Obama’s Silence on China – by Matt Gurney


President Obama this week embarked on his first trip to China, but so far he has little to show for his visit. Wrapping up a three-day stay in the Asian powerhouse, the president secured impressive photo ops, spouted lofty rhetoric, and made vague statements about future plans. Yet he has done absolutely nothing to defend American interests or to stand up for the Chinese people who continue to suffer under communist tyranny.

For an unapologetically liberal leader, President Obama had surprisingly little to say to China on the contentious issue of human rights. While China has enthusiastically embraced capitalism, it has ignored the Western world’s demands that it improve the treatment of its own people.

The facts are bleak. An estimated half-million Chinese are currently being held without trial or legal recourse; religious freedoms are suppressed; and the Chinese press is vigorously censored. The minority Tibetan and Uighar peoples are oppressed. Prisoners face torture and swift execution. While China may excel at wowing the world with dazzling events such as the 2008 Beijing Olympics, it remains a deeply repressive country.

And yet, President Obama has tip-toed around these issues, doing his best to avoid antagonizing his hosts. He has not met with Chinese liberals, with spiritual and faith leaders, and certainly not with the Dalai Lama. The spiritual leader of the Tibetan people, the Dalai Lama has been a thorn in China’s side ever since China occupied Tibet, and yet has always been feted in the West as a champion of freedom and human rights. President Obama hasn’t exactly repudiated this position; he’s simply refused to meet with the Dalai Lama until after the summit, hoping to play both sides of the coin. Apparently, the president believes that it is possible for America to find a balanced position between the oppressor and the oppressed.

The president’s only “real” contact with average Chinese citizens occurred during a so-called town hall meeting with students in Shanghai. The meeting was actually a carefully managed media event, controlled by the Chinese. Obama played along and made a few bland remarks about the need to embrace openness and limit censorship, knowing that his words would reach few in China, and therefore not offend his hosts. The president’s statement on the value of open information and a free press were seen by almost no one — the Chinese did not widely broadcast the event. So much for freedom of the press.

It is unfortunate that President Obama has shown the same disinterest in the plight of Chinese dissidents that he did in the fates of Iranian reformers. For all his talk of optimism and hope, Obama clearly values building relationships with dictators more than supporting the people they oppress. This would be difficult to swallow even if it had conveyed any advantages, but ignoring the Iranian protesters has done nothing to improve relations between America and Iran, and will do no more to improve America’s standing with China.

It would be imprudent, of course, for Obama overtly to provoke China. China’s economic and military strength are growing rapidly, at a time when America’s economy and military are already stretched to the breaking point. America clearly wants to see China take a greater leadership role in the world, thus relieving some of the burdens America shoulders. In some small ways, China has cooperated, dispatching naval ships to assist in anti-piracy operations off the coast of Somalia, for example. On other issues, however, notably the Iranian nuclear program, China has shown no inclination to help America.

In his haste to welcome China onto the world stage, President Obama should take care not to slight the other Asian giant. India, almost as populous as China and a democracy, to boot, is like China a vibrant, growing power. India is actually more likely to be amenable to American interests in the region, particular in regards to combating militant Islam. The Indian government has responded negatively to President Obama’s invitation for China to increase its role in providing security in the region, a region that is far from America, but home to the Indians.

While the United States might not be able to tower above China as it could in the past, when the president of the United States speaks, the world listens. But the president’s strongest words were saved for lecturing China for its monetary policy, calling on Beijing to stop keeping the value of the Chinese dollar, the renminbi, artificially low. That would hurt Chinese imports to the benefit of America.

While most financial experts agree that the Chinese renminbi’s value is indeed too low relative to other major currencies, it must be remembered that it is China that has financed America’s deficit spending. President Obama has no business lecturing the Chinese on financial matters when his ambitious social engineering plans, especially his proposed healthcare reforms, will sink America even deeper into deficit, a deficit that Obama is counting on China to finance.

China’s rise has prompted many to suggest that America must learn to treat the Asian power as an equal. But President Obama has gone beyond such concessions. An equal partnership is one thing. But until Obama finds the backbone to publicly say what must be said about the injustice of China’s political system, he treats his own country as the junior partner.

  • libral

    i think proud country like china should be treated with respect because any clash or confrontation is not good . we should use diplomacy and persuade them to embrace democracy and improve their human rights . also we should have them in our side in the war against terrorism

  • Cathy Hoover

    Did anyone honestly think that our president would speak out against communism? Nothing in his background suggests he would, so why would this surprise anyone?

  • Fong

    Since they own so much of our debt I was surprised that groveling wimp didn't get on his hands and knees and lick the soles of their shoes clean. Of course maybe he did that in private.

