By James Griffiths
The New York Times has published an extensive review of President Obama‘s changing relationship with Beijing and especially his administration’s “rebalancing” towards Asia. Here are some excerpts. How the relationship started-off:
From his decision not to meet with the Dalai Lama in 2009 to his tightly constrained first trip to China, the president accommodated Chinese leaders in the hopes that the moves would translate into good will on issues like climate change or Iran’s nuclear program.
“We tried to introduce him as the first Asia-Pacific president,” said Jon M. Huntsman Jr., who was ambassador to China from 2009 to 2011, before resigning to run for the Republican presidential nomination. Mr. Huntsman said that in exchanges with Chinese officials, Mr. Obama was highly effective. “But the Chinese were perplexed by President Obama,” he said. “Where does he come from? What does he think? He remained a bit of a cipher.”
To some extent, Mr. Obama’s learning curve on China parallels his early outreach to Iran: an initial hope that old adversaries could put aside their differences, followed by a jolting recognition of reality and the ultimate adoption of a realpolitik approach. The difference, officials argue, is that in this case the tougher line has led not to stalemate but to a constructive give-and-take with a country bound to rub up against the United States.
On human rights:
An aide recalled briefing the president in early 2011 before a state visit by Mr. Hu on an array of diplomatic and human rights issues. Impatiently, Mr. Obama said, “The only thing people care about is the economic issues.”
Mrs. Clinton appeared to sideline the issue of human rights, saying she did not see the value of lodging pro forma protests with the Chinese in return for predictable responses. (She quickly changed course.)
The White House decided to draw a line. Two months later, Mrs. Clinton, working with Mr. Bader and Kurt M. Campbell, the hard-charging assistant secretary for East Asia in the State Department, sprang a surprise. At a summit meeting in Hanoi, Vietnam, she declared that the United States would take an interest in resolving disputes over the sea. China was livid, while Vietnam and the Philippines felt that they had a potent new backer.
China also underlies Mr. Obama’s opening to Myanmar. During the long estrangement between the United States and its military dictators, China set out to turn the isolated country, also known as Burma, into a colonial outpost.
Poor widdle second-largest economy in the world:
With China embroiled in a leadership transition, Beijing now sometimes sounds like the beleaguered party. Over lunch with Mr. Donilon in Beijing recently, China’s foreign minister, Yang Jiechi, complained about being pressured over the South China Sea. “Big countries can get bullied by little countries,” Mr. Yang said, according to a senior aide who was in the room.
Read the article in its entirety here.