Ringing words, smoothly delivered: “To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history, but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.”
Did that memorable line from President Barack Obama’s inaugural address on January 20 mean his administration would break with a long American tradition of paying lip service to democracy and human rights while supporting authoritarian rulers friendly to Washington? Too early to say for sure, but probably not.
Four months into his presidency, Obama and his Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, lean towards pragmatism over ideology and principle, closer in foreign policy outlook to Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger than to George W. Bush and Condoleezza Rice.
On her first official visit to China, Clinton said concern over human rights must not “interfere” with cooperation on the global financial crisis, climate change and security issues such as North Korea’s nuclear arms programme.