An look at recent progress in China-US relations from John Pomfret, the former veteran Beijing correspondent, appeared in WaPo this week, generating much commentary around the blogosphere. An excerpt:
"It was exceptionally deft handling of the Chinese. It was a choreographed diplomatic deal," said Bonnie S. Glaser, an expert on China at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. "There was a recognition on the part of U.S. officials that China was ready to reengage but needed help to get out of the corner that they'd put themselves into."The US did reiterate the One China policy, which is different from China's -- it doesn't include Taiwan in that. The requirement that the US reiterate the One China policy shows how much China's bluster is aimed at satisfying its domestic critics, as is the fact that the tensions -- which it is almost wholly responsible for -- had to be handled privately.
The "handling" began days after Obama's Feb. 18 meeting with the Dalai Lama, whom Beijing has described as a "splittist" intent on fragmenting China. Weeks before, the United States had announced that it was going to sell $6.4 billion in weapons to Taiwan, China's nemesis, sending relations into a tailspin.......
Steinberg and Bader visited China from March 2 to 4 and were confronted by angry Chinese officials making demands. First was that Obama never again authorize the sale of weapons to Taiwan. Second was that the president never again meet with the Dalai Lama.
But behind the Chinese bluster, the two Americans sensed that Beijing was looking for a face-saving way for Hu to attend the nuclear summit. Once they returned to the United States, more talks were held with China's outgoing ambassador, Zhou Wenzhong, and its new one, Zhang Yesui, even before Zhang formally presented his credentials to the U.S. government.
To mollify Beijing, the United States offered to reaffirm, in a public setting, its policy that there is "one China." At the same time, it also agreed to China's request that the new ambassador be granted a meeting with Obama. In return, U.S. officials requested that China take part in talks on imposing sanctions on Iran -- which it had refused to do.
Note that the media once again forthrightly failed to pinpoint the source of tensions: it is China, not weapons sales to Taiwan. So often when China-Taiwan-US tensions occur in the mainstream media, they are referred to in the passive voice. Sad.
As for China, Zhu Feng, director of the international security program at Peking University, said he thinks Beijing needed to calibrate its responses better. "Yes, Taiwan and Tibet are both Chinese 'core interests,' " he said, "but if an arms sale is strictly defensive, why is it automatically counted as a grave violation to China's core interests?New media propaganda theme being pushed out of China: Taiwan is a "core interest" -- yea, Beijiing has the same interest in Taiwan that a thief has in his neighbor's television...
Pomfret made a significant error in quoting Steinberg as saying the US "opposes" Taiwan independence and in representing his remarks. Steinberg said, with practiced diplomatic nuance.
Indeed, this past year we just marked the 30th Anniversary of the normalization of our relationship with the People’s Republic of China under that one China policy. We’ve made clear that we do not support independence for Taiwan and we oppose unilateral attempts by either side to change the status quo. And we in particular welcome recent improvements in cross-Strait relations and hope that they will continue to expand, and we urged our counterparts in Beijing to continue to work to that end. That PRC-Taiwan dialogue contributes to the objective of a peaceful resolution that has been long central to our approach.The US does not support Taiwan independence, which is diplomat-speak to avoid saying that the US opposes it -- since we do not oppose it. Beijing correspondents... *sigh*
Also on tap on US-China relations was a good piece from Nat Bellocchi in the Taipei Times today on what Obama should tell Hu when they meet.
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