Obama handles China delicately
It’s too early to tell whether President Barack Obama’s new approach to China will be more successful than his predecessor’s. But this week’s high-level dialogue in Washington underlined how the balance of power is shifting.
The U.S. side, determined to be more respectful and less confrontational, tiptoed around the sensitive issue of China’s currency, avoiding any public appeal for an upwards revaluation in the yuan.
There was a passing reference to the rights of China’s ethnic and religious minorities, but no sign the other side would take any more notice of foreign interference in its internal affairs than it has in the past.
Not was there any evidence the Chinese and Americans were any closer on issues from climate change to how to deal with countries like North Korea and Sudan.
The Chinese, though, seemed less circumspect, more confident even in their public statements. Washington, they argued, should rein in its budget deficit and refrain from flooding the world with dollars.
They are, after all, holding more than $800 billion in U.S. Treasury debt, and don’t want to see the value of those investments fall.
And when you have such a big customer, you better listen to them, as the Wall Street Journal pointed out this morning.
Obama wants to see the two countries as partners, not rivals, for the 21st century, not always seeing eye to eye on everything but sharing common problems and common interests.
It was a beguiling vision, and China experts say his less confrontational approach may have more chance of success with a country not used to being told what to do.
But the question that must be asked is how seriously will the Chinese take American advice? Is talk of a real partnership between two countries with vastly different cultures just wishful thinking?
Photo credit: Reuters/Jonathan Ernst (Obama speaks at opening of U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue in Washington)