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China fails to feel Obama's pulse

11:24, March 22, 2010

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Li Hongmei

After extending his hand to china at the start of his presidency, Barack Obama has made a 180-dergee about-turn in his China policy, plunging the relations between the two powers at their lowest ebb for years.

After irking China with a chain of offensive measures against China's core interests such as arms sales to Taiwan, meeting with the Dalai Lama and finger-pointing at China's human rights, and running at loggerheads with China over the global issues like climate change and the toughened sanctions again Iran, Obama administration is now pushing China on a collision course with the West on the value of Renminbi.

Why President Obama so abruptly and obstinately recalibrates his gun point at China is still beyond our ken, in that neither the thinking of American interests, nor the mentality of "sour grape" at the sight of China's reviving economy, seems to be telling a complete story.

The one-year-old Obama administration is at the time grilled by not only its political rivals but the American public over when to end the war and how soon to see the economy look up, while in reality having the two hard-won wars to fight and a groaning economy to tend. It appears that it is not an opportune moment to impose pressure upon China. Or at least, it has a willing heart but tiring flesh to do so.

Even if to defend the American strategic interests can be taken as a plausible excuse to contain the ever-growing nascent power, there seems to be the flimsy evidence that the U.S. would thrive on weakening China. Just for one thing, even though the US-- fueled currency row forced up the value of Renminbi, it would not work any magic in rescuing the ailing U.S. economy from a meltdown. In actuality, the Chinese currency has been appreciated over the years by more than 20%, but it does little to ease up the pressures confronting the U.S. from employment and consumption. On the contrary, once trade war occurred, it would not be merely the Chinese side that stands to lose.

Presumably, Obama might also been impressed and somewhat influenced by the popular speculation, from the Western view, that with its growing power and prosperity, China is baring sharp fangs in the Year of the Tiger.

"China is striking a more defiant pose on the world stage and becoming less inclined to bow to the demands of the West", as analysts put it.

In the meantime, some might wonder whether China is shifting its stance from its late leader Deng Xiiaoping's doctrine of "Hide its capacity and bide its time" (taoguang yanghui) to a more strident or even arrogant posture on the world stage. In the eyes of the Western capitalists, China is becoming nothing but a country sitting on a giant pile of cash, an ecocomy so rapid in growth but so dependent on the global market that it simply cannot afford to sit on the bench and watch the rest of the world flounder.

China, as an emerging economy and a newly confident nation, takes the lead to announce that its economy is on the track of an all-round recovery just in the backdrop that the world's powers are still grappling with crises, which is undoubtedly viewed as an irony to the time-honored market economies. More over, the U.S., still entangled in the slowdown, has yet to see any tangible favors brought about by the reviving Chinese economy, therein lies the mentality of "sour grape".

The morbid thinking to confront China, rather than engage China as Obama owed at the start of his mandate, might, for the time being, soothe the aching bite of the Obama administration. But any slight retaliation from China would, probably, plunge the U.S. into the abyss of economic ruin, as it is evident that a stable and prosperous Chinese economy will comply with the interests of both China and the U.S, and, in a long run, benefit the region and the world at large.

"The history of Sino-US relations has made it clear that cooperation benefits both sides while confrontation results in harms, and mutual trust brings progress while suspicion causes setbacks," as Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao was quoted as saying on many public occasions.

By People's Daily Online

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.

Gavin Jon MowatGavin Jon Mowat

Gavin Jon Mowat, editor and columnist for People's Daily Online.

As a graduate from Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, UK, Gavin came to Beijing 2 years ago to study Chinese.

Enjoying the culture and traditions of the orient so much, Gavin has since left his home in Scotland and is now living and working in China.

Gavin uses his background in writing to share his experiences of China with you at People's Daily Online.