True to script, in both instances the United States offered concessions in advance of any helpful strategic action taken by China. The Chinese have a history of pocketing such gestures in exchange for happy visits and future talks. This is a taste of what we should expect from the Hu state visit next week.
President Hu comes with the single objective of showing China’s other leaders that he was able to secure proper treatment and respect from the United States. The content of meetings doesn’t matter much. Just ensure there’s an ample supply of pageantry uninterrupted by Falun Gong, Taiwanese democrats, and Tibetan monks.
The Obama administration is likely to oblige with a great deal of stately hospitality. There’s no way the United States would ever treat Hu as the Chinese treated Gates, openly testing a major new weapons platform during the visit.
And in return, expect Obama to get little in return, other than the bill.
The time has come to question this approach. What are our returns on this bet after 40 years? Some good has come of it, for sure, but how much? Enough to merit continuation of the exceptional treatment of China relative to other powers? China is no longer an infant nation. The People’s Republic is now 61 years old. Time for a more mature, more normal relationship.
President Obama needs to press President Hu more forcefully on areas where China’s actions need to change — North Korea, Iran, human rights, and unfair trade practices. And he can’t just do it in private. Otherwise this symbolic bow to rising Chinese power will further weaken US leadership in Asia and Obama’s leadership in the world.
(This is an edited version of an article originally published by The Daily Caller here).
Stephen Yates is president of DC International Advisory and former Deputy Assistant to the Vice President for National Security Affairs (2001 – 2005).