President Barack Obama’s red-carpet treatment of visiting Chinese President Hu Jintao has failed to sweep away growing alarm over China’s no-holds-barred push for military and economic dominance, with one leading conservative expert charging Wednesday that the president’s over-the-top coddling of the Chinese amounts to “appeasement.”
“Cooperation between our countries is good for the world,” Obama declared during a Wednesday afternoon White House news conference featuring both leaders.
Hu was greeting at the White House by Vice President Biden and treated to the honor of a 21-gun salute on the White House South Lawn. Later he will be the guest of honor at a state dinner.
Obama described the relationship between America and the rising Chinese superpower as one of “cooperation, and also friendly competition.”
China’s Hu responded with praise for President Obama’s policies toward China.
In an exclusive interview with the Wall Street Journal and Washington Post newspapers, Hu appeared to recognize the importance of good relations with the United States.
“The strategic significance and global impact of China-U.S. relations have been on the rise,” he said. “…We both stand to gain from a sound China-U.S. relationship, and lose from confrontation. We should act in the fundamental interests of our two peoples and uphold the overall interests of world peace and development.”
But on Wednesday, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, released a statement openly questioning why China’s actions do not appear to match its conciliatory rhetoric.
“Does a responsible stakeholder, as reported in the Western press, allow the transshipment of North Korean missile components to Iran, via Beijing Airport, in open defiance of those UN sanctions which, as a Perm-Five member, it is duty bound to enforce?” she asked.
“Does a responsible stakeholder declare the South China Sea as one of its ‘core interests,’ in open defiance of the navigational and territorial rights of its Southeast Asian neighbors?
“Does a responsible stakeholder admonish the U.S. Navy that it cannot operate in the Yellow Sea,” she added, “in the very waters where General Douglas MacArthur undertook the heroic Inchon landing which turned the tide of [the Korean] war?”
Awkwardly for Obama, the state visit puts him, as a Nobel Peace Prize winner, in the uncomfortable position of feting a Chinese president who continues to imprison Liu Xiaobo, the Chinese poet who won this year’s Nobel Peace Prize.
That odd juxtaposition drew protests from U.S. human rights activists that the administration has been too soft on the Chinese regime.
"It is more important to honor and remember those who cannot attend this State Dinner rather than those who will be in attendance," Rev. Patrick Mahoney, the director of the Christian Defense Coalition, said in a statement. "While the guests are dining on expensive and extravagant food there will be scores who will be oppressed and placed behind bars by the Chinese government because of their faith and political beliefs -- people like Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Liu Xiaobo, who is in prison."
But beyond China’s apparent indifference to global human rights is its status as a burgeoning Sino goliath that shows no sign of backing down from its rapid military and economic expansion.
Just last week, it surprised U.S. officials by rolling out a new stealth fighter jet, the J-20.
China launched a record 15 satellites into orbit last year -- the first time since the Cold War that any nation has matched the number of U.S. satellite launches. It also has developed ballistic missiles that can destroy U.S. aircraft carriers.
Frank Gaffney, founder and president of the Center for Security Policy, tells Newsmax that Obama’s over-the-top treatment of Hu will inevitably be viewed by the Chinese as kowtowing.
“I believe it is appeasement,” Gaffney tells Newsmax. “At the very least, it is accommodation. And what exactly the distinction is between the two I’m not sure.
“If you wind up incessantly accommodating somebody’s aggressive behavior,” Gaffney says, “it is almost certainly going to be construed by them as acts of appeasement.”
Gaffney tells Newsmax that he sees a link between China’s aggressive pursuit of economic leverage and its military expansion.
China in recent years has inked a plethora of deals to tie up global energy resources for its rapidly growing economy. It also has displayed a willingness to wield its control of rare earth metals as an economic weapon against Japan.
“I think that what China is up to is pursuing a comprehensive strategy for supplanting the United States as the pre-eminent power in the world,” Gaffney declares.
China’s indifference, or actual encouragement, of intellectual property theft and patent infringement, combined with its seriously undervalued currency, causes friction with the American interests as well. Gaffney says China is pursuing what he calls “financial warfare” on the United States.
