The Inside Story: U.S. – China, Under Pressure (Episode 09, October 14, 2021)


Show Open:


Voice of ELIZABETH LEE, VOA Correspondent:


China’s air force flies close to Taiwan … 

Putting the U.S. on high alert.   



Antony Blinken, U.S. Secretary of State:


The activity is destabilizing. It risks miscalculation, and it has the potential to undermine regional peace and stability.





From Taiwan to trade —  

Human rights to climate change — 

Even video games and blockbuster movies … 

The many challenges that face the leaders of China and the United States … 

On “The Inside Story: US-China, Under Pressure”      



The Inside Story:




Hi. I’m Elizabeth Lee, reporting from the State Department, where U.S. diplomats oversee the nation’s foreign policy. 


President Joe Biden campaigned on building a new approach to foreign policy and relations with China. 

But little has changed between the two countries in the nine months of Biden’s presidency. 

Chief U.S. diplomat, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, warned China earlier this month about its military planes entering Taiwan’s defense zone.  And that is just the latest confrontation in a multi-layered competition between Washington and Beijing. 


We’re going to begin at the White House and our bureau chief, Patsy Widakuswara.  



PATSY WIDAKUSWARA, VOA White House Bureau Chief:

In the past several days, China has sent about 150 military jets into Taiwan’s air defense zone, prompting warnings from the Biden administration.



Antony Blinken, U.S. Secretary of State:


The activity is destabilizing. It risks miscalculation, and it has the potential to undermine regional peace and stability.





Taipei considers itself independent, but Beijing sees it as a breakaway province. Chinese pressure on Taiwan has become another flashpoint amid ongoing Washington and Beijing tensions.



Timothy Heath, RAND Corporation Defense Researcher:

Although concerning, I don’t think that the risk of war is high. I don’t think the Chinese are interested in provoking a war. Neither is the U.S.




The U.S. maintains unofficial relations and defense support for Taiwan while upholding the “One China” policy, recognizing Beijing over Taipei — a position reaffirmed during a September phone call with Chinese President Xi Jinping, said President Joe Biden earlier this week.




U.S. President Joe Biden:

We agree, we’ll abide by the Taiwan agreement, that’s where we are, and we made it clear that I don’t think he should be doing anything other than abiding by the agreement.




But the U.S. has been ramping up pressure on China, saying it hasn’t complied with a January 2020 deal in which Beijing agreed to buy $200 billion more in American goods and services by 2021. The administration is keeping tariffs on $350 billion worth of Chinese goods.



Katherine Tai, U.S. Trade Representative:

We will use the full range of tools we have, and develop new tools as needed, to defend American economic interests from harmful policies and practices.




The U.S. also has been shoring up alliances with Indo-Pacific powers, including Australia, which it will help equip with nuclear-powered submarines under the recent AUKUS deal. President Biden also hosted the leaders of Australia, India and Japan at last month’s Quad summit.

But Washington has been left out of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, or RCEP, a massive free trade deal among ten Southeast Asian nations and five partners, including China.

It has also been left out of the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, or CPTPP, an Obama administration-backed trade deal that former President Donald Trump withdrew from in 2017.



Abraham Denmark, Wilson Center:

It will be increasingly difficult for the United States to maintain our economic advantages in the Indo-Pacific, especially as China has recently applied to join the CPTPP.


A virtual Biden-Xi summit is being planned later this year. The announcement followed a meeting in Zurich between national security adviser Jake Sullivan and his Chinese counterpart Yang Jiechi. Patsy Widakuswara, VOA News, at the White House.





Controlling the nation’s message and maintaining order over the population are among the top concerns for the Chinese government.  China employs an array of methods, from arrest and extradition to censorship through its technology. And those methods are of great concern to the US and its allies.  We have two reports from Henry Ridgwell in London. 




HENRY RIDGWELL, VOA Correspondent:  


China imposed the national security law on Hong Kong in June 2020, in response to anti-government protests — claiming it would restore order to the territory. Critics say it curtails basic democratic freedoms. Well over one hundred people have been arrested under the legislation.


Among them is opposition activist Andy Li — who was charged with foreign collusion in 2020 after allegedly lobbying foreign governments to impose sanctions on Hong Kong and China.


Several British citizens were named in the court papers. Earlier this month, the British government told them they could face arrest and extradition to Hong Kong if they traveled to any country that had an extradition agreement with the Chinese territory.


Among them was U.S.-born British citizen Bill Browder, who has campaigned globally for so-called Magnitsky sanctions against human rights abusers.




Bill Browder, Financier and Human Rights Campaigner:


Specifically, my name was mentioned because I was having discussions with various people about Magnitsky sanctions against the Hong Kong officials who were involved in this suppression of democracy. After alerting me to my name being in the document, the Foreign Office officials pointed out to me that the Chinese national security law doesn’t just apply domestically to residents of Hong Kong, it applies to anyone, anywhere in the world.






