The China Syndrome

Looks like with regards to what I wrote earlier about finding the balance with China, the new administration is leaning more towards “accepting the limits of our liberalizing influence” than towards maintaining the “low-end threshold of our expectations.” There will be plenty of time to get Beijing’s dander up the next time the Dalai Lama passes through Washington. But for now, in the opening days of a new administration, I’ve got to agree with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton:

“We pretty much know what they are going to say” on human rights issuessuch as greater freedoms for Tibet, Clinton told reporters travelingwith her on a tour of Asia. “We have to continue to press them. But ourpressing on those issues can’t interfere” with dialogue on othercrucial topics.

Hubert Védrine is fond of saying — to those who demand that humanrights determine policy towards China — that we must give up thenotion that we can somehow transform China into a supersized version ofDenmark. I’d say the Rabin doctrine holds here, and we should pursuethe human rights agenda as if there is no political/economicrelationship and pursue the political/economic relationship as if thereis no human rights agenda. Conditioning one on the other is worse thancounterproductive, it’s unrealistic. Of course, the Chinese make ittough to do that by being so brittle about criticism. But I like Clinton’s approach.

I also liked this:

“I don’t think it should be viewed as particularly extraordinary thatsomeone in my position would say what is obvious,” she said. “Maybethis is unusual because you are supposed to be so careful that youspend hours avoiding stating the obvious. But that is just notproductive in my view. It is worthwhile being more straightforward. . .. That’s how I see it and that’s how I intend to operate.”

Hear, hear.

Interesting to note, too, that in addition to the economic crisis and climate change crisis, Clinton pointedly mentioned the security crisis as one of three issues the U.S. and China must cooperate on.