The Cable

Team Obama: China is acting responsibly on Iran, for real

The common perception on Capitol Hill is that China is not doing its part to support the international community's drive to halt Iran's emerging nuclear program. Not so, two senior administration officials said on Wednesday, as they praised China's action on Iran in a conference call with reporters on President Hu Jintao's visit to Washington.

The Chinese have stopped new investments in Iran's energy sector, improved their controls over weapons technology exports to Iran, and Chinese state-owned corporations are not backfilling business opportunities left open by other countries that are leaving Iran, the senior administration officials said. The officials also explained that the Iran issue has been at the top of the agenda on the U.S.-China relationship and that's partly why Beijing's behavior on Iran has improved.

"In all the meetings between the president and President Hu and our high-level interactions, there was no issue that occupied as much time and attention as Iran. It was absolutely at the top of the agenda in pretty much every meeting," one of the senior administration officials said, explaining that recent Chinese action vis-à-vis Iran "demonstrates positive results of that focus."

One of the top concerns in Congress right now about the U.S.-China relationship is that Beijing is not enforcing international arms sanctions against Iran and that Chinese companies have not stopped doing business with Iran's energy sector. Last week, two leading senators wrote to President Barack Obama warning that if the administration doesn't enforce U.S. sanctions law on Chinese companies, Congress will act.

"In fact, in the last seven months since the passage of the resolution I'm not aware of any new Chinese investments in the energy sector," another senior administration official said, apparently not counting ongoing deals between China and Iran to develop gas fields as "new". "That's an important development and it's an important signal to Iran."

"You do not see the kind of backfilling that might undercut the sanctions regime," the first official said.

Regarding exports of missile technology to Iran, one of the officials said that China "essentially adhere[s] to the guidelines of the Missile Technology Control Regime," which is meant to stop sensitive weapons transfers, despite the fact that China is not a member of that regime.

"China has done a great deal to improve its export control regime in order to try to block such exports," the official said. "There are gaps in China's enforcement. China's enforcement is still problematic... We don't see that as willful action by the Chinese government but as gaps in their system, which we urge them to correct."

In October, the Washington Post reported that U.S. officials had given the Chinese government a list of Chinese companies believed to be breaking international sanctions on arms transfers, including by giving them technology to help their missile and nuclear programs.

Both officials also touted Chinese support for U.N. Security Council resolution 1929, which one official described as "much stronger sanctions than anyone anticipated would pass, or that China would sign on to."

The senators don't agree that the Chinese government is willingly moving to end those abuses and in their letter, they cited numerous reports that China is supplying crucial materials to aid Iran's nuclear and missile programs and alleged that Beijing continues to give monetary and material support to Iran's energy sector, including the delivery of refined petroleum products, which does not violate U.N. sanctions but could provoke penalties under U.S. laws passed by Congress, including the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions Accountability and Divestment Act that Obama signed into law in July, 2010.

The senators specifically named the state-owned China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) and the China Petroleum and Chemical Corporation (SINOPEC) as firms that could be subject to U.S. penalties.

"We urge you to warn President Hu that the U.S. will be forced to sanction these companies if they do not quickly suspend their ties with Iran," the senators wrote.

Last October, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a new report that identified 16 companies as having sold petroleum products to Iran between Jan. 1, 2009, and June 30, 2010. Of those 16, the GAO reported that five have shown no signs of curtailing business with Iran. Three of those companies are based in China, one in Singapore, and one in the UAE.

But the joint statement issued on Wednesday by Obama and Hu made no mention of the U.S. sanctions law that could result in congressionally imposed penalties on Chinese companies. Here's the totality of what it said on Iran:

On the Iranian nuclear issue, the United States and China reiterated their commitment to seeking a comprehensive and long-term solution that would restore international confidence in the exclusively peaceful nature of Iran's nuclear program.  Both sides agreed that Iran has the right to peaceful uses of nuclear energy under the Non-Proliferation Treaty and that Iran should fulfill its due international obligations under that treaty.  Both sides called for full implementation of all relevant UN Security Council Resolutions. The United States and China welcomed and will actively participate in the P5+1 process with Iran, and stressed the importance of all parties - including Iran - committing to a constructive dialogue process.  

UPDATE: A senior GOP Senate aide responds to the administration officials' comments with considerable skepticism:

"These senior Administration officials continue to obfuscate and misdirect. Chinese entities are clearly in violation of the Iran, North Korea, and Syria Nonproliferation Act (INKSNA) and the Comprehensive Iran Sanction, Accountability, and Divestment Act of 2010 (CISADA)," the aide said. "If the administration doesn't act soon, it faces the loss of its waiver authority and investigatory discretion on these matters."


