Thursday, December 19, 2013

Community Correction Expands as RTL Contracts

People sentenced to community correction take a test on community correction implementation measures in Guangyuan, Sichuan, August 8, 2013. Photo credit: Guangyuan Justice Bureau

When details of the Chinese Communist Party Central Committee’s latest reform resolution were made public last month, the spotlight focused on the long-awaited announcement that the system of administrative detention known as reeducation through labor (RTL) would finally be abolished. A less noticed clause of the same item in the resolution, which was issued following the Third Plenum of the 18th Congress of the Central Committee, was an imperative to “enhance the community correction system.”

The juxtaposition of these two items led many observers both inside and outside China to conclude that a system of community correction would at least partially replace RTL—a supposition stoked by the lack of any clear signal regarding what, if anything, might replace the soon-to-be defunct system. Deputy Justice Minister Zhao Dacheng told reporters on November 29 that community correction was not, in fact, being proposed as a replacement. However, if part of the reform process involves expanding the scope of the Criminal Law to absorb some of the illegal behavior formerly handled by RTL, this will likely mean an expansion in use of community correction.

While relatively little is known about this newer system—first introduced to China through pilot projects in select locations in 2003—the number of people affected by it is growing fast. The number of people in community correction in China has more than tripled from about 400,000 in May 2012 to 1.4 million in 2013 (the latest figure appeared in China’s national report to its 2013 Universal Periodic Review).

Community correction is an important part of the “lenience” side of the current penal policy known as “combining lenience with severity” (kuan-yan xiangji). Currently, the system is applied to people sentenced to parole, suspended sentences, or “control” (guanzhi) in accordance with provisions introduced into the Criminal Law in 2010, as well as to people granted approval to temporarily serve custodial sentences outside a facility in accordance with the Criminal Procedure Law. The system is also seen as an important part of dealing with juvenile offenders without resorting to incarceration.

Before the implementation of the community correction system, parolees or those serving suspended sentences were subject to supervision by their local police station. Now, judicial administrative departments supervise the community correction system that relies in part on “social organizations,” contractors, and volunteers. Targets remain in the community but must report on their activities; get approval to travel or receive visitors; attend study sessions related to public morality, current affairs, and legal knowledge; and perform social service. Notably, while local community correction authorities are required to ensure that those under their supervision complete minimum monthly quotas of study and community service, the implementation measures do not set any maximum limits for either requirement.

People sentenced to deprivation of political rights (DPR) are also subjected to community corrections, not in accord with either of the aforementioned laws, but as a result of implementation measures (translated below) that took effect in March 2012. Citizens serving DPR—a supplemental sentence which is invariably applied to persons convicted of “endangering state security” crimes—cannot write articles or give interviews, cannot vote, cannot stand for office, and cannot hold a position in a state-owned company.

The Ministry of Justice is currently in the process of drafting a proposed Community Correction Law that would presumably incorporate and elaborate on the provisions of these national implementation measures as well as the many local implementation rules that have been put into place to govern this developing institution. Community correction will be an area to watch as China’s system for maintaining social order and stability continues to evolve.

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Notice of the Supreme People’s Court, Supreme People’s Procuratorate,
Ministry of Public Security, and Ministry of Justice Regarding Issue of
Implementation Measures for Community Correction

To: The High People’s Courts, People’s Procuratorates, Public Security Departments (Bureaus), and Justice Departments (Bureaus) of each province, autonomous region, and directly administered municipality, the Production and Construction Corps Branch Court of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, and the People’s Procuratorate, Public Security Bureau, Justice Bureau, and Prison Administration Bureau of the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps:

In order to further standardize community correction work, strengthen and innovate in the management of special populations, according to the overall arrangements made by the Center with respect to deepening reform of the legal system and mechanisms of legal work, and on the basis of deeper research and demonstration and broad solicitation of opinions, the Supreme People’s Court, Supreme People’s Procuratorate, Ministry of Public Security, and Ministry of Justice have jointly enacted these Implementation Measures for Community Correction. We hereby issue and distribute [these measures] and request their earnest and thorough implementation. Please report promptly to the Supreme People’s Court, Supreme People’s Procuratorate, Ministry of Public Security, or Ministry of Justice, respectively, regarding implementation or if you encounter any problems.

