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Wednesday, 16th April 2014

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China: in no mood for criticism by new US government

While China appears to have succumbed to the euphoria unleashed by the election of Barack Obama as US President, analysts warn of an assertive approach by Beijing to the new dispensation.

Chinese President Hu Jintao said the world has entered a "new era of history" while the communist party’s flagship People’s Daily declared that "Obama has created a miracle".

Hu and Premier Wen Jiabao both sent congratulatory messages to the US president- elect in immediate after the victory of the Democratic party candidate was announced.

"In a new era of history, I look forward to taking our bilateral relationship on constructive co-operation to a new height," Hu said in his message. "Developing a long-term and healthy Sino-US relationship will benefit the basic interest of the peoples in the two countries".

But analysts hailed Obama’s victory as a sign of the emergence of a new United States that is "reflective" and "humbled".

"This victory means that America has the potential to reflect on its past mistakes and transform," said columnist Chen Bing. "They have been obviously searching for answers to many current questions like the war in Iraq and the financial crisis but also about the role of race and religion in their society". Shi Yinhong, director of U.S. Studies at Renmin University, believes that financial crisis has thought the U.S. a lesson and even Obama’s victory would not change the fact that Washington is no longer in a position to dictate terms.

"I have never seen the rest of the world so critical of the leading superpower," he said. "It was one thing facing global opposition about the war in Iraq but it is a totally different picture when they (the US) emerge as incapable of handling their economy.’’

Obama has vowed to restore U.S. standing in the world and to protect the interests of American businesses around the world.

The weeks before election day were marked by a hardening rhetoric on China concerning trade, climate change and human rights. Obama promised a "vigorous, pragmatic" approach to addressing issues like the exchange rate, intellectual property rights and product-safety issues.

In a recent article published by the American Chamber of Commerce in China he wrote that "China cannot stand indefinitely apart from the global trend toward democratic government, rule of law and full exercise of human rights.''

Obama had called for a boycott of the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics in August and had criticised President George W. Bush’s presence at the event. He had also expressed disappointment with Bush administration’s handling of the Tibetan issue.

"It strikes me that although some meetings have been taking place, that we were not aggressive in encouraging the Chinese government to make serious concessions there," he said in relation to China’s talks with Tibet’s exiled spiritual leader the Dalai Lama.

But Beijing is in no mood to tolerate U.S. criticism as it had in the past. The 44th president may face an increasingly confident and assertive China, aware that the United States’ economic standing in the world has been eroded by the financial crisis and that Washington holds limited options to transform Sino-American relations radically.

Beijing is already sending warning signals that it will resist U.S. pressure in the areas of trade and climate change. Last week China issued a new policy paper on the fight to combat global warning which called on the U.S. and other Western countries to boost the transfer of financing and technology to developing countries.

Last week Beijing called on the U.S. to lower trade and investment barriers and stop blaming China’s currency polices for its bilateral trade surplus.

Many experts have predicted that Obama’s pre-election, tough stance on China would be quickly replaced by a more mellow and nuanced approach, reflecting the complicated realities of U.S.-China relations.

"There will be new elements to the development of our bilateral relations but the big picture will remain stable," Liu Weidong, researcher on U.S. affairs, told the Beijing Xinjingbao on Thursday. "Our economies are interdependent and the United States needs China’s help on matters of international security. No U.S. president can afford to forget this fact."

The new U.S. administration will adhere existing China polices, Obama’s top China advisor, Jeffrey Bader told the Chinese media prior to the election.

"At the core of future U.S.-China relations will be common challenges such as nuclear threats, terrorism in Afghanistan and Pakistan, global warming, energy safety and relations with African countries,’’ Bader said.

Obama will deal with China issues in a "most modest and pragmatic way," he promised.

The outgoing administration of President George W. Bush is credited with fostering a higher degree of understanding at the top levels of both governments by holding regular talks through the Strategic Economic Dialogue (SED).

Chinese experts have suggested that Obama’s administration would need to boost the existing mechanism and invest even more energy into getting to know its Chinese counterparts.

"The world is facing a recession and both countries need to prepare for a long winter," said Zhang Guoqing, an expert on international relations at Beijing University.


Source: IPS