Browder has already faced several attempts by Russia to have him arrested and extradited on fraud charges through Interpol, the global agency that communicates arrest warrants between police forces.  Browder says the charges are clearly politically motivated.




Bill Browder, Financier and Human Rights Campaigner:

I basically contain my travel to what I describe as ‘rule of law’ countries. So, for example, I won’t travel to South Africa, even though I actually own a home in South Africa, because it’s not really considered to be a rule of law country, whereas I would travel to Germany regardless of what treaties they have because I know that a court will not hand me over to Russians or Chinese on politically motivated cases.





More than a dozen countries have extradition agreements with Hong Kong — including India, South Africa and Portugal. British pro-democracy activist Luke de Pulford was also named in the Hong Kong court papers — and approached by the British Foreign Office. He recently spoke to VOA’s Mandarin service.



Luke de Pulford, Hong Kong Pro-Democracy Campaigner:


It’s a really sad indictment and reflection on the U.K.’s cowering before China. We’re now in a situation that having failed to honor their promises to the people of Hong Kong, the U.K. is telling people that they can’t go to third countries because they might end up in prison.





Under the Joint Declaration signed between Britain and China before the 1997 handover of Hong Kong, Beijing promised to maintain the territory’s autonomy under the so-called Basic Law.


In a statement, the British government told VOA: “The U.K. will not look the other way on Hong Kong, and we will not duck our historic responsibilities to its people. As a co-signatory to the Joint Declaration, we will continue to stand up for the people of Hong Kong.” 


The Lithuanian Ministry of Defense analyzed three popular Chinese-made phones currently sold in Europe: one made by Xiaomi, one by Huawei and another by OnePlus.


They reported finding a censorship tool built into the Xiaomi ‘Mi 10T 5G’ phone — which can block certain search terms — including “Voice of America.




Margiris Abukevicius, Lithuanian Vice Defense Minister:


We clearly saw that all of those key words are politically motivated. Terms such as Tibet, Taiwan, democracy, U.S., and some companies like yours, are mentioned in that list.







Xiaomi is the most popular smartphone brand in Europe. Researchers say although the blacklist function was turned off on the Xiaomi phone sold in Europe — it can be activated remotely. The list of blocked search terms appears to be continually updated, with 449 words or phrases on the blacklist at the time of the research.




Margiris Abukevicius, Lithuanian Vice Defense Minister:


If we compare the list which is current with the list which we analyzed a couple of months ago when we conducted that research, we see the differences. There are much more words now on the list. And we are adding not only now in Chinese, they are also adding words in Latin.







German security services have also begun a technical examination of the Xiaomi phone.


Xiaomi did not respond to VOA requests for comment. The firm said this week it was engaging an independent expert to assess the findings.


The Lithuanian researchers found the Huawei P40 5G model collected users’ data — including how long they spent using the apps — and stored it on servers outside the European Union, beyond the jurisdiction of the EU’s data laws.


The analysts say Huawei’s official app store — called ‘AppGallery’ — directed users to apps containing malware. 


In a statement, Huawei told VOA: “Huawei has always adhered to the principle of integrity, abided by the laws and regulations of the countries and regions where it operates … Huawei makes it clear that these apps are from publicly available sources, so the user isn’t forced to download an app.”


Lithuania has told government workers to get rid of the Xiaomi and Huawei phones.





Margiris Abukevicius, Lithuanian Vice Defense Minister:


On the basis of national security, really, we are looking for ways to protect our state institutions and institutions working in national security and give them a chance to only work with trusted suppliers. When it comes to consumers, we are giving recommendations: of course, you know, to really avoid using cloud services, avoid using some applications, Chinese made applications.







China has yet to comment on the report.


Many Western countries — including the United States — have blocked Huawei from involvement in the rollout of 5G mobile networks, fearing that it poses a security risk.





Margiris Abukevicius, Lithuanian Vice Defense Minister:


I think our research is in an illustration of how we should go beyond that discussion in the telecommunications sector, that we should think about other sectors.







The report comes against a backdrop of tense relations between Lithuania and China.


Both countries have withdrawn their ambassadors, after Taiwan and Lithuania agreed to open diplomatic offices in each other’s capitals. China claims Taiwan as its own territory. Beijing has halted rail freight to Lithuania and suspended trading licenses for Lithuanian producers.



The United States this month reiterated its support for Lithuania in the face of what Washington called “economic coercion” by China.  Henry Ridgwell, for VOA News, London.






An indication of just how closely America’s intelligence community is watching the US-China rivalry, the CIA Director recently announced the creation of a ‘China Mission Center.’ 

The agency touted the move as part of its larger focus on technology and countering Beijing’s influence.  