Supreme People’s Court
Supreme People’s Procuratorate
Ministry of Public Security
Ministry of Justice
January 10, 2012

Article 1: To standardize the implementation of community correction in accordance with the law and allow those under community correction to reform themselves into law-abiding citizens, these measures are enacted based on the Criminal Law of the PRC, Criminal Procedure Law of the PRC, and other relevant laws and regulations and in light of the realities of community correction work.

Article 2: Judicial administration organs shall be responsible for guidance, management, organization, and implementation of community correction work.

People’s courts shall issue verdicts, rulings, or decisions in accordance with the law with respect to defendants or offenders who meet the conditions for use of community correction.

People’s procuratorates shall conduct legal oversight in accordance with the law with respect to all areas of implementation of community correction.

Public security organs shall handle individuals sent to community correction in a timely manner and in accordance with the law when they violate public order management regulations or re-offend.

Article 3: Community correction units of county-level judicial administration organs shall supervise, manage, educate, and assist individuals sent to community correction. Judicial affairs centers shall be responsible for the daily work of community correction.

Social workers and volunteers shall participate in community correction work under the organization and guidance of community correction units.

The relevant departments, village (neighborhood) committee, and the work unit or school of the person under community correction, as well as his or her family members, guardians, or guarantors, shall assist the community correction unit in carrying out community correction.

Article 4: In considering whether to send a defendant or offender to community correction, the people’s court, people’s procuratorate, public security organ, or prison shall investigate what impact doing so would have on the community where the individual resides; to do this, they may enlist the county-level judicial administration organ to conduct an investigation and assessment.

A judicial administration organ enlisted [to carry out an investigation and assessment] shall, according to the request of the initiating organ, thoroughly investigate the residential circumstances of the defendant or offender, his or her family or social relations, consistent behavior, the consequences and impact of his or her criminal behavior, the views of the village (neighborhood) committee in his or her place of residence, the views of the victims, and the things he or she has been prohibited from doing and put together an assessment opinion to be delivered to the initiating organ in a timely manner.

Article 5: When community correction is used for a criminal offender, the people’s court, public security organ, and prison shall verify his or her place of residence and, at the time of sentencing or prior to his or her departure from the place of detention, notify him or her in writing regarding the deadline for reporting to the county-level judicial administration organ in his or her place of residence and the consequences of reporting late; the county-level judicial administration organ in his or her place of residence should also be notified. Within three working days of the verdict or ruling taking effect, copies of the verdict, ruling, or decision, enforcement notice, certificate of parole or other [relevant] legal documents shall be delivered [to the local judicial administration organ] and copies sent to the county-level people’s procuratorate and public security organ in his or her place of residence. A receipt shall be sent by the judicial administration bureau within three working days of receiving the legal documents.

Article 6: A person under community correction shall report to the county-level judicial administration organ in his or her place of residence within 10 days of a people’s court verdict or ruling becoming effective or leaving the place of detention. The county-level judicial administration organ shall promptly carry out intake registration procedures and notify him or her to report to a specified judicial affairs center to undertake community correction. If it is discovered that a person sent to community correction fails to report at the appointed time, the county-level judicial administration organ shall immediately organize a search and notify the deciding authority.

Individuals under community correction while temporarily serving their sentences non-custodially, shall be delivered to their place of residence by the responsible prison or detention center and handed over to the county-level judicial administration organ in accordance with procedures. When the offender’s place of imprisonment and place of residence are not in the same province, autonomous region, or municipality, and it is necessary for him or her to temporarily serve his or her sentence non-custodially under community correction, the prison administration bureau or detention administration unit at the provincial level in the place of imprisonment shall notify the prison administration bureau or detention administration unit at the same level in the place of residence [so that it may] appoint a prison or detention center to receive the offender’s case file and take responsibility for handling the intake and release procedures for the offender. When a people’s court decides on a sentence involving temporary non-custodial enforcement, it shall notify the county-level judicial administration organ in the individual’s place of residence to dispatch personnel to handle transfer paperwork with the court.

