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Talking Points: December 16 - 30, 2009

Trade, climate change, and remarkable short documentaries about contemporary Beijing are the subject of this week's USC US-China Institute's newsletter. China-related exhibitions across North America are highlighted.
December 21, 2009

Talking Points

December 16 - 30, 2009


Over the past three weeks, Chinese officials have lashed out at trade partners, including the United States, complaining that protectionist policies are unfairly targeting China. American politicians have continued to call for changes in Chinese currency and export policies. Tensions continued through the United Nation’s Copenhagen climate change meeting. President Obama had the Chinese in mind on Friday, saying, “we must have a mechanism to review whether we are keeping our commitments, and exchange this information in a transparent manner…. Without such accountability, any agreement would be empty words on a page.” In the end, though, the U.S., China and a handful of other countries hammered out a framework that was adopted by the nearly 200 member organization.

TRADE According to the Chinese Ministry of Commerce, the country’s exports through September were down 21%. The MOC said that through October, some 19 countries initiated 101 “remedy investigations” against Chinese products, meaning that the countries intended to impose sanctions of one sort or another against Chinese producers of those goods. The U.S., of course, is among them. Wang Chao, Assistant Chinese Commerce Minister, complained, “China now is in the center area of world trade friction.” He was echoing Premier Wen Jiabao who rejected calls for China to raise the value of its currency and accused others of protecting their markets at the expense of China: "Some countries demand change while practicing trade protectionism against developing countries…. This is unfair. We will maintain the stability of the renminbi at a reasonable and balanced level."

American officials and organizations have been sounding off as well. At the start of the month, Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell told the US International Trade Commission, "This country has been a patsy for too long and we are the getting the you-know-what kicked out of us." His criticism was echoed by Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Spector who argued, "I don't think it would be too extreme to say [Chinese subsidies are] a form of international banditry.” Last week, the American Chamber of Commerce in China complained that the Chinese government now requires that high tech products be certified as having “indigenous innovation” (that is, intellectual property developed and registered in China) in order to be included in a government procurement catalog.

While complaining about levies on its exports, the Chinese Ministry of Commerce has begun imposing duties of its own. On Dec. 10, it announced it will collect “anti-dumping deposits” and “anti-subsidy tariffs” totaling 23-37% from Chinese firms that import flat-rolled steel products (used in power generation and transmission) from the US and Russia. This directly targets the industry (including firms and workers in Rendell and Spector’s Pennsylvania), which recently got the Obama administration to slap tariffs on Chinese-made steel pipe. China’s investigation of whether US government support for American auto companies constitutes an unfair subsidy continues.

Earlier today, a World Trade Organization (WTO) appellate board upheld a finding that China improperly restricts imports of US films, music, and books and that it improperly keeps US firms from partnering with Chinese ones to distribute such materials within China. Last Friday, however, Chinese and American officials announced that they had worked out a deal to end Chinese government subsidies intended to aid in building exports of the country’s “famous brands.” This agreement followed a WTO finding that the subsidies violated WTO rules.

ENVIRONMENT The leaders of the largest economies are largely agreed that climate change poses potentially catastrophic consequences. Most believe that coordinated action is necessary to address the challenge. But they have been divided on who bears the greatest responsibility for action and for paying for whatever is to be done. For almost two months, US and Chinese leaders downplayed expectations that an agreement would be reached at the United Nations’ climate summit in Copenhagen. At the last minute, however, US and Chinese leaders worked with those from India, Brazil, and South Africa to create an agreement that other nations subsequently approved.  

Most analysts see the agreement as a small and limited step in the right direction. None of the major players made big concessions and none of it is binding on participants. Key provisions include:

-- rich countries, including the US, pledge to provide $100 billion to aid poorer countries in coping with the changes needed
-- the US aims to reduce its total greenhouse gas emissions by 17% (from 2005 emissions) by 2020
-- the European Union aims to reduce its total greenhouse gas emissions by 17% (from 1990 levels) by 2020
-- China aims to reduce its carbon intensity (that is the amount of carbon used to generate $1,000 of GDP) by 40-45% by 2020

Critics complain that without automatic penalties and uniform benchmarks that these measures will not significantly address the problem of global warming. China, they say, would be working anyway to increase its energy efficiency and that, assuming the Chinese economy continues to grow, its overall emissions will grow, perhaps doubling by 2020. Critics argue the US, having done the most to create the problem and having a significantly higher rate of per capita emissions, has the greatest obligation to both cut its own emissions and to help others cut theirs. The European Union, which had offered to cut its emissions by 30% if others would also aim higher, was left out of the final negotiations.

