Thursday, 6 June 2013

Obama's "shirt-sleeves' summit" with China's Xi Jinping is a mistake

Later this week, US President Barack Obama will meet with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping in California. Yale historian Michael Auslin thinks - rightly - that the meeting, which is pitched as a 'shirt-sleeves' summit', is a mistake
... summits like this one should be reserved for friends and allies with whom the United States has close working relationships.--
While it is too late to pull out of this summit, the president still has time to come up with a concrete list of issues that Washington expects movement on. He should make it clear that this experiment in going outside the boundaries of traditional Sino-U.S. meetings will be a one-off if there is no change in Chinese behavior. A better approach in general would be to restrict such top-level meetings until truly necessary, or when it is clear that some agreement on a significant issue has been reached and there will be a measureable outcome. Washington needs not merely to accept that its relations with China are purely transactional, but to act that way, as well. 
Focusing on results during future summits would communicate that Washington is serious about protecting its interests. While our diplomats certainly deal seriously with their Chinese counterparts, the tone set at the top of this administration (and previous ones) has been too accommodating, too willing to play what we think is the long-game of engagement, while ignoring the longer Chinese game of undermining U.S. influence in Asia and globally while avoiding commitment to solving disagreements between us. Unfortunately, this week's "shirt-sleeves" summit will fail to produce a more meaningful U.S.-China relationship because it is driven by wishful thinking, and not by a ruthless desire to protect U.S. interests.
In addition, people should not forget that Xi is in charge of one of the world's most corrupt countries. Although Xi is officially fighting corruption, it should be remembered that his extended family has enriched itself enormously during his time as a Communist Party apparatchik, as Bloomberg found out last year

As Xi climbed the Communist Party ranks, his extended family expanded their business interests to include minerals, real estate and mobile-phone equipment, according to public documents compiled by Bloomberg.

Those interests include investments in companies with total assets of $376 million; an 18 percent indirect stake in a rare- earths company with $1.73 billion in assets; and a $20.2 million holding in a publicly traded technology company. --

Most of the extended Xi family’s assets traced by Bloomberg were owned by Xi’s older sister,Qi Qiaoqiao, 63; her husband Deng Jiagui, 61; and Qi’s daughter Zhang Yannan, 33, according to public records compiled by Bloomberg. --
Deng, reached on his mobile phone, said he was retired. When asked about his wife, Zhang and their businesses across the country, he said: “It’s not convenient for me to talk to you about this too much.”
Neither should it be forgotten, as Robert I. Rotberg points out, that Xi is "a corrupt autocrat's best friend": 
African autocrats absolutely adore China’s President Xi Jinping. At a meeting last month with 13 prominent African leaders in Durban, South Africa, Equatorial Guinea’s hard-fisted President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo led the others in lavishing praise on China. The front page of the weekend China Daily for March 29 trumpeted their obsequieousness and China-Africa friendship.
None of Africa’s despots dare bite the hand that has fed so well, and so consistently. While Chinese support keeps rolling in, these leaders enrich themselves and their inner circles while their people go without.
China directly supports the leaders and enables their continued internal tyrannies by refusing to “interfere” in local politics, by willfully ignoring well-documented trails of human rights violations, by turning a blind eye to egregious corrupt practices, and by protecting presidents such as Zimbabwae’s Robert Mugabe and Sudan’s Omar al-Bashir when the UN or other regional organizations threaten to investigate their regimes. China has also helped to shield Bashir from the consequences of his indictment for war crimes by the International Criminal Court.
China has also provided weapons of war to enable Africa’s worst regimes to prey on their internal opponents.  Chinese aircraft and ammunition were used by the Sudan against its opponents in Darfur and now in South Kordofan and Blue Nile. Zimbabwe received Chinese jets, uniforms for its army, a military staff training college constructed by Chinese labour, and material assistance when Mugabe’s military and family forcibly ousted artisanal miners from Zimbabwe’s lucrative Marange diamond fields.

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