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US top diplomat's etiquette needs polishing

10:44, May 17, 2011

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By Li Hongmei

Just as the 3rd round of annual Sino-US Strategic and Economic Dialogue curtained down, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton sharpened her tone in an interview with The Atlantic magazine when talking about China's human rights."They're worried, and they are trying to stop history, which is a fool's errand," she was cited as saying in the interview by some American media.

The world's two largest economies wrapped up the two-day of wide-ranging meetings May 9-10, with the United States pressing China to let its currency appreciate further and Beijing seeking an easing of US controls on hi-tech exports.

Clinton defended the US policy of seeking cooperation with China on a range of global issues, saying: "We live in a real world." Also the same Clinton told Beijing in early 2009 when the super power was bogged down in the quagmire of financial crisis and as she was on her maiden trip as top diplomat to China making a plea for its continued purchase of the U.S. government bonds, she then said, "We are in the same boat truly going to rise and fall together."

She might have thought the vessel of Sino-US cooperation has already sailed out of eddies of crisis and back onto a calm sea. Ms. Clinton thereby feels like turning the cannons of human rights against China.

But, even if the U.S. may take human rights as its life-long passion and most handy weapon in dealing with countries like China walking steadily and briskly but on a different development path and with different values and ideologies, it should respect some elements of truth that China has been committed to human rights and has made remarkable progress in this regard since People's Republic of China was established in 1949; and no country including the United States is perfect on the human rights records. It is only natural for China and the United States to see human rights differently in some aspects, and on the basis of equality, mutual respect and non-interference in each other's internal affairs.

Understandably, the U.S. is always finding fault with China, considering the core of its global strategies is to prevent other powers from elevating to a level enough to challenge its otherwise overwhelming superiority. Now that China has grown up to be the world's No. 2 economy, the U.S. would naturally keep a vigilant eye on it, fearing China would one day overtake and replace it.

This also explains why some American politicians tend to hype up "China Threat," taking it as part of tactics to win votes and allies. In stoking fears toward China, Uncle Sam will look more like a protective umbrella in the eyes of some small allies and, in sowing distrust in China at home, the U.S. will have the right to "act on the public will" to wage rhetoric war against China, only to satisfy the need of some vested interests groups to contain China's growth.

In actuality, throughout more than three decades since the two established diplomatic ties, the U.S. has all the way put China in the class of "Frenemy", friend when in need, enemy when conflict occurs.

The double-faced tactics of American politicians are well illustrated by Clinton's undignified comments on China's human rights issue. In an online poll conducted by People Forum, 79 percent of the participants believed that her remarks had badly violated "diplomatic etiquette."

Next time, when Ms. Clinton cannot help blurting out her discontent, it is advisable for her to give some consideration to the feelings of Chinese people. The right to speak should be respected as human rights, but as a self-claimed "human rights defender", the top diplomat of U.S. should never trample on others' human rights by forcing them to hear insults.

The articles in this column represent the author's views only. They do not represent opinions of People's Daily or People's Daily Online.

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About this column

Li Hongmei, editor and columnist of PD Online.


Li HongLi Hong

After 19 years working for China Daily and its website, Li Hong moved to english.people.com.cn in March 2009.

Li has been a reporter and column writer, mainly on China's economy and politics.

He was graduated from Beijing Foreign Studies University, and once studied in University of Hawaii and the Poynter Institute in Florida.

Dai MinJohn
Dai Min

John Milligan-Whyte and Dai Min, the executive producers and co-hosts of the Collaboration of Civilizations television series adapted by the eight books they wrote in the America-China Partnership Book Series published in English and Mandarin in 2009-2010 that created the "New School of America-China Relations." They founded the America-China Partnership Foundation and Forum in 2008 and the Center for American-China Partnership in 2005, which was recognized in 2009 as "the first American think tank to combine and integrate American and Chinese perspectives providing a complete answer for America and China's success in the 21st century."