To dig deeper on what that means and the long-term impact, I talked to VOA national security correspondent Jeff Seldin.  




JEFF SELDIN, VOA National Security Correspondent:


The CIA, in its announcement, didn’t specifically lay out any threats that it is specifically concerned about. But the threats from China have been overarching, whether it’s in cyberspace, whether it’s in terms of industrial espionage. And increasingly there are concerns about the way that Beijing is flexing its military might, its growing military might, across the world, whether it’s with its growing navy, with its outreach to Africa and even Central and South America, or with its growing missile program.




The changes within the CIA come at a time when China has been stepping up its aggressive posturing toward Taiwan, flying a record number of war planes in Taiwan’s airspace. and Chinese leader Xi Jinping talked about the desire for a peaceful reunification with Taiwan. Now the response from Taiwan is that it will not bow to pressure from Beijing, so can you talk about the reasons why Taiwan is a sensitive subject in US China relations and US’s relationship with Taiwan?





Well, to both the intelligence community and the US military, Taiwan is being looked at as a potential flashpoint when things could go bad with China, where there’s a potential for conflict. Now when that conflict comes is a big question. The US intelligence community and the military has said, it’s no surprise and China has not made any intention of hiding their ambition to surpass the US military, in terms of being the most powerful force on the planet by about 2050.

There are some analysts who say that could happen even sooner by 2030. But in terms of what’s going on with Taiwan, and the recent flights by Chinese military aircraft into Taiwanese airspace, there’s a concern that perhaps China is pushing the US buttons, pushing the Taiwanese buttons, trying to see where there may be some soft area there. However, the latest US military assessments are that it’s unlikely that China is actually going to take military action to unify Taiwan with mainland China, though they say it’s very clear that’s the goal.

But for right now, and as recently as June, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said that China has a ways to go before they develop the, what he called, the actual no kidding capability to conduct that type of military operation.






There are reports of US military activities in Taiwan. Jeff, Can you talk more about that and why it’s significant and China’s response?





Well, right now you have to remember that Taiwan is a flashpoint where there is a huge amount of power that’s being concentrated. you have the incursions and the aggressive politics for the Chinese military near Taiwanese airspace. You have the US and now these reports of a Special Forces contingent and a small contingent of Marines, going in and training Taiwanese forces, just in case something happens. So we have a concentration of power and so that brings up the risk of unintended consequences, a mistake here, an errant response there, that all of a sudden blows up into a larger military conflict. and it’s something that the US is very wary of. It’s one of the reasons why the Pentagon, most recently has refused to confirm the Wall Street Journal report about the training that’s going on in Taiwan. and it’s also the reason why every time that there’s another US arms sales to Taiwan, that it raises concern – How’s China going to react? How is the US going to react to China’s reaction? And in the scope of great power competition, there’s a lot of risk and that’s why all sides, despite some of the rhetoric and sometimes the harsh rhetoric that you hear, are being very careful in how to approach this, because a military conflict, actually going to war in Taiwan, is not likely to be a good situation that either Beijing or Washington, want to wade into right now.







In most countries, deciding how much time children spend using electronic devices is something parents decide. But in China, the government is deciding that issue for video gamers younger than 18. VOA’s Michelle Quinn looks at the concern among parents, kids and the gaming industry. 



MICHELLE QUINN, VOA Correspondent:  

Playing video games for only three hours a week – that’s the new rule in Chinafor players 17-years-old and younger. The global gaming industry is wondering what the long-term impact of these restrictions will be.  



Lisa Hanson, Niko Partners:

It’s just been someone really yanked back on the reins. And we’re waiting to see what happens when the horse starts to go.




There are more than 110 million under 18-year-old gamers in China, according to Niko Partners, a market research firm. That’s about 13% of the Chinese market.

For years, the Chinese government has worked to counter the influence of gaming on young people. Now with the new rules, young gamers can play for one hour Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights 8 p.m. to 9 p.m. That strengthens the previous policies, which allowed 13.5 hours a week.  


Lisa Hanson, Niko Partners:

So I think the government is saying, “We were not kidding. We want our kids to stop playing games all the time.”




In China, teenagers recently talked to Agence France Presse about the new rules.



Wang, High School Student:

It’s like there’s a fight between two thoughts in my head, one says, ‘This regulation not allowing me to play games is so annoying,’ and the other says, “You are in your last year of high school, you should be studying. This is a good regulation.”



Wu, High School Student:

Some of my classmates may use their parents ID to register for the games or buy a game account without restrictions which isn’t too expensive anyways.




Another change: Gaming companies, not parents, enforce the rules. Tencent, the Shenzhen-based maker of “Honor of Kings” and “League of Legends,” is using facial recognition technology dubbed “Midnight Patrol” which reportedly flags players who might be young and playing after curfew. If they don’t check in with their face ID, they are blocked from the game.  

