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Tibet, human rights remain irritants in Sino-US ties

November 17, 2009

ZeeZee News (India)
November 16, 2009

US President Barack Obama has arrived in China to
discuss issues such as climate change and a wide trade deficit with Beijing.

Obama has already described China as a "vital
partner, as well as a competitor." And the US
President’s visit to Shanghai and Beijing is said
to be his golden chance to woo the young audience
with his excellent oratory skills.

A number of issues, ranging from revaluing
China’s currency (the yuan), climate change,
Tibet and human rights are expected to be
discussed between the US and Chinese leaders.

In an exclusive interview with Kamna Arora of
Zeenews.com, Jagannath P Panda, an expert on
Chinese affairs, discusses Obama’s visit to China.

Jagannath P Panda is an Associate Fellow at the
Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, New Delhi.

Kamna: What could be Barack Obama’s agenda for his three-day stay in China?

Panda: Important issues like recovery of the
global financial crisis, the nuclear-related
issues in Iran and the Korean Peninsula and
climate change may dominate the discussions
between China and the US. But what would be more
interesting to observe is how both the countries
approach bilateral issues. In a way, it is the
“strategic dialogue” that would dominate the
discussion between the two countries more than
anything. This holds importance given the fact
that both China and the US celebrate 30 years of their diplomatic relationship.

Kamna: In the wake of China’s rising status in
the world, it will be economic ties, not human
rights, which will top the priorities of Obama’s visit. Comment.

Panda: China is of critical importance to the
United States for many reasons, both for
bilateral issues and issues of global importance.
The high point of the bilateral relationship is
trade and economy. Issues such as Tibet,
democracy and human rights remain irritants, but
the global financial crisis, climate change,
energy and the issue of global terrorism makes them more interdependent.

Beyond this, one needs to understand the deeper
realities of Sino-US dynamics. From USA’s
perspective, two schools of thought dominate the
US’ policy circles on China: those who seek to
contain it and those who seek to engage with it.
Though President Obama is yet to clearly outline
a China policy, the presence of experts like
Jeffrey Bader, Richard Bush, David Lampton, Gary
Locke and Susan Shirk in his core ‘China team’
helps him to formulate a much more ‘balanced’
China policy. These experts are well known for
both their policy and administrative experiences in issues related to China.

They have often reiterated the need for a
"pragmatic policy" approach towards China.
Obama’s China dialogue could centre on four key
pointers: (a) stability in East Asia, (b) global
security issues, (c) climate change and (d) trade.

Previously, Obama consistently highlighted the
importance of stability in East Asia in terms of
issues related to the elimination of nuclear
programmes, economic relations, diplomatic
normalisation, etc. There have also been repeated
references to an “effective regional framework”
in Asia. In this endeavour, President Obama has
involved China, South Korea, North Korea, Russia
and Japan. If one focuses on Asia, China is
definitely the most crucial player for the new
Democrat administration. Therefore, to succeed
with its China tour, Obama has to take several factors into account.

Kamna: Will Barack Obama discuss Tibet and Dalai
Lama with the Chinese leadership by any chance?

Panda: In my opinion, Tibet and the issue of
Dalai Lama may be secondary during Obama’s China
tour. On previous occasions, the Democrat Obama
has expressed the US’ concern on economy, trade,
democracy and human rights, etc. True, the
potential flash points between the two countries
have always remain the three ‘Ts’: Tibet, Taiwan
and Trade. But unlike his predecessors, Obama has
not demonised China as ‘evil’ and communism as a
tool to feed xenophobia. Obama vowed to push
China harder to loosen the reins on its currency,
improve its human rights record and end its
support for repressive regimes in Iran, Myanmar,
Sudan and Zimbabwe. This reflects the Democrats’
maturity on US-China relations.

Kamna: How can Barack Obama use his trip to
achieve something substantial related to climate change?

Panda: In my opinion, climate change is one of
those issues which could bring major powers like
China, USA, and India much closer than ever.
Barack Obama seems to truly realise this. The key
problem with regards to climate change is the
“legal positions” taken by major countries. While
China and India hold the view that developed or
rich countries should bear more responsibility
for climate change and ‘developing world’ should
not be legally bound to curb the carbon emissions
blamed for fluctuations in temperatures, the US
and developed countries believe in just the opposite.

