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Posted at 10:30 AM ET, 01/18/2011

In other words, Obama's China policy failed

By Jennifer Rubin

The New York Times reports:

President Hu Jintao of China is coming to town this week, and American officials say President Obama will be taking a far more assertive stance as he greets his biggest global economic rival. . . .

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates had a testy series of meetings in Beijing last week, telling reporters beforehand that the United States would counter China's military buildup in the Pacific by stepping up investments in weapons, jet fighters and technology. . . .

The more assertive strategy comes after Mr. Obama was criticized as appearing to kowtow to China in his visit there in 2009, and then again for allowing Beijing to get the upper hand against the United States at the Group of 20 summit meeting in Seoul late last year.

In short, the gang that came into office touting the need for "smart" diplomacy wasn't smart at all. It projected weakness and ignored vital issues, including human rights. And, lo and behold, we got a more aggressive, more thuggish China. The Times puts it more bluntly: "The result was that Mr. Obama appeared on the world stage as a leader of a country losing ground to a rising China."

Funny that the Times didn't mention this until now. But many conservative critics sure did. Perhaps the president has finally started to listen to those who have been urging a course correction. After all, our policy has not delivered assistance on North Korea, or an improvement in human rights, or military co-operation.

As on Iraq, Afghanistan and certain aspects of the war on terrorism (e.g. closing Guantanamo), Obama has discovered that the left's desired approach (e.g. engagement, downplaying human rights, downplaying "hard power") is inconsistent with America's national security interests.

There are two hitches, however. First, it is hard to get your credibility back once it is frittered away. Second, Obama has to do more than talk. A reader e-mailed the other day complaining that conservatives like myself are too hung up on carrots and sticks and consequences. It was either a very droll bit of sarcasm or a wonderful example of the fuzzy approach to foreign policy that has gotten Obama in trouble in many hot spots. Unless Chinese leaders feel there are consequences -- that they will lose something or fail to gain benefits -- they will discount Obama's words and keep on their current course.

By Jennifer Rubin  | January 18, 2011; 10:30 AM ET
Categories:  foreign policy  
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Comments

Obama to Hu Jintao:

"If you don't start being nicer to us, we are going to borrow more money from you to build more useless weapons systems to make you be nicer to us."

Posted by: Lazarus40 | January 18, 2011 11:15 AM | Report abuse

The Chinese Communist empire has always been insufferably arrogant, seeing itself as the crowning achievement of mankind when in fact it is simply a slave state which rules it's serf population by intimidation and brutality.
China has succeeded financially and outpaced the Captalist West only because it is able to force it's enslaved citizenry to work under appalling conditions of hunger, filth, lack of medical care, and ignorance. But in terms of technological and scientific breakthroughs the Chinese have to engage in industrial esponiage against the captialistic West on a massive scale.
For the time being China has surpassed the West and foolishly believes that this temporary success is permanent and that they can translate it into a intimidating global military power.
This would not be the first time that an despotic oriental regime has underestimated the Capitalist West in general, and America in particular.
Barack Obama has done his level best to weaken America internationally by his kowtowing to the Chinese, that is bowing down to the Chinese and affirming their supposed economic superiority. The West and America, despite Obama's belief otherwise, are definitely not in decline, and American military, economic, scientific, and technological power is the only major international force to be reckoned with, not the Chinese, not now and probably not ever.
Slaves do not create or develop, only free men and women do that.

Posted by: Beniyyar | January 18, 2011 11:23 AM | Report abuse

Obama has exactly the same hand to play that you do when you try to negotiate with your credit card company, which is to say slim and none.

Jennifer's answer on every foreign policy question is simply "get tough". Maslow's axiom "when all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail", would seem to be perfectly illustrated here.

Posted by: johnmarshall5446 | January 18, 2011 12:07 PM | Report abuse

Don't counter with military expenditures (with money borrowed from gleeful Chinese bankers); counter with a rebuilding, via-a-via China, of American economic power.

End the advantage of Chinese goods from China's undervalued currency and the devastating impact on American manufacturing.

Act to obtain compensation for an end to the stealing of intellectual property, e.g., 90% of Chinese computers are using counterfeit software rather than genuine software that was bought from the developer; the Chinese theft of the technology for high speed trains.

Act on the flow of American (and other non-Chinese) investments into a rigged economy in which the Chinese state owns a controlling interest in businesses and the Party approves key selections to positions in the companies.

Posted by: jimb | January 18, 2011 12:54 PM | Report abuse

For those who worry about China having the upper hand due to its holdings of debt think about this: If China began to dump its investments, (impossible to do in one quick move) Its remaining investments would become less valuable and there would surely be a huge "do not buy goods made in China" movement.
Highly unlikely China would cut its nose off to spite its face.

Posted by: spamsux1 | January 18, 2011 1:07 PM | Report abuse

spamsux:

It would a financial version of MAD.

Our economy is more consumer and service oriented than manufacturing or exporting these days. Boycotting Chinese goods would throw Americans out of work because there would be far less consumer goods for sale.

Also any hint that China was exiting the Treasury market would increase yields by at least 1 percent fast, possibly much much more.

It's not that the Chinese have the upper hand, it's that there exists a symbiotic relationship. That's why the simplistic "get tough with them" argument holds little weight with the Chinese who know that we don't have an upper hand either.

Posted by: johnmarshall5446 | January 18, 2011 4:10 PM | Report abuse

benniyar:

Hmmm being polite, I wonder what nation you're writing about, because it doesn't sound like China.

