Bush’s Trip to China

President George W. Bush (left) attends a welcoming ceremony with President Hu Jintao of China at the Diaoyutai State Guest House in Beijing earlier this week. (Photo: Jason Lee / AFP-Getty Images)

As part of his Asian tour, Bush made a three-day trip to China, where he called for broader “social, political and religious freedoms,” while at the same time hoping to strengthen relations with his counterpart, Hu Jintao.

“Shaking Hands With Red Dragon”

DUBAI — Gulf News (Independent), United Arab Emirates, Nov. 20: Under Clinton, ties blossomed and China was referred to as a strategic partner. All that changed with the political firm of Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld. China was viewed if not as an enemy then certainly as an opponent and was reclassified as a strategic rival … On occasion, Washington went out of its way to embarrass China … China can be America’s greatest opportunity or its greatest challenge. Bush’s stern words about lack of democracy and religious freedom mean little; they certainly won’t stop him trying to sell Boeing aircraft. For the U.S., the yuan may be over-valued but it is still valued by American commerce. China, though, is much more than the world’s next big thing. Its success and prosperity will provide a good foundation for Asia and for America. It is a strategic opportunity.

“The Human Rights Snag in China”

PARIS — Le Figaro (Conservative), France, Nov. 21: On several occasions ... President Bush had the opportunity of looking his Chinese counterparts in the eye. Each time he was confronted with the assertiveness of major powers and which has usually been the stance adopted by the Americans … The pickings in Beijing were slim, except for a contract for Boeing … This was a political gesture from Beijing as the trade deficit with Washington continues to grow … Little indeed was achieved in terms of reforms for the Yuan …. With so little achieved, it was not surprising then, if as the day progressed, the attacks on human rights became more violent.
—Philippe Gelie

“Not Even Sweet and Sour”

BERLIN — DerTagesspiegel (Centrist), Germany, Nov. 21: Bush did not meet his goal. China’s strong man, Hu Jintao, did not make any economic compromises … China and the U.S. face economically turbulent times, maybe even a trade war. Senators in Washington are already calling for imposing heavy tariffs to limit the wave of Chinese imports … Neither did the summit achieve any political rapprochement. On the contrary, Bush’s Taiwan comparison and the harsh reaction show that the tone between Beijing and Washington has gotten worse. After 2001, the war on terror got the two superpowers closer together for some time, but they are now drifting apart again. Washington sees the People’s Republic as a future competitor and potential enemy, and China also distrusts America … The visit did not achieve greater understanding but made clear that the rift in the relationship of the two superpowers is deep.

“Strengthened Sino-U.S. Ties Serve to Benefit All”

BEIJING — China Daily (State-run), China, Nov. 21: The message sent from the Hu-Bush summit was very clear: complicated as it is, the Sino-U.S. relationship is so important that the two sides must keep it stable or, better still, move it forward. Only through expanding their cooperation can the two countries more effectively meet common global challenges and better safeguard their mutual interests. Obviously, President Bush has managed to take a pragmatic and balanced approach in his administration’s China policy despite the increased advocacy of the “China threat” by some hawkish U.S. politicians. Bush’s short stay in Beijing, just 40 hours, was not long enough to produce any breakthrough in ending specific disagreements between the two countries. But it offered both sides an opportunity to clarify areas of concern and, more importantly, find more areas for cooperation. Just as President Hu said, both leaders believe that Beijing and Washington should strive for mutual benefit and a win-win situation through developing “constructive and cooperative” relations. The Sino-U.S. relationship has become so entwined that each player is dependent on the other to a great degree. The strategic vision shared by the two countries serves as the foundation for their partnership.

“Bush Puts Interests Over Responsibility; Beijing Can Take a Breathing Spell”

HONG KONG — Economic Times (Independent), China, Nov. 21: On the surface, he [President Bush] did not make any significant achievements with Beijing. However, judging from all sorts of clues, Bush has adjusted his China policy. He has put economic interests on top of ideology. Although there will be more trade disputes, China can take a breathing spell because Beijing can make concessions in exchange for better Sino-U.S. relations … It is worth paying attention to the fact that Beijing suddenly offered a gift — a $4 billion Boeing contract — to welcome U.S. President Bush’s China visit. Such a move is rare because China would only release dissidents in the past [when U.S. presidents visited] … Since Bush puts interests over responsibility, Sino-U.S. relations become more pragmatic. It can prevent the U.S. from advocating China threats so that Beijing can have a relatively peaceful international environment to drive its economy.

“Practical Approach Welcomed”

TOKYO — The Asahi Shimbun (Center-left), Japan, Nov. 21: President Bush had previously referred to China as a “strategic competitor,” expressing concern over its rising economic and military power. But with growing hopes in the U.S. for China as an expanding market for American exports and investment, this phrase is no longer heard. In Beijing, President Bush called China “an important trade partner for the U.S.” It is noteworthy that at this summit, the U.S. placed greater weight on economic interests than security concerns. Bush called on China to further open its markets and reduce its trade imbalance with the U.S. … Even though the U.S. urged Beijing to expand political freedom and promote democracy, it took pains not to drive China into a corner, calculating that economic prosperity will prompt more Chinese people to demand freedom … Nevertheless, despite the emphasis on economic matters in America’s China policy, the U.S. is not going to drop efforts to contain Beijing in the area of security. The fact that Bush went to Mongolia after China appears to suggest that Washington intends to continue to be ready for a potential military threat from China … The efforts demonstrated at the recent summit to enhance a pragmatic approach will likely contribute to the stability and prosperity of Asia as a whole.

Viewpoints includes items drawn from the U.S. Department of State’s daily digest of international media opinion.