You are here

Talking Points: September 23 - October 7, 2016

This issue of Talking Points highlights key issues in the U.S.-China relationship, including a local fight over billion-dollar developments. Our comprehensive calendar of China-focused events across North America is also included.
September 24, 2016
Talking Points
September 24 - October 7, 2016

This week a Los Angeles union local played "The China Card." It complained to the Federal Election Commission that opposition to a Beverly Hills initiative

Artist rendering of Alagem's proposed project.

Artist rendering of Wanda's proposed project.

Alagem (r) with former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villargosa.

Wanda Chairman Wang Jianlin with President Barack Obama at a trade promotion event, 2016.

was illegally funded by a Chinese company. Unite Here Local 11 represents about 20,000 service workers in hotels, restaurants, airports, and elsewhere. It argues that Dalian Wanda, a China-based multinational with extensive U.S. holdings, with funding opposition to an initiative which would ease the effort by another developer to build a 26-story building next to a plot of land where Wanda wants to develop a hotel and condominium complex. This is the latest salvo in a fight between Beny Alagem, owner of the Beverly Hilton Hotel, and Wanda over whose mega-project gets built first - or at all.

Wanda purchased the AMC theatre chain in 2012 for $2.6 billion and Legendary Pictures (whose titles include Warcraft, Jurassic World, the Hangover films, and The Dark Knight) earlier this year for $5.7 billion. It has just announced a new partnership with Sony Pictures. U.S. election law permits the U.S. subsidiaries of foreign companies to donate to campaigns, but not if the donations come at the direction of the foreign company or foreign nationals. Unite Here alleges that they do. Alagem has spent $3 million thus far to get Beverly Hills voters to authorize his project. Workers at his Beverly Hilton Hotel belong to Unite Here. Financial reports from the Wanda-funded "No on HH" campaign are not yet available at the city website, but their effort has the support of the Beverly Hills mayor and others. It is worth noting that Alagem is not opposed Chinese investment. In February, his firm announced it was seeking $150 million in financing for its Waldorf Astoria Beverly Hills project through the EB-5 investment visa program.

This "China factor" in a municipal election highlights how intertwined the U.S. and Chinese economies are. We will be examining China in American politics and the making of U.S. policy toward China this coming Thursday in our "The China Card" conference. The gathering will also celebrate the 10th anniversary of the USC U.S.-China Institute. Distinguished scholars, former policymakers, analysts and activists will speak on economics, politics, foreign policy, security, human rights, law, and the environment. We hope you will join us and that you'll let others know about the conference as well. Please share Talking Points or the conference announcement with others. Thank you!

The proposed Wanda development in Beverly Hills is just one example of Chinese investment coming into the region and the country. Up Figueroa Street, within 2.5 miles of USC are two multibillion dollar residential, hotel, and retail projects funded from China. So far in 2016, Chinese firms have poured more than $18 billion into U.S. investments. Thousands of Americans are already managing the companies established earlier, building these projects, working in hotels and factories, and carrying out research in labs. This economic stimulus has been welcomed by many communities, though in some there have been growing pains as the newcomers, residents and employees learn to work with each other.

Two films mentioned in "Directed by Hollywood, Edited by China" report.

Iron Man 3 added scenes and cast members for China, earning $121 million there.

Gravity featured a Chinese space station and earned $71 million in China.

In one high profile industry, most of Hollywood is ecstatic over the growing Chinese film market and the prospect of continued investment from China. But some worry that the content of films will change to meet Chinese expectations. Last fall, the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission (created by Congress in 2000) released a report, "Directed by Hollywood, Edited by China," which concluded "With an eye toward distribution in China, American filmmakers increasingly edit films in anticipation of Chinese censors' many potential sensitivities." Others warn that Chinese ownership of theaters and radio and television stations in the U.S. increases the Chinese government's propaganda reach. Some members of Congress wrote on September 15 to ask the Government Accountability Office to review the Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S. to see if, among other things, "the definition of national security [should] be broadened to address concerns about propaganda and control of the media and 'soft power' institutions."

