Tales from the Trail

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. CHINA-USA/OBAMA

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.

The First Draft: Deja vu – it’s China and healthcare again

Presidents are never afraid of beating the same drum twice.

Today, President Barack Obama continues his quest to boost support for healthcare reform with a “tele-town hall” at AARP. Then he talks about relations with China, just like on Monday.

With Obama’s drive for healthcare reform stalled in the Senate and the House — even though both chambers are controlled by his fellow Democrats — the president is looking to ordinary Americans to push harder for an overhaul of the system.

Democrats have backed away from a vow to take a vote on the legislation before the month-long August recess but lawmakers in both chambers are still working on the bill. This afternoon, Obama heads to AARP headquarters to take questions from senior citizens about health insurance and his proposed reforms.

Confucius? No, Yao Ming

Instead of a cultural icon, well-known author or scholar, President Barack Obama sought the advice of … a basketball player as he talked of the importance of strong U.S.-Chinese economic ties.

In a speech opening the Strategic Economic Dialogue between the United States and China, Obama — an avid basketball fan and player — quoted China’s most popular sports star and Houston Rockets center, Yao Ming.

Obama said he and Chinese President Hu Jintao both agreed the two nations needed to hold “sustained dialogue to enhance our shared interests.”

The First Draft: China and healthcare

Topics of the day today: more healthcare and U.S.-Chinese relations

President Barack Obama speaks at the beginning of a two-day U.S.-Strategic and Economic Dialogue in Washington, then top Chinese and U.S. officials will work on developing a new framework for U.S.-Chinese relations.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Secretary of Treasury Timothy Geithner are among the high-level officials taking part in the meeting. The duo wrote an opinion piece published in the Wall Street Journal talking about the need for working with China.

HEALTHCARE/GRASSROOTSCongress is still working on healthcare reform, although Obama has eased up on his August deadline for working out a deal. Democratic lawmakers will be working on ironing out differences within their own party. Obama has learned that although both the House and the Senate have big Democratic majorities, that’s not always enough to get legislation passed.

Do looks matter in China?

BEIJING – Does having “a Chinese face” help two top U.S. officials in hard bargaining on energy and trade issues with the Chinese?

U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke, whose grandfather came to the United States from China, told reporters in Beijing not necessarily so.

But Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao expressed pride in Locke and U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu’s ancestory when he met with them on Thursday.