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ICG Risk Blog - [ Hu is on first; the US grounds out, Part 2 ]

Hu is on first; the US grounds out, Part 2


Part 1

I recommend Scobell and Wortzel's CHINESE NATIONAL SECURITY DECISIONMAKING UNDER STRESS, Strategic Studies Institute, for analysis of Chinese responses to three categories of crises, fabricated, anticipated, and unanticipated. But readers of this combined geopolitical and cultural analysis must keep in mind the level of emotion evinced in the hostility that is present in China towards the US . The New Yorker's Beijing correspondent, Peter Hessler, was in-country during the Belgrade and Hainan periods:

Particularly chilling is a vivid portrait of hostility to the United States, in part due to the Belgrade bombing and the downing of an American spy plane two years later, that spilled out in the days after 9/11, when China was flooded with doctored DVD's of the wrecked twin towers and the damaged Pentagon, interspersed with clips from miscellaneous Hollywood disaster films and vignettes of American leaders uttering random, often unintelligible, pronouncements.

CSIS' China: The Balance Sheet addresses this unease in less emotional terms, but no Westerner should think that it is trivial. Overall, CSIS (Center for Strategic & International Studies) held a very informative press briefing on the eve of Hu's visit. I though that the comments of Kurt Campbell and Michael Green were especially cogent. An inside-the-beltway colleague described them as "Two very talented fellows." (Transcript here.) Following shortly thereafter CSIS held a panel discussion of the critical issues in US-China relations. (Audio here.) I recommend China: The Balance Sheet as a means to understand the state of SinoAmerican relations and to identify issues that will affect US, Chinese and global prosperity and security in the 21st century. (CSIS has kindly provided a series of one and two page "issue snapshots" that abstract the book.)
So how could we have blundered in the eyes of Hu and the Chinese elite?
  • Slighted reception: Jiang Zemin, Hu's predecessor, was extended a state visit in 1997 by Clinton. Hu had to make due with a doctored "official" visit.
  • State dinner recipients: In five years Bush43 has entertained only five heads of state, Mexico, India, Philippines, Poland and Kenya. I can barely imagine the insult that Chinese elites felt when Hu could not get the recognition accorded to Kenya.
  • Asymmetric state discussions: China's desire for peer discussions of a strategic partnership was met by US requests for China to become a "responsible stakeholder" on the world stage, namely trade deficit, domestic market access and intellectual property protection on the first tier with human rights, democracy and military competition on the second tier. Listening to Bush43's statements regarding "respecting human rights and freedoms" and "freedom to assemble, to speak freely and to worship," one would forgive Hu for thinking that the tiers were inverted.
  • Missing twined flags: China's flag was not "twined" with the US flag at Blair House or along the roadway lampposts near the White House.
  • Anthem confusion: In announcing China's national anthem, the official announcer used Taiwan's formal name, the Republic of China, instead of the People's Republic of China.
  • Falun Gong doomsday interruption: In what has to be the "audience interruption" from hell, the White House granted a one-day pass to a Chinese-American pathologist, Wang Wenyi, accredited to a Falun Gong publication Epoch Times. It beggars the mind that whatever the justification used to grant the day pass that White House security could overlook the fact that Wang had been the principal speaker at a 27 March Falun Gong rally in Lafayette Park before being removed by security personnel, and that after being denied press credentials in Malta in 2001 had still penetrated security to confront Hu's predecessor, Jiang Zemin.
    • Sure enough, 90 seconds into Hu's speech on the South Lawn, the woman started shrieking, "President Hu, your days are numbered!" and "President Bush, stop him from killing!"
  • Three minutes of terror on split screen: Not only did Wang Wenyi stun both heads of state but she was not removed for three entire minutes, continuing to shout while both Hu and Bush43 stood transfixed. It went on so long that the news media went split screen such that any Occidental coverage of Hu's speech was to be forever shared with Wang Wenyi. When I made the comment that the Secret Service would not have tolerated a sniper for three minutes, a security specialist told me that that was a similar topic of discussion in DC. The Chinese have to believe that this was another Belgrade Embassy bombing. The moron moment goes to National Security Council official Dennis Wilder who told reporters that "It was a momentary blip." More indelible blight than blip, but Wilder probably drew the short straw in having to speak to the press.
  • Lafayette Park demonstrations: Adjacent to the White House, Lafayette Park will play host to a large collection of Chinese, Taiwanese, Tibetan and Uygur dissidents. China is not the first state accustomed to state control of its media and dissident elements that expects quid pro quo for its visiting dignitaries.
  • The nanny moment: It was breathtaking to see one head of state attempting to leave the stage via the wrong staircase, only to be unceremoniously pulled back by the other's hand on his coat. I am astonished how widely reported, usually with photograph, was Milbank's "Hu looked down at his sleeve to see the president of the United States tugging at it as if redirecting an errant child."
  • Cheney's lapses: Cheney fell asleep at a press briefing by Bush43 and Hu (although Cheney's staff said that he was reading notes) and was caught on film by the press. He donned sunglasses for the formal South Lawn ceremony (but then he was the sole parka wearer at an otherwise formal Holocaust commemoration at Auschwitz). No Chinese premier or vice-premier would not have been allowed to make one, much less than both, lapses.
  • Visible impatience: In response to wrote, and likely preapproved, text by Hu, Bush43 grew impatient, finally tapping his foot on the floor.