Article 7: After the judicial affairs center takes in a person for community correction, it shall promptly read aloud the main parts of the verdict, ruling, decision, enforcement notice, or other relevant legal documents; the time limits for community correction; the rules that the person under community correction shall obey; the things he or she has been prohibited from doing and the legal consequences for violating the rules; the rights that a person under community correction has and the rights that have been restricted in accordance with the law; and the composition of the corrections team and its responsibilities.

These announcements shall be led by an employee of the judicial affairs center in the presence of members of the corrections team and other relevant personnel and in accordance with regulations and procedures.

Article 8: The judicial affairs center shall confirm a special corrections team for the person under community correction. The corrections team shall be headed by an employee of the judicial affairs center and composed of other persons listed in Articles 3(2) and 3(3) of these measures. When the person under community correction is female, the corrections team shall have female members.

The judicial affairs center shall establish a corrections responsibility agreement with the corrections team, setting out the responsibilities and duties of each team member according to his or her work-unit and background and ensuring that each corrections measure is carried out.

Article 9: The judicial affairs center shall devise a corrections plan for each individual under community correction and, on the basis of a comprehensive evaluation of the type of offense the person under community correction was convicted of, the circumstances of his or her crime, his or her display of remorse, personality traits, and daily life environment, establish targeted measures for monitoring, education, and assistance. The corrections plan shall be adjusted in a timely manner based on its effectiveness.

Article 10: The county-level judicial administration organ shall establish a community-corrections enforcement file for each person under community correction, including the legal documents applying community correction and other legal documents related to the enforcement of community corrections, such as those related to intake, monitoring approval, punishment, remand to custodial enforcement, and lifting of community correction.

The judicial affairs center shall establish archives related to community correction work, including records of the community correction work carried out by the judicial affairs center and corrections team and relevant documents related to the community correction undergone by individuals sent to community correction. It shall also maintain copies of the community correction enforcement files.

Article 11: Persons under community correction shall report to the judicial affairs center at the appointed time; obey disciplinary rules and laws; submit to monitoring and control; and participate in education, study, community service, and social activities. When there are changes in residence or work, major unforeseen events in the family, or encounters with persons with harmful influence on his or her correction, the person under community correction shall report this at once.

Persons in community correction while under medical parole shall provide a health report to the judicial affairs center once per month. Every three months, he or she shall present the results of a medical checkup to the judicial affairs center.

Article 12: When a person under community correction has a legitimate need to enter an area or location subject to an “entry-by-permission-only” prohibition order of a people’s court, he or she shall enter only after approval from the county-level judicial administration organ and notice shall be given to the people’s procuratorate.

Article 13: Persons under community correction may not leave the city, county, or banner of their residence.

When a person under community correction has a legitimate need to leave the city, county, or banner of his or her residence in order to seek medical treatment, or because of family emergency or other reason, he or she shall seek approval from the judicial affairs center if the absence is for seven days or less. For absences exceeding seven days, approval shall be sought from the county-level judicial administration organ after getting a signed opinion from the judicial affairs center. Upon returning to his or her place of residence, he or she shall immediately report to the judicial affairs center. Persons under community correction may not leave the city, county, or banner of their residence for more than one month.

Article 14: A person under community correction may not move his or her residence to another county, city, district, or banner.

When a person under community correction has a legitimate need to move his or her residence, he or she shall make written application one month in advance for approval of the county-level judicial administration organ after getting a signed opinion from the judicial affairs center. The county-level judicial administration organ shall make its decision after seeking input from the county-level judicial administration organ in the new place of residence.

