From the Washington Times, on Feb. 3, 2009:
Regarding China policy, President Obama may really offer change we can believe in. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner’s tough words about China’s manipulation of its currency may be a harbinger of change in America’s increasingly sclerotic approach to the People’s Republic.
President Obama is not part of the generation that shaped our current China policy. He was graduating high school when Washington and Beijing finalized the terms of diplomatic normalization in 1979. Much of the deal had been worked out in secret, and set Washington on a 30-year path that would subordinate concerns about Taiwan, political reform in China, unfair trading practices and even China’s military ambitions to diplomatic engagement at any cost. While the architects of China policy saw China through a Cold War prism, Mr. Obama is the first American president who came of age as the Cold War was receding. For many in Obama’s generation, the massacre of Chinese protesters at Tiananmen Square is a more powerful symbol of Chinese leadership than President Nixon’s breakthrough visit to Beijing.
History is replete with examples of wrong counsel derailing policymaking. Dan Blumenthal may not be a hugely important policy analyst but his advice poses such a threat to new US president Barack Obama’s China policy. In his article in Tuesday’s Washington Times, Blumenthal calls on President Obama to bring in “change we can believe in” regarding the US’ China strategy.
He criticizes the US for engaging China “at any price”, which he believes has subordinated concerns about human rights, Taiwan and military build-up. The change he advocates is for Obama to help China join the club of “democracies” by speaking directly to the Chinese people about “universal” notions of “liberty, justice and transparency”.
Blumenthal seems unaware that not every departure from George W. Bush may be good for the new administration. Irrespective of what Bush has left for Obama – economic slowdown, wreckage from two wars and bitter international relations, strengthened China-US ties may be his biggest gift.