What Obama Should Be Saying in China

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Thus far in his visit to China, President Obama has implicitly criticized Internet restrictions, admitted he doesn't use Twitter, and agreed to disagree with Chinese President Hu Jintao over trade imbalances and negotiating with Iran. But what are the subjects that he should be bring up and isn't? Observers are flagging the topics they wish Obama would discuss:

  • Tibet  Foreign-policy blogger Spencer Ackerman ponders the reaction of a Chinese Twitter "user to Obama's remarks about Internet freedom and the Chinese government firewall. In the discussion with Chinese students, "Obama declined to discuss human rights in Xinjiang and Tibet. I wonder if his message would have been more or less resonant if he did. We often forget that we’re not the only ones who fall victim to nationalism."
  • Gay Marriage  As Americablog's Joe Sudbay points out, Obama has been strong on pushing human rights on China. Yet America has, in Sudbay's eyes, its own failing on human rights: gay marriage. A full conversation would include this topic as well. "On one of his foreign visits to a country with full marriage equality," he writes, "it would be interesting to hear a leader encourage Obama to support rights for all of his citizens--and move beyond the 'separate, but equal' position that he now holds." China, however, is not one such country.
  • The European Enlightenment  Dan Twining ties the Enlightenment to human rights and the Chinese challenge to American hegemony. In an article for Real Clear World, he argues that China should follow India and Brazil's example in embracing "economic liberty, a belief in the democratic peace, and adherence to the principles of human dignity that underlie all open societies." He attributes these "universal values" to the European Enlightenment. "Their embrace by most emerging powers should be welcomed by all who believe a world featuring greater levels of individual liberty and opportunity is a world safer for all." Twining notes that most "Asians live under democratic rule"--China is the outlier, and this may hamper rather than aid its intended rise as "an ideological competitor to the West." While U.S.-Chinese cooperation is key, and the two countries may yet be headed for conflict, it is crucial, says Twining, that Obama not "compromise the principles that have made the West strong, rich, and free--principles of economic and political freedom that most Asians, including Chinese societies in Taiwan and Hong Kong, have now embraced as their own."
  • The Economy  Yves Smith doesn't necessarily want President Obama to get into a fight, but she doesn't he should listen to Chinese official Liu Mingkang's critical remarks on American economic policy and "accept this criticism mildly." The Chinese have benefited from exporting to the U.S. Moreover, the U.S. government bonds the Chinese have bought are"are a savings alternative which we offer to the Chinese manufacturer, not something which actually 'funds' our government's spending choices." Enough, says Smith, with all this talk "that the dollar's weakness ... [will] 'force' the Fed to raise rates, since the Chinese supposedly 'fund' our deficits." Obama should ignore these "idle threats from the Chinese."

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.