Saturday, March 18, 2006

3/18 FHPN Rice tells China what it "needs to," "should" do, tone doesn't seem to be going over well in Asia

"FHPN," "Fair, Honest, Principled News," is a regular feature which gives links and excerpts, with bold emphasis added for key points, from selected recent stories, often focused on a single important theme, and my bold italicized comments. See 3/11 "Digests of my previous posts for busy people" link for blog's core ideas.

This edition of FHPN focuses on Secretary of State Rice's trip to Asia. The 3/16 edition, link, focused on health care, giving a brief excerpt from economist Paul Krugman's new long essay in "The New York Review of Books" titled "The Health Care Crisis and What to do About It."

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3/17 ChiTrib "Australia winces at U.S. talk on China" link ""Our message is that we don't support a policy of containment of China," Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said ..."I think a policy of containment of China would be a very big mistake." ... Rice did little to help her host, delivering the sort of rhetoric on China not often heard in this part of the world. She sharply questioned China's behavior in international affairs, its rising military spending, the lack of openness of its economy, its state ownership in key sectors, its policies on intellectual property, its human-rights record and its lack of religious freedom ... Analysts say the efforts of America's top diplomat appear to be part of a U.S. campaign to play "catch up" on China ...with key partners who could help create a strategic counterbalance to rapidly expanding Chinese influence ... that effort began in earnest this month when Bush struck a controversial nuclear deal with Asia's other rising giant, India ... Australia is, along with other nations in the region, reaping huge economic rewards from China's industrial explosion ... China has been in the midst of an impressive diplomatic offensive ... much of Washington's attention has been consumed by Iraq ... the Australians, like many of Washington's other allies, have indeed been thinking of China in a way that is very different from the hard-line American view."

3/17 IHT "In Sydney, Rice tough on Beijing" link "Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice of the United States and Foreign Minister Alexander Downer of Australia struck markedly different tones Thursday over the rising power of China, with Rice criticizing its military expansion and the Australian warning against trying to "contain" Chinese ambitions. The varied comments of Rice and Downer underscored the uneasiness Rice has found this week in Asia and Australia, a region that the United States once dominated as a superpower but now has to navigate uneasily amid China's spreading influence. Rice's criticism of China was unusually tough ... China announced a 14 percent increase in military spending, Rice said, "That's a lot, and China should undertake to be transparent about what that means." She went on to refer to charges in the Bush administration that China has kept its currency artificially low to pump out exports and to say that China had a poor record on protecting intellectual property rights, opening its government-controlled markets to foreign investment and protecting religious freedoms."

3/17 CSM "Once lock-step Australia tunes out US drumbeat on China" link "Chinese officials are working closely with Canberra to hammer out an agreement that would recognize China as an open market and bring billions of dollars of business to resource-rich Australia. And Australia is doing everything it can to accentuate China's positives ... China's economic lure has dampened Australian enthusiasm for US efforts to sound the alarm on Beijing's military spending - just upped another 14 percent ... the once lock-step foreign policies of Washington and Canberra are beginning to march to different drum beats ... China's importance to Australia has grown rapidly in recent years by keeping the cost of manufactured goods low and driving up prices for commodities needed to feed its factories ... Beijing, he says, is concerned about the creation of a new kind of alliance aimed solely at keeping the Chinese in check ... "This is the single largest divergence in perception we have had with the US ever since we became allies," says Mr. White ... While Alan Dupont agrees that there is a case for discussing China as a potential threat in the future, he objects to the "hectoring and didactic tone that Washington takes" on the subject."

