Skip to content

Why Obama Came Back Empty Handed from China

A dissident first arrested in 1979, Wei Jingsheng was finally released from prison in 1997 and deported the U.S.

In 1996, Wei Jingsheng was awarded the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought. He is a winner of numerous other human rights and democracy awards, including the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award in 1996, the National Endowment for Democracy Award in 1997, the Olaf Palme Memorial Prize in 1994, and the International Activist Award by the Gleitsman Foundation, etc. In 2008, the Europe-based magazine A Different View chose him as one of the 15 Champions of World Democracy. He has been praised in numerous places with titles such as “Father of Chinese Democracy” and “Nelson Mandela of China.” Thousands of entries about him, as well as his writings can be found on the Internet in various languages. In 2009 it was announced he was a runner up for the Nobel Peace prize. [1] The following is a translation of Wei Jingsheng’s comments on Obama’s China visit. [2]

The hottest event of this week is President Obama’s visit to Beijing, because people had great expectations for the visit by the President of the United States.

Whether it’s inside China or overseas, the Chinese were expecting Obama to do something about human rights. Since Hu Jintao took the reigns in China, the human rights situation has been deteriorating. Many people have been arrested and thrown into prison to be abused; those who haven’t gone to prison, have endured much greater pressure and can barely breathe. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has disciplined the media, blocked the Internet, and applied stricter and stricter suppression over freedom of speech. The Chinese care more than ever whether the U.S. President can help to relieve some pressure for the Chinese, because in the past, the U.S. President’s pressure somehow had an effect on the Chinese government. What the CCP is most afraid of is the human rights diplomacy of the U.S.

What the Americans care most about is the exchange rate of the Renminbi. It’s the key for reducing the trade deficit. Ten years ago, many Americans already knew that the unfair trade system would expand the trade deficit and cause job loss. Some politicians who were bought by big business managed to push through to give China the Permanent Most Favored Nation (MFN) status. At that time, the Americans had a good life and its trade deficit was less than $57 billion, so the majority of Americans accepted it. After all you have to respect the democratic system and respect the law.

Now things are different. The U.S. economy has deteriorated, the unemployment rate hiked up, and the market has slowed down. The trade deficit against China jumped to $268 billion. Many Americans know that this is the result of China’s manipulation of the exchange rate and the unfair trade system. Just as Senator Charles Schumer from New York pointed out: The global financial crisis was caused by China’s exchange rate manipulation. Nothing will be meaningful if this fundamental issue is not resolved.

But Obama brought nothing back from China. The title of today’s Times newspaper is “President Obama returns home from visit to China almost empty handed.” [3] It was quite beyond people’s expectations. The White House advisors had already foreseen that it was unlikely for them to get much on the core issues, so they left some room on the discussion topics. In addition to the main topics of human rights and trade, they added a bunch of smaller topics, including environmental protection, Afghanistan, Iran’s nuclear facility, and so on. They just wanted the CCP to pose a gesture, not necessarily some substantial results.

But even for that, Obama still got nothing. The CCP didn’t even release a few political prisoners for show. Hu Jintao gave Obama not even a bit of face, even skipping the “human rights show,” and letting Obama come for an empty trip. Compared to the previous few not-so-successful Presidents, Obama is the most unsuccessful one.

This does not even mention the media who favor the Republicans. Even the firm Democrat’s supporter, the Washington Post published a commentary criticizing that Obama did nothing to reduce the trade deficit. The article traced all the way back to the time when President Clinton signed the Permanent Trade Act for China and described in detail that the increase in the trade deficit over the past ten years is the result of the those elites selling the United State’s interests. In the past, people would have thought this was a Republican newspaper blasting against the Democrats.

Why was Obama, with a gifted eloquent tongue, so popular in Europe, but lost so terribly in China? There are a lot of reasons, but only two main ones: The first reason is that they [Obama and his advisors] don’t know China and don’t know Chinese. They thought they were dealing with a democratic country. Democratic countries use gentlemen diplomacy. You give up something for good will; I will give you something in return. In a popular term, that’s called “mutual compromise, mutual benefit” cooperative diplomacy.

Just hearing the U.S. President calling the CCP “partner” tells you that they don’t understand the CCP at all. Even those Western diplomats who master pretty good Chinese don’t know that “partner” is a completely wrong concept here. The CCP’s logic is a “struggle philosophy.” It’s “when the enemy retreats, we pursue.” If you take a step back, he thinks you are afraid of him. If he didn’t step forward, he would be laughed at or even attacked by his fellow party members. Applying the compromise and cooperative spirit to the CCP is completely poles apart. Therefore, Obama’s gesture before his visit had already set the visit up to be a complete failure.

The second important reason is the U.S. government is constrained by business. The largest beneficiaries of the trade deficit and the job losses in the U.S. are the big businesses in the U.S. and China. From many years ago, they would voluntarily go all out to defend the interests of the Chinese Communists. On the unfair trade system and exchange rate manipulation, they share the same interests with the CCP. Ten years ago, their ability to control the U.S. Congress and the government exceeded all the voters. Under the premise of not cheating the pubic, they force-passed the legislation, opposed by the majority of the voters, to give the CCP one-sided trade freedom. Now their profit is about five times more than what they got at that time. It’s even harder for the public to fight against them. President Obama can hardly go against their will either. That’s one of the fundamental reasons why the U.S. President lowered himself in front of the CCP.

Therefore, the Sino-U.S. relationship is no longer an economic issue or a China’s human rights issue. It is testing the democratic system in the U.S. Hitler and Stalin were not able to destroy the Western democratic system. But now the communist party in China is trying to fulfill the will of Lenin, to make “U.S. imperialism” the last phase of capitalist history. And it has seemed quite successful so far. That’s why so much attention has been paid to the President’s visit. What people are paying attention to is not just the exchange rate and unemployment. What people are paying attention to is whether the Western democratic system represented by the U.S. will lose to an autocratic communist system.

[1] Wikipedia
[2] The Epoch Times, November 20, 2009
[3] The Times, November 19, 2009