For those with approval to move their place of residence, the county-level judicial administration organ shall transfer all legal documents and corrections files to the county-level judicial administration organ in the new place of residence within three working days of issuing a decision. Copies of the relevant legal documents shall be sent to the people’s procuratorates and public security organs in both the current and new places of residence. The person under community correction shall report to the county-level judicial administration organ in the new place of residence within seven days of receiving the decision.

Article 15: Persons under community correction shall participate in educational study activity related to public morality, legal knowledge, and current affairs in order to improve their legal understanding, moral character, and thinking about remorse and rehabilitation. Persons under community correction shall participate in no less than eight hours of educational study each month.

Article 16: Persons under community correction who are able to work shall participate in community service in order to re-establish social ties and cultivate a sense of social responsibility, the collective, and discipline. Persons under community correction shall participate in no less than eight hours of community service each month.

Article 17: Based on the psychological status and behavioral characteristics of each person under community correction, targeted measures shall be taken to carry out individualized educational and psychological counseling to correct his or her law-breaking or criminal mindset and enhance his or her ability to adapt to society.

Article 18: The judicial administration organ shall, according to the needs of the person under community correction, coordinate between the relevant departments and work units to undertake vocational training and employment guidance and assist in the arrangement of social security measures.

Article 19: The judicial affairs center shall, based on the actual circumstances of the life, work, and community of the individual under community correction, employ targeted measures such as on-the-spot inspection, correspondence and contact, or information verification in order to remain actively aware of the activities of the person under community correction. During key periods or times around major events, or under other special circumstances, the judicial affairs center shall immediately ascertain the relevant circumstances of persons under community correction and may, according to necessity, require persons under community correction to report to its office and provide explanations.

When a person under community correction evades supervision, the judicial affairs center shall immediately report to the county-level judicial administration organ to organize a search.

Article 20: Judicial affairs centers shall periodically visit the homes, work units, schools, and communities of individuals under community correction in order to investigate and check the thinking and actual behavior of individuals under community correction.

For individuals under community correction who are on medical parole, the judicial affairs center shall periodically make contact with the hospital providing treatment and promptly understand his or her physical condition and illness treatment and check-up and communicate this information back to the prison or detention center that issued the approval or decision [for medical parole].

Article 21: Judicial affairs centers shall promptly record details of how individuals under community correction accept oversight and control and participate in educational study and community service and periodically evaluate how well they are accepting correction. Individuals under community corrections shall be managed differently according to the results of their evaluations.

Article 22: When a person under community correction is found to have violated the regulations for oversight and control or a prohibition ordered by a people’s court, the judicial administration organ shall promptly send someone to investigate the situation, collect relevant evidence, and make a recommendation for handling the matter.

Article 23: When a person under community correction commits one of the following infractions, the county-level judicial administration organ shall give a warning and produce a written decision:

  1. Failure to report at the appointed time;
  2. Violation of the provisions regarding reporting, meeting with visitors, travel, or change of residence;
  3. Failure to participate in educational study or community service according to regulation despite repeated attempts at correction;
  4. Failure by individuals under community correction who are on medical parole to provide details of their illness or medical checkups without legitimate reason or engaging in social activities other than medical treatment despite repeated attempts at correction;
  5. Violation of a prohibition ordered by a people’s court, when the circumstances are minor;
  6. Other violations of regulations on oversight and control.

Article 24: When a person under community correction violates a regulation on oversight and control or a prohibition made by a people’s court and that violation ought to be punished with a public-order management penalty in accordance with the law, the county-level judicial administration organ shall promptly request the public security organ at the same level to issue the penalty. The public security organ shall notify the county-level judicial administration organ of its decision.

Article 25: When a person under community correction who is serving a suspended sentence or who has been granted parole commits one of the following infractions, the county-level judicial administration organ in his or her place of residence shall issue a written recommendation to revoke the suspension or parole to the people’s court that made the original ruling and attach relevant supporting documents. The people’s court shall issue a ruling in accordance with the law within a month of receiving [the recommendation]:

  1. Violation of a prohibition ordered by a people’s court, when the circumstances are serious;
  2. Failure to report at the appointed time or eluding control during the period of community correction for longer than one month;
  3. Failure to correct behavior after having been given a public order management penalty for a violation of regulations on oversight and control;
  4. Failure to correct behavior after having been given three warnings by the judicial administration organ;
  5. Other violations of the relevant laws, administrative regulations, or rules on oversight and control, where the circumstances are serious.