The need of the hour is to look at the issue of
"climate change" as a ‘universal problem’, and
stop accusing each other. A ‘global maturity’ is
required and I believe Obama administration is
quite well aware of this approach. In fact, since
the day his administration has resumed power, the
issue of ‘climate change’ has become top priority
for the US administration. I believe climate
change will not emerge as an obstacle in future
between China, USA and India. Obama would like to
use the issue as a ‘catalyst’ more than anything.

Kamna: Will Barack Obama use his China visit to
discuss the situation in Pakistan and Iran’s nuclear programme?

Panda: Yes, the situation in Pakistan and the
nuclear programme of Iran could be topics of
discussion during his tour. But I suspect nothing
much will happen on these issues given the
neutral Chinese position. Perhaps, time has come
that Obama would like to raise and address the
issue of Pakistan with China at a ‘mature’ level.
An attempt should be made to bring Chinese
support to the global and regional level on the
issue of terrorism, in order to check the rise of
Taliban and extremist elements in the region. On
Iran too, China should be asked to become more transparent on its position.

Kamna: Will Washington push Beijing - currently
the biggest US creditor - for serious concessions
as far as the issue of currency is concerned?

Panda: The current economic conditions will bring
issues such as the trade deficit and currency
manipulation back into the spotlight. Therefore,
it will be interesting to see how Obama
administration holds inbound Chinese businesses
and how the Chinese government approaches the
disputes surrounding intellectual property, joint
venture agreements and the country’s new
anti-monopoly law. It is important to state here
that when Obama proposed a two-year plan to fight
this economic crisis of "historic proportions,"
President Hu Jintao was quick to express China’s support for the proposal.

For the Americans, China’s special attraction is
that it currently holds USD 1.9 trillion worth of
foreign reserves and owns over half-a-trillion
dollars in US government bonds, more than any
other country. Washington needs Beijing to
continue buying them to help finance the national debt.

US President Barack Obama has arrived in China to
discuss issues such as climate change and a wide trade deficit with Beijing.

Obama has already described China as a "vital
partner, as well as a competitor." And the US
President’s visit to Shanghai and Beijing is said
to be his golden chance to woo the young audience
with his excellent oratory skills.

A number of issues, ranging from revaluing
China’s currency (the yuan), climate change,
Tibet and human rights are expected to be
discussed between the US and Chinese leaders.

In an exclusive interview with Kamna Arora of
Zeenews.com, Jagannath P Panda, an expert on
Chinese affairs, discusses Obama’s visit to China.

Jagannath P Panda is an Associate Fellow at the
Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, New Delhi.

Kamna: What could be Barack Obama’s agenda for his three-day stay in China?

Panda: Important issues like recovery of the
global financial crisis, the nuclear-related
issues in Iran and the Korean Peninsula and
climate change may dominate the discussions
between China and the US. But what would be more
interesting to observe is how both the countries
approach bilateral issues. In a way, it is the
“strategic dialogue” that would dominate the
discussion between the two countries more than
anything. This holds importance given the fact
that both China and the US celebrate 30 years of their diplomatic relationship.

Kamna: In the wake of China’s rising status in
the world, it will be economic ties, not human
rights, which will top the priorities of Obama’s visit. Comment.

Panda: China is of critical importance to the
United States for many reasons, both for
bilateral issues and issues of global importance.
The high point of the bilateral relationship is
trade and economy. Issues such as Tibet,
democracy and human rights remain irritants, but
the global financial crisis, climate change,
energy and the issue of global terrorism makes them more interdependent.

Beyond this, one needs to understand the deeper
realities of Sino-US dynamics. From USA’s
perspective, two schools of thought dominate the
US’ policy circles on China: those who seek to
contain it and those who seek to engage with it.
Though President Obama is yet to clearly outline
a China policy, the presence of experts like
Jeffrey Bader, Richard Bush, David Lampton, Gary
Locke and Susan Shirk in his core ‘China team’
helps him to formulate a much more ‘balanced’
China policy. These experts are well known for
both their policy and administrative experiences in issues related to China.

