Nevada Newsmakers

News - December 23, 2019 - by Ray Hagar

'Sig' Rogich, adviser to presidents and governors, noted master of political advertising and former U.S. ambassador to Iceland, now spends his time as a leader in U.S.-China "Track II" or back-channel diplomacy.

Rogich's Track II diplomacy committee, which he chairs and is sponsored by the U.S.-China Transpacific Foundation, includes people such as former U.S. Senate majority leaders Tom Daschle and Trent Lott, former Secretary of Energy and UN ambassador Bill Richardson plus Gen. Richard Myers, former chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. They meet regularly with their Chinese counterparts. Their findings are presented to the White House and the Secretary of State.

It gives Rogich a perspective on China few have.

"We all agree that we need each other to co-exist on this thing called the Planet Earth," Rogich said on Nevada Newsmakers.

Rogich told host Sam Shad he is concerned about the future of Hong Kong, where protests have raged for months. The protests began in June to oppose a controversial extradition bill. Now, it has morphed into a pro-democracy movement that has captured the world's attention and has shown no signs of weakening, according to news reports.

Rogich suggested professional "thugs" helped spark the Hong Kong protests.

"First of all, it started with a lot of paid professionals, thugs, who came in there, two (thousand) or three (thousand) or 4,000 that were paid," he said during the interview in his hometown of Las Vegas. "So that set the stage for some of this."

While some of the demands of the protesters may be granted, Rogich is concerned that China could leave Hong Kong on an economic island, where the local economy could be ruined.

"My worry -- and I have been to Hong Kong 30 or 40 times in my life -- is that China just writes them off," Rogich said. "(It may) basically agree to things and then it (Hong Kong) does not become an institution for banking anymore. So what does it become? A slum? And they move the banking institutions to Shanghai or they move them to Singapore. And its transformational change."

Mainland China has the space and population to bypass Hong Kong's economy in the future, Rogich said.

"There is a population base, in terms of development, outside of Hong Kong and continues to Macau but on the mainland Chinese interior, that houses something like 250 million people. And so, that's their look to the future. Maybe that is where they go to develop."

Today's instant communications through social media and Internet sources are proving difficult to control or slow by the Chinese government -- as it pertains to Hong Kong -- Rogich said.

"They (Chinese officials) are going to have to capitulate (in Hong Kong) and I think they are worried about what it will do to the rest of the mainland China cities and towns because of the thing that's called the computer, the Internet and people's ability to see what is happening in one jurisdiction over another," he said.

"It is pretty tough to hold the genie in the battle once those things start," Rogich said about instant communications in China.

"Instant communication is changing the way we interact with one another in Congress, how we interact with our allies in Western Europe and around the world," Rogich said. "And the same is true with China. They have to realize we're in the 21st century and the waiting process, although there may be some of that, it is not like it was in the past."

Also, Americans may not be getting the full story on the Xinjiang re-education camps in their news stream, Rogich said.

The camps have been reported as a violation of human rights, where it is alleged the Chinese government has detained without trial as many as a million Uighur Muslims and other Muslim groups.

"There is more to it than we hear. It is not just a human rights issue," Rogich said. "I think as part of the Uighur community, there's 10,000 terrorists that were dispatched to those holding centers, ISIS fighters."

The human-rights issue is a factor that will continue to shadow U.S.-China relations, no matter who holds the White House, Rogich said.

"They (Chinese government) have to deal with human rights issues," Rogich said. "Hong Kong is a good example of that. And they also know they can't wait Trump out because Democrats have been on these issues before Trump got on these issues. That is why you don't hear much consternation from the Democrat Party, on what Trump is doing in China. In fact, you hardly hear anything because they agree and they can amplify it.

"If they (Democrats) are successful in 2020 (presidential election), they will continue to do what he (Trump) did but they will thrown in the human rights component and that is not beneficial, necessarily, to China."

Rogich is proud that he was put together a group of former decision makers and elected officials that has both Republican and Democratic leanings.

"It is the first bipartisan entity of its kind," Rogich said. "Henry Kissinger been doing this for 40 years, Track II delegations.
Track I, theoretically, is the president and the Secretary of State on bilateral talks. This is Track II."

Some issues are beyond Track II diplomacy, Rogich said.

"We agreed that if we tried to agree on everything, we'll agree on nothing," he said of talks with Chinese counterparts. "There is the South China Sea issue. There is always the Taiwan issue. We agree we are not going to solve those. But there are areas of medicine, medical research and education, since several hundred thousand Chinese kids go to the universities here in the United States. There are issues of agriculture and growth because we all have to eat.

"So we came to closure on many things," Rogich said of the most recent discussion with his Chinese counterparts. "We thanked them profusely for their assistance with North Korea, where we could not have made any inroads without them."

Rogich founded R&R Advertising, Nevada's largest advertising and marketing firm in 1973. It is now called R&R Partners.

He was a key media consultant for the presidential campaigns of Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. He was also a leading campaign consultants for many Nevada governors including Paul Laxalt, Mike O'Callaghan, Jim Gibbons and Kenny Guinn. His entertainment business relationships have included Frank Sinatra, President Trump (before he was elected) Steve Wynn and Mike Tyson.