Meanwhile, American business groups warn that key sectors of China's vast market remain closed to outsiders. A US Chamber of Commerce report issued this month argues that in addition to denying outsiders access, purging foreign information and communications technology will hurt China, reducing its GDP at least 2-3% or $200 billion annually. The American Chamber of Commerce in China reported that member companies complained about inconsistent regulatory enforcement, unclear laws, and difficulty in getting required licenses to operate. While most companies told AmCham that China remained an investment priority for them, fewer said they were increasing investment in China. The slowing economy and rising labor costs mattered, they said, but so did market access barriers and government policies that put them at a disadvantage. On the political trail, candidates have complained of unfair trade practices and economic espionage. Last week, Donald Trump told CNN, "Think of it, [the Chinese] suck the blood out of us and we owe them money."

Renewable energy, pollution reduction and eradication, and other green technologies have been an important investment arena for Chinese companies in the U.S. and for American firms in China. In 2014, Boston-Power, an electric vehicle battery company, received $290 million in funding from Tianjin Municipality and Jiangsu Province to expand its factories there. GE made its biggest wind turbine sale in China in 2015 and has been working with Chinese factories to convert waste to heat. Xinjiang Goldwind, now the largest wind turbine manufacturer, has wind farms in Montana, Illinois, and just purchased the Rattlesnake project in Texas. Not all plans succeed. One proposed multibillion dollar project in Nevada collapsed in 2013 when the Chinese firm couldn't find utilities to purchase the solar power it intended to generate on 9,000 acres it bought. The recent U.S.-China pledge to meet the climate change goals of the Paris Agreement should encourage further and hopefully fruitful collaboration.

In security and human rights, major U.S. and China disagreements continue. The territorial squabbles in the East China Sea and South China Sea remain, with China's navy carrying out exercises with Russia's and the U.S. and Vietnam planning more port visits and the U.S. lifting of its ban on weapon sales to Vietnam. Admiral John Richardson, head of U.S. Naval Operations, visited Qingdao in July, saying that while friendly exchanges are good, but they will not continue unless unsafe encounters at sea cease.

Human rights organizations, editorial writers, and the U.S. government have condemned the ongoing clampdown in China, particularly the narrowing space for expression and association. China's party-state has pledged and implemented tighter controls on the press, including using extralegal means to try to restrict circulation of Chinese language books in Hong Kong. Lawyers have been a particular target of the party-state, with hundreds detained and many humiliated and sentenced to prison terms. On Thursday, Xia Lin, was sentenced to twelve years. The latest lawyer to be formally sentenced, Xia Lin was convicted of fraud, though his supporters argue he was punished for having defended a number of human rights activists and to intimidate others.

We will be talking about all these issues and more at "The China Card" conference. We hope that you will join us on Thursday. But if you can't, we hope you'll wish us well via email, Twitter and Facebook. Of course, we would be honored to receive any 10th birthday gift you'd like to send us.

Thank you for reading and for sharing Talking Points with others.

Best wishes,
The USC U.S.-China Institute
 -- a program of the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism

Donate to USCI via the USC secure server:
Support the USC U.S.-China Institute.
Click here to subscribe to Talking Points.
Keep us out of your spam/promotion folder - add to your address book.
Write to us at
We're at YouTubeFacebookTwitter, and iTunes.


October 13, 2016; 4-5:30 PM
USC Campus, Wallis Annenberg Hall, ANN 106
Free, please register.
Please join the USC U.S.-China Institute for a discussion with Syaru Shirley Lin to examine the divergence between the development of economic and political relations across the Taiwan Strait and the oscillation of Taiwan's cross-Strait economic policy through the interplay of national identity and economic interests.
Knocking Down The Gates Of Hell: PLA Air Force Commander Fan Yuanyan's 1977 Defection To Taiwan And The End Of The Nationalist China Dream
October 25, 2016; 4-5:30 PM
USC Campus, Wallis Annenberg Hall, ANN 106
Free, please register.
The USC U.S.-China Institutes presents a discussion with Professor Andrew Morris on the deflection of squadron commander Fan Yuanyan to Taiwan.
Screening - Iron Moon
November 17, 2016; 4-6:00 PM
USC Campus, Wallis Annenberg Hall, ANN 106
Free, please register.
The USC U.S.-China Institute presents a screening of Iron Moon, a documentary following Chinese workers who use poetry as a tool to express the hidden life stories and experiences of people living at the bottom of the society. The film is in Chinese with English subtitles.
California EventsCalifornia
The World of Dumplings II
September 28, 2016 - 7:30pm
Los Angeles, California
Join the Skirball Cultural Center in learning about the history and practice of dumpling making in Chinese, Ashkenazi Jewish, and Latin American cuisines through cooking demonstrations and tastings.