James Steyer, who has long advocated for more education about the effects of gaming, sees an opportunity in the new China gaming rules.



James Steyer, Common Sense Media:

I think it’s the source of very positive healthy discussion about how to find a healthy media diet, the right balance for your children and teenagers and quite honestly for yourself.




The gaming industry’s ability to cultivate the next generation of players will likely be affected by the new restrictions. And many young players hoping to compete in esports, global competitive online gaming tournaments, won’t be able to put in the time in to hone their skills, says Warren Hoang, 26, a gamer from Oakland, California. He started playing at 11 and got more serious as a teenager, travelling to compete.  



Warren Hoang, Gamer:

It’s going to be a big hit for a lot of up and coming Chinese gamers….If they really want to play these games, they are only going to get to play one game a day, 3 games a week. And that’s just going to be really tough because you are going to have to compete with people who are playing 8 hours a day every single day and it’s going to be really hard to keep up with them.




In the short term, Hanson says the new rules in China will likely not affect gaming companies’ bottom line. But the long-term forecast for the industry will likely change. Michelle Quinn, VOA News.







One of the latest blockbuster movies from Hollywood, “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings,” is a strong force at the box office worldwide. 


The Marvel action movie features a largely Asian cast, which has generated large audiences in Asian countries. That is, everywhere but China. VOA’s Penelope Poulou explains why:




Actor, “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings”:


Who are you? 





Chinese Canadian actor Simu Liu plays Shang-Chi, the humble son of a powerful overlord. His father, Xu Wenwu, played by Tony Leung, possesses the mystical 10 rings that grant immortality and immense powers to whoever owns them. Eventually Shang-Chi stands up to his father to save the world.   


Simu Liu, Lead Actor, “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings”:


For many of us who grew up in the West, whose parents immigrated, we never really saw ourselves on screen meaningfully. Shang-Chi will be an important piece of that conversation.”  




The movie by Asian American director Destin Daniel Cretton features a diverse Asian cast that includes film icons Tony Leung and Michelle Yeoh as well as Asian-American actress and rapper Awkwafina. According to, the film cost about $150 million to make, one of the lowest budgets of any Marvel Cinematic Universe movie production, and has been a hit both domestically and internationally, grossing over $360 million so far, which, according to The Atlantic, is an even greater feat considering that pandemic-weary audiences are still hesitant to return to theaters.  


Aynne Kokas, University of Virginia Media Studies Professor:

It was made with the purpose of appealing to the Chinese market, but actually succeeded because it was something that appealed to Asian American audiences, to audiences in Asia, as well as to a wide range of people around the world who just want to see good movies.” 




Despite its global box office success, the film may be a casualty of the increasing political and economic tensions between Washington and Beijing: It has yet to be released in mainland China. 



Aynne Kokas, University of Virginia Media Studies Professor

Under the Trump administration, the U.S.-China Film Agreement expired, which guaranteed access for Hollywood studio films to the Chinese market. The Chinese market is the largest in the world. Xi Jinping has made it very clear that one of his policy priorities is to have Chinese people tell Chinese stories.



Michael Berry, UCLA Center for Chinese Studies Director:

Many of them are what you would call patriotic films, almost propagandistic films.



Chinese Studies Director at UCLA Michael Berry, says these films are aligned with a grassroots movement by movie goers, who support nationalistic, action-packed Chinese films like the box office hit “Wolf Warrior II.” 

Berry says netizens on Chinese social platforms such as Weibo have also criticized Shang-Chi for what they consider racist tropes.  



Michael Berry, UCLA Center for Chinese Studies Director:

The main villain, who was Shang-Chi’s father, is actually modeled off this character called ‘The Mandarin.’

And the Mandarin has roots in Fu Manchu and some of these racist ‘yellow peril’ type discourse that had been very deep rooted in the West concerning China for quite a long time.”  




There was also backlash against Chinese Canadian lead actor Simu Liu after a 2017 interview surfaced in which he criticized China.  


Michael Berry, UCLA Center for Chinese Studies Director:

Where he talked about his parents’ rationale for immigrating from China to Canada. Nothing particularly explosive in that interview, but that’s been grabbed onto by internet trolls and been judged by a lot of netizens as being unpatriotic or kind of harmful discourse for China.




Aynne Kokas says Shang-Chi’s international message and global box office success indicates that Hollywood films might still be able to thrive without the Chinese market.  Penelope Poulou, VOA News, Washington.





And that is all we have for now.   I’m Elizabeth Lee. Follow me on Twitter @ ELee TV 1 for news related to U.S.-China relations. Connect with us on Instagram and Facebook @VOANews.  

And stay up to date online at  See you next week for The Inside Story.