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"As long as human rights are violated, there can be no foundation for peace. How can peace grow where speaking the truth is itself a crime?"

Editorial: US policy toward China wavering

February 8, 2010

Global Times (People's Republic of China)
February 8 2010

Since the beginning of 2010, optimism over
Sino-US relations has soon given way to dire
predictions of the most complicated bilateral
ties in the world. A slew of prickly diplomatic
issues have upset policy readers on both sides.

Words such as "trade war" or "overall
confrontation" have sneaked into recent media
coverage, adding to the nervousness. But viewed
in perspective, China-US relations have never
been really free of storms and turbulence.

When Bush Jr. and his predecessors took office,
Sino-US relations went through the same curve of
going down before returning to normal. When
Barack Obama took office, he embarked on a
different route. As part of his conciliatory
diplomatic approach, he took a soft line in
dealing with China during his first year in the White House.

These have given rise to optimism about bilateral
relations to a Chinese audience, which is
captivated by Obama's charisma and forgets the
fact that his political fate is subject to domestic politics.

Obama's soft line has upset American public.
Conservative sections are especially infuriated
by the president's seeming submission to
Washington's competitor. So, now we are seeing the old issues emerge again.

In the drama of China-US relations, thorny issues
including trade, arms sales, human rights and
Tibet look like unavoidable elements. The
difference is when those issues would emerge. But
despite disagreements and sharp exchanges, every
time the temperature rises, the two sides would
eventually be brought to earth by political realities.

In early 1999, soon after President Clinton's
visit to China, bilateral relations were frozen
by the scandalous Cox Report and the accusation
of Chinese American scientist Wen Ho Lee having stolen US technology.

In the first stages of the presidency of Bush Jr,
Sino-US relations were about to be completely
wrecked before US diplomacy suffered an overall setback.

In retrospect, the political costs of the
downside of Sino-US relations is much more than
the sum of short-term political gains.

If managed well, the negative impact of the most
serious incident can be reduced. At the beginning
of 1999, few would have anticipated the US-led
NATO bombing of the Chinese embassy in
Yugoslavia, dragging Sino-US relations to a
historical low. Yet by the end of the same year,
the two sides inked the deal paving the way for China's entry into the WTO.

President Obama is facing a public that is
growing impatient with slow economic recovery and
double-digit unemployment. In this situation,
when the mid-term election is drawing near, he
may continue to challenge China for winning political points at home.

Obama understands the point of policy swings in
dealing with China. His test would be when and how to reverse the policy.
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