Earlier issues of Talking Points provided information on US and Chinese energy use and greenhouse gas emissions. Below are three new charts illustrating a) how the US, China, and Europe generate the most carbon emissions through energy generation, b) how the US emits twice as much carbon dioxide per capita than Japan and four times as much as China, and c) how China emits more than five times as much carbon dioxide as the US to generate $1,000 in GDP (and that the US is only half as energy efficient as Japan).

 The US generated more than 6 trillion metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions via energy consumption in 2007. China generated 6.3 trillion metric tons.
 On a per capita basis in 2007, the US generated 20 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions. China generated 4.8.
 It required 0.5 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions for the US to generate $1,000 in GDP in 2006. In China, 2.9 million metric tons were required.





Since 2006, USC and Communication University of China students have been partnering to make short documentaries on life in greater Los Angeles and greater Beijing. At USC, Cinematic Arts Professors Marsha Kinder, Mark Harris, and Johanna Demetrakas have led the effort and this summer, Demetrakas worked with CUC Professor Sun Zengtian to oversee the effort. The USC US-China Institute has provided grants to aid the program, but the key financial support has been provided by Stephen Lesser, a donor who has also contributed to USCI documentary and web publication efforts.

The 2009 films cover a wide range of subjects, including a LA-Beijing hip hop collaboration, the lives and worries of a rural couple, the difficult choices confronting a migrant family, a giant heart-wearing romantic, efforts to keep shadow puppetry alive, a man’s plunge into monastic life. One especially moving film looks at a village which cares for the children of incarcerated parents. They’ve been screened in both countries, most recently along with films from earlier years at the Orange County “Ancient Paths, Modern Voices” festival. Click here to see these films at the USCI website.


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Upcoming USC 

01/19/2010 - 01/20/2010: The Global Tobacco Epidemic: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly
Health Sciences Campus, Aresty Auditorium
Time:  5:00pm to 7:00pm
January 20
University Park Campus, Town and Gown
Time:  5:00pm to 7:00pm
January 22 - China: The World’s Largest Tobacco Market
USC Leavey Library Auditorium, Los Angeles, CA 90089
Cost: Free, Time: 10:00AM - 12:00PM

Hosted in partnership with the USC U.S.-China Institute and the School of Social Work
Dr. Judith Mackay discusses the epidemic's challenges, successes and future direction as they apply to emerging world health threats. 

01/21/2010: The Dragon's Gift: The Real Story of China in Africa
University of Southern California
Davidson Conference Center, Board Room, Los Angeles, CA 90089
Cost: Free
Time: 4:00PM - 5:30PM
Join Professor Deborah Brautigam for a discussion on her book on China's actions and intentions in Africa.

01/28/2010: Nanking
Leavey Library
University of Southern California
Cost: Free
Time: 6:00PM - 8:00PM
The US-China Institute presents the award-winning documentary, Nanking, followed by a discussion with director Bill Guttentag.


  09/18/2009 - 01/09/2010: Imagining China: The View from Europe, 1550-1700
Folger Great Hall

201 East Capitol Street, SE, Washington, DC 20003
Cost: Free
Phone: (202) 544-7077
Celebrate the opening of the latest exhibition at Folger Shakespeare Library.

09/17/2009 - 01/17/2010: Calligraffiti: Writing in Contemporary Chinese and Latino Art
Pacific Asia Museum
46 North Los Robles Avenue, Pasadena, California 91101
Phone: (626) 449-2742
Calligraffiti: Writing in Contemporary Chinese and Latino Art addresses issues of power, culture, and universality.  

 09/22/2009 - 06/30/2010: China's Great Wall: The Forgotten Story
NYC offices of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, New York, NY
The Forgotten Story is a series of historically-based photographs of the Great Wall of China. It is a collaboration between Jonathan Ball, a California based photographer, and David Spindler, one of the world's foremost experts on Great Wall history.

11/03/2008 - 11/03/2009: Ancient Arts of China: A 5000 Year Legacy
Bowers Museum
2002 North Main Street, Santa Ana, California 92706
Bowers Museum presents a collection that portrays the evolution of Chinese technology, art and culture. 

11/15/2008 - 11/15/2009: Masters of Adornment: The Miao People of China
Bowers Museum
2002 North Main Street, Santa Ana, California 92706
The Bowers Museum presents a collection of exquisite textiles and silver jewelry that highlights the beauty and wealth of the Miao peoples of southwest China. 

02/12/2009 - 02/12/2010: Art of Adornment: Tribal Beauty
Bowers Museum
2002 N. Main, Santa Ana, CA
Cost: $5
An exhibit featuring body adornments from indigenous peoples around the world 


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