Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Obama, Hu Secure Outline for Cooperation: Wall Street Journal


The Wall Street Journal

Obama, Hu Secure Outline for Cooperation

BEIJING—U.S. President Barack Obama secured a far-ranging

framework for cooperation with China on Tuesday that paradoxically

was announced as frictions appeared to increase over human rights

and economic policy.

For Mr. Obama, the visit's results were mixed. Aides say he views

China as the U.S.'s most vital partner in tackling the globe's most intractable issues. The U.S. and China consume more energy and

emit more greenhouse gasses than any other countries. China's

position on the United Nations Security Council and location on the

border with North Korea make it indispensable to resolving nuclear standoffs in Iran and on the Korean peninsula. And China's status

as Washington's biggest creditor and the world's engine of economic recovery has linked the two nations' economies inextricably.


U.S. President Barack Obama inspected honor guards during a welcome ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing Tuesday.

With so much at stake, Sino-U.S. relations have never been closer or more important, White House aides say. That led to a Joint Statement outlining a long list of areas of cooperation—one of the most ambitious efforts the countries have made to catalogue their interests. They

ranged from general areas of mutual concern, such as helping the

global economic recovery and solving climate change, to concrete

plans such as expanding civilian air traffic, boosting joint research in

public health and increasing five-fold the number of U.S. students studying in China.

China also explicitly welcomed the U.S. role in the Asia-Pacific,

potentially addressing U.S. fears that China wants America out of

the region.

But the two leaders issued the statement in an awkward fashion—

at a press "availability" where they took no questions, didn't

address each other and exhibited body language that seemed to say

they had been frustrated by the entire exercise.

"It is paradoxical," said Richard Baum, professor of Chinese politics

at the University of California, Los Angeles. "The press conference confirmed every low expectation we had for the meeting, but when

I saw the statement, I said, wait a minute, are we talking about the same event? It is the most extensive document in 20 years, maybe ever."

This bifurcated view was reflected in how U.S. officials themselves described the trip. Jeffrey Bader, the National Security Council's

senior director of East Asian policy, said the trip was a success but characterized it as merely "an important first step."

U.S. ambassador to China Jon Huntsman defended the visit's shortcomings, especially China's failure to widely publicize or

broadcast the U.S. president's town-hall meeting with students in Shanghai, touted before the trip as the marquee event. "In a country with 350 million Internet users and 70 million bloggers, growing exponentially, the words spoken by the president will resonate," he said.

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said the president and his

aides hadn't expected "the waters would part and everything would change over the course of our almost two-and-a-half days in China," adding, "We understand we have a lot of work to do."

At a joint appearance Tuesday, Mr. Obama and Chinese President Hu Jintao both used soaring rhetoric to describe the importance of the relationship between an established and a rising power.

"We meet at a time when the relationship between the United States

and China has never been more important to our collective future,"

Mr. Obama said during the event, broadcast live on Chinese state television. "The major challenges of the 21st century … touch both

our nations."

Mr. Hu seemed to concur, saying that "the two sides reached broad, important agreement" on key points. Both countries agreed to

work harder for a global economic recovery, to contain Iran's nuclear ambitions and for a successful outcome at next month's climate-change talks in Copenhagen. They also pledged to continue numerous working-level bodies and to improve military-to-military ties.

But both acknowledged differences and seemed intensely

uncomfortable when the other mentioned them. Mr. Obama spoke

of the "fundamental human rights" that should be accorded to ethnic

and religious minorities, mentioning Tibet before pressing for "dialogue" between Beijing and representatives of the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan spiritual leader regarded as a separatist by Beijing.

In closed-door sessions, Mr. Obama pressed the Chinese president

on a range of human-rights issues, from the treatment of ethnic minorities to the "firewall" that restricts Chinese access to the Internet, Mr. Bader said, boasting that he had never heard such blunt talk in his decades of diplomatic work in the region.

Mr. Hu, talking while Mr. Obama looked down at the lectern, said he "stressed to President Obama that under the current circumstances,

our two countries need to oppose and reject protectionism in all its manifestations in an even stronger stand," a reference to what China sees as hostile gestures on trade, such as tariffs slapped on Chinese

tires and steel pipes.

Mr. Obama put strong emphasis on Iran's nuclear program, declaring—which Mr. Hu did not—that "on this point, our two nations...are unified." He said that if Iran doesn't prove that its nuclear program is peaceful, "there will be consequences."

Mr. Bader acknowledged the Iranian issue is a significantly lower

priority to China than is North Korea, and that Mr. Hu made it clear

he would like to see the standoff resolved before Washington seeks tougher sanctions at the U.N. Security Council.

Mr. Obama also expressed pleasure at China's long-standing pledge

to move toward a more market-based exchange rate over time, something Mr. Hu didn't mention. "I emphasized in our discussions

and with others in the region that doing so based on economic fundamentals would make an essential contribution to the global economic [situation]," the U.S. president said.

Chinese officials defended their treatment of the U.S. president's town-hall meeting in Shanghai, which had been billed as Mr. Obama's chance to talk casually with China's youth but ended up a heavily

scripted affair. The audience was carefully chosen by the departments

of the city's state-run universities and given "training" before attending.

"As for whether the Chinese government controlled the list of participants, there is no such issue," Vice Foreign Minister He Yafei

told reporters Tuesday. "The Chinese side had the responsibility to ensure the security of President Obama and had to check the backgrounds of all participants. I believe this is a common practice in

all countries."

—Aaron Back contributed to this article.

Write to Jonathan Weisman at jonathan.weisman@wsj.com and Ian Johnson at ian.johnson@wsj.com

Education for Liberation! Venceremos Unidos!
Peter S. López, Jr. aka~Peta
Email: peter.lopez51@yahoo.com 
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