Good evening. Last summer, after John Thornton took a six-week trip to China, the former Goldman Sachs executive was described as “a powerful back channel” between Washington and Beijing. But, as our cover story this week reports, this was news to Washington. Elsewhere, we have a break down of the economic relationship between China and Russia; an interview with Derek Scissors about the case for partial decoupling; a reported piece on China’s GMO u-turn; and an op-ed from Rui Ma on the false dichotomy of China’s ‘hard’ versus ‘soft’ tech. If you’re not already a paid subscriber to The Wire, please sign up here.
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The Thornton Touch
Since his retirement from Goldman Sachs in 2003, John Thornton has done everything in his power to be seen as a trusted intermediary between the U.S. and China. But as John Pomfret reports for our cover story this week, so far, the closest he’s gotten was when he helped orchestrate an intimate meeting between Donald Trump and Xi Jinping at Mar-a-Lago in April 2017 — a pyrrhic victory that, from today’s vantage point, may have cost Thornton his long-held dream of serving as a U.S.-China bridge.
The Big Picture: China-Russia By The Numbers
As international markets digest the new restrictions imposed on the Russian economy, there are signs that even China will struggle to maintain its burgeoning bilateral trade as before. This week, Eliot Chen’s infographics set out the key facts in the China-Russia economic relationship.
A Q&A with Derek Scissors
Derek Scissors is a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute where he focuses on the Chinese and Indian economies and U.S. economic relations with Asia. He also serves on the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission and as the chief economist of the China Beige Book, which provides data on China’s economy. In this week’s Q&A with Garrett O’Brien, he talks about the case for partial decoupling; China’s tradeoff of growth versus control; and what a U.S.-led coalition to confront China looks like.
Illustration by Kate Copeland
China’s GMO U-Turn
Beijing has long maintained very limiting policies towards GMOs, largely due to public opposition to the technology. But as Katrina Northrop reports, the risks of relying on foreign countries to feed China’s enormous population have become clearer — and a slew of policy changes in favor of GMOs have followed.
It’s the Real Economy, Stupid
In recent months, there’s been a lot of noise made about China’s pivot away from “soft tech” (the internet) to “hard tech” (e.g., semiconductors). It’s an intuitive distinction, but as Rui Ma argues in this week’s op-ed, anyone who insists that China is uniformly suppressing soft tech in favor of hard tech is simply being anti-factual.
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