Arthur Kroeber

A large number of officially organized exchanges between the US and China underlined in the past the relations between both countries. But since US president Trump came in charge in 2017, about one hundred have been abandoned, says long-term China analyst Arthur Kroeber to Bloomberg.


President Donald Trump’s revelation last month that he hadn’t spoken with his Chinese counterpart in “a long time” and isn’t interested in doing so is just the tip of a much broader breakdown in communications that’s stoking concerns among former officials from both sides.

When the Trump administration took office in 2017, there were about 100 officially organized exchange forums—touching on everything from pharmaceuticals to technology policy—between the two countries, according to Arthur Kroeber, a China analyst for almost three decades. Gao Zhikai, a former Chinese diplomat who served as translator to Deng Xiaoping, cites the same tally.

Almost all of these dialogues have now died, meaning that senior and mid-level officials on both sides are increasingly operating in the dark about their opposite numbers’ activities and intentions. That raises the risk of misunderstandings festering or escalating into crises, and inhibits cooperation that otherwise could contain emerging disasters, such as Covid-19…

“You need some tracks that are basically talking shops,” said Kroeber, managing director of GaveKal Dragonomics, an independent global economic research firm. Having those forums fosters “relationships that can come into play at times of stress and crisis,” he added.

One key framework for U.S.-China dialog was the 16 or so working groups under the Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade, or JCCT, which was established during the Reagan administration in 1983 as a forum for high-level talks. It linked a wide variety of U.S. and Chinese agencies, from those dealing with commerce to energy, the environment and agriculture.

The Trump administration terminated the JCCT in 2017, along with the Strategic and Economic Dialogue program that was led by the Treasury and State departments. They were replaced with the more narrowly, results-driven Comprehensive Economic Dialogue.

More at Bloomberg.

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