The judicial administration organ’s recommendation to revoke suspension or parole shall be sent together with the people’s court ruling to the people’s procuratorate and public security organ at the same level in the place of residence of the person under community correction.

Article 26: When a person under community correction who is temporarily serving outside of custody commits one of the following infractions, the county-level judicial administration organ in his or her place of residence shall send a written remand recommendation to the unit that approved or decided the non-custodial enforcement and attach relevant supporting documents. The approving or deciding unit shall issue its decision within 15 days of receiving [the recommendation]:

  1. Discovery that the individual does not meet the conditions for non-custodial enforcement;
  2. Unauthorized departure from the city, county, or banner that is the place of residence without prior permission from the judicial administration organ and refusal to correct after being warned or refusal to report whereabouts and evasion of supervision;
  3. Failure to correct behavior after having been given public order management penalty for a violation of regulations on oversight and control;
  4. Failure to correct behavior after having been given two warnings by the judicial administration organ;
  5. Failure to provide details of illness and checkup in accordance with the rules during the medical parole period and refusal to correct this behavior after being warned;
  6. When the circumstances justifying temporary non-custodial enforcement no longer exist and the sentence has not concluded;
  7. When the guarantor ceases to meet the conditions of a guarantor or has had his or her qualifications as a guarantor cancelled for failure to fulfill his or her duties and a new guarantor cannot be produced within the statutory time period;
  8. Other violations of the relevant laws, administrative regulations, or rules on oversight and control, where the circumstances are serious.

Copies of the judicial administration organ’s recommendation to remand for custodial enforcement shall be sent together with the decision from the deciding unit to the people’s procuratorate and public security organ at the same level in the place of residence of the person under community correction.

Article 27: When a people’s court rules to revoke a suspended sentence or parole or decides to remand to custody an offender who had temporarily been serving a non-custodial sentence, the county-level judicial administration organ in the individual’s place of residence shall, with the assistance of the public security organ, promptly deliver the offender to the prison or detention center.

When the prison administration organ decides to remand to custody an offender who had temporarily been serving a non-custodial sentence, the prison shall immediately go to the place of custody and return the offender to prison to serve his or her sentence.

When the public security organ decides to remand to custody an offender who had temporarily been serving a non-custodial sentence, the detention center in the offender’s place of residence shall take custody of the offender.

Article 28: When a person under community corrections meets to statutory conditions for sentence reduction, the county-level judicial administration organ in his or her place of residence shall prepare a written recommendation for sentence reduction and attach related evidentiary documents and, after the prefectural judicial administration organ inspects and approves, submit the request for a ruling by the intermediate people’s court in the individual’s place of residence. The people’s court shall issue its ruling in accordance with the law within one month of receiving the request; when the case involves sentence reduction for a person serving a non-custodial sentence and the circumstances are complex or special, the deadline may be extended by one month. Copies of the judicial administration organ’s recommendation for sentence reduction and the people’s court ruling on sentence reduction shall be sent together to the people’s procuratorate and public security organ at the same administrative level for the place of residence of the person under community correction.

Article 29: Prior to the end of their community correction period, individuals under community correction shall produce a personal summary report and the judicial affairs center shall prepare a written evaluation based on his or her behavior during the period of community correction, assessment results, and community opinions, and make recommendations for placement, help, and education.

Article 30: At the end of an individual’s period of community correction, the judicial affairs center shall arrange to announce the lifting of community correction. The announcement shall be led by an employee of the judicial affairs center and carried out publicly and in accordance with statutory procedures.