3/18 TheAgeAu "A rising China tests Australia's ties" link "They [U.S. and Japan] have a serious purpose: to arrest what they see as Australia's drift towards China. They worry that, dazzled by China's economy and seduced by its diplomacy, we are growing too close to Beijing ... America instinctively expects China, as it grows, to adapt itself to a regional order in which the US makes the rules. China expects much more: that as its power grows, it will have a role in setting the rules, not just following the US rules. Australia tends to be more sympathetic to China's aspirations, and more worried about what China might do otherwise ... [Americans] think it's up to China to choose whether it is going to play by America's rules, or face America's wrath. That is what the Pentagon means when it says China is at a "strategic crossroads". Thus, while Americans sometimes talk as if they are willing to work with China, it remains clear that they will only do so on America's terms. And by that they mean changes to China's internal politics as well as its foreign policy. No wonder the Chinese are edgy. Tokyo supports America's tough view ... Some Americans may think they can use economic pressure, compelling China to behave as the US wants by threatening its access to the US market. They are a good five years too late ... Others, including Rice, seem to think that America can compete effectively with China for the allegiance and support of China's Asian neighbours. Again, they are five years too late ... "

3/18 AsiaTimes "A 'little NATO' against China" link "There is a concern that this might be the beginning of a new Cold War-type alliance in which China is cast as the adversary. This suspicion has become even stronger in the light of the comments made by Rice ... This development will not be taken kindly in many capitals around the region. Although China has not responded to Rice's comment, it will most certainly make Beijing furious ... Downer believes that China's economic power should be harnessed to the advantage of the region - a position quite different from the current US thinking. Australia has a huge economic interest in China and sees potential for further growth. Canberra is poised to sign an agreement to sell uranium to China. As far as Japan is concerned, it is unlikely that it would favor ganging up against China even though there are serious Sino-Japanese frictions. It is not in the overall interest of Japan's foreign policy openly to support a containment policy when trade and economic relations with China are prospering and Tokyo is trying to improve its relations with Beijing ... If a trilateral dialogue process such as this one turns into a formal alliance-type grouping, it may trigger a dangerous response across the region. Already there are talks about a China-India-Russia trilateral framework. Another proposal was made by Japan this year to establish a trilateral framework dialogue and security cooperation with India and the United States."

3/16 AP "Pentagon Official Warns of Chinese Buildup" link "China's military buildup changes the delicate balance of power in the Taiwan Strait, forcing the United States to adapt its military strategies, a top Pentagon official said Thursday ... "Our job is to maintain a military balance in the region, and we take our responsibility seriously." The United States opposes changes in the China-Taiwan relationship unless both sides agree to it, Rodman said. But, he testified, China's "military buildup changes that status quo and requires us to adapt to the new situation, as we are doing." He did not elaborate ... Rodman said China's "widespread use of denial and deception" on its security affairs make getting the truth difficult. "Absent greater openness, international reactions to China's military growth will understandably hedge against these unknowns.""

FHPN editorial: These articles, from a variety of sources, speak for themselves. Australia has always been one of the most staunch of friends and allies of the U.S., but it has had to come to grips with the new reality of China's rise in East Asia.

Most of the rest of the world does not share the Bush Admin's professed foreign policy agenda. Economic development, not a permanent war on certain terrorists or the selective promotion of democracy, understandably tops their list of most pressing concerns. Unfortunately, the average American doesn't have much of a clue about how Asians feel regarding U.S. military presence all over their continent.

Imagine how an American might react if Beijing told Washington it is spending too much on its military and "needs" to do something about that, after all the U.S. spends more than the rest of the world combined. Or if China tried to put a military base in the western hemisphere, since the U.S. has bases surrounding China.

Or if China sent a "blue water" navy fleet off America's West Coast, as the U.S. does near Taiwan and the Straits of Malacca, the bottleneck through which the Mideast oil that East Asia is heavily dependent on flows. Or if China's policy makers told the U.S. that it "should" rein in its excess spending and debt and live within its means.

Of course the average American wouldn't tolerate such blatant meddling in his affairs, he would react very angrily. Needless to say, my point isn't to say that the U.S. and China are the same, nor that the U.S. should act toward China as China does toward the U.S. (the golden rule doesn't seem to apply in "realist" power geo-politics, or hyper-speculative finance for that matter).

It is simply to try to point out the huge, unconscious assumptions that the average American makes about the presumed right or even god-given duty of the U.S. to intervene all over the globe, assumptions which are routinely embedded in the speech of Rice, Cheney, Bush, etc.

