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China: Not Too Cold, Not Too Hot, But Just Right?

11:28 AM, Nov 14, 2005 • By DANIEL MCKIVERGAN
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American Enterprise Institute resident scholar and frequent Weekly Standard contributor Gary Schmitt writes:

Sunday's Washington Post ran a story, "Bush Carries to China a Delicate Diplomacy," by Peter Baker and Glenn Kessler in advance of President Bush's upcoming trip to Asia. The Post article began with the fact that the president had met with the Dalai Lama last week but that the visit was not put on his official advance schedule nor were pictures of the visit posted on the White House website. As Baker and Kessler report, the visit by the Dalai Lama was designed "to signal" Bush's "commitment to human rights in the world's most populous country." Pretty weak signal.

Of course, what the White House was trying to do was avoid looking like the cold-hearted realists of the Ford White House, who ignored Soviet dissident Alexander Solzhenitsyn on his visit to Washington, but, at the same time, not upset the one-party dictatorship that is present day China. According to one White House official, "Bush raises human rights issues in a ‘constructive spirit' and is optimistic that China will see that freedom is necessary to build a successful society." Well, one can hope, but certainly, as demonstrated by the Chinese government's own recent, Orwellian white paper on Chinese-style "democracy," it hasn't seen the light as of late. To the contrary, virtually every major indicator of civil and human rights has shown no improvement or has declined in China in recent years.

The fact is the administration has a host of issues and problems it wants to address with China in the weeks and months ahead. And, as Deputy Secretary of State Zoellick's recent speech on US-China relations suggested, all is not well here. Now, it may be that the administration is simply not prepared right now - perhaps even reasonably so - to admit openly that a new great power competition is underway with China. Yet anyone who has eyes to see and ears to hear can see that is precisely what is going on.

For a more accurate depiction of the current state of play in U.S.-China relations and what policy initiatives might be needed to begin to create a coherent and realistic strategy vis-a-vis China, folks should check out the most recent report by the U.S. China Economic and Security Review Commission.