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U.S. scholar urges Obama to treat China carefully, thoughtfully and respectfully


15:59, January 22, 2013

Key Words:Barack Obama;China;Japan;U.S. presidential election;oath;Capitol;inauguration;win-win strategy;

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LOS ANGELES, Jan. 21 (Xinhua) -- A U.S. expert on China took the opportunity of U.S. President Barack Obama's second-term inauguration on Monday to urge him to treat China carefully, thoughtfully and respectfully.

"The U.S. needs to understand that 22 percent of the global population has to be related to carefully, thoughtfully -- even respectfully," Tom Plate, a senior journalist, columnist and author of several books on Asia, wrote in his latest column, "Pacific Perspectives: Now is the time -- but China is not the crime."

Plate, author of the just-published conversations with UN chief Ban Ki-moon and recent conversations with former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, is a distinguished scholar of Asian and Pacific studies at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles.

As Obama officially began his second term, Plate said he expected the "pivot to Asia" policy would proceed briskly apace. "That would be good. There is no time to dawdle," he wrote. "For the U.S. and Asia, now is the time, if ever there was a time."

"If Asia is not rising, as virtually every expert says, then the rest of us must be sinking. The statistics out of Asia are daunting. Here are a few. Before too long, China will have the world's largest economy. Perhaps even before that, India will have the largest population. Indonesia, often neglected by the West, has a higher per-capita income than India and -- along with Turkey -- far more clout in the Islamic world," he wrote.

Reviewing the span of region, area and time zones, the expert warned new American foreign policy needed to be carefully recalibrated.

"If the recalibration is to be based almost entirely on an attempted isolation of China, this policy will flop," he wrote.

"What's more, should the U.S. prioritize cornering China every step of the way, China will fight back every step of the way. The downside cost to both will be enormous, unnecessary and tragic," Plate warned.

He also said Obama must engage China with respect and nuance.

"He (Obama) is said to worry that the prior Bush and Clinton administrations were too easy on China -- whatever that might mean. In fact, apart from a few lapses, both administrations got the China relationship more right than wrong and will be so credited by history," Plate wrote.

"What would be remarkably ironic is if the President, who is known to regard any war as the least acceptable option, fashions a policy that leads to conflict with China. That mistake would more than blemish his watch. It would be a blunder worse than President George W. Bush's unnecessary invasion and occupation of Iraq," Plate warned.

"He (Obama) doesn't have to run for reelection; no one is going to bother calling him weak when in fact the real danger is that the U.S. will adopt too strong-armed an Asia 'pivot' and inadvertently risk undermining Asian stability," Plate wrote.

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