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Heavy-Handed Politics

"€œGod willing, with the force of God behind it, we shall soon experience a world
without the United States and Zionism."€ -- Iran President Ahmadi-Nejad

Friday, May 27, 2005

China Makes Its Move

Richard Holbrooke, writing for the Washington Post, has written an article and makes some intresting observations in "China Makes Its Move".

While seeking an open door policy with China, "the secretary of the Treasury and an enraged Congress are hammering China to revalue its currency to give U.S. companies a better chance to compete with the world's fastest-growing major economy."

"Arguments over the exchange rate are a small part of what goes on these days between the two most important nations in the world."

According to Holbrook, and both sides deny this, our relationships "are slowly fraying while other issues take up the attention of senior American officials."

Beyond the never-ending Taiwan issue and Washington's concern over China's growing military muscle, two huge factors put the relationship under constant pressure: first, substantially different attitudes toward the rights of people to express themselves freely and, second, the massive trade imbalance.

What vastly complicates U.S. relations with China is that every major foreign policy issue between the two countries is also a domestic matter, with its own lobbying groups and nongovernmental organizations ranging across the entire American political spectrum, from human rights to pro-life, from pro-Tibet to organized labor. The bilateral agenda, even a partial one, is daunting: Taiwan, Tibet, human rights, religious freedom, press freedom, the Falun Gong, slave labor, North Korea, Iran, trade, the exchange rate, intellectual property rights, access to Chinese markets, export of sensitive technology and the arms embargo.

He makes an excellent point when he says:

In Washington, where different parts of the executive branch dominate on each issue and Congress plays a major role, it can be difficult to stick to a coherent overall policy. China, on the other hand, with its highly secretive, tightly disciplined and undemocratic system, can establish long-term policy goals and then work slowly toward them: The Chinese, are, as they like to remind visitors, a patient people.

Holbrook writes that China's advance toward long-term goals has produced extraordinary economic results since reforms began in 1979. "In foreign policy, however, things had been different until recently. After its war against Vietnam in 1979, China became defensive, even passive, on the world stage," he writes.

"But China's new leaders have begun to match their economic power with a more assertive foreign policy." Some recent examples of their long term strategy:

· Premier Wen Jiabao's self-proclaimed "historic visit" to India in April, during which the world's two largest nations announced a "strategic partnership"

· President Hu Jintao's stunning meetings in late April and early May with two top Taiwanese political leaders

· The (government approved) anti-Japanese riots in April

· The highly unusual public criticism on May 12 by a Chinese Foreign Ministry official of American policy toward North Korea.

· China's intent to play a central role in the choice of the next U.N. secretary general

· Finally, China has begun buying oil fields in such remote areas as Sudan and Angola, part of a long-term strategy to address its rapidly growing energy needs. With energy policy come major foreign policy interests; this is probably related, for example, to China's reluctant attitude toward strong U.N. action in the Darfur region of Sudan.

He sums it up with:

China's gradual emergence as a political player on the world stage comes when there is a growing impression among other countries in East Asia that Washington is not paying the region sufficient attention. (Ironically, this is in sharp contrast to India, where relations with the United States are at their historical best.) If we lose interest and political influence in the Asia-Pacific region just as it grows in economic importance, the imbalance will surely return later to haunt a new generation of policymakers -- and the nation. The challenge is obvious, but the lack of clear focus at the highest levels in Washington on our vital national security interests in the region is disturbing.


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