Sunday, August 03, 2008

Harpers on US China Policy

Yum...mei hua rou in honey-cumin BBQ sauce. Speaking of easy meat, ever wonder why our foreign policy Establishment is so pro-China? Ken Silverstein has the answer in this month's Harpers....

One of Barack Obarna's chief advisers on Asia policy is Jeffrey Bader, who frequently writes opinion pieces about China and is regularly quoted in the press on Washington-Beijing relations. Bader has been a commentator on CNN, Fox News, ABC's Nightline, and NPR, among other outlets. He frequently speaks before university, think-tank, and business audiences on the subjects of China and East Asia, and has testified on numerous occasions before various congressional committees. During the Clinton years he held top positions at the State Department and the National Security Council; under George W. Bush, he served as an assistant United States trade representative, leading the team that completed negotiations on China's accession to the World Trade Organization. In 2005, Bader joined the Brookings Institution, and invariably this is the affiliation cited when he publishes op-eds or delivers speeches. Hence, teaders and listeners must imagine that Bader isa neutral, impartial observer when he opines, as he has in recent years, that congressional opposition to China's bid for Unocal was essentially irrational and "vitriolic," or that (as he told USA Today earlier this year) "the U.S.-China relationship is a very important relationship to the U.S. for political, security and economic terms. It's not in the American interest to see an Olympic games that turns into a confrontation between China and the rest of the world."

When Bader retired from government in 2002, he went to work for Stonebridge International, one of the most sought-after advisory firms in Washington, at which he consulted on behalf of companies looking to do business in China. As is true of many consultancies, Stonebridge's stated mission seems intentionally hazy: according to the firm's website, it "works together with top multinationals to develop and implement tailored strategies to solve critical problems .... Stonebridge understands how governments around the world operate and we are in a position to help our clients navigate the system to achieve their specific objectives." Somewhat more can be gleaned from a few case studies touted on the site-in one such study, a major metals manufacturer hoping to purchase factories in Russia ran up against "deep-rooted opposition from the influential Russian scientific community," which Stonebridge helped "to neutralize"; in another, "a major U.S. chemical company," facing the potential ban of one of its products by the European Union, turned to Stone bridge for "an overall industry strategy together with white papers outlining the product's usefulness and safety." (The unnamed product remains on the market.)

Stonebridge might best be seen as a sort of one-stop shop for international fixers - a collection of former government officials who replicate, in privatized and miniaturized form, the official foreign-policy apparatus. Both the clients and the former officials benefit immensely from the exchange: for the latter, Stonebridge serves as a holding pen in which to draw a prodigious salary while awaiting a return to the State Department, say, or the Commerce Department, or the National Security Council. Stonebridge's cofounder is Sandy Berger, who before joining the Clinton Administration (in which he became the top national-security adviser) coordinated
business lobbying for China at the law firm of Hogan & Hartson. He was perhaps the foremost architect of the administration's dramatic shift in China policy; which moved in short order from solidarity with the spirit of Tiananmen Square to the promotion of trade above all else.

Given Berger's involvement, it is not surprising that Stonebridge has a tremendous and direct stake in greater American engagement with China. The firm is a member of the U.S.-China Business Council, which pushes for close American ties with Beijing. Indeed, Stonebridge maintains an entire Chinese subsidiary, with offices in Beijing and Shanghai, whose purpose is to help transportation, energy, pharmaceutical, and technology firms to cut deals in China. Four former senior U.S. government officials are listed as holding posts at Stonebridge China: Bader, the Obama adviser; Kenneth Lieberthal, who was a top China adviser to Hillary Clinton and who served as senior director for Asia at the National Security Council during her husband's administration; Henry Levine, who was a senior adviser on China trade policy during the present Bush Administration; and Amy Celico, who during the Clinton years served assenior director for China affairs at the U.S. trade representative's office. These officials are almost never identified in the press as Stonebridge affiliates; instead, they are identified merely as former government officials or as representatives of various think tanks - though even at such supposedly independent think tanks, it should be noted, China policy is hardly less compromised. Brookings, for example, bestowed upon Jeffrey Bader the directorship of
its John L. Thornton China Center, which is named after the chairman of the institution's board of directors and one of its leading donors; Thornton is also a director not only of corporations with huge interests in China (Ford, News Corporation) but also of large Chinese corporations (Commercial Bank of China, China Netcorn), and is even a professor at Tsinghua University.

Yeesh. Not much you can say about devastating take down like that. I'm not picking on Obama, this is just an excerpt; the same applies to the McCain side. As the piece concludes:

Yet either man will find it difficult to revamp our foreign policy in any serious way, for one simple reason: a major overhaul would require disentangling ourselves from the reality of empire. And those charged with setting our course, our so called foreign-policy experts (including my source on Africa mentioned above, who has informally advised one of this year's leading presidential candidates), are themselves so entangled overseas as to make envisioning fresh ideas unlikely, if not impossible. When it comes to China, a President Obama or a President McCain might periodically hold forth with tough, politically calculated rhetoric against the regime. But in terms of actual policy, Beijing will continue to be treated as a business partner-precisely the role that it plays for our own mandarin class.
Yup. I've uploaded the entire piece (~2.71 meg PDF).

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