Hu’s Next

China’s President Hu Jintao is in the U.S. and will meet with Barack Obama at the White House tomorrow. The New York Times Editorial board gives Obama some advice:

For Mr. Obama, the top items include: China’s currency manipulation; its enabling of North Korea and Iran; its abuse of human rights; and its recent challenge to American naval supremacy in the western Pacific. …
For a long time we weren’t sure if President Obama had a China strategy. (Beyond muting criticism and hoping for cooperation.) We are increasingly reassured. …

An interesting admission.

Mr. Obama was far too deferential to Mr. Hu during their Beijing summit. He will need to do better this week.

For a start, he can keep the bowing to a minimum.

He will have to press Mr. Hu for a convincing pledge that China is committed to a peaceful rise, that it will engage in substantive talks about its military plans and will push North Korea hard to give up its nuclear program.
We also firmly believe that China will never be a great nation if it keeps censoring and imprisoning its people, including the pro-democracy activist Liu Xiaobo, who won the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize and has been unfairly jailed.
State dinners and 21-gun salutes are ephemeral. What will earn China respect as a major power is if it behaves responsibly. That must be Mr. Obama’s fundamental message.

I don’t suppose even President Obama pays much attention to the Times editorial board these days, but for what it is worth, it is hard to see how Obama is in a position to lecture China’s leaders on how to “be a great nation” or “behave responsibly” so as to “earn respect.” It is not just that Obama is the President of a debtor nation; he is a President whose plan is to borrow many trillions more–money that, in large part, can come only from China. There are a great many things that the Chinese could do with their money, but only one place where Obama can go to borrow the trillions he is determined to spend. So I suspect that any lectures delivered tomorrow will flow in the opposite direction.

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