Friday, January 21, 2011

Hu's Your Favorite Dictator?

President and Mrs. Obama put on a fabulous shindig for the Chinese dictator.

In his toast Wednesday evening, President Barack Obama suggested that the assembled look beyond “differences of culture and perspective” between the two countries. “Let us never forget the values that our people share,” he said. At the end of a jazz concert, Mr. Obama told the audience that he could see Mr. Hu tapping his feet to the music.

But at several dinner tables, American and Chinese guests engaged in polite but intense conversation about nettlesome issues such as human rights and foreign relations that divide the two nations and that underpinned the entire day.

The elephant - or panda bear - in the room is the issue of human rights in China. Barack Obama is a Nobel Peace Prize receipent and is aware that another recepient sits in a Chinese jail for working for human rights in that country.

Hu's state visit to the United States has prompted saturation media coverage in China, with largely upbeat reports heralding, in the words of one newspaper headline, "a new chapter in relations." There has been in-depth reporting on the trappings of the visit, including the red carpet welcome, star-studded guest list for the state dinner and the $45 billion in deals signed for U.S. exports.

But largely missing from official Chinese news media reports of the trip - and from the foreign television spots that are subject to government censorship - has been the back-and-forth between President Obama and Hu over human rights.

With tripling the federal debt as Team Obama has managed to do in just two years in office, it is impossible to push too hard for true and measurable human rights progress in China. They own us at this point and Hu is not ignorant of that fact. Hu was wined and dined as though he was our new best friend, which technically is not much of a stretch. He was given the welcoming ceremony - all pomp and circumstance - that he was denied by former President George W. Bush.

After a night of fun and photos with the celebs and politicans at the State Dinner, Hu trekked up Capitol Hill.

Mr. Hu was “relatively vague” in his response to the question about Mr. Liu, said Rep. Charles Boustany (R., La.). “He spoke very briefly about it,” Mr. Boustany said. “He was more or less evasive.”

In a statement afterwards, Mr. Boehner, an Ohio Republican, mentioned the issue of “coercive abortions” as the result of the country’s longstanding policy of one child per couple.

The speaker focused the bulk of his questions on economic friction related to trade and intellectual property. The speaker told Mr. Hu that the Chinese government needs to do a better job cracking down the piracy of American-made goods.

The Chinese president told the group his country has put measures in place to begin cracking down on piracy. He also challenged the lawmakers to take a new look at barriers on Chinese exports to the U.S., telling the group that it would bolster trade between the two countries.

“If they want us to relax export controls, or what they perceive to be export controls, then they need to take vigorous steps on the protection of intellectual property,” Mr. Boustany said.

The bipartisan group of 11 lawmakers did not have time to discuss longstanding complaints that the Chinese government keeps its currency low to dominate its trading relationship with the U.S.

Which exactly are the values President Obama claims we share with China?

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