Is a Picture Worth a Thousand Words? Chinese Woodblock Prints of the Late Ming and Qing Periods
October 3, 2016 - 7:30pm
San Marino, California
June Li, curator emerita of the Chinese Garden at The Huntington, will look at some of the functions of printed images in China from the late 16th through the 19th centuries, using examples from the exhibition "Gardens, Art, and Commerce in Chinese Woodblock Prints."

The Hague Ruling on the South China Sea: Where Does Asia Go From Here?
October 5, 2016 - 4:00pm
Berkeley, California
The UC Berkeley Institute of East Asian Studies hosts a round-table of regional experts to discuss aspects of the Hague decision repudiating China's claims to the South China Sea.

Tales of the Distant Past: The Story of Hong Kong and the Chinese Diaspora
October 6, 2016 - 12:00am
Los Angeles, California
Tales of the Distant Past: The Story of Hong Kong and the Chinese Diaspora (A Tribute from the Tung Wah Group of Hospitals in Hong Kong) explores the factors leading to this mass migration and examines the role of both Hong Kong and the Tung Wah Group of Hospitals in supporting the needs of Chinese living in Hong Kong and abroad.

Beethoven in China
October 6, 2016 - 12:00pm
Stanford, California
The Stanford Center for East Asian Studies presents Jindong Cai on the compelling story of Beethoven and the Chinese people.

Beethoven in China
October 6, 2016 - 12:00pm
Stanford, California
The new Penguin Special "Beethoven in China," by Stanford professor and orchestra conductor Jindong Cai and culture journalist Sheila Melvin tells the compelling story of Beethoven and the Chinese people.

India and China, the New Superpowers
October 6, 2016 - 5:00pm
Berkeley, California
The UC Berkeley Institute of International Studies presents Anja Manuel, RiceHadley Gates, LLC.

East Asia as Method: Culture, Knowledge, Space
October 7, 2016 - 9:00am
Berkeley, California
The UC Berkeley Haas Junior Scholar Fellows presents an Interdisciplinary Conference for Junior Scholars on "East Asia as a Method".

Ethnic by Design: Branding a Buyi (Bouyei) Cultural Landscape in Late-Socialist Southwest China

October 7, 2016 - 4:00pm
Berkeley, California
The UC Berkeley Center for Chinese Studies presents Yu Luo, asking how branding works in contemporary China through looking at the strategies of an ethnic minority in the southwest jockeying for regional and national positioning.
North America Events


Who Will Represent China's Workers?: Lawyers, Legal Aid and the Representation Gap
September 26, 2016 - 12:00pm
Cambridge, Massachusetts
The Harvard University Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies presents a talk by Aaron Halegua, Research Fellow, NYU Law School's US-Asia Law Institute and Center for Labor and Employment Law.

The Comeback of Confucius in Modern China
September 26, 2016 - 12:00pm
New York, New York
The Columbia University Weatherhead East Asian Institute presents a brown bag lecture by Michael Schuman, Author and Journalist.

East Asian Movie Night: "2046"
September 26, 2016 - 5:30pm
Bloomington, Indiana
The Indiana University East Asian Studies Center presents a screening of the movie "2046."

Native Seeds of Change - Writing and Reading Women into the Tradition
September 27, 2016 - 12:00pm
Ann Arbor, Michigan
The University of Michigan Center for Chinese Studies presents a talk by Pauline Lee, Associate Professor of Chinese Religions and Cultures, Saint Louis University.

Religion in Taiwan Society
September 27, 2016 - 4:00pm
New York, New York
The Columbia University Weatherhead East Asian Institute presents a talk by Robert Weller, Boston University, as part of their Modern Taiwan Lecture Series.

The Mermaid Screening
September 27, 2016 - 7:00pm
Ann Arbor, Michigan
The University of Michigan Center for Chinese Studies presents a screening of "The Mermaid" as part of their Electric Shadows: 2016 Contemporary Chinese Film Series.

Screening: Tharlo
September 28, 2016 - 7:00pm
New York, New York
The Museum of Modern Art presents a screening of Pema Tseden's Tharlo. Followed by a Q&A with the director.