The Cable

State Dinner all about what's 'quintessentially American'

When Chinese President Hu Jintao sits down for his formal State Dinner at the White House tonight, he'll encounter a menu and agenda meticulously designed to expose him to what White House planners regard as "quintessentially American."

Celebrity guests at the Obama's third ever State Dinner will include Jackie Chan, Herbie Hancock, Barbara Streisand, Vera Wang and former presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter.

Congresspersons and other politicians in attendance include Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Howard Berman (D-CA), James Clyburn (D-SC), Steny Hoyer (D-MD), John Kerry (D-MA), Richard Lugar (R-IN), Taiwanese-American Congressman David Wu (D-OR), New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, Washington Governor Chris Gregoire, and Chicago Mayor Richard Daley,

A few journalists (alas, not your humble Cable guy) were also invited: ABC News' Christiane Amanpour, the Atlantic's James Fallows, Washington Post's David Ignatius and Robert Kagan, and the New York Times' Thomas Friedman and Nick Kristof.

Once everyone gets through the receiving lines, sites down at their tables, and after the opening remarks are finished, the guests will embark on an evening dedicated to "a menu, décor, and entertainment that reflect some of the nation's most recognizable offerings."

The dinner menu will take guests on a culinary tour of the United States, with pear as the first course, giving way to an appetizer of poached Maine lobster, followed by lemon sorbet (a pallet cleanser), and a main course of dry-aged rib eye steak, accompanied by double-stuffed potatoes and creamed spinach. Even the desert is America-themed. You guessed it: old-fashioned apple pie with vanilla ice cream.

But the patriotism doesn't stop there. After dining in the Blue Room, Red Room, and State Dining Room, the guests will retire to the East Room for "An Evening of Jazz" featuring performances by Chris Botti, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Herbie Hancock, Chinese pianist Lang Lang, and Dianne Reeves.

The America theme extends even to the table linens. Each tablecloth "features pheasants on patterned backgrounds in jewel tones, reminiscent of the work of iconic American artist John James Audubon, our country's preeminent naturalist," the White House said.

The White House was quick to point out that there will be some Chinese influence as well.  "A symbol of China-yellow, the national color-will be present throughout the cocktail area," the White House said.

Full list of attendees after the jump:

The Honorable Madeleine Albright, Washington, D.C.

Ms. Alice Albright


Ms. Christiane Amanpour, ABC News, New York, NY

Mr. James Rubin


The Honorable David Axelrod, Assistant to the President and Senior Advisor

Mrs. Susan Axelrod


Mr. Jeffrey Bader, National Security Council

Ms. Rohini Talalla


The Honorable Elizabeth Bagley, Washington, D.C.

Mr. Kevin Frawley


Mr. Steven Ballmer, Microsoft, Redmond, WA

Mrs. Connie Ballmer


Ms. Bette Bao Lord, New York, NY

The Honorable Winston Lord


Mrs. Denise Bauer, Belvedere Tiburon, CA


The Honorable Howard Berman, Representative from California

Mrs. Janis Berman


Vice President Joseph R. Biden, Jr.

Dr. Jill Biden


The Honorable Joseph Beau Biden, III, Attorney General of Delaware, Wilmington, DE

Mrs. Hallie Biden


His Excellency Zheng Bijian, Chairman, CIIDS


His Excellency Dai Bingguo, State Councilor


Mr. Lloyd Blankfein, Goldman Sachs, New York, NY

Mrs. Laura Blankfein


The Honorable Antony Blinken, Deputy Assistant to the President and National Security Advisor, Office of the Vice President


The Honorable Stephen Breyer, United States Supreme Court

Dr. Johanna Breyer


Mr. Greg Brown, Motorola, Schaumburg, IL

Mrs. Anna-Louise Brown


The Honorable Dr. Zbigniew Brezezinski, McLean, VA

Mrs. Emilie A. Brzezinski


The Honorable Kurt M. Campbell, Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs

The Honorable Lael Brainard, Under Secretary of the Treasury for International Affairs


The Honorable James E. Carter, former President of the United States

Mrs. Rosalynn Carter


Mr. Jackie Chan, Beverly Hills, CA

Mr. Phillip Button


The Honorable Elaine Chao, Washington, D.C.

