Balancing Beijing

Former columnist Doug Bandow writes this week in The National Interest

After a rough start with the EP-3 spy plane confrontation, the Bush administration forged a good relationship between the United States and China. Washington realized that it needed Beijing’s help in dealing with North Korea, winning UN Security Council approval for U.S. objectives, and forging a profitable trading relationship.

The Obama administration risks getting off to an equally difficult start, though for different reasons. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton advocates “a comprehensive dialogue with China” and her visit to Beijing went smoothly, but of necessity little of substance was decided.

With economic fears rising and international trade declining, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) is a convenient target for an administration inclined toward protectionism. Moreover, Democrats have more often emphasized human rights in American diplomacy, another point of controversy with the PRC. At the same time, conservative concerns over Beijing’s rising geopolitical ambitions remain unabated, while the business community, which typically has supported expanded economic relations, has lost influence. The potential exists for a perfect political storm over China.

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