Yun-Fei Ji: The Intimate Universe
September 29, 2016 - 10:00am
Honolulu, Hawaii
The Honolulu Museum of Art presents the exhibit, "Yun-Fei Ji: The Intimate Universe", featuring a selection of the artist's work from the last decade, including new scrolls exhibited for the first time

Art in a Time of Chaos: Masterworks from Six Dynasties China, 3rd-6th Centuries
September 30, 2016 - 10:00am
New York, New York
The Honolulu Museum of Art presents an exhibition of relics from the 3rd through 6th centuries of China, including ceramics, sculpture, calligraphy, and painting.

Chen Chan Chen
September 30, 2016 - 10:15am
Honolulu, Hawaii
The Honolulu Museum of Art presents the exhibit "Chen Chan Chen," by three artists who grew up during the Chinese Cultural Revolution.

An Early 9th Century Shipwreck and Its Implications for the History of Tea
September 30, 2016 - 11:30am
Seattle, Washington
The University of Washington East Asia Center presents a lecture by Victor Mair, Professor of Chinese Language and Literature, University of Pennsylvania.

The Rise of China: Historical and Global Perspectives
September 30, 2016 - 12:00pm
Bloomington, Indiana
The East Asian Studies Center, along with the School of Global and International Studies, welcomes Klaus Mühlhahn, Professor of History and Cultural Studies and Vice President of Freie Universität Berlin to speak about China's growing presence and influence in the modern era.

Broken Pots, Broken Dreams: Working in Jingdezhen’s Porcelain IndustryOctober 1, 2016 - 2:00pm
Washington, District of Columbia
The Freer Sackler Museum of Asian Art presents a screening about ceramists in Jingdezhen complements ideas about mass production presented in the exhibit, "Chinamania".

Chinese Martial Arts Workshop by Mr. Zhao Ji-long
October 2, 2016 - 2:00pm
Ann Arbor, Michigan
The University of Michigan Center for Chinese Studies presents Mr. Zhao Jilong, leading a workshop on Chinese Martial Arts.

Maritime Security Challenges 2016: Pacific Seapower
October 3, 2016 - 6:00pm
Victoria, British Columbia
The Navy League of Canada and the Royal Canadian Navy hosts a conference on maritime security challenges in the Pacific.

Corporate Law in China
October 4, 2016 - 12:00pm
Cambridge, Massachusetts
The Harvard University Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies presents Professor Charles Booth and Ms. Sabine Stricker-Kellerer on Corporate Law in China.

Parties and Politics in Contemporary Taiwan
October 4, 2016 - 4:00pm
New York, New York
The Columbia University Weatherhead East Asian Institute presents a talk by Shelley Rigger, Davidson College as part of their Modern Taiwan Lecture Series.

Kuo Ping Wen: Scholar, Reformer, Statesman
October 4, 2016 - 4:00pm
New York, New York
The Columbia University Weatherhead East Asian Institute presents a panel discussion led by David Gedalecia, College of Wooster. There will be a reception afterwards.

Sour, Sweet, Bitter, Spicy: Stories of Chinese Food and Identity in America
October 6, 2016 - 10:00am
New York, New York
Join us for conversations around a dinner table with 34 Chinese and Asian-American chefs.

Promoting Land Rights for Tribal Women in India and Ghana and Ethnic Minorities in China
October 6, 2016 - 12:00pm
Seattle, Washington
The University of Washington East Asia Center hosts a panel presentation of Landesa visiting professionals from China, Africa and India, who have been chosen to attend a special Women's Land Rights Visiting Professionals Program hosted by Landesa.

60th Anniversary Symposium
October 7, 2016 - 9:00am
Cambridge, Massachusetts
Join the Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies for a symposium in honor of their 60th Anniversary.

Creating a Tea Aesthetic in Tang Dynasty poetry
October 7, 2016 - 11:30am
Seattle, Washington
The University of Washington East Asia Center presents a lecture on tea by Professor James A. Benn, McMaster University.

The Dictator's Dilemma: The Chinese Communist Party's Strategy for Survival
October 7, 2016 - 2:00pm
Toronto, Ontario
Many observers predicted the collapse of the Chinese Communist Party following the Tiananmen Square crackdown in 1989, and again following the serial collapse of communist regimes behind the Iron Curtain. Their predictions, however, never proved true.