Chen Guangcheng's Impact on Washington-Beijing Strategic Dialogue
China Times editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
May 4, 2012
Summary: The relationship between Washington and Beijing is currently the world's most important bilateral relationship. But it is also the most unstable. Just before the US-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue was to convene, human rights lawyer Chen Guangcheng precipitated an incident by seeking refuge at the U.S. Embassy. The incident reveals that the two sides differ more than they agree, and that is deeply worrisome.
Full Text below:
The relationship between Washington and Beijing is currently the world's most important bilateral relationship. But it is also the most unstable. Just before the US-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue was to convene, human rights lawyer Chen Guangcheng precipitated an incident by seeking refuge at the U.S. Embassy. The incident reveals that the two sides differ more than they agree, and that is deeply worrisome.
Just before the US-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue convened, the Wang Lijun incident occurred. The atmosphere was already rife with suspicion. Wang Lijun sought refuge at the U.S. Consulate in Chengdu. Interactions between the two governments are based on the principle of "a pre-existing relationship that must not be harmed." Washington did not grant Wang political asylum. Beijng did not criticize Washington, Vice President Xi Jinping is also scheduled to visit the United States.
But in fact Beijing was suspicious. Just how much inside information did Wang Lijun provide Washington? Bo Xilai was detained and interrogated. The 18th Party Congress is about to convene. This suggests the impact of the incident on the CCP leadership. Washington's involvement concerns Beijing even more.
Washington and Beijing are preparing for their fourth round of high-level dialogue. But the Chen Guangcheng incident erupted Not only did Chen choose to enter the embassy, the US Embassy colluded. As Beijing sees it, in the future every political dissident will seek asylum at a US embassy or consulate. Or else the U.S. Embassy will became a center for the promotion of political dissent, This is intolerable.
As Washington sees it, Chen Guangcheng and Wang Lijun are different. This may be an election year. But even if it weren't, the President of the United States cannot hand over a political dissident. Republican rival Mitt Romney is watching Obama like a hawk, seeking to find fault. Washington must provide assistance to Chen Guangcheng, Beijing knows this.
Over the past six days, the two sides conducted intense negotiations. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton rushed to Beijing ahead of schedule, She wanted to resolve the Chen Guangcheng incident. She wanted to ensure that the dialogue was held. She wanted to prevent the dialogue from being hijacked. Chen Guangcheng was originally scheduled to leave the embassy on the afternoon of the 2nd, to seek medical treatment. Everyone assumed the crisis was over. Who knew Chen would suddenly insist he was leaving under duress? The current situation is unclear, Many questions remain. What is certain, is that this incident will cast a pall over the two-day US-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue. That is unfortunate. If differences over this incident means that other problems get ignored, it will be unfortunate indeed.
The first problem is that regularly scheduled dialogue between Washington and Beijing is held at the highest level, This began during the Bush administration, at Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson's initiative, The dialogue was originally exclusively economic. But the number of issues multiplied. Other than summits between the two sides' heads of state, the annual dialogue is the most important venue for bilateral relations.
Washington expects much from the upcoming dialogue. Last week anonymous officials told the New York Times that Beijing may be willing to cooperate on Iran, North Korea, and even Syria, Washington hopes to strike while the iron while hot, In her opening speech, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton went so far as to say that cooperation between the two sides could resolve many of the world's major problems.
In his speech, Hu Jintao also raised the issue repeatedly. He said Beijing and Washington should develop a "new major power relationship." He said the two parties should reject the conventional wisdom, which says major powers must clash, Each nation faces different conditions. The two sides should learn mutual respect, They should seek a new way to relate. He said "this planet has enough room" to accommodate the development of both the United States and Mainland China.
Just before the dialogue between Beijing and Washington, Washington held "2+2" security talks with Tokyo and Manila. These were of course directed at Diaoyutai in the East China Sea and against Huangyan Island in the South China Sea. Military tensions have increased between Beijing and Tokyo, and Beijing and Manila. Beijing put on a show of strength. On the 29th, three People's Liberation Army Navy warships, sailed through the Kagoshima Osumi Strait. They traveled from the East China Sea into the Pacific, Japan's defense ministry said this was very close to Japanese territory. It termed it an "anomalous incident." Mainland China's Defense Ministry responded, saying it was merely exercising its freedom of navigation, In fact everyone knows that it took place the day before the US-Japan Security Conference, It was no coincidence.
Five days before the dialogue, the White House wrote to congressmen, saying it was willing to consider the sale of new fighters to Taipei, Taipei has asked to buy F-16C/Ds several times in the past. But Obama has never approved their sales during his three years in office. He was willing only to help Taipei upgrade her existing F-16A/Bs. When the news broke everyone on Taiwan was skeptical. They assumed Obama was currying favor with Congress, that he was giving its members face. They assumed Obama's gesture could not be taken seriously, Some assumed Washington was merely using Taipei as a bargaining chip, They assumed it was merely a move to gain more cooperation in the dialogue.
As Taipei sees it, Washington and Beijing must communicate their differences. They need not guess what the other is thinking. The Asia-Pacific has plenty of room. All countries can coexist. The newly emerging countries need not crowd out the existing powers. The dominant powers need not intentionally suppress the newly emerging ones. .
The Chen Guangcheng incident shows that Washington and Beijing still have basic differences, But they do not preclude cooperation in other areas. The two powers collided with each other 40 years ago. They have stumbled along since then. The two sides know they cannot isolate themselves from each other, Taipei is also part of the Asian-Pacific region. Smooth Washington-Beijing relations are good for the Asian-Pacific region. Tensions the two, on the other hand, are bad.