To cite just one example, the China I read about isn't looking to be an "intimidating global military power", although it certainly wants to control the South China Sea and the Taiwan Strait, as a stepping stone to taking over Taiwan. Far from being globally intimidating, the Chinese have never fought in a war that did not involve their contiguous borders in the last thousand years.

Maybe you're one of those "old China hands" that we used to read about?

Posted by: johnmarshall5446 | January 18, 2011 5:02 PM | Report abuse

Jennifer is clearly struggling with the reality that the US is indeed in a state of decline, which explains why the suggestion that it is losing ground to Chine has come as news to her.

Contrary to Jennifer's assertion that this has never been suggested by the NYT before, a Google search will reveal that a year ago, the NYT did in fact carry a headline that the US was losing ground to China.

The reality is that this has been taking place for over a decade, but neocons like Jennifer can't come to terms with it. The necons are addicted to a sense of being all powerful and rubbing the world's nose in it.

There's no point bluffing your opponents when you have a losing had and everyone knows it, and that's exactly the situation the US has found itself in diplomatically, economically and in terms of moral authority when it comes to human rights.

It's futile to be hammering the Chinese on human rights when we have drones in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen blowing civilians away a dozen at a time.

It's also futile to be complaining about lack of military co-operation from China while we provoke and humiliate them with arms sales to Taiwan. How much would we be co-operating if China were to supply arms to Iran?

Of course, for necons like Jennifer, the word “ co-operation” is code for bowing to our demands.

To her credit, Jennifer goes on to make one good argument:

“There are two hitches, however. First, it is hard to get your credibility back once it is frittered away.”

But overlooks the fact that our credibility was well and truly frittered away during the Bush Administration. As Pat Buchanan will tell you, “Bush was himself, in opinion surveys, viewed less favorably by the Muslim masses than Osama bin Laden.”

One has to laugh at the antics of Gates and the suggestion that the China's military build-up, which still lingers at around 10% of Americans expenditure, has forced the US to counter with it's own military build up.

As if the US ever needed a reason to spend more money on arms and military bases.

Posted by: Shingo1 | January 18, 2011 5:56 PM | Report abuse

Beniyyar,

You sound as out of touch as Jennifer. It must be a neocon thing.

I suspect you don't have an issue with arrogance, so long as it's us who is demo demonstrating it. All military and economic powers like to entertain notions of grandeur, though to china's credit, they have a long and proud history to fall back on.

It's amusing to hear you bemoan appalling conditions, hunger, lack of medical care, and ignorance when the US stands a such a poor role model in that regard. Americans have a pretty lousy reputation for their ignorance and with 40 million Americans on food stamps, I would be so quick to condemn China.

“But in terms of technological and scientific breakthroughs the Chinese have to engage in industrial esponiage against the captialistic West on a massive scale.”

The same could be said of Israel, but in any case, Japan did the same thing. Intellectual property is [practicality impossible to protect.

“For the time being China has surpassed the West and foolishly believes that this temporary success is permanent and that they can translate it into a intimidating global military power.”

What makes you believe it's temporary? The US no longer manufactures anything (other than printing money), so how do you expect the US will regain the lead? And hyperbole aside, projecting their power in the vicinity of their own borders is far from being an intimidating global military power. I do laugh at those on the right that see nothing wrong with the US having 100 military bases dotted throughout the planet, but are outraged when a state like China consolidates it's power in their own neighbourhood, like the China Sea.

“This would not be the first time that an despotic oriental regime has underestimated the Capitalist West in general, and America in particular.”

In this case, they are not making that mistake, seeing as they are one of the countries keeping the decaying Capitalist West on life support.

Sorry to break it to you Beniyyar, but the America is clearly in decline economically, scientifically , and technologically. One need only compare the 2 images. China has just competed construction on the worlds longest bridge and the world's fastest trains. Meanwhile in the US, sealed roads are being converted to gravel and dirt tracks because they are cheaper to maintain.

Posted by: Shingo1 | January 18, 2011 6:13 PM | Report abuse

Shingo:

You're not exactly a halfway guy are you?

I don't have a response to anything, though I suspect benniyar might, but it will be interesting if you post here again.

Posted by: johnmarshall5446 | January 18, 2011 6:39 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: johnmarshall5446

"You're not exactly a halfway guy are you?"

What's the point of being half hearted about the debate? You don;t arrive at the truth by splitting the difference between 2 opinions.

Unless you've been living in a parallel universe, it's clear that the 21t century will be China's and the sooner we face that reality, the better. Apart from China, Russia, India and South America have all expressed grave concerns for the US dollar and our ability to service our debt. India, China and Russia are all moving away from the US dollar.

Who can blame them when we're practically bankrupt?

There's simply no way to deny the numbers. Chiba saves 35% of it's income and invests. The US saves 2% of it's income and borrows and consumes. The story around the country is simply tragic. States are bankrupt, cutting services at every turn. Infrastructure is collapsing and badly in need of replacement, but we have no money to pay for it. One state (can't member which one) had to borrow 40 billion to meet it's welfare obligations.

Within the decade, our interests repayments on our debt is going to surpass our defense budget. The baby boomers are about to retire and we haven't got anywhere near the money to meet the social security payments.

Where's the money going to come from?

Jennifer and benniyar simply want to blame China for America's problems.

Posted by: Shingo1 | January 18, 2011 8:02 PM | Report abuse

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