New Friction and Vast Agenda Await Obama on China Trip

Ian Johnson of the Wall Street Journal reports on the state of U.S.-China relations on the eve of Obama’s first trip to China:

A decade ago, most issues discussed at China-U.S. summits were limited to three issues: human rights, nuclear nonproliferation and trade. Now, the list of topics has grown to include almost every problem facing the world, from clean energy and the war in Afghanistan to African development and fixing the world economy — all of which are expected to have a place in talks between Mr. Obama and his Chinese counterpart, President Hu Jintao.

“For the first time in the history of our relationship, global issues are at the top of the agenda,” says Kenneth Lieberthal, a fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington who was a special assistant on Asian affairs to former President Bill Clinton. “This is new territory for us.”

It is a change that analysts on both sides see as potentially problematic. Chinese officials and analysts note that the U.S. still has an arms and high-tech embargo on China — hardly something one does with a true partner, they say. “Obama wants us to become strategic partners or friends but we aren’t either of those,” says Yan Xuetong, a professor of international relations at Tsinghua University. “We are business partners who share material interests rather than common values.”

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