seconds.

If you cannot wash your hands, use a hand sanitizer.

Taking these steps can prevent not only coronavirus but also colds and flu and other viruses.

For more information visit the World Health Organization’s website at


Thank you for watching this episode of Plugged In.

And my thanks to Michael O’Hanlon for adding his voice to this important conversation.

Stay up-to-date by visiting our website at

And don’t forget to follow me on Twitter @Greta.

Thank you for being Plugged In.

((VOA – A Free Press Matters))