Dr. James Chao


His Excellency Wang Chao, Vice Minister for Commerce


His Excellency Tung Chee Hwa, Vice Chairman, CPPCC, former Hong Kong Chief Executive


Mr. John A. Chen, Chairman, Committee of 100, New York, NY

Mrs. Sherrie Chen


The Honorable Chris Christie, Governor of New Jersey, Trenton, NJ

Mrs. Mary Pat Christie


The Honorable Judy Chu, Representative from California

Ms. Chiling Tong


The Honorable Steven Chu, Secretary of Energy

Mrs. Jean Chu


The Honorable Hillary R. Clinton, Secretary of State


The Honorable William J. Clinton, former President of the United States


The Honorable James E. Clyburn, Representative from South Carolina

Mr. John Clyburn


The Honorable Richard Daley, Mayor of Chicago, Chicago, IL

Mrs. Maggie Daley


The Honorable William Daley, Assistant to the President and Chief of Staff

Ms. Bernadette Keller


His Excellency Chen Deming, Minister of Commerce


Mr. Jamie Dimon, JP Morgan Chase & Co., New York, NY

Mrs. Judith Dimon


The Honorable Thomas Donilon, Assistant to the President and National Security Advisor

Ms. Cathy Russell, Chief of Staff to Dr. Jill Biden


The Honorable Arne Duncan, Secretary of Education

Mrs. Karen Duncan


Mr. James Fallows, The Atlantic, Washington, D.C.

Mrs. Deborah Fallows


Mr. Xie Feng, Director General, MFA


Mr. Thomas Friedman, The New York Times, Washington, D.C.

Mrs. Ann Friedman


The Honorable Michael B. Froman, Deputy Assistant to the President and Deputy National Security Advisor for International Economic Affairs

Ms. Nancy Goodman


His Excellency Wan Gang, Minister of Science and Technology


The Honorable Robert M. Gates, Secretary of Defense

Mrs. Becky Gates


The Honorable Timothy F. Geithner, Secretary of the Treasury

Mrs. Carole Geithner


Mr. Mark Gilbert, Boca Raton, FL

Mrs. Nancy Gilbert


The Honorable Chris Gregoire, Governor of Washington, Olympia, WA

Ms. Courtney Gregoire


His Excellency Zhu Guangyao, Vice Minister for Finance


His Excellency Zhang Guobao, Vice Minister for NDRC



Mr. Herbie Hancock, Los Angeles, CA

Mrs. GiGi Hancock


The Honorable Dr. John P. Holdren, Assistant to the President and Director of the Office of Science and Technology


The Honorable Robert Hormats, Under Secretary of State for Economic, Business, and Agricultural Affairs


The Honorable Steny Hoyer, Representative from Maryland, Democratic WHIP


His Excellency Wang Huning, Director of the Policy Research Office of CCCPC


The Honorable Jon Huntsman, U.S. Ambassador to China

Mrs. Mary Kaye Huntsman


Mr. Robert Iger, The Walt Disney Company, Burbank, CA

Ms. Willow Bay


Mr. David Ignatius, The Washington Post, Washington, D.C.

Dr. Eve Ignatius


Mr. Jeff Immelt, General Electric, Fairfield, CT

Mrs. Andrea Immelt


The Honorable Valerie Jarrett, Senior Advisor and Assistant to the President for Intergovernmental Affairs and Public Engagement


His Excellency Li Jiaxiang, Vice Minister for Transportation


His Excellency Yang Jiechi, Minister of Foreign Affairs


His Excellency Ling Jihua, Director of the General Office of CCCPC


Mr. Robert Kagan, McLean, VA

Ms. Victoria Nuland


Mr. Michael Kempner, East Rutherford, NJ

Mrs. Jacqueline Kempner


Mr. Muhtar Kent, Coca-Cola, Atlanta, GA


The Honorable John F. Kerry, Senator from Massachusetts

Mrs. Teresa Heinz Kerry


Mr. Robert King, UAW, Detroit, MI

Ms. Julie Kushner


The Honorable Ron Kirk, United States Trade Representative

Mrs. Matrice Ellis-Kirk


The Honorable Henry Kissinger, New York, NY

Mrs. Nancy Kissinger


Mr. Nicholas Kristof, The New York Times, Scarsdale, NY

Ms. Sheryl WuDunn


Ms. Ellen Kullman, DuPont, Wilmington, DE

Mr. Michael Kullman


Dr. Zhang Kunsheng, Director-General, Protocol Department


Ms. Michelle Kwan, Torrance, CA


Mr. Lang Lang, New York, NY

Mrs. Zhou Xiulan


The Honorable Jacob Lew, Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources


Ms. Maya Lin, New York, NY

Mr. Daniel Wolf


Ms. Limin Liu, Reno, NV

Dr. Hugh Shapiro


Mr. Andrew N. Liveris, The Dow Chemical Company, Midland, MI

Mrs. Paula Liveris


The Honorable Gary Locke, Secretary of Commerce

Mrs. Mona Locke


The Honorable Christopher Lu, Assistant to the President and Cabinet Secretary

Ms. Kathryn Thomson


The Honorable Richard Lugar, Senator from Indiana

Mrs. Charlene Lugar


Mr. Yo Yo Ma, Burbank, CA

Ms. Jill Hornor


The Honorable Capricia Marshall, Chief of Protocol, Department of State


Mr. W. James McNerney, The Boeing Company, Chicago, IL

Mrs. Haity McNerney


Mr. Evan Medeiros, Director for Asian Affairs, NSS


His Excellency Jiang Mianheng, Vice Chairman, CAS


Mr. Mel Monzack, Wilmington, DE

Mrs. Ann Monzack


Admiral Michael G. Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff


Mrs. Wendi Deng Murdoch, New York, NY


Mr. James Murren, Las Vegas, NV

Mrs. Heather Murren


The Honorable Thomas Nides, Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources

Ms. Virginia Moseley


Mr. Paul Otellini, Intel, Santa Clara, CA

Mrs. Sandy Otellini


The Honorable Nancy Pelosi, Representative from California, Democratic Leader

Mr. Paul Pelosi


His Excellency Zhang Ping, Minister of NDRC


The Honorable David Plouffe, Assistant to the President and Senior Advisor

Ms. Olivia Morgan


Mr. Tom Pritzker, Pritzker Organization, Chicago, IL

Mrs. Margot Pritzker


His Excellency Wang Qishan, Vice Premier of the State Council


Ms. Jean Quan, Mayor of Oakland, CA

The Honorable Edwin M. Lee, Mayor of San Francisco, CA


Ms. Azita Raji, JP Morgan Securities, Inc., Belvedere, CA

Mr. Gary Syman


The Honorable Ben Rhodes, Deputy Assistant to the President and Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications and Speechwriting

Ms. Ann Norris


The Honorable Susan Rice, United States Ambassador to the United Nations, New York, NY

Mr. Ian Cameron


Mr. Robert Roche, Shanghai, CN



Mr. Kenneth Roth, The Human Rights Watch, Washington, D.C.

Ms. Annie Sparrow


The Honorable Pete Rouse, Counselor to the President

Ms. Courtney Chapin


Mr. David M. Rubenstein, The Carlyle Group, Washington, D.C.

Mrs. Alice Rubenstein


Mr. Kirk Rudy, Austin, TX

Mrs. Amy Rudy


The Honorable Brent Scowcroft, The Forum for International Policy, Washington, D.C.


The Honorable Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of Health and Human Services

The Honorable Gary Sebelius


The Honorable Susan Sher, Assistant to the President and Chief of Staff to the First Lady

The Honorable Neil Cohen


Mr. Robert Sherman, Boston, MA

Ms. Kim S. Sawyer


His Excellency Chen Shiju, Chief of the President's Office


The Honorable George Shultz, Stanford, CA

Mrs. Charlotte Shultz


Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong, Culver City, CA

The Honorable Phil Gordon, Mayor of Phoenix, Phoenix, AZ


The Honorable Gene Sperling, Assistant to the President for Economic Policy & Director of the National Economic Council

Ms. Allison Abner


The Honorable Jim Steinberg, Deputy Secretary of State

Ms. Sherburne B. Abbott


Ms. Barbra Streisand, Malibu, CA

Mr. James Brolin


The Honorable Tina Tchen, Deputy Assistant to the President and Director of the Office of Public Engagement


Mr. John Thornton, The Brookings Institution, HSBC North America, Palm Beach, FL

Mrs. Margaret Thornton


His Excellency Cui Tiankai, Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs


Dr. Stanley Toy, Jr., Pasadena, CA

Ms. Lana Toy


Mr. Luis Ubinas, The Ford Foundation, New York, NY

Dr. Deborah Tolman


Mr. Jose Villarreal, Commissioner General, Shanghai Expo, San Antonio, TX

Ms. Sara Villarreal


Ms. Vera Wang, New York, NY

Mr. Arthur Becker


Mr. Steve Westly, Menlo Park, CA

Ms. Anita Yu


Ms. Anna Wintour, Vogue Magazine, New York, NY

Mr. Shelby Bryan


Ms. Patricia A. Woertz, Archer Daniels Midland, Decatur, IL

Mr. Kelvin R. Westbrook


Mr. B.D. Wong, New York, NY

Mrs. Roberta Wong


Mr. Charles Woo, Mega Toys, Los Angeles, CA

Mrs. Ying Woo


The Honorable David Wu, Representative from Oregon

Ms. Anna Kopperud


His Excellency Xie Xuren, Minister of Finance


His Excellency Zhang Yesui, Chinese Ambassador to the United States

Madam Chen Naiqing


His Excellency Sun Yibiao, Vice Minister for Customs


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