  • coyote3

    Using diplomacy is fine, as long as we are talking about people who share some commonalities with us. That being said, diplomacy will work with a country like China, to a point. We really don't have a “democracy”. Our republic does embrace “some” democratic ideas. China, “might” embrace some democratic idea, but the mistake that we (Democrats, Republicans, and even some Conservatives) make is thinking that China is going to “become” a democracy, in the western sense. Indeed, allies, in the broadest sense, have nothing to do with the internal form of government. We can share common “interests”, but the people who are our allies in one case, may not be our allies in another, and that goes for any country. A foreign country may align itself with us for a limited purpose, but pursue its own agenda if it thinks it should do so. That is just the way of nations. Even countries that we think of as long time allies, and yes, even democracies, do not have the republic form of limited government that we have. That makes it less likely that their citizens have the same “kind” of individuals freedoms that we have in this country. Some of our long time allies, and neighbors, have repressive internal governments, by our standards.

  • Carterthewriter

    At least our president has the physical attributes to bob and weave when confronted with adversity. The sad revelation is that he, himself is creating it.

  • Steven L

    Like good old Russia of today, China has like any communist country, a hybrid system: capitalism for the elite and communism for the mass.

  • BS77

    China has annexed Tibet after totally devastating it…destroying an entire culture and making slaves of Tibetans…..yet our stores are crammed with Chinese goods. Everything you buy is stamped Made in China. We owe China a trillion dollars in trade deficits….but let's not normalize relations with tiny Cuba. The hypocrisy smells like burning garbage.

  • BS77

    China has annexed Tibet after totally devastating it…destroying an entire culture and making slaves of Tibetans…..yet our stores are crammed with Chinese goods. Everything you buy is stamped Made in China. We owe China a trillion dollars in trade deficits….but let's not normalize relations with tiny Cuba. The hypocrisy smells like burning garbage.

  • bubba4

    Actually, he spoke about human rights and censorship, saying that when information moves freely, it makes the society stronger. The entire section was censored from the broadcast to the Chinese people.

  • eerie Steve

    I have a lot to say about China and communism, because I know them in and out. They are not commie Buddhists, but a collective brain of Buddhists which explicitly state communism is the most efficient way for humans to govern other humans.

    They are neither hot nor cold, but lukewarm. Deep down, they made a compromise that two wrongs shall make a right no matter what and this shall be their downfall.

    It is so easy to break China. Oh boy! Who's afraid of the big bad wolf. Well Mr. President and Mr. Premier, what happens when two big bad wolfs blow on a stone house opposite of each other? China is making money for one reason and one reason only. They are getting a reward for defeating Uncle Joe Stalin's Nazi/Commie monster.

    Weaponize space? Good luck. That's like playing monsters from the abyss, however not only will the Earth be destroyed, but the entire course of history itself.

  • eerie Steve

    Hey! Commies! Here is the capitalistic noose of which I shall hang your entire empire with:

    Does the fact that the billion man yellow empire has yet to reverse the human digestion by the pure survival of eating human fecal matter disprove Marx and Engles theories on actively reversing the course of history as quantum physics now proves that digestion, not reproduction, came first?

    I mean come on! What sewer system is more effective than “all encompassing city of industrious orientals who drink urine and not just eat, but digest and survive off fecal matter?”

  • http://enta10ment.blogspot.com/ kandarp thaker

    I can't understand why obama doing this….
    All world knows Every time china doing attacks on Tibet and also they always shows power to US also.
    Obama is too fool not only obama but all US president. Every and each time they helped Pakistan (By money also).And whole world know Paki's use this weapons and money against India. why US help them….


    I see a lot of fake indignation and accusation here. Where was the indignation when Bush and the Republicans were selling us out ot the Chinese for the 8 year they were running things. It would be nice to see a little equity in indignation from the right (not correct) wing

  • mikidiki

    Don't ya git it? Bush has wilted and gone. We now have O'Bower. He would not bow that low in Chicago or Detroit .. it's too dangerous.

  • phsamuel

    You know what, lots of Chinese like me know English and are not blind… Do you really hate Chinese because of communism or just racism? Please go to china and take a real look… China is communism in name only. Please don't insult someone when you don't know anything.

  • mikidiki

    If eerie steve went to China he would end up in prison where he belongs. Everyone knows that the Chinese only eat rice and noodles. What an idiot.

  • davidhorowitz

    If the Right cares so much about communist oppression, then why did they allow U.S. businesses to move American jobs there, allow the Chinese economy to outstrip ours, and support the Chinese purchase of American bonds?? Jeez…

  • mikidiki

    All good questions which can be answered by any economist of any substance; but I won't elaborate too much since you would be incapable of understanding the finer points of capitalism and my work would be wasted. Suffice to say the cheap Chinese labor gives them an economic advantage and the spread of factory jobs is leading to a wealthier, freedom-seeking populace.