With Hu, Obama more direct about US expectations of China
Obama and Hu, at a joint news conference Wednesday, stressed benefits of US-China cooperation. But Obama also urged 'level playing field' for US firms, as Hu stressed principle of 'mutual respect.'
President Obama and China's President Hu Jintao stressed the importance of increased US-China cooperation, for their countries and for the world, at the two leaders’ lengthiest public appearance of Mr. Hu’s state visit to Washington.Skip to next paragraph
But Mr. Obama, at an unusually long White House press conference Wednesday, also put on display his administration’s more assertive approach to China. From a raised platform in the White House East Room and with Hu at his side, Obama said a continued rise in China’s currency “is something we’ll be looking for,” while “there has to be a level playing field for American companies operating in China.”
On human rights – an issue Obama had not emphasized in his previous seven meetings with Hu – the US president reminded the Chinese leader that the universal rights America values and promotes around the world are also “recognized in the Chinese constitution.” In addition, he referred specifically to the Dalai Lama and called for “continued dialogue” between Chinese and Tibetan officials.
Obama’s friendly but direct tone stands in contrast to what some critics see as his accommodating – even obsequious – approach to the Chinese leader during his November 2009 visit to Beijing. (Obama raised eyebrows by pointedly declining to see the Dalai Lama before that visit, and by participating in a “town hall meeting” in China with hand-picked Communist Party youths.)
But since that visit, the administration decided that bending over backward for China was not going to yield the progress on international issues that it sought, say China experts in the US. The result was a shift to a more assertive US posture, notably through a reinvigoration last year of the US presence in Southeast Asia and in relations with Japan and South Korea.
“The US has made its point,” says Michael Green, a US-China expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington who was a special national security assistant to President George W. Bush. “Both sides want out of this a more stable relationship for 2011, and arguably, 2012,” he adds – a year when China will have its next leadership transition, with Hu leaving office, and when Obama is expected to seek reelection.
Echoing themes that Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton unveiled in a speech at the State Department Friday, Obama said enhanced US-China cooperation and trust are good for the US, good for China, and good for the world. He said US exports to China have already created more than half a million American jobs, and he said rising exports to China and new business deals between the two countries – the administration announced $45 billion in joint ventures Wednesday – will “support” nearly a quarter-million US jobs.