BEIJING, Feb. 20 -- Human rights violations by China cannot block the possibility of significant cooperation between Washington and Beijing on the global economic crisis, climate change and security threats such as North Korea's nuclear program, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Friday.
"We pretty much know what they are going to say" on human rights issues such as greater freedoms for Tibet, Clinton told reporters traveling with her on a tour of Asia. "We have to continue to press them. But our pressing on those issues can't interfere" with dialogue on other crucial topics.
Clinton's remarks elicited sharp condemnation from Amnesty International, which has urged her to move human rights near the top of the U.S.-China agenda. The organization accused Clinton of saying "that human rights will not be a priority in her diplomatic engagement with China" and urged her to "publicly declare that human rights are central to U.S.-China relations before she leaves Beijing."
And even our military leaders are scratching their heads over the State Department's announcement (apparently without forewarning the Pentagon) of a resumption of high-level bilateral military talks, as well the US blind eye turned toward China-Pakistan joint military maneuvers.
But here's the simple fact of the matter: President Barack Obama's massive stimulus package can only be funded through massive inflation or massive Chinese loans, or some combination of both. And the wizened old men who run China know that. They are essentially embarking on their own version of the Marshall Plan to help rebuild America because they need the export market. In the end they will become our silent partner, our largest creditor.
And you don't publicly criticize your largest creditor, especially when those old men possess the power to collapse the US economy by pulling hundreds of billions out of T-bills overnight.
Listen carefully to this interchange:
BEIJING -- U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Chinese officials say they will expand high-level talks on economic issues to include troubling security matters as well.
The two nations also agreed Saturday to cooperate in stabilizing the global economy and combating climate change, putting aside long-standing concerns about human rights.
With the export-heavy Chinese economy reeling from the U.S. downturn, Clinton sought in meetings with Premier Wen Jiabao and other top Chinese government leaders to reassure Beijing that its massive holdings of U.S. Treasury notes and other government debt would remain a good investment.
"I appreciate greatly the Chinese government's continuing confidence in United States treasuries. I think that's a well-grounded confidence," Clinton told reporters at a joint news conference with Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi.
"We have every reason to believe that the United States and China will recover, and together we will help lead the world recovery," she said....
Yang said China wants its foreign exchange reserves - the world's largest at $1.95 trillion - invested safely, with good value and liquidity. He said future decisions on using them would be based on those principles, but added that China wanted to continue work with the U.S.
"I want to emphasize here that the facts speak louder than words. The fact is that China and the United States have conducted good cooperation, and we are ready to continue to talk with the U.S. side," Yang said.
Ask yourself as you read this dialogue, who sounds like the senior partner and who sounds like the supplicant here.
The new reality of the post-Meltdown world: those who have cash liquidity, which the US doesn't, are in a better position than ever to call the shots.
Which means that human rights issues are off the table for the foreseeable future, possibly longer.
Which means that we have now seen the first signs that our financial instability at home is having a distinct dis-empowering affect on our foreign policy.
Note that this visit also finds Secretary Clinton essentially acknowledging an expanding Chinese sphere of influence:
U.S. discussions with China also included Myanmar, ruled by a military junta that has thumbed its nose at United Nations efforts to introduce greater democracy. China’s state-run oil companies including China National Petroleum Corp. have been criticized by the U.S. and European countries for sourcing fuel from Sudan, Iran and Myanmar, which face international sanctions. CNPC is in talks to import oil and gas from Myanmar by 2011.
China's foreign policy is one that many American observers would do well to examine. Without utilizing but a tiny fraction of the military forces or foreign bases that are the corporately driven lynch-pin of American interventionism, China has been quietly investing in Africa and the Middle East for the past two decades, sewing up deals on energy security that will take the world's third largest economy well into the middle of this century.
This is a longish excerpt, but tremendously import:
DAKAR (Reuters) - Chinese businessmen are taking a long-term view and pursuing strategic expansion in Africa even though China's multiplying investments on the continent have lost some luster in the global downturn.
Beijing and Chinese companies have pledged tens of billions of dollars to Africa in loans and investments mostly to secure raw materials for the world's fastest-growing large economy.
That long-term interest remains intact, despite a worldwide economic slump that has hit China's exports to the rich world and a sharp decline in Africa's mineral shipments to China.
China-Africa trade has surged by an average 30 percent a year this decade, soaring to nearly $107 billion in 2008.
"China is in Africa for the long term, and strategically," said David Shinn, a former U.S. ambassador to Ethiopia and Burkina Faso who teaches at George Washington University's Elliott School of International Affairs.
"They will not veer from this, in my view," he said.
Far from retreating, many Chinese businessmen are hunting for bargains.
Chinese and Indian firms have expressed interest in taking over Zambia's top cobalt producer Luanshya Copper Mines since it halted operations in December, Zambian state media reported.
South Africa's Standard Bank, itself 20 percent owned by the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC), said last month it was advising Chinese mining clients on buying opportunities in Africa and elsewhere.
"They are looking at 2009 and saying 'This is a time we see as a very big buying opportunity. We've got the backing from government, we've got the financial means'," Thys Terblanche, the bank's head of mining and metals investment banking, told Reuters.
Beyond mining, Chinese state companies are pushing ahead with strategic energy sector investments and infrastructure; private outfits are continuing to expand in technology areas.
"Some developed Western countries hit by the financial crisis are reducing their investment in Africa. Objectively, this is a powerful opportunity for Chinese businesses to expand their investment and market share in Africa," Cui Yongqian, a former Chinese ambassador to the Republic of Congo and Central African Republic, told a China-Africa trade forum this month.
Trade with Angola, China's biggest source of African crude oil, reached $25.3 billion in 2007 and Beijing has offered Luanda $5 billion in oil-backed loans.
Shenzhen-based Huawei Technologies, China's biggest telecoms equipment maker, is pushing south from its established stamping ground in North Africa.
It's time to finally get our heads around the difference between the US and China, which is--in a foreign policy and economic sense--that these old men come from a culture with a history of planning by generations and centuries, and we operate out of a paradigm that places a premium on mid-term Congressional elections in two years.