This lack of average American awareness of how other nations feel and view the U.S. is not improving at the same time that the stakes are getting higher. Rice is going to be Rice, Cheney will be Cheney, Bush is Bush. The Democrats are not offering anything viable.

So unless the American public starts to realize the profound changes and attitude shifts in the rest of the world, and the mass media in effect does all in its power to prevent this, then the Bush Admin will continue to have a relatively free hand in foreign affairs and the potential for huge misunderstandings continues to increase.

I've said this several times, the last time here, and I'll keep on saying it, because I believe it is critical:

"it is a potentially very dangerous situation for the U.S. to be both so heavily indebted to the rest of the world, including China, and also actively intervening around the world, with the vast majority of the American population having little idea of how the rest of world actually thinks or feels, mainly thanks to the dreadful shortcomings of the U.S. corporate mass media."

"Generally nations that are rapidly modernizing and joining the elite group of most powerful nations are sensitive to perceived sleights. The U.S. was certainly this way in the 19th century with respect to perceived European meddling in its affairs and "its" hemisphere."

"For very understandable historical reasons due to unfair treatment at the hands of imperialist powers, both western and Japan, China is sensitive to perceptions of how it is being dealt with by the other major powers of the world. Unfortunately, most American don't seem to be very aware of this."

I.e., the U.S.-China relationship is not just about the money, not just about the currently supposedly symbiotic economic relationship between saver and debtor, producer and consumer, as so many American policy makers seem to assume. There is also a tremendous amount of national pride at stake here, which Americans have a tendency to underestimate.

The modern state of China was formed only in 1949, after many decades of turmoil, civil war, invasions, etc, and was then convulsed by internal upheavals for much of the next thirty years.

If China is not changing fast enough to suit Rice's timetable, recall that blacks were de facto disenfranchised in the segregated South that Rice grew up in until the Voting Richts of 1965, 189 years after the Declaration of Independence declared that "all men are created equal."

Rice understandably takes pride in how far the U.S. has come since then, as indicated by her own position. Perhaps she should keep the same sense of historical perspective in viewing how far China has come in the past twenty-five years, and how far it has to go.

Needless to say, it is very important to know who you're dealing with, especially when you're making comments as strong as Rice routinely does. It might be one thing to talk to Syria the way she does, it would be quite another to do so with China.

As a former academic expert on the Soviet Union, Rice must know that during the Cold War the average American had at least some understanding of the Soviet Union as a European culture and of the Russian mind. Sean Connery could play a Russian sub captain and get away with his Welsh accent

Yet even during that long period, push still nearly came to disastrous shove a couple of times (1962 Cuban missile crisis, 1973 Arab-Israeli War) partially due to serious miscalculations.

Tom Cruise isn't going to play a Chinese top gun or stock car racer (he was in a samurai movie). "Memoirs of a Geisha" didn't anticipate Chinese reaction to using ethnic Chinese actresses to play Japanese roles, it's now banned in China's theaters. Hollywood doesn't get Asia, let alone Islam.

And because of the failure of the American mass media, and educational system, neither do most Americans. (For more on this, see my 2/27 "The New, Old Thing: Silicon Valley, Hollywood, Madison Ave" at link.)

That might be okay, except that Americans are all over other people's neighborhoods and borrowing other people's money (opm), for oil from the Mideast and for everything in Walmart from Asia.

That could become dangerous if those who currently speak for the U.S. aren't a little more diplomatic about expressing their requests and even demands maturely as their preferences instead.

I.e. rather than saying China "should" or "needs to" do this, that and the other thing, how about the U.S. would prefer if China might consider ...

I know that sounds jarring and out of place right now to the average American. But isn't that the way the U.S. would expect to be addressed by other nations?

However it comes about, the easy way or the hard way, U.S. leaders eventually will learn to "get along better with others," as it used to say on my old kindergarten report card, in the 21st century. Let's hope it's the right way.