Slow Dance
U.S. and China Agree to Consult on Fugitives

Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson was in China late last week, talking to his Chinese counterpart Guo Shengkun. The meeting was wide-ranging, hitting on issues as disparate as counterterrorism, intellectual property and cyber warfare. But perhaps the most significant subject of discussion was cooperation on repatriation and fugitive issues.

We wrote about the prospects for an extradition deal being struck between China and the United States back in March, raising the possibility that an agreement like this might be announced when Wang Qishan, Xi’s powerful “fire-fighter” in charge of the purge, makes a planned visit to Washington. No specific deal seems to have been struck yet, but clearly the two sides are starting some kind of dance together.

The AP reports:

A department news release Sunday said the sides would share more information on repatriation and fugitive cases and provide regular updates. China also agreed to expedite the return of the more than 39,000 Chinese citizens currently in the United States who are at some stage in the process of being deported.

“The two participants further acknowledged that neither country should serve as a safe haven for fugitives,” the news release said.

Given the systematically corrupt way in which Chinese officialdom functions, many of the thousands snared by Xi’s anti-corruption campaign are no doubt guilty of some form of graft. Yet it’s critical to remember that what’s going on in Xi’s China is still an old-school party purge—of the type Stalin relied on so heavily for power consolidation. Given the political nature of the purge, playing along with it could pose thorny political and moral problems for the U.S. And it’s not at all clear that the U.S. should be scaring off potentially useful defectors from the upper ranks of a major geopolitical opponent’s power structure.

Let’s hope the Obama Administration proceeds with due caution.

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