Whither China-US Relations


1. Storm Warnings
2. Chinese_Democracy

1. Storm Warnings

As the old seafarers' saying goes, "red sky at morning, sailors take warning". The sky over China-US relations is a deepening red these days. In contrast to recent presidents, who all got off to rocky starts with China, the Obama administration had a relatively calm first year. But it belied structural issues that are revealing themselves now.

It was not without its difficulties of course. Hillary Clinton laid seeds of discord by signalling early on that human rights would not be allowed to get in the way of other issues. That gave the Chinese license to dismiss the issue entirely. The US was seen to have lost control of Obama's visit to China, and he was effectively muzzled in a way that rankled the American side. Obama was similarly snubbed and blind-sided by the Chinese at Copenhagen, in a way that ruffled feathers within the US administration. All of this reflected both a recognition of China's increasing power and influence in the world, and the resulting development of some swagger and arrogance on the part of the Chinese.

That shift in the power differential complicates longstanding issues and some new ones. The sale of arms to Taiwan has, as usual, caused a rift.


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