The judicial affairs center shall, based on the different circumstances of each person under community correction, notify the relevant departments, village (neighborhood) committee, local public representatives, the individual’s work unit, members of his or her family or guardian or guarantor to attend the announcement proceedings.

The announcement proceedings shall include: a reading of the evaluation of the person under community correction; an announcement that the community correction period has concluded and community correction is being lifted in accordance with the law; for those sentenced to public surveillance, an announcement that the sentence has concluded and public surveillance is being lifted; for those sentenced to suspended sentences, an announcement that the period of suspension and probation is complete and the original sentence will no longer be enforced; for those who were released on parole, an announcement that the period of probation has concluded and the original sentence has been fully served.

The county-level judicial administration organ shall issue a certificate of completion of community correction to the person under community correction and notify the deciding organ in writing and send a copy to the county-level people’s procuratorate and public security organ.

When the sentence has concluded for a person under community correction serving a temporary non-custodial sentence, the prison or detention center shall carry out sentence-completion and release procedures in accordance with the law.

Article 31: Community correction shall terminate when a person under community correction dies, is remanded for custodial enforcement, or is sentenced to a custodial penalty.

When a person under community correction dies during the period of community correction, the county-level judicial administration organ shall promptly give written notice to the unit that approved or ordered [the community correction] and notify the county-level people’s procuratorate.

Article 32: For offenders who have been sentenced to deprivation of political rights as a stand-alone punishment, the judicial administration organ shall assist the public security organ in monitoring compliance with Article 54 of the Criminal Law and keeping abreast of relevant information promptly. Offenders who have been deprived of their political rights may voluntarily participate in psychological counseling, vocational training, and employment guidance activities organized by the judicial administration organ.

Article 33: When carrying out community correction for juveniles, the policy of education, reform, and rehabilitation shall be followed and correction enforced according to the following provisions:

  1. Community correction for juveniles shall be conducted separately from that for adults;
  2. To protect the identities of juveniles under community correction, decisions to impose correction shall not be announced publicly and their correction files shall be kept confidential;
  3. Correction teams for juveniles under community correction shall include members who are familiar with the special characteristics of adolescent development;
  4. Measures taken for monitoring and controlling juveniles shall be beneficial to their physical and mental health and take his or her age, psychological characteristics, and needs of physical and mental development into consideration;
  5. Provide ideological, legal, and moral education and psychological counseling in a manner that is easy for juveniles to accept;
  6. Coordinate with the relevant departments to provide juveniles under community correction with education and employment assistance;
  7. Urge the guardians of juveniles under community correction to carry out their guardianship responsibilities and assume their custodial and disciplinary duties;
  8. Employ other necessary measures that will help juveniles under community correction to mend their ways and re-enter normal social life.

The above provisions apply to individuals under community correction who were under 18 years old at the time of their criminal offense and were sentenced to penalties of five years’ imprisonment or less.

Article 34: When the period of community correction is finished, the judicial affairs center shall notify the person under community correction of the relevant regulations concerning placement, help, and education, liaise with the units responsible for placement, help, and education and transfer the relevant files.

Article 35: Judicial administration organs shall set up systems for regular meetings, circular notices, professional training, information reporting, statistics, records management, as well as systems for evaluating law-enforcement, open law-enforcement, and oversight and investigation in order to ensure that community corrections work is carried out in a standardized manner.

Judicial administration organs shall establish mechanisms for handling emergency situations. When individuals under community correction are found to have died unnatural deaths, engaged in criminal activity, or participated in mass incidents, [judicial administration organs] shall immediately coordinate efforts with public security organs and other relevant departments to handle the matter appropriately and promptly report all relevant details to their superior judicial administration organ and other relevant departments.

Judicial administration organs shall, together with public security organs, people’s procuratorates, and people’s courts, establish a platform for information exchange regarding individuals under community correction in order to promote sharing of data on developments in community correction work.

Article 36: Persons under community correction may not suffer any infringement of their personal safety, lawful property, rights to defense, appeal, complaint, and impeach, or any other rights that have not been subject to deprivation or restriction in accordance with the law. Persons under community correction shall suffer no discrimination with regard to education, employment, or enjoyment of social security benefits.

