Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Xi Jinping Does the Emerald City

Before his powwow with lame duck Obama tomorrow in Washington D.C., Chinese president Xi Jinping is in the Emerald City for a couple of days. Xi arrived at Paine Field in Everett to the welcome of flower-bearing children of a Boeing worker. The big event yesterday, an early dinner at the Westin Hotel in downtown Seattle, was attended by politicos and corporate giants. This is from a story in the Seattle Times by Janet Tu, "In Seattle, Chinese leader vows to join U.S. to fight cybercrime":
The banquet was more than a venue for Xi’s speech: It demonstrated the array of U.S. business and political luminaries with ties to China. 
The head table alone included Bill and Melinda Gates, Gov. Jay Inslee, Seattle Mayor Ed Murray, former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, and the chief executives of Microsoft, Boeing and Starbucks — not to mention the CEOs of IBM, DuPont and Ford, three other U.S. governors and U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker.

Jane Perlez, chief diplomatic correspondent in China for the New York Times, describes the logic of Xi's Seattle visit ("Xi Jinping Pledges to Work With U.S. to Stop Cybercrimes") succinctly and accurately:
The Chinese worked hard to front-load Mr. Xi’s trip — his first to the United States as president — with two days of events in Seattle intended to show an upbeat relationship with American business. And in a broad sense it has worked as a show of force to President Obama about the power that China wields, and how much American companies need China even if its policies do not align with Washington’s.
As close as I got to experiencing the Chinese president's visit was the racket made by a helicopter that hovered over downtown in the vicinity of the Westin. When I went out for a post-work four-mile run to absorb the evening sunshine on the last day of summer I felt like Ray Liotta's character at the end of Goodfellas with the helicopter constantly perched over his shoulder.

To get the official position on China one must read today's piece by USG propagandist David Sanger, "Conflict Flavors Obama’s Meeting With Chinese Leader." Writing with Julie Hirschfeld Davis, Sanger pitches the official line like this: The good, decent government officials of the United States thought that when Xi came to power they would have a reasonable interlocutor with whom they could collaborate. Instead they found themselves confronted by a zealous, power-hungry nationalist bent on confrontation wherever he could find it. That's the official line basically. It can be found towards the end of the story:
“This is not the U.S.-China relationship that senior Obama officials expected,” either at the start of Mr. Obama’s tenure in 2009 or the beginning of Mr. Xi’s in 2013, said Michael J. Green, an Asia specialist at the Center for Strategic and International Studies who served at the National Security Council under President George W. Bush. “The assumptions that many people had, that cooperation on transnational threats like climate change would ameliorate problems in geopolitical arenas, was wrong.”
In her speech on Monday, Ms. Rice [National Security Advisor Susan Rice] made it clear the United States and China would showcase their cooperation on climate change, with a deal on carrying out a broad emissions accord they struck last year during a meeting in Beijing. There will also be agreement on a code of conduct to reduce the risk of accidents between American and Chinese aircraft, and steps to expand educational exchanges between the two countries.
But on the areas of sharpest disagreement, such as human rights, the South China Sea and cyberattacks, there is still a wide gulf, and for weeks the White House has been debating how to handle them.
The South China Sea issue erupted last week in the Senate Armed Services Committee when Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, pressed David Shear, the top Pentagon official in charge of Asia and the Pacific, to declare when the last time was that the United States sent ships or aircraft closer than 12 nautical miles to the newly reclaimed reefs.

Twelve miles is the usual limit for “territorial waters,” so the operation would show that the United States did not consider this to be Beijing’s sovereign land. Reluctantly, Mr. Shear said the last time was in 2012, before Mr. Xi took office.

“The United States of America will sail, fly and operate anywhere that international law permits,” Ms. Rice said during her speech, repeating the administration’s policy on the matter. But one official said Secretary of State John Kerry and his deputies, along with several intelligence officials, did not see the value in forcing the Chinese to react. Others disagree.
“They’re cultivating strategic ambiguity,” Patrick M. Cronin, the director of the Asia-Pacific Security Program at the Center for a New American Security, said of the Chinese. “What we need, though, is more clarity about our interests. We have to do more to reinforce rules of the road that are against coercion or force, and against this Chinese buildup.” 
Senator Benjamin L. Cardin of Maryland, the senior Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee, said policy makers never anticipated this degree of trouble from Mr. Xi, either on maritime issues or on human rights, a prime area of concern after the Chinese president moved to crack down on dissidents and lawyers and took aim at civil society groups. 
Representatives of an array of those groups met with Ms. Rice at the White House on Tuesday to discuss concerns about China’s proposed legislation to tighten controls on foreign nongovernmental organizations, and senior officials said the topic would be a focus of the meetings between the two presidents. 
“Originally, there was reason for optimism about the speed of change in China” under Mr. Xi, said Mr. Cardin, one of a group of lawmakers set to meet with the Chinese president on Capitol Hill on Friday. “And now there’s sort of disappointment.”
What goes unmentioned in all of this is anything that the United States has done. Since Xi's ascent to the presidency, Obama has staged a coup in Ukraine, launched a new Cold War against Russia, cracked the Middle East apart with its regime-change operation in Syria, and lectured Hong Kong on how to handle the Umbrella Movement protests, not to mention the militarized "pivot to Asia."

The United States under the Peace Prize POTUS has been a rogue elephant on the world stage, blundering and marauding, destroying societies willy-nilly. Now even the European Union shows signs of cracking under the strain.

Chomsky's recent talk at the New School, where he deconstructs right-wing opposition to the Iranian nuclear deal, is illuminating with regards to the U.S. position towards China. Rogue powers do not allow nations to possess a deterrent:

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