Sunday, October 24, 2010

China Policy Infighting In Washington

Geertz's latest Inside the Ring at the Washington Times outlines some of what we've been hearing for the last year:
With President Obama set for a major trip to Asia next month and the Obama administration nearing the halfway point of its first term, U.S. officials tell Inside the Ring that a heated policy debate is under way over how to deal with China.

Two camps in the policy dispute involve one powerful faction that favors past policies of conciliation and concessions in relations with China — described by one official as the "kowtow" group. A second, more centrist, group is characterized as "sad and disappointed" by China's across-the-board refusal to work cooperatively with the United States for the past two years.

The policy debate is almost totally hidden from public view and only occasionally surfaces in public through statements or public speeches by faction members.

China's diplomats and intelligence officers are said to be aware of the debate and the U.S. officials said the Chinese are actively trying to influence it behind the scenes through their supporters in and out of government.
"Through their supporters in and out of government." Yeesh. Geertz adds:
The kowtow group is headed by Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg and includes White House National Security Council Asia Staff Director Jeff Bader, and his deputy, Evan Medeiros, a China military expert. Officials at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing also support continuing the current U.S. policies aimed to avoid upsetting Beijing's communist leaders.

According to the officials close to the debate, this group and its supporters in departments and agencies, including the intelligence community analysis groups, believe they must protect China from critics who they claim want to turn it into an enemy by following U.S. policies that will not upset Beijing.


The centrist faction is being called the "sad and disappointed" group whose most senior members are Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and, although not technically a policy official, CIA Director Leon E. Panetta. Included among the sad and disappointed group are Kurt Campbell, assistant secretary of state for East Asia, and Wallace "Chip" Gregson, a retired Marine three-star general and assistant defense secretary for Asian and Pacific security affairs.
Bader came out of a company that does business with China (see this article) -- that complicating factor almost never appears in news reports -- but like many other areas of governance, foreign policy often represents a case of regulatory capture by the concerned private interest.

As I've noted before, advocacy of the position that "we shouldn't anger Beijing" simply gives the CCP a veto over US China policy. Not only that, but as the article notes, Adm. Willard has been sidelined for speaking out for a tougher US line -- meaning that criticizing Beijing can get you in trouble -- thus handing Beijing a veto over who gets to participate in the policymaking conversation.
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Cary said...

Hillary needs to knock some heads together and get everyone on the same page. Speaking of knocking heads, how about the Browns taking down the defending Super Bowl champs!

D said...

Is it asking too much to identify the Washington Times as a right-wing rag when you quote from it? The point of this article is fine, but if this kind of piece had expressed a point of view you disagree with you would have torn it apart for its "innuendo is fact" reporting style.

At any rate, the US government needs a good cop / bad cop arsenal. Just count yourself as a one of the bad cops.

Michael Turton said...

Is it asking too much to identify the Washington Times as a right-wing rag when you quote from it? The point of this article is fine, but if this kind of piece had expressed a point of view you disagree with you would have torn it apart for its "innuendo is fact" reporting style.

Maybe. But this piece dovetails with everything else I've heard.

Also, I've identified it as a right-wing rag and moonie paper on other occasions.

Also, it would be great if the center-right corporate rags actually reported on stuff like this. But WaPo grows more useless by the day.


D said...

"But WaPo grows more useless by the day"

Fair enough, but coverage does seem to be getting tougher, doesn't it? Eg, articles on Chinese triumphalism in today's NYT and on China's defense of Burma in the Washington Post.

Also, I can't quite get the Tokyo film festival thing out of my mind. For one, it's interesting because China is actually contradicting itself -- they constantly claim that Taiwan is a "domestic issue", but here they are using it as a diplomatic club to bash Japan with. Dumb play. Second, it shows how diffuse the Chinese government is. Just like with the pseudo-embargo on rare earths, you've got one hand doing one thing and the other something else. It could be strategic and coordinated, but it more likely reflects a lack of central control over all the different bodies and interest groups that make up the government.

All in all, another reminder that the PRC is light years away from turning into a liberal democracy. Sigh....

Also (one more thing I can't shut up about), I'm all for increasing knowledge about Taiwan, but please please tell people that "Taiwan Academies" is total bullshit.