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Wednesday, November 17, 2004

 

Democracy Lite: Powell's parting thoughts on China

Colin Powell has stepped down as US Secretary of State and will be replaced by President Bush's first term national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice. Reportedly a "realist" in an "administration of ideologues", Powell is credited with convincing George Bush to pursue "engagement rather than confrontation" with the People's Republic of China. Despite Powell's recent denial of Taiwan ROC's sovereign status and call for the country's "peaceful reunification" with the PRC during his visit to Beijing last month, the ROC Ministry of Foreign Affairs diplomatically thanked him for his contribution to Taiwan-US ties, paricularly his support for Taiwan's participation in international organizations, including the WHO. However, many of Powell's US critics accuse him of significantly contributing to misguided US policies on the PRC. "These policies appease and reward the brutal Communist government, place trade and relations over human rights and democracy, and undermine America's economy and safety," argued Curry Kenworthy, Executive Director at China Support Network.

Powell's most recent interviews suggest, at the least, a generously accomodating view of the PRC's drive to a one-party, "socialist market economy":


P J O'Rourke for The Atlantic:

P J O'Rourke: I was wondering whether we should be concerned about issues like, we've got some countries out there that seem to be trying to decouple the idea of economic freedom from personal liberty and political liberty something we once would have called Fascism.

Secretary Powell: Yes, without naming countries, we're nervous about this trend, but I don't think it works. Because if you are going to be economically successful you can't really constrain your people too much. Your people are the ones who are going to make it happen for you. You have to turn them loose. They may originally start out being robber barons, but so did we. The society eventually catches up with them and makes something useful. We had robber barons in the last century and we had junk bond dealers and a number of them went to jail. But, man, before they went to jail, did they get something going. The cellular industry, the computer industry it was junk bond guys who did that in the '80s. We probably wouldn't have advanced as quickly as we did if it had not been for junk bond dealers who went to jail.

Clearly Powell did not answer O'Rourke's question.


The WSJ Report with Maria Bartiromo:

Maria Bartiromo: Let me ask you a bit about China. You and the President are headed there on an important trip to the Asia and Pacific countries next week. We have a large trade imbalance with virtually all of Asia, particularly I really want to hit on China, though. What points will you be making to the Chinese to try to improve that?

Secretary Powell: We have said to the Chinese, and I was in China just a couple of weeks ago, that we're pleased that we have such a strong economic relationship with them. We'd rather be competing with them in the world of economics than in other kinds of worlds, and we see China as an important trading partner. But we need them to buy more of our products and they have significantly increased their imports from the United States over the past year, by a factor of a couple. And so they're doing more to purchase from us. We want to see them do even more. We want them to protect property rights, intellectual property rights. This is a major issue that we have with them.

And so we know that the Chinese are sensitive to this trade imbalance and they're doing more to buy more from us, and we expect them to do even more. They also say they help us a great deal by their direct investment in the United States, so to some extent that offsets it to a degree. But we have a good relationship with China. I would submit it's the best relationship that the United States has had with China in over 30 years. And the important manner in which we've crafted this relationship doesn't rest on a clich or a slogan. When we agree about things, we talk about that agreement.

When we disagree about things, such as proliferating companies or entities in China or human rights problems in China, when we feel a problem with China, we bring it to their attention and we talk to China about it, as two mature nations dealing with each other in a mature fashion.

Maria Bartiromo: But, most people expect China's power, influence and economy to only get larger over time. Should the U.S. be taking a more cautious stance?

Secretary Powell: Well, we are both cautious and open. We are watching what they do. We watch their military improvements and modernization and we improve and modernize our forces. We're more interested in what their attitudes are with respect to their neighbors and are they working with their neighbors to deal with regional problems.

I have found the Chinese leadership over the last three or four years that I've been Secretary of State to be very helpful as we worked our way through problems on the subcontinent, the challenge that we faced two years ago between India and Pakistan. I found China to play a helpful role in the resolution of that problem. China is playing a very helpful role in the resolution of the problem with North Korea. It's China that's been hosting these six-party talks and playing a leadership as well as a hosting role.

So what we want to do is engage China, watch how they develop in the future, watch it with caution, but not with fear; watch it for the purpose of moving along with China and not trying to contain China. China is an important country. It's going to be a more important country and it's going to have needs. It's going to have huge energy needs that we're now just starting to see manifested in the international oil markets. It's going to have huge needs for investment. There are still a billion people out there who are not yet benefiting in the miracle that we see in the eastern part of China along the coast.

And so there are many things we can do together with China, watching them with caution but at the same time not with fear, looking at them as a partner, looking at them as a country with whom we have friendly relations in the economic area, and we can do more and more working with them and our other regional allies -- Japan, South Korea, the Philippines, Australia -- to make sure that Asia remains a stable, safe place. There are no wars going on in that part of the world right now. We have problems in North Korea. We have problems in Burma. Otherwise, we have relative stability in Asia and in the Pacific region and we want to keep it that way.

A peculiar turn of phrase to describe the PRC's dealing with/responding to its human rights problems as one of a "mature nation" in a "mature fashion". Caution to the extreme and, arguably, appeasing.

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