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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2038

Hu snubs US on visit

By Atul Cowshish - Syndicate Features

Indians who are fond of gauging the foreign visits of national leaders in terms of instant ‘success’ or ‘failure’ and like to take a microscopic look to see if Indian interests have been ‘sold out’ should have paid some attention to the recent four-day visit of the Chinese president, Hu Jintao, to the US to see how the number one country in the world and its closest rival play a shadow match to befuddle the rest of the world. The two countries are no
more ‘enemies’, but now and then the US makes a show of its public ‘anger’ with China and then quietly accepts the retaliatory berating from the former. There is no question of successes or ‘failure’ of either country or shrieks of ‘sell out’ of national interests by one to the other.

The US has long been ‘pressing’ China to improve its human rights record, revalue its currency and balance its trade with the US. China pays no attention to US ‘pressures’ or ‘warnings’; instead it goes on to threaten the island of Taiwan, once the ‘real’ representative of the Chinese in US eyes, with a military attack if Taipei decided to declare full independence. The US watches rather silently as the Chinese dragon captures the traditional US backyard of Latin America.

Much of the anger or disagreement between China and the US appears to be exaggerated, if not fake with neither country really changing its ways. The two countries are now so firmly bound by economics that they would not go beyond a point to accuse each other, much less seek a forceful change in the other. The hollowness of his ‘disagreement’ contrasts with the rising crescendo of anti- Indian noises from the US, following the so-called Indo-US deal over civilian nuclear cooperation. A range of US politicians, academicians and military strategists has been building up a case to abort the Indo-US nuclear agreement. Senior US administration officials too have been trying, though without much success so far, to apply pressure on India by suggesting certain post-script additions in the nuclear agreement.

True, the same range of US politicians, academicians and military strategists have also made some critical comments about China. But there has been no palpable effort to apply direct pressure on Beijing to bring it in line with the Washington’s wish list. Hu left the US without conceding any ground to his hosts, unless one can call his decision to buy 80 Boeings as a special favour to the ailing American aircraft industry.

Hu did not mind his US critics drawing whatever pleasure they could from the fact that his visit was not billed as a ‘state visit’. While he met and addressed audiences that he had in mind, including Bill Gates and the Yale University, his hosts did not even try to ask the Chinese president take the customary questions from the media when at the end of their meeting, the two presidents, Bush and Hu, appeared on the White House lawns. The unscheduled protest by a Chinese-American reporter, concerned over the oppression of the Falun Gong religious sect in China and accusing Hu of being a ‘murderer’, forced an embarrassment on the hosts, not the guest.

Chinas has emerged as the closest rival as well as collaborator of the only superpower in all the fields that matter, economic, political and military. It overrides such US concerns as the poor proliferation record of China, which had during the 1980s exported its nuclear technology to Pakistan and North Korea while Washington looked the other way.

Hu has remained unmoved by US concerns over its huge (over $200 billion) trade imbalance with China and the nearly 40 percent overvalue of the Chinese currency, the Yuan, which gives an unfair advantage to Chinese exports. He did not share the Bush paranoia against Iran; surprisingly the US President has not pressed China to use its considerable clout over Iran to rein in the latter’s nuclear programme.

China is in no hurry to clamp down on the wide scale piracy of intellectual property rights that greatly pains US multinationals. As in the past, Hu was blunt in rebuffing US concerns over the human rights situation, telling the hosts that China would expand political rights ‘prudently’ rather than copy any foreign model. He even took a dig at US fondness for unilateralism in one of his speeches in the US.

The Chinese leader got away by snubbing his hosts on matters of US concern, though that is not how the pragmatic or practical Americans would see it. US and China ties are now so deeply intertwined that differences, small or big, cannot be allowed to obstruct their further growth. The US now looks at its relations with China as one of both cooperation and competition.

While it remains somewhat prickly towards India, most of the American establishment has begun to demonstrate an immense amount of patience--or call it indulgence--with China. The Americans could not have derived much joy from preventing a Chinese bid to acquire one of their oil companies, Unocal, because the US has not been able to stop China from scouting for energy sources in ‘forbidden’ territories like Iran and Sudan.

India continues to be pressurised by the US against augmenting its energy supplies from Iran. But US is willing to stomach Beijing’s soft policy towards North Korea. China has not interceded with Pyongyang to seek the termination of latter’s nuclear weapons programme which the US sees as dangerous for the world.

The American show of forbearance towards China looks uncharacteristically American, at least in India where increasing decibels of noises from some influential non-proliferation Ayatollahs are being heard everyday even as pressure mounts on India to further open its consumer market and the agriculture sector. Not that India is overly worried about these noisy Americans, having been at their receiving end for the five decades of Cold War.

There is a lesson here. China cultivated the US after its relations with the Soviet Union (now Russia) started to deteriorate in the 1960s. After the famous Nixon visit to Beijing in 1972, their relations had taken a decisive upward turn and by the end of 1980s looked firmly on track. Soon China was shedding dogmatic pretences to hug ‘capitalism’ while maintaining the facade of ‘communism’ that included continued restrictions on individual freedoms. This kind of dual and contradictory identity did not stand in the way of China and US coming closer. Now, matters have reached a stage where the two have tacitly agreed not to pay too much heed to what they say against each other in public.

Obviously, India cannot replicate the Chinese model of befriending the US. The people of India would perhaps never accept the government kowtowing to the US on all matters of concern to the nation, including economic, social and political as well as security issues. But if India wants to get the kind of respect and fear that the Chinese get from the world’s sole superpower, it will have to first build up its economic clout. A moot point is whether it is possible without giving at least some ‘concessions’ to the Americans and without inviting a chorus of protests from defenders of ‘national pride’ and respect.

- Syndicate Features -

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