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Ten Things President Obama Needs to Hear From China’s New Leader

5:46 PM, Feb 13, 2012 • By JOSEPH A. BOSCO
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Chinese leaders announced that Vice President Xi Jinping, the Communist Party’s designated successor to Chinese president Hu Jintao, will try to correct “the trust deficit” when he visits Washington this week. Xi told a gathering of Chinese and U.S. officials commemorating the 40th anniversary of Richard Nixon’s opening to China that he hoped his visit “can play a positive role in advancing the Sino-U.S. cooperative partnership.”

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To build mutual trust and become genuine partners, here are ten things Xi could say to President Obama:

Taiwan. We in Beijing and you in Washington successfully intervened in Taiwan’s recent presidential campaign to ensure the reelection of pro-China incumbent Ma Ying-jeou. We will express our appreciation to your administration and to Taiwan’s voters by permanently renouncing the use of force to compel unification and by withdrawing our 1,500 missiles targeting the island.

Human rights and democracy. Instead of threatening Taiwan’s people, we will try to attract them by keeping the promises we made to host the 2008 Olympics when we signed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  We will follow Taiwan’s model by instituting gradual but serious democratic reform at the local, provincial, and national levels.  We will abandon the argument that China is too big, poor, and Confucian to handle self-government.

North Korea. We helped our Communist “little brother” get started in its nuclear and missile programs.  We have supported it materially and diplomatically ever since by blocking effective U.N. Security Council sanctions and taking its side in the Six Party Talks and other international negotiations. We will stop playing good cop to North Korea’s bad cop and start exerting real pressure on Pyongyang to abandon its dangerous programs in return for generous Western food and energy assistance.

Iran. We now recognize the dangers posed by Iran’s possession of a nuclear weapon and we are concerned at the prospect of military action by other countries. We will terminate all further military, technological, and other assistance to Tehran, stop protecting it at the United Nations, and cooperate with the international sanctions to persuade the government to abandon the program.

Proliferation. The North Korea and Iran nuclear and missile programs are only the most dramatic examples of the proliferation threats created by A.Q. Khan’s network which Pakistan and China jointly launched. Libya, Syria, and other countries also obtained materials and technology from second- and third-level proliferation. We will curtail Chinese participation in spreading these dangerous weapons and start by joining the 100 countries that already participate in the Proliferation Security Initiative.

Pakistan. Speaking of our large Muslim neighbor to our west, we will cease encouraging it to withhold cooperation with the U.S. counter-terrorism campaigns in both Pakistan and Afghanistan. We will abandon our effort to undercut American efforts by developing an anti-Western alliance with Islamabad.

Geopolitical and military strategy. Pakistan and North Korea represent key components of an overall strategy of countering Western, especially American, interests.  While we ritualistically complain of a U.S. strategy to “contain” and “encircle” China, we actively engage a host of “rogue regimes” around the world to distract, divert, and diffuse American power and resources. We will no longer pursue a policy that says, “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.” since we wish to have America as a strategic partner rather than a strategic adversary.  To accomplish this change, we have overruled hardliners in the People’s Liberation Army and Chinese think tanks whom Henry Kissinger has called “the triumphalists.”

Maritime claims. Consistent with our new strategy of cooperation, we will stop intimidating our neighbors and abandon or moderate our overreaching claims in the South China Sea, East China Sea, and Yellow Sea. Henceforth, we will accept the traditional approach to territorial claims embodied in customary law and the United Nations Law of the Sea Convention. We will resolve all claims peacefully and through multilateral negotiations and agreements.

Trade and currency. We have benefited greatly from the openness and even generosity of the West over the past four decades—which has significantly compensated China for our previous “century of humiliation.” We wish to reciprocate that good will by truly becoming a “responsible international stakeholder.”  We will steadily allow our currency to float and will conform to international norms in our trade practices.

Intellectual property and cyber espionage. While we will continue to compete vigorously in the economic realm, we will do so honestly and through Chinese innovation and entrepreneurship rather than by stealing the creative work of others.

In these and other ways, we will strive to earn the world’s respect as peaceful, honorable, and contributing members of the international community so that no country need fear the rise of China.

Joseph A. Bosco served in the office of the secretary of defense as China country desk officer from 2005 to 2006 and previously taught graduate seminars on China-U.S. relations at Georgetown University’s Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service. He is now a national security consultant.

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