They have often reiterated the need for a
"pragmatic policy" approach towards China.
Obama’s China dialogue could centre on four key
pointers: (a) stability in East Asia, (b) global
security issues, (c) climate change and (d) trade.

Previously, Obama consistently highlighted the
importance of stability in East Asia in terms of
issues related to the elimination of nuclear
programmes, economic relations, diplomatic
normalisation, etc. There have also been repeated
references to an "effective regional framework"
in Asia. In this endeavour, President Obama has
involved China, South Korea, North Korea, Russia
and Japan. If one focuses on Asia, China is
definitely the most crucial player for the new
Democrat administration. Therefore, to succeed
with its China tour, Obama has to take several factors into account.

Kamna: Will Barack Obama discuss Tibet and Dalai
Lama with the Chinese leadership by any chance?

Panda: In my opinion, Tibet and the issue of
Dalai Lama may be secondary during Obama’s China
tour. On previous occasions, the Democrat Obama
has expressed the US’ concern on economy, trade,
democracy and human rights, etc. True, the
potential flash points between the two countries
have always remain the three ‘Ts’: Tibet, Taiwan
and Trade. But unlike his predecessors, Obama has
not demonised China as ‘evil’ and communism as a
tool to feed xenophobia. Obama vowed to push
China harder to loosen the reins on its currency,
improve its human rights record and end its
support for repressive regimes in Iran, Myanmar,
Sudan and Zimbabwe. This reflects the Democrats’
maturity on US-China relations.

Kamna: How can Barack Obama use his trip to
achieve something substantial related to climate change?

Panda: In my opinion, climate change is one of
those issues which could bring major powers like
China, USA, and India much closer than ever.
Barack Obama seems to truly realise this. The key
problem with regards to climate change is the
"legal positions" taken by major countries. While
China and India hold the view that developed or
rich countries should bear more responsibility
for climate change and ‘developing world’ should
not be legally bound to curb the carbon emissions
blamed for fluctuations in temperatures, the US
and developed countries believe in just the opposite.

The need of the hour is to look at the issue of
"climate change" as a ‘universal problem’, and
stop accusing each other. A ‘global maturity’ is
required and I believe Obama administration is
quite well aware of this approach. In fact, since
the day his administration has resumed power, the
issue of ‘climate change’ has become top priority
for the US administration. I believe climate
change will not emerge as an obstacle in future
between China, USA and India. Obama would like to
use the issue as a ‘catalyst’ more than anything.

Kamna: Will Barack Obama use his China visit to
discuss the situation in Pakistan and Iran’s nuclear programme?

Panda: Yes, the situation in Pakistan and the
nuclear programme of Iran could be topics of
discussion during his tour. But I suspect nothing
much will happen on these issues given the
neutral Chinese position. Perhaps, time has come
that Obama would like to raise and address the
issue of Pakistan with China at a ‘mature’ level.
An attempt should be made to bring Chinese
support to the global and regional level on the
issue of terrorism, in order to check the rise of
Taliban and extremist elements in the region. On
Iran too, China should be asked to become more transparent on its position.

Kamna: Will Washington push Beijing - currently
the biggest US creditor - for serious concessions
as far as the issue of currency is concerned?

Panda: The current economic conditions will bring
issues such as the trade deficit and currency
manipulation back into the spotlight. Therefore,
it will be interesting to see how Obama
administration holds inbound Chinese businesses
and how the Chinese government approaches the
disputes surrounding intellectual property, joint
venture agreements and the country’s new
anti-monopoly law. It is important to state here
that when Obama proposed a two-year plan to fight
this economic crisis of “historic proportions”,
President Hu Jintao was quick to express China’s support for the proposal.

For the Americans, China’s special attraction is
that it currently holds USD 1.9 trillion worth of
foreign reserves and owns over half-a-trillion
dollars in US government bonds, more than any
other country. Washington needs Beijing to
continue buying them to help finance the national debt.
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