What Hu and Obama Will Discuss

With President Hu Jintao about to arrive in Washington for a much-anticipated summit meeting with President Obama, expectations and suggestions for their discussions are rampant in the press. The New York Times reports that for Hu, the visit is all about “harmony”:

For the Obama administration, the four-day visit by President Hu Jintao of China may offer a platform to try to make progress on issues troubling their countries: currency, the trade imbalance, human rights and China’s military stance. But Mr. Hu arrives with a comparatively low-key message, intoning his favorite idea: harmony.

Over the past few years, that has become a catchword of his administration, used especially often when Mr. Hu is confronted with thorny situations that elude ready solutions, like domestic social unrest or a rising China’s impact on the outside world. In China, the term is sometimes used ironically as a verb to describe Web sites that suddenly disappear, “harmonized away,” and officially as a goal, a “harmonious society.”

That is also the goal for the difficult relations between the world’s two most powerful nations. In comments given before he left, Mr. Hu emphasized the common interests of the United States and China and “solemnly” pledged peace and cooperation.

A post on the Atlantic looks at how the U.S. may or may not be able to influence China’s behavior toward rogue states:

Because China is so hungry to project influence and acquire resources wherever possible, and because the U.S. has been so successful at containing China’s reach wherever possible, the rising power has felt compelled to do business the last places it can. Increasingly, that lands Chinese diplomats and industrial representatives in the world’s nastiest rogue states. As world leaders and multinational groups deploy sanctions and diplomatic pressure to try and curb bad actors, China is almost always ready to exploit the situation. It’s a familiar and deeply frustrating pattern: a rogue state acts out, the world imposes sanctions to force better behavior, and then China steps in to cut deals with the newly isolated country. It’s a great deal for China, which gets bargain basement prices, and for the rogue state, which is free to continue whatever atrocious behavior earned it worldwide scorn.

Meanwhile, the Western-led global community has lost much of its ability to credibly deter bad behavior. Worst of all, the rogue state’s victims — slaughtered ethnic minorities, oppressed democratic activists — are less likely to find reprieve. So far, China has undercut global cooperation against the regimes in North Korea, Iran, Burma, Sudan, Sri Lanka, and Zimbabwe. If international sanctions hit Côte d’Ivoire, it seems likely that China will be happy to undercut those sanctions by buying up the country’s oil when prices rise this summer.

For more on the upcoming summit, see:

- US and China: Powerplays and mistrust, from BBC
U.S. and China: When giants meet, from CNN’s Jaime FlorCruz
What Hu and Obama Will Discuss, from Newsweek
What America and China Must Not Forget, by Paul Gerwitz in the New York Times
The New Era of U.S.-China Rivalry, from the Wall Street Journal

Watch also Secretary of State Clinton talking about China in advance of the summit:

January 18, 2011 1:30 PM
Posted By: