“But is Obama good for China?”

It’s the question that my Chinese friends have been asking for months. So, for their sake, I’m quite pleased to announce that – as of yesterday – those seeking insights into how the new Obama administration views China, now need look no further than the totally revamped White House website. Under the “Agenda” tab, click “Foreign Policy,” and then scroll down, past passages on Afghanistan and Pakistan, Nuclear Weapons, Energy Security, to the sixth and last bullet point under “Renewing American Diplomacy,” where you’ll find what – I believe to be – the administration’s first official statement related to China:

Seek New Partnerships in Asia: Obama and Biden will forge a more effective framework in Asia that goes beyond bilateral agreements, occasional summits, and ad hoc arrangements, such as the six-party talks on North Korea. They will maintain strong ties with allies like Japan, South Korea and Australia; work to build an infrastructure with countries in East Asia that can promote stability and prosperity; and work to ensure that China plays by international rules.

Pretty sure that won’t play real well over here. Consider: the first sentence is a total repudiation of the bilateral agreements, occasional summits and ad hoc arrangements with which the Chinese government has become comfortable over the last eight years; first clause, second sentence, excludes China from the list of countries with which the US maintains “strong ties” and alliances; the second clause, second sentence, doesn’t bother to mention which countries are capable of promoting stability and prosperity, despite the fact that the CCP has basically staked its foreign policy reputation on being able to achieve just that; and the final clause, second sentence (which happens to be the only clause in the entire “Agenda” section that mentions China), suggests that China needs policing by the US.

All in all, a prickly start, I think.

I’ll have more to say about this topic in coming weeks (including, whether or not this the proper approach for the US to take). For now, I’m willing to wager that within six months China will be much more than a clause to the nascent Obama administration. Also, this post shall serve as the – ahem – inaugural entry in the new “US China Policy” category.

[UPDATED 1/23: As I was just saying a mere 24 hours ago …

WASHINGTON — Timothy F. Geithner, who took a big step toward confirmation as Treasury secretary on Thursday, told senators that the Obama administration believes China is “manipulating” its currency, suggesting a more confrontational trade stance toward that country than under the Bush administration.

That, from today’s New York Times.]

[FINAL UPDATE AND RECOMMENDATION: Jim Fallows just blogged an absolutely essential deconstruction of Geithner’s “manipulation” answer. An excerpt:

Do we think that the Chinese authorities who have put some $2 trillion into US assets will respond blandly to being labeled manipulators — or to a policy that would effectively devalue the investments they’ve already made here? If Americans think that, they’re naive — in my view, based on this interview with a man at the center of Chinese decision making … [T]o boil it down to the bald assertion that “China is manipulating its currency” ignores, vulgarizes, and misconstrues a lot more than it clarifies.

Well worth reading the full post.]


  1. I think most people assume that Obama’s union supporters will press him to “get tough” with China. I wouldn’t take that wager by the way. Stupid if the “foreign policy agenda” actually reflects the amount of attention they think they can give to East Asia. Doesn’t even get its own section? Sheesh!

  2. The President will start with a get tough policy on China, that’s how you get votes with the Unions. Then like Presidents before him, Obama will need the support of China, espeical now that we need somebody to keep buying our debt.

  3. Nice catch. I really can’t understand why Geithner would stick it to the Chinese right out of the gate. Everyone says how experienced this guy is but this comes off as boneheaded and hamhanded.

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