Hu's preceding visit to Washington state was by all accounts a public relations achievement that purchased some $16 billion in US goods. (Everyone save the Boeing unions sidestepped the fact that China is attempting to build a substitute airline manufacturing capacity.) The difference between the two Washingtons was so great that:

[The] state-run People's Daily published an online opinion article highlighting the differences between the two Washington trips, calling the Seattle visit one of economic cooperation and noting that the District of Columbia visit was characterized by disputes.

It cannot help the US that Chinese elites see a continuation of the confrontational, duplicitous behavior by post-Clinton administrations. Remember that the three goals of Chinese crisis management are:
  1. Survival of the Party
  2. Enforce Party Unity
  3. Protect China’s International Credibility
Believing that when and if the US frees itself from a preoccupation with terrorism that it will refocus on the China Threat, Chinese geopolitical strategists continue to view the US as its foremost adversary, far outranking Russia and India. So long as its vital national interests are not compromised, China will accept "the reality of a U.S.-dominated world for the foreseeable future." I would, however, not make bets in the post 2040-2050 period.

China's peer preoccupation is domestic development which it describes as the "period of strategic opportunity":

Beijing [can] no longer affirm credibly that a foreign policy premised on a desperate need for internal development is a purely domestic matter that does not affect the security of others, particularly when it facilitates the violation of international norms by unsavory regimes. Nor can Beijing aver that its power and influence in international affairs is minimal because of a "developing world" self-image… As China rises, Beijing will need [to] assume greater responsibility to act in ways that reinforce international norms above and beyond its immediate self-interest —becoming what Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick calls a "responsible stakeholder."

I agree that the US needs to be, but under the current administration is not, "psychologically prepared for the impact China’s rise may have on the relative power and influence of the United States in East Asia and beyond." It is an understatement to say:

While China is unlikely to challenge this preeminence in political, economic, or military power fundamentally for the foreseeable future, the rise in China’s relative power will likely lead to, or at least be associated with, economic dislocations in the United States and may alter U.S. strategic relationships with friends and even allies around the world as nations accommodate themselves to China’s new status.

The temptation for the United States to fall back on an actively hostile or antagonistic posture toward Beijing as a result, however, is a dangerous one for U.S. interests. Without serious provocation from Beijing, such a policy would isolate the United States and put Washington at odds with allies and friends around the world who will rely increasingly on China, economically and otherwise. To safeguard its long-term strategic position, therefore, Washington must consider the implications of its China policy on its strategic relations with other nations. The United States should remember that the international community is as uncertain and concerned about the implications of China’s rise for their interests as is the United States and will support, if sometimes tacitly, reasonable U.S. moves to prevent the development of an irresponsible or dangerous China.

Conversely, I believe that a number of US foreign policy initiatives, many of which were executed in the understandably self-absorbed focus following 11 September, have driven states from the US and offered free advantage to others.

CSIS summarizes Chinese elite opinion:

  • At a fundamental level, many Chinese officials and elite are convinced that the United States through various methods will seek to slow or block China’s emergence as a great power.
  • Chinese leaders judge virtually all U.S. policies based on their implications for the Taiwan issue, for continued economic development in China, and ultimately for regime survival.

