U.S. frustration with China likely to continue
President Obama and and Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping met in the Oval Office Tuesday
February 15th, 2012
04:00 AM ET

U.S. frustration with China likely to continue

By Jamie Crawford

President Barack Obama reminded China's presumptive next president Tuesday that "with expanding power and prosperity also comes increased responsibilities."

But when it comes to a greater embrace of American interests, China's own internal systems will likely keep that from becoming reality any time soon.

There was a lot of truth in Vice President Biden's statement Tuesday to Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping that the two countries are "not always going to see eye to eye." China's recent veto of a resolution on Syria, along with Russia, at the United Nations Security Council bears testament to that.

To be sure, there is a fair amount of alignment in U.S. and Chinese thinking from the proverbial 30,000-foot view. Both countries want the global economy to grow at a faster pace, and both agree Iran should not have a nuclear weapons program.

But many times the end result is U.S. frustration at China's reluctance or refusal to adopt the same course the United States and other western countries are taking on an issue.

"Many of China's policies on external foreign policy issues are really driven by China's domestic concerns and priorities," Bonnie Glaser with the Center for Strategic and International Studies told CNN. As China's economy continues its breakneck growth, China, for example, does not want to jeopardize its growth by suddenly cutting the 11% of its oil it imports from Iran.

As the United States leads an international sanctions regiment meant to severely cripple the Iranian government over its nuclear program, China's own domestic concerns guide its policies of advocating more carrots than sticks when it comes to how to approach the Iranian nuclear program.

There is also a bit of paranoia at play when it comes to China's understanding and sometimes arms-length approach to American foreign policy.

Many China watchers say China is skeptical and suspicious of U.S. strategy in the Asia-Pacific region as seeking to "contain" its rise, or even support instability that could force a regime change like that seen in Arab Spring countries, or in recent revolutions in Central Asia.

Then there is U.S. agitation over commercial access and protection of American goods and services in the world's second largest economy.

Once again, China is usually reluctant to cede to demands the United States and other countries make for a more level playing field, lest it moderate economic advancement.

"Over the last few years there's been increasing frustration by the (U.S.) business community about practices that China engages in that they view as being mercantilist and creating an uneven playing field," said Michael Froman, the Obama administration's deputy national security adviser for international economics.

That frustration is mostly borne out of a Chinese economy dominated by state-owned companies that are fiercely protective of a wide network of entrenched interests, with corruption running rampant.

"There are many people who would suffer if they were forced to accept" true protection of global intellectual property rights or elimination of Chinese policies that greatly favor domestic companies, Glaser said.

There are simply too many individual constituencies, along with benefits and subsidies that support the current Chinese system to welcome any greater U.S. involvement in the Chinese economy, analysts say.

Xi's visit is being framed as an opportunity to build a relationship with the man "likely destined to be a central figure in the Chinese political system for years to come," according to Daniel Russel, senior director of Asian affairs at the National Security Council.

President Obama and other senior officials will look to build on Sino-U.S. ties with the next Chinese leader in hopes of paving the way for greater Chinese understanding of U.S. policy.

Analysts like Glaser do not discount the possibility that Xi's likely presidency could be more focused on longer term strategic interests that take U.S. concerns into greater account. Just don't expect a fundamental shift in the Chinese treatment of American concerns overnight.

"It is very difficult for any one individual in China to have that much power to be able to fundamentally change the system," Glaser said.

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Filed under: China
soundoff (14 Responses)
  1. Aristocles

    Obama's been reading Spider-Man again, hasn't he?

    February 16, 2012 at 2:09 am | Reply
  2. Clinton

    I can't wait for the day China's Government falls... it can't happen soon enough... yes the world's economy will hit a rough patch and we may very well end up in a mild recession... but i think i'd rather be in a recession because a communist country fell than because our own business elite decided to risk everything on shady deals and unregulated greedy business practices.... China has nothing to offer the world in its current form... Communism strips people of the right to think freely, speak freely and generally come together with new ideas to make the world a better place... China could be an amazing place... rich with history and invention... but it's Government stifles it's people... Communism is bad for the same reason it was bad decades and decades ago... All China does now is steal ideas from the rest of the world, reverse engineer it, rebuild it with shi##y materials and resell it back to the world... China does not deserve to exist in its current state... they have a very long history of failed dynastic rule... Communism is no different... this too will pass... only question is when... all it takes is one communist leader to be too much of a tyrant and then boom.... I just hope it's sooner rather than later.

    February 15, 2012 at 11:54 am | Reply
    • Lee

      You are the reason why US is going downhill.

      February 15, 2012 at 1:52 pm | Reply
    • Lee

      Don't you know China is becoming more capitalist and US is becoming more communist country?

      February 15, 2012 at 1:54 pm | Reply
      • Beelzabubba

        We're definitely on our way to becoming a totalitarian police state.

        February 15, 2012 at 9:49 pm |
    • Facepalm28

      This is exactly why China will never be a true world power in the near future. If there's one thing history has proven, it is that unjust and autocratic governments cannot endure. The Soviet Union lasted about 70 years, and China's current regime is reaching 65, so their time is coming soon.

      True, their economy is doing a lot better than the USSR in the 80s, but that's still a mixed blessing for their government. A growing economy means that, at least in some areas, people in China are permitted to think and discuss issues frankly to determine the truth of their problems. Funny thing about frank and open discussion, though....it's impossible to confine such discussions to one area (economy) and keep it out of another (politics) for very long.

      February 15, 2012 at 4:39 pm | Reply
      • Beelzabubba

        The Soviets went bankrupt because they had an empire. We have an empire, and we're up to our necks in debt. China will be just fine. You'll see.

        February 15, 2012 at 9:47 pm |
  3. mipolitic

    obama said , so mr china why would you buy the oil from canada that i rejected ?

    February 15, 2012 at 9:26 am | Reply
  4. dumb american

    I know what I am going to do. I am going to give all my money to the dirty evil zionists in racist apartheid isarel.

    I am going to stay stupid because I know my zionist masters like us dumb americans dumb and dumber.

    I am going to stay in debt and I promise to watch more television so I can keep my mind cluttered with nonsense.

    and when my zionist masters tell me to send my children off to fight another war in the middle east, I will gladly sacrafice my children's lives to further the new world order with the zionists calling all the shots from tel-aviv.

    So it doesn't matter what the chinese do or what is presented to me as news on cnn. What matters is I stay stupid.

    Remember: the zionists like us stupid.

    So if you don't like this post, stay stupid.

    February 15, 2012 at 7:58 am | Reply
    • Clinton

      Huh, i was going to point out how stupid your post was and how dumb you are, but you beat me to it. People that see conspiracy in everything generally have nothing exciting going on in their lives and want the world to be more interesting than it really is.... sounds like you're a fat 30+ year old loser that's still a virgin and has nothing better to do than blame a race for all your troubles.... well... keep hating... at least you bought a computer with your welfare check.

      February 15, 2012 at 11:45 am | Reply

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