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Obama Waves, If Not Shakes, Economic Stick at China

By Frank Ahrens
This morning kicked off two days of intense economic discussions between the U.S. and China here in Washington, and President Obama opened the session with a speech, mentioning the unmentionable issue with China: human rights.

Obama said that the U.S. respects China's "ancient culture" but added: "We also strongly believe that the religion and culture of all peoples must be respected and protected, and that all people should be free to speak their minds."

"That includes ethnic and religious minorities in China, as surely as it includes minorities within the United States," Obama said.

This was an important statement from the young president and marked a significant break from his Democratic predecessor in the White House, Bill Clinton, who famously -- or infamously, depending on where you stand on China -- "de-linked" the human rights issue from trade between the two nations.

China may look like a market-based economy (it's really a poorly regulated Wild West bazaar) but make no mistake: Its central government remains totalitarian and does not tolerate dissent, especially from minority groups or organizations. Evidence is plentiful, from the crackdowns on the Falun Gong, the Tibetans, the Uighurs and even Christian Chinese.

Clinton made the calculation that China's might and value to the U.S. as a rising trading and global economic power was worth looking the other way at China's human rights crackdowns. In 1994, he granted China most-favored nation trading status, de-linking economics from the human cost in China.

Today, Obama did not shake a big stick at China, but perhaps he waved it a little bit.

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By Web Politics Editor  |  July 27, 2009; 4:37 PM ET
Categories:  Economy  
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..."That, after we send one seventh of our wealth to them for their oil because we won't drill here. Go figure"

You could never ever EVER drill enough oil in the US to drop the Saudis as a supplier.
Guess you're not old enough to remember 1973.

Posted by: JohnQuimby | July 28, 2009 11:20 PM | Report abuse

"China's government is generally authoritarian, but not totalitarian. There is a difference."


You call forced abortion authoritarian, but not totalitarian? Ditto with free speech and censorship of everything? Also, no freedom of travel, especially out of the country. And, that does not even take into account all of the religious and political prisoners.

Maybe you need to read our Constitution.

Posted by: kctaz | July 28, 2009 11:06 PM | Report abuse

Besides the fact that the Smoot-Harley tariffs helped deepen and prolong the Great Depression, so tariffs are not a very good idea anyway, we cannot do anything to China. We need them to continue to buy our debt which is growing exponentially. Geitner went to Saudi Arabia recently to beg them to keep buying our debt. That, after we send one seventh of our wealth to them for their oil because we won't drill here. Go figure

Posted by: kctaz | July 28, 2009 11:00 PM | Report abuse

Is our prez on controlled substances? The U.S.S.A. is hardly in a position to wave anything at China. He has sold us out to them -lock, stock and barrel.

Posted by: IQ168 | July 28, 2009 10:20 AM | Report abuse

TO: "seemstome" @ 7:56 p.m. AND 8:10 p.m.

What was that about doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a diffrent result?

Did you collect your check from the "program" for those TWO posts -- or would that be a duplicate payment for a single blog spam post?

Posted by: scrivener50 | July 28, 2009 9:18 AM | Report abuse

Neo-cons need to get a grip, the cold war has been over for more than twenty years. China's government is generally authoritarian, but not totalitarian. There is a difference.

China's central government may actually have limited authority. Certainly the Communist party has been discredited in the minds of most Chinese, who resent the pervasive corruption, quite similar to Chiang Kai-shek's Nationalist regime. The central government seems to realize widespread local corruption undermines its legitimacy, yet is unwilling or somewhat more likely unable to effectively check corrupt officials.

As to human rights, Obama has almost no credibility after eight years of human rights abuses during the Bush-Cheney regime. His opposition to prosecuting illegal actions, including violations of international law, by some officials further undermines his credibility in criticizing any nation for human rights abuses.

Posted by: Aprogressiveindependent | July 27, 2009 11:58 PM | Report abuse

As long as he doesn't wave it at Barney Frank, he'll be alright.

Posted by: seemstome | July 27, 2009 9:41 PM | Report abuse

scrivener50 is on his meds today and makes sense for a change.

Posted by: seemstome | July 27, 2009 8:10 PM | Report abuse

scrivener50 is on his meds today and makes sense for a change.

Posted by: seemstome | July 27, 2009 7:56 PM | Report abuse



Protect American workers and consumers.

Impose strict regulations on Chinese imports, and slap a tariff on cheap Chinese junk that robs American workers of jobs.

"Free" trade with China is not free. Their shoddy building materials are eroding America from the inside, and their dangerous products cause grave harm to the American public.

How about some good old "protectionism"? Of course, since the Chinese hold America's mortgage, they've already won the financial war.

Let's wean ourselves off cheap, shoddy Chinese goods by imposing stiff fines and job-protecting tariffs.

China is waging "warfare by other means" on America, and it's about time the nation awakens to the threat.

How come the "hawks" don't get exercised about China's economic warfare? And how about China's disregard for intellectual property rights?

Clinton and the two Bushes let China win the trade war. It's time to mount a counter-offensive.

Posted by: scrivener50 | July 27, 2009 4:55 PM | Report abuse

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