If so, it certainly didn’t prevent heads of major U.S. corporations from lining up for a meet-and-greet with the Chinese leader on Wednesday. Top CEOs from Microsoft, General Electric, and Boeing shook hands with the Chinese president at the White House, following the administration’s announcement of business deals on energy, jet liners, and other products the Chinese are purchasing. The trade deal is valued at $45 billion.
Those agreements came even as new evidence emerged that the Chinese discriminate against U.S. companies operating on Chinese soil.
According to a new survey by the American Chamber of Commerce in Shanghai, half of U.S. firms feel the Chinese government shows favoritism to their domestic firms over foreign corporations.
The situation appears to be getting worse. Seventy percent of the 346 U.S. companies surveyed said that respect for intellectual property rights and patents in China had stayed the same or “deteriorated” in the past year. That’s up from 61 percent just a year ago.
Still, the lure of the Chinese market -- already the third largest buyer for U.S. exports - is undeniable. Last year saw a record $105.7 in direct foreign investment in China.
Beyond the economic expansion, there are questions about whether the civilian government really controls the Chinese military. In his remarks Wednesday afternoon, Hu said he and Obama agree that open exchange of military information will contribute to global stability. But U.S. security experts say China has yet to back up its friendly talk with greater cooperation, however.
Just last week, a U.S. delegation led by Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates was unnerved by Hu’s professed unawareness of Beijing’s test flight of China’s new J-20 stealth fighter jet. The high-profile test flight appeared an obvious snub, given the U.S. officials’ mission of urging the Chinese to be more forthcoming and transparent about their military.
“The civilian leadership seemed surprised by the test,” Gates said.
That triggered widespread speculation that perhaps China’s civilian officials were no longer in complete control of their increasingly powerful, high-tech military.
U.S. military spending continues to be about five times that of China, experts say. But China has shown an ability to surprise U.S. officials with their rapid pace of military development, the J-20 jet being only the latest example.
Dean Cheng, Heritage research fellow for political and security affairs, tells Newsmax that there is a clear division among Chinese leaders – but not necessarily along military versus civilian lines.
“What you are seeing is a real split within the Chinese leadership written large, military and civilian, between those who think China should continue to follow [former Chinese ruler] Deng Xiaopeng’s policy of pursuing a low profile, and continuing to be conciliatory, versus those who believe that China’s day has arrived, and that it can, and should, take a more assertive if not aggressive role,” Cheng tells Newsmax.
The biggest threat posed by China may be the mixed signals coming from Washington, Cheng says.
“I think President Obama has in several instances done exactly the wrong things,” states Cheng.
He cites the administration’s flip-flop over sending a U.S. aircraft carrier battle group off China’s shores in the wake of North Korea’s attack on a South Korean frigate.
“When the North Korean sank the South Korean frigate, we were going to send the carrier group into the Yellow Sea -- standard procedure with regards to showing support,” Cheng says. “China protested, and rather than telling the Chinese, ‘The Yellow Sea is international waters, this is an American act in support of an ally in the face of naked, unprovoked attack that deserves a response,’ the administration ordered the American battle group instead to stay to the east of the Korean peninsula.”
Not all the anti-China rhetoric has come from Republicans, either. Speaking on a Las Vegas television program Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid remarked: “I am going to go back to Washington tomorrow and meet with the president of China. He is a dictator. He can do a lot of things through the form of government they have.”
Reid immediately backed off referring to the Chinese president as a dictator. But more push back came from New York Democratic Sen. Charles Schumer.
He was joined by two other Democrats in introducing legislation to impose penalties, and possibly tariffs, on any nation that manipulates its currency to keep it artificially low in order to discourage the purchase of U.S. products. “China’s currency is like a boot on the throat of America’s economic recovery,” Schumer said.
The administration has been lobbying the Chinese to support its efforts to rein in the rogue nation-states of Iran and North Korea. But with U.S. reliance on China to buy American debt, U.S. leverage on China would appear to be minimal at best.
In another indication China sees itself in the driver’s seat, it announced this week that it is rewarding North Korea with a $2 billion program to aid its energy and infrastructure development.
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