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Obama climbs down from China hopes

on 11/01/2019

With the pageantry of a state visit, US President Barack Obama has taken a new step to build relations with China but he has also appeared to scale back early ambitions of a broad partnership.

上海性息

Obama on Wednesday feted Chinese President Hu Jintao with a red carpet salute and a star-studded White House dinner as Beijing announced 45 billion dollars in contracts, welcome news at a time of US economic travail.

But Obama and Hu showed little indication of doing more than papering over differences on a range of issues such as China’s human rights record, currency values and North Korea’s nuclear program.

Obama, addressing a joint news conference with Hu, said the United States hoped to cooperate with China and did not seek to hold back its rise, but also acknowledged that the Pacific powers were sometimes rivals.

“As we look to the future, what’s needed, I believe, is a spirit of cooperation that is also friendly competition,” Obama said.

Such remarks, while not a reversal, mark a shift in tone from the early days of the Obama administration when it spoke of a wide-ranging partnership with China to solve problems from climate change to the global economy.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, visiting China a month after taking office in 2009, pointed to climate change as she said that the “opportunities for us to work together are unmatched anywhere in the world.”

Two years later, Clinton has stated simply that the United States wants “normal” ties with China and said: “This is not a relationship that fits neatly into the black and white categories like friend or rival.”

The new emphasis has appeared to put a nail in the coffin of talk that the United States and China were on the verge of becoming a “G2,” two powers that sit down to sort out the most pressing issues in the world.

“A strong theme in President Obama’s initial foreign policy was to seek cooperation of other world powers, including China, to deal with salient international concerns,” said Robert Sutter, a visiting professor of Asian studies at Georgetown University.

“He worked very hard at this, but he found that Chinese leaders offered only limited cooperation on issues like climate change,” he said.

The United States and China clashed sharply at the much-criticized 2009 climate summit in Copenhagen. The mood has since improved in climate talks, but Beijing is resisting US-led demands that it commit to binding action.

Dan Blumenthal, a resident fellow at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, said that the United States and China also had clashing objectives when it came to North Korea, Taiwan and claims in the South China Sea.

“What we are seeing is reality setting in,” he said of Obama’s new approach to China. “The countries are deeply economically interdependent, yet rivals over the future of Asia.”

Representative Howard Berman, the top lawmaker from Obama’s Democratic Party on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said that the administration needed to prioritize goals with China and offered his own suggestion — Iran.

Berman credited Beijing with backing sanctions on Iran over its nuclear program but said that Chinese investment preserved an economic lifeline for the Islamic republic.

The United States needs to “identify those issues where we are most likely to positively change China’s position (and) find and use our leverage with the Chinese to achieve those changes,” he said.

Charles Freeman, a China expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said that US efforts to bring Beijing more fully into the international community “are at a crossroads.”

Many Americans presumed that China would be happy with a greater role in the world, Freeman said.

But Freeman pointed to the guiding philosophy of late leader Deng Xiaoping, who called for China to “lie low” in international affairs and avoid conflict while it builds itself up.

“A US charge to China to take on a leadership role in international affairs in pursuit of goals designed, at least in part, to preserve American primacy is therefore not easy for most Chinese to accept,” Freeman said.


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