Research

Research
The United States maintains close cultural, economic, and security ties with countries in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC). While the United States remains the largest economic and security partner in LAC, in the last decade China has rapidly deepened its economic, diplomatic, and military engagement to become the region’s largest creditor and second-largest trading partner. China’s efforts in the region are driven by four key objectives: (1) ensuring its access to the region’s abundant natural resources and consumer markets; (2) gaining LAC support for its foreign policies; (3) shaping LAC perceptions and discourse about China; and (4) gaining geopolitical influence in a region geographically close and historically subject to U.S. influence. Closer ties with China may reduce U.S. influence in the region; they can also reinforce the region’s overreliance on highly cyclical exports and create unsustainable debt burdens for some LAC countries, which China could use for political leverage. This report examines China’s objectives in the region, its economic, diplomatic, and military and security engagement in Latin America and the Caribbean, and the implications of its expanding regional presence and influence for the United States.
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China uses “United Front” work to co-opt and neutralize sources of potential opposition to the policies and authority of its ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP). The CCP’s United Front Work Department (UFWD)—the agency responsible for coordinating these kinds of influence operations—mostly focuses on the management of potential opposition groups inside China, but it also has an important foreign influence mission. To carry out its influence activities abroad, the UFWD directs “overseas Chinese work,” which seeks to co-opt ethnic Chinese individuals and communities living outside China, while a number of other key affiliated organizations guided by China’s broader United Front strategy conduct influence operations targeting foreign actors and states. Some of these entities have clear connections to the CCP’s United Front strategy, while others’ linkage is less explicit. Today, United Front-related organizations are playing an increasingly important role in China’s broader foreign policy under Chinese President and General Secretary of the CCP Xi Jinping. It is precisely the nature of United Front work to seek influence through connections that are difficult to publically prove and to gain influence that is interwoven with sensitive issues such as ethnic, political, and national identity, making those who seek to identify the negative effects of such influence vulnerable to accusations of prejudice. Because of the complexities of this issue, it is crucial for the U.S. government to better understand Beijing’s United Front strategy, its goals, and the actors responsible for achieving them if it is to formulate an effective and comprehensive response.
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Since joining the World Trade Organization in 2001, China has leveraged relatively cheap labor, large economies of scale, industrial policies, and the manufacturing capabilities of neighboring countries to become an export powerhouse in an increasing range of industries, while often limiting market access for foreign products. China’s scale as a trading power coupled with its protectionist policies have contributed to rising tensions in bilateral trade relations. This report describes and analyzes patterns in the U.S.-China trade relationship in 2012–2017 and is an update to a staff research report published by the Commission in November 2012 which covered trends in trade in 2000–2011.
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Since President Xi took office in 2013, Beijing has significantly bolstered its involvement in the Pacific Islands region, which comprises three U.S. territories and three countries freely associated with the United States that are important for U.S. defense interests in the Indo-Pacific. Much of China’s engagement in the region has focused on expanding economic ties with the Pacific Islands, but it has also increased its footprint in the diplomatic and security realms. This report examines China’s interests in the region, its comprehensive engagement in the Pacific Islands, and the implications of its expanding presence and influence for the United States.
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The Chinese government is seeking to revamp its state sector through a series of billion dollar “megamergers” involving central state-owned enterprises (SOEs). These megamergers consolidate state control in strategic sectors of economy and eliminate intra-state competition in China. However, they also contribute to increased debt levels among Chinese SOEs and undermine the competitiveness of U.S. businesses and other global firms. This report assesses the objectives of China’s megamergers strategy and evaluates the implications of SOE megamergers (and, more broadly, Chinese government control over the economy) for the global competitive landscape.
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China’s digital game market has emerged as the largest in the world but remains heavily restricted to U.S. game companies. U.S. companies are required to license their games to Chinese operators who appear to claim a majority of the revenue a U.S. game earns in China. Intellectual property rights conditions in China create significant challenges for U.S. firms, facilitating piracy in other international markets through China’s manufacture of piracy-enabling devices and restricting the commercial viability of certain gaming genres and platforms within China due to widespread piracy. Chinese companies have acquired several foreign game companies, raising data privacy concerns given the power of the Chinese government to request information from domestic companies and the broad array of data that can be collected by mobile games.
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The report examines five categories of China’s advanced weapons systems (counter-space, unmanned systems, maneuverable reentry vehicles, directed energy and electromagnetic railguns) and artificial intelligence applications for national defense. The report also assesses the implications of China’s advanced weapons programs for the United States and its allies and provides recommendations.
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The U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission released a report entitled Supply Chain Vulnerabilities from China in U.S. Federal Information and Communications Technology, prepared for the Commission by Interos Solutions, Inc. The report examines vulnerabilities in the U.S. government information and communications technology (ICT) supply chains posed by China, and makes recommendations for supply chain risk management.
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The Chinese government has a comprehensive, long-term industrial strategy to build internationally competitive domestic firms and replace foreign technology and products with domestic equivalents first at home, and then abroad. This issue brief serves as a primer on the policies in the Chinese government’s toolbox for achieving its technonationalist targets, to include localization, massive subsidies for R&D, government procurement, China-specific standards, foreign investment restrictions, recruitment of foreign talent, state-directed acquisition of foreign technology and intellectual property, and, in some cases, industrial espionage.
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In November and December 2017, China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Air Force conducted at least nine long-distance training flights over maritime areas along China’s periphery, continuing a trend that began in 2015. Since 2015, long-distance over-water training has become more frequent, featured a greater variety of aircraft, and extended into areas in which the air force had not previously operated. The long-distance over-water training is part of a broader PLA Air Force effort to transition from a service focused on territorial air defense to one capable of conducting offensive and defensive operations beyond China’s coast. These flight activities potentially challenge U.S. interests by (1) improving the PLA Air Force’s capability to execute maritime missions against the United States and U.S. allies and partners in the region; (2) gathering intelligence against the U.S. military and U.S. allies and partners; and (3) reinforcing claims in maritime disputes and pressuring Taiwan.