Chinese dissident – bad timing for Washington, Beijing
Chinese dissident Chen's escape is inopportune. President Obama is in a tough election battle. China faces a leadership change. Washington's angst over how to protect Chen without infuriating Beijing is matched by Beijing's desire to silence him without incurring world disdain.
Gallery Monitor Political Cartoons
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
The president is in the midst of a tough campaign for re-election.
He has little to boast about at home. On the foreign front, though his removal of Osama bin Laden was a major triumph, he is criticized by his opponents for being tardy in coming to the aid of the oppressed in Libya and Syria, and for being soft on Russia.
The sheltering of Mr. Chen by American diplomats in China could infuriate Beijing’s leaders. Not sheltering Chen – a self-taught lawyer who spoke out against forced abortions and sterilization – would play into the hands of Mr. Obama’s political opponents at home. They would count it as a contradiction of his calls upon China to observe human rights.
The angst in Washington over how to protect Chen without infuriating the Chinese regime could only have been matched in Beijing by the desire of the leadership there to silence Chen without incurring the world’s disdain.
China is currently on a global charm campaign which is hampered by some less-than-charming actions. It has been spending large sums on public diplomacy, especially TV and radio, and scores of Chinese “cultural” centers, many of them planned for the US, lauding China’s history and achievements.
In continents like Africa and Latin America – especially in countries able to help slake China’s new endless thirst for oil – the Chinese government has embarked on major construction and aid projects designed to establish long-term relationships.
The outreach program is far less successful in Asia where closer neighbors are alarmed about a major Chinese military buildup. A massive expansion of China’s naval presence will see many more Chinese warships in the East and South China Seas and the western Pacific ocean.