CSIS goes on to encapsulate China's view of the US (Emphasis in original):

  • China’s people remain enamored of U.S. wealth, power, freedoms, advanced technology, and popular culture, and feel positively about Americans as individuals.
  • Given Beijing’s paramount near- and mid-term priority on attending to its internal challenges and maintaining a peaceful international environment, China’s leaders have assiduously sought to maintain a relationship with Washington that is correct and cordial, if not conspicuously warm.
  • At the same time, they are suspicious of and attuned to perceived hypocrisy in U.S. foreign policy.
    • Elite Chinese harbor lingering grievances over past indignities and perceived victimization at the hands of the United States, including the EP-3 spy plane incident in 2001, the accidental U.S. bombing of China’s embassy in Belgrade in 1999, U.S. congressional opposition in the mid-1990s to China’s application to host the Olympic Games, and continuing U.S. arms sales and defense support for Taiwan.
    • The long-term implications for the relationship of these grievances are uncertain but may be subject to rising populist nationalism in China.
  • China also often reveals its discomfort with U.S. global predominance, fueled by a belief among Chinese officials and elite that the United States will seek to slow or block China’s emergence as a great power by seeking to:
    • Split China through policies of humanitarian intervention, preemption, alliances, missile defense or permanently separating Taiwan from the mainland, de facto if not de jure;
    • Westernize China by propagating "universal values" of democracy and human rights in order to induce change in China’s political system and bring about the downfall of the Chinese Communist Party;
    • Deprive China of an adequate supply of energy for its development;
    • Draw China down the same path it led the Soviet Union, leading to the collapse and dissolution of the Chinese state. China often acts consciously to avoid mirroring Soviet missteps, whether by abjuring the notion of engaging in an arms race with the United States, carefully affirming its intent not to place itself in ideological opposition to the United States, or focusing on economic development before addressing dramatic political reform;
    • Expand U.S. influence along China’s periphery, leading to the development of anti-China blocs that may seek to contain Chinese power or infiltrate and destabilize China’s minority regions.

I maintain that the Global War on Terror (GWOT) has, and is, generally distracted the US from the appropriate attention due China (and I do not mean specifically as "China Threat" but as an emerging superpower) and other regions, while Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) has siphoned off the bulk of US short to medium term geopolitical thinking. See:

Over the last four year period, I would say that China has significantly outmaneuvered the US, building allies in the bargain, and will likely continue to do so in at least the short-term:

In negotiations, [Hu] gave the U.S. side nothing tangible on delicate matters such as the nuclear problems in North Korea and Iran, the Chinese currency's value and the trade deficit with China.

The level of non-achievement of the Hu visit from the US point of view was quietly shown by the White House press release that spoke of prescription drug enrollment figures. No mention was made of any accord with China. Hu continued to use the term "win-win" throughout his visit. One wonders if that meant that the two parties to the transaction were Hu and China.

Letters From China
Review of Peter Hessler's 'Oracle Bones'
New York Times
Published: April 30, 2006

Hu Caps Visit With Yale Speech
Barbara Ferguson
Arab News
22 April, 2006 (24, Rabi` al-Awwal, 1427)

China and Its President Greeted by a Host of Indignities
By Dana Milbank
Washington Post
April 21, 2006

Bush, Hu Produce Summit of Symbols
Protester Screams At Chinese President
By Peter Baker and Glenn Kessler
Washington Post
April 21, 2006

New York Post
April 21, 2006

Upbeat on Trade, Hu Offers No New Fixes for Imbalance
By Blaine Harden
Washington Post
April 20, 2006

China: The Balance Sheet Panel Discussion
Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), the Institute of International Economics (IIE), and PublicAffairs Books
Audio (mp3, 1:47:13)
April 17, 2006

China: The Balance Sheet
What the World Needs to Know Now about the Emerging Superpower
Center for Strategic & International Studies and Institute for International Economics
Contributors: C. Fred Bergsten, Bates Gill, R. Nicholas Lardy, and Derek J. Mitchell
ISBN 1-58648-464-8
April 17, 2006

CSIS Briefing on Visit of Chinese Pres. Hu Jintao
Center for Strategic & International Studies (CSIS)
Speakers include Michael J. Green, CSIS Senior Adviser; Kurt M. Campbell, CSIS Senior Vice Pres.; Authors of "China: The Balance Sheet"
Press briefing on upcoming visit of Chinese President Hu Jintao to Washington
CSPAN2: 1 hr. 40 min.
Video Scrolled offline

The Dark Side of China's Rise
By Minxin Pei
Foreign Policy
March/April 2006

Hu’s Priority: Remapping China’s Regional Development
MARCH 2006

Edited by Andrew Scobell, Larry M. Wortzel
Strategic Studies Institute, U.S. Army War College
ISBN 1-58487-206-3
September 2005

End of the US-China honeymoon
By Bonnie S Glaser and Jane Skanderup
Used by permission of Pacific Forum CSIS
Asia Times
Jul 21, 2005

Cutting out the US
By Michael A Weinstein
Asia Times
Jul 13, 2005

Gordon Housworth

InfoT Public  Strategic Risk Public  


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