Judicial administration personnel shall conscientiously listen to and appropriately handle problems raised by persons under community correction in order to protect their lawful rights and interests in accordance with the law.

Article 37: When a people’s procuratorate discovers that community correction work violates the law or these measures, it may, based on different circumstances, issue verbal rectification opinion or issue a written notice to correct illegality or a procuratorial recommendation. The sending organ and the enforcement organ shall make corrections at once and give appropriate notice to the people’s procuratorate.

Article 38: In the course of community correction work, judicial administration personnel who engage in behavior that violates the law such as dereliction of duty, favoritism, or abuse of office shall be given the appropriate punishment in accordance with the law; when the behavior constitutes a criminal offense, criminal responsibility shall be pursued.

Article 39: People’s courts, people’s procuratorates, public security organs, and judicial administration organs at all levels shall earnestly strengthen their organizational leadership over community correction work, strengthen work mechanisms, clarify work structures, provide personnel, ensure funding, and ensure that community correction work is able to be undertaken smoothly

Article 40: These measures take effect from March 1, 2012. In case of any conflicts between these measures and provisions concerning community corrections previously issued by the Supreme People’s Court, Supreme People’s Procuratorate, Ministry of Public Security, or Ministry of Justice, these measures shall take precedence.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Most Americans Disapprove of Obama's China Policy, Poll

Vice President Joe Biden (right) with China's then Vice President Xi Jinping at the International Studies Learning Center in Los Angeles, February 17, 2012. Photo credit: Xinhua

As Vice President Joe Biden arrives in Beijing for talks with China’s leaders over a number of nettlesome issues, a just-released poll shows that Americans disapprove of the Obama administration’s China policy by a wide margin.

Only 30 percent of Americans approve of the way President Obama is dealing with China, compared with 52 percent who disapprove, according to a poll of 2,003 Americans conducted from October 30 to November 6, 2013, by the Pew Research Center in association with the Council on Foreign Relations. Obama’s handling of relations with Russia, Iran, and even Afghanistan, as well as his approach to issues like terrorism and climate change, all received higher approval ratings. The president’s handling of the situation in Syria—seen among Americans as Obama’s greatest foreign policy failure—won the same 30 percent approval rating as his China policy.

The results reveal a sharp 24-point shift in public opinion in the space of half a year. Immediately following the Sunnylands Summit between President Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping on June 10, 2013, a Pew poll showed that a narrow plurality of Americans approved of the way relations with China were being handled (39 percent versus 37 percent who disapproved).

The most recent poll, released on December 3, was taken before China’s unilateral declaration of an air defense identification zone in late November, a move viewed as provocative by the United States and allied governments.

Views of China itself were also largely negative. Nearly a quarter of Americans now have a “very unfavorable” opinion of China, the highest ever reading for this metric, which has been recorded for the past nine years. Thirty-three percent of Americans now have a favorable view of China versus 55 percent who have an unfavorable view—the widest gap since at least 2005. (In 2011, 51 percent of Americans had a favorable view of China.) A mere 23 percent of Republicans, who now control the House of Representatives and who are poised to make gains in the 2014 midterm elections, have a favorable view of China.

China and Iran tied for first place as the country that “represents the greatest danger to the United States.” Both were so named by 16 percent of Americans polled. Just over half of Americans continue to see China’s emergence as a world power as a major threat, while about a fifth consider China an “adversary.”

“The sharp deterioration in approval for the Obama administration’s policy towards China and the largely negative views Americans have toward that country underline the importance of the vice president’s visit to Beijing,” said Dui Hua Executive Director John Kamm. “Leaders of both countries need to stop mouthing platitudes about how good the relationship is and start effectively addressing the fundamental problems causing such deep disquiet among the American people—an increasingly assertive Chinese military, widespread reports of human rights violations, and a yawning trade gap seen by many as a principal cause of America’s high unemployment rate.”