Next month, President Donald Trump plans to visit Beijing, a trip that will come amid rising tensions on the Korean Peninsula, persistent trade concerns and a raft of other thorny issues in US-China relations. While the President has sought to build a strong personal relationship with Chinese President and Communist Party General Secretary Xi Jinping -- in part to yield cooperation on North Korean proliferation -- the administration must develop a long-term policy approach that challenges China to abide by its international commitments, adhere to universal standards and embrace the rule of law.
Principled American leadership is needed now more than ever. In recent years, the bipartisan Congressional-Executive Commission on China's (CECC) annual reports have found that under President Xi's leadership, China has failed to deliver on long-promised economic reforms and has become more authoritarian domestically. It is also increasingly dismissive of international norms and "Western" ideas, and more assertive in its extraterritorial reach. The CECC's 2017 Annual Report, which will be released on Thursday, documents even more regression.
Although President Xi has stressed the need for global connectivity and openness, domestic censorship leaves little room for journalism and public debate -- just last week the use of WhatsApp, a popular messaging app, was blocked. As stated in the report, China "continues to strengthen the world's most sophisticated system of internet control and press censorship and forges ahead with what it calls 'internet sovereignty.'"
Xi has worked hard to consolidate his power, demanding strict ideological discipline from Party and government officials and using an extensive anti-corruption campaign to eliminate many of his political rivals.
Over the past year, Chinese authorities targeted labor and environmental activists; demanded loyalty from scholars and intellectuals; and clamped down on foreign non-governmental organizations, media outlets, think tanks, and internet companies. Restrictions on religious freedom also intensified, particularly in ethnic minority Tibetan and Uyghur areas. Coercive enforcement of population control policies continued in violation of international standards. And the government persisted in forcibly repatriating North Korean refugees to face near certain persecution and even death, in contravention of China's international legal obligations.
Twenty years after the British handover of Hong Kong the long-term viability of the "one country, two systems" model designed to safeguard autonomy and judicial independence in Hong Kong from Beijing's control is increasingly uncertain given brazen central government interference and the imprisonment of pro-democracy Umbrella Movement leaders.