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U.S.-China Counterterrorism Cooperation: Issues for U.S. Policy

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Publication Date: May 2009

Publisher(s): Library of Congress. Congressional Research Service

Series: RL33001

Topic: Government (Foreign relations)

Coverage: China

Abstract:

After the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, the United States faced a challenge in enlisting the full support of the People's Republic of China (PRC) in counterterrorism. This effort raised short-term policy issues about how to elicit cooperation and how to address China's concerns about military action (Operation Enduring Freedom). Longer-term questions have concerned whether counterterrorism has strategically transformed bilateral relations and whether China's support has been valuable and not obtained at the expense of other U.S. interests.

The extent of U.S.-China counterterrorism cooperation has been limited, but the tone and context of counterterrorism helped to stabilize -- even if it did not transform -- the bilateral relationship pursued by President George Bush. In September 2005, Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick acknowledged that "China and the United States can do more together in the global fight against terrorism" after "a good start," in his major policy speech calling China a "stakeholder" in his search for a deeper framework for the bilateral relationship.

Congress has oversight over the trend toward closer ties with China as well as a range of policy options. These options cover law-enforcement cooperation; designations of terrorist organizations; release of detained Uighurs from Guantanamo Bay prison; weapons nonproliferation; waivers of sanctions for the 1989 Tiananmen crackdown to export security equipment (e.g., for the 2008 Olympics in Beijing); the Container Security Initiative (CSI); military-to-military contacts; and China's influence on Central Asia through the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO).

On July 19, 2005, the House passed (by voice vote) Representative Tom Lantos' amendment to H.R. 2601, the Foreign Relations Authorization Act for FYs 2006 and 2007, to express concerns that China and other SCO countries called for a deadline for U.S. counterterrorism deployments in Central Asia. The House passed H.R. 2601 (by 351-78) on July 20, 2005, and it was placed on the Senate's calendar two days later.

This report will be updated as warranted.