Shadow Government

Earth to the New York Times: Clinton’s China policy isn’t new

By Christian Brose In keeping with Dan Twining’s excellent observations about Asia, I found this New York Times article about Hillary Clinton’s trip, well, strange: Signaling a new, more vigorous approach to China, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton declared Friday that the United States had nothing to fear from an economically ascendant Beijing and ...

By Christian Brose

In keeping with Dan Twining’s excellent observations about Asia, I found this New York Times article about Hillary Clinton’s trip, well, strange:

Signaling a new, more vigorous approach to China, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton declared Friday that the United States had nothing to fear from an economically ascendant Beijing and that it would press Chinese leaders on delicate issues like human rights and climate change.

In her first major speech as secretary of state, Mrs. Clinton drew a clear line between the Obama administration’s approach and that of the Bush White House, which viewed China more as a rival than a partner and kept relations fixed on economic matters like exchange rates.

“Some believe that China on the rise is by definition an adversary,” she said at the Asia Society in New York on the eve of a trip to China and other Asian countries. “To the contrary, we believe the United States and China benefit from, and contribute to, each other’s successes.”

Now, when it comes to Clinton’s speech at the Asia Society last Friday, what is remarkable about it is simply that I could have written about 95 percent of it for Condoleezza Rice. This is a good thing, of course, as it reminds us of the large degree of bispartisan agreement that defines U.S. policy in Asia today, including on China policy.

When it comes to the New York Times, however, what is remarkable is how completely ignorant they seem to be of any of this. It’s as if the Times had been living under a rock these past eight years. Because last I checked, it was the Bush administration, in its second term, that finally got us beyond the tired old debate about whether China is a "strategic partner" to be engaged (Bill Clinton’s approach) or a "strategic threat" to be contained (Bush’s first-term approach), recognizing instead that China’s rise is a geopolitical fact and the real question now is how China will use its great power. In short, will China be a free-rider on U.S. global leadership or a responsible stakeholder?

The Bush administration’s preference was the latter, and that’s why it expanded U.S.-China cooperation on global issues such as nuclear proliferation in Iran and North Korea, pandemic diseases like avian influenza, global trade and development, climate change and energy security, and even the violence in Darfur — all the while hedging against China’s untransparent military build-up to give Beijing a hard incentive to choose the responsible stakeholder path.

This, in a nutshell, is exactly the alleged "shift" in China policy that Clinton laid out and that the Obama administration will likely follow. Is it too much to ask the New York Times to recognize this?

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