Kabuki in Beijing
So Hillary Clinton and half the U.S. cabinet members have now landed in Beijing for the semi-annual U.S.-China Strategic Dialogue. Had it not been scheduled for the Chinese capital far in advance, it might have been better to have held this meeting in Tokyo. The drama seems to be much more Kabuki than Chinese opera. ...
So Hillary Clinton and half the U.S. cabinet members have now landed in Beijing for the semi-annual U.S.-China Strategic Dialogue. Had it not been scheduled for the Chinese capital far in advance, it might have been better to have held this meeting in Tokyo. The drama seems to be much more Kabuki than Chinese opera.
I’m trying to imagine Hillary’s opening statement. Let’s see:
"Excellencies, President Obama has asked me to assure you that he wants a strong and prosperous China so that you can better prevent dissidents from escaping house arrest and taking refuge in locations (the U.S. embassy) that force us to raise embarrassing human rights issues at what are supposed to be strictly strategic discussions. Of course, the president does also believe that you will become stronger as you open up and liberalize your system by blanking out half the Internet and removing references even to fifty year old American movies. I also want to assure you that our recent pivot to Asia and renewed military emphasis in the Pacific is in no way aimed at you in China. On the one hand, you see, our mutual friends in Asia such as the Southeast Asian Countries and Japan and South Korea want to keep doing business like crazy with you, but also want us to be a kind of counterweight so that they don’t totally fall under your influence. Because we are no longer economically competitive our only counterweight tool is our military which we are anxious to You know. To a guy with a hammer, all problems look like nails. But we don’t really think you are a nail. It’s just that we only have a hammer now that you have pretty much taken all the other tools.
On the other hand, our global corporations like Apple and GE need to be sure that their global supply chains here in Asia are safe and secure. As you know, there are a lot of intra-Asian disputes over islands and oil fields and the like and our companies think our military presence tends to dampen those disputes and keep the supply chains running without a hiccup so that we can be sure that, in the words of Steve Jobs, ‘those (supply chain) jobs are never coming back’ because we don’t want those kinds of jobs for Americans. Of course, executives like GE CEO Jeff Immelt who also heads the president’s Commission on Jobs and Competitiveness want to move their high tech jobs to China as well because they know from reading your five year plans that if they want to sell advanced products like GE’s avionics in China they’ll have to produce them in China so that China can learn the technology. We therefore hope that you will welcome such action by GE and others.
You are no doubt aware that some American analysts think you are manipulating your Yuan to keep it undervalued against the dollar as a way of subsidizing your exports. Although Treasury Secretary Geithner believes a stronger yuan would help China better to contain inflation, you don’t have to worry because neither he nor anyone else on the U.S. delegation will accuse you of manipulating the Yuan. On the one hand, we certainly have no intention of embarrassing you by seeming to suggest that you are not playing strictly by the rules, and, on the other, we don’t want to deprive the almighty American consumer of being able to buy ever less expensive imports. Beyond all that we are looking forward to hearing more about your strategic economic policies. Of course, as usual, we will have nothing to say in this area because, as you know by now, we believe having no strategy is the best strategy. But listening to yours does alert us as to the industries we will be losing in the future.
Finally, you know, of course, that for domestic political reasons I must always raise the issue of human rights. I thought we had persuaded the blind self-taught lawyer dissident Chen Guangcheng to leave our embassy and entrust himself to your growing appreciation of the need for openness and guaranteed human rights to make your system stronger. Apparently it was actually your threats to beat his wife to death if he didn’t leave the embassy that actually did the trick. But never mind about that, the main thing now is to be sure you will have no objections to him and his wife moving to America where we can guarantee their obscurity without the necessity of your beating them to death. Let’s now agree on this quickly so that we can get to the main business here which is to assure a continued welcoming environment in China for American investment, and the offshoring of American based production and R&D."
Upon returning to her seat after this statement, Hillary probably should avoid drinking or eating anything that might be served. Indeed, the whole U.S. delegation should probably go on a starvation diet while in Beijing. Or maybe it should arrange a temporary sushi supply chain from Tokyo to avoid any risk of the poisoning that has been the recent fate of foreigners in China who have gotten too involved with China’s elite leadership.
If nothing else, the U.S. delegation should at least have a survival strategy.
Clyde Prestowitz is the founder and president of the Economic Strategy Institute, a former counselor to the secretary of commerce in the Reagan administration, and the author of The World Turned Upside Down: America, China, and the Struggle for Global Leadership. Twitter: @clydeprestowitz
More from Foreign Policy
A New Multilateralism
How the United States can rejuvenate the global institutions it created.
America Prepares for a Pacific War With China It Doesn’t Want
Embedded with U.S. forces in the Pacific, I saw the dilemmas of deterrence firsthand.
The Endless Frustration of Chinese Diplomacy
Beijing’s representatives are always scared they could be the next to vanish.
The End of America’s Middle East
The region’s four major countries have all forfeited Washington’s trust.