Friday, April 21, 2006

No new Epoch in US-China relations

(c) AP

When not handing out propaganda at Melbourne's train stations, the Epoch Times folks keep busy heckling the Chinese president. It was shaping up as a bad day for Hu Jintao, what with being snubbed dinner at the White House and the MC announcing "the national anthem of the Republic of China." But official visits don't get much worse than being told "your days are numbered" before the world media, by an advocate of a sect your country persecutes, while standing next to the President of the United States.

Nor was it a great moment for the hosts. The Bush administration got things off on the wrong foot by not according this the status of a 'state visit', as Clinton did for Hu's predecessor. Then there was the small matter of confusing one's guests with their archenemies across the Taiwan Strait. But the ultimate gaffe was to let a Falungong practitioner not only slip security but abuse Hu for three minutes before the secret service hustled her off, leaving bureaucrats and thinktanks around the country to stress about how those inscrutable orientals will react (inside word says they're not happy).

(c) AP

Whoever was giving out press passes obviously didn't do their homework on the Epoch Times, a Falungong-linked paper with a prophecy fetish and a big chip on their shoulder called the Chinese Communist Party. The ET has disowned Dr Wang's actions, but the fact that she heckled Jiang Zemin in Malta five years ago should have tipped someone off. The State Department's woes didn't end there, however, with Bush and Hu later trying to hold dialogue over the chants of the Free-Tibet crowd across South Lawn. Clearly the event planners didn't watch how the Brits handled Hu's London trip last year, either.

Hu stayed all smiles, but used the occasion to teach Bush a lesson about negotiating with the Chinese that American businessmen learned long ago: expect much gilded language, but no progress unless you hand over something first. Faced with the high expectations held of this 'official' (not 'state') visit by a swathe of US lobbies, George also resorted to the fine art of using many words to say nothing, in which he is of course well practiced.

Bush said, "We would hope there would be more appreciation'' in allowing the currency to rise with market forces.

[Regarding Iran] the United States and China are in a position to ''work on tactics'' to achieve that goal, Bush said.

"We don't agree on everything but we are able to discuss our disagreements in friendship and cooperation,'' Bush told reporters.

So the bottom line is that noone's happy, least of all Hu Jintao. Having finally clawed his way to the top of the Fourth Generation leadership last year, when he eased Jiang out of the old man's last bastion in the state CMC, Hu doubtless felt entitled to 'state visit' recognition and a black-tie dinner at the White House. Instead he got a luncheon of halibut and dumplings to the strains of the Nashville Bluegrass band, after half an hour watching soldiers prance past in Continental Army uniforms.

No visiting head-of-state can have been this disappointed since the secret service ruled out Kruschev's trip to Disneyland.

Non Sequitur

I never thought I'd see an American columnist arguing the US would be better off under a parliamentary system. But then I, like Thomas Friedman, never thought I'd see a US administration determined to jump from an Iraqi frying pan into an Iranian fire.

1 comment:

John Lee said...

As they say, heads will roll. But not American ones.