Getting China Policy Right

Getting China Policy Right

The Obama administration is up and running at a brisk speed, from confronting the challenges of the financial crisis to closing the Guantanamo prison camp within a year. With the confirmation of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the naming of special envoys to the Middle East and to Afghanistan and Pakistan, President Obama has indicated not only his foreign policy priorities but also the style of diplomacy he'll use to tackle the world's toughest problems.

While Obama's China policy has yet to be articulated, some of its priorities were indicated during the presidential campaigns by both him and his then-opponent Clinton. Three areas of particular importance mentioned were economic issues, human rights, and climate change. But if the new administration wants to avoid a reality check, it would do well to get its China policy priorities right. Managing bilateral economic disputes and, even more importantly, managing China's rise in the multilateral diplomatic framework that President Obama proclaimed in his inaugural speech should be at the top of the list.

Bilateral trade between the U.S. and China has grown from a mere $2.5 billion in 1979 to an all-time record of $400 billion last year, illustrating the increasing economic interdependence between the two countries over the past three decades, But increasingly, trade imbalances, intellectual property rights violations, market access and -- more recently -- disputes over exchange rates have clouded and cast a shadow over U.S.-China economic ties.

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