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Chinese president's visit underscores Washington-Beijing tensions

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  • Robert Sterling
    Please send as far and wide as possible. Thanks, Robert Sterling Editor, The Konformist http://www.konformist.com World Socialist Web Site wSWS.org Chinese
    Message 1 of 1 , May 2, 2006
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      Please send as far and wide as possible.

      Robert Sterling
      Editor, The Konformist

      World Socialist Web Site

      Chinese president's visit underscores Washington-Beijing tensions
      By Patrick Martin
      24 April 2006

      The four-day visit to the United States by Chinese President Hu
      Jintao, culminating in Thursday's White House meeting with George W.
      Bush, produced little progress on any of the key issues in dispute
      between the two world powers. Instead, there was evidence of growing
      tension as the Bush White House inflicted a series of diplomatic
      snubs, ranging from the trivial to the flagrant, recorded in detail
      by the US media, and undoubtedly noted by the visitors from Beijing.

      Despite Chinese requests, Hu's session at the White House was not
      accorded the status of a full state visit, with an evening state
      dinner and associated ceremony, a distinct step down from the
      treatment accorded Hu's predecessors Jiang Zemin and Deng Xiaoping
      during previous visits to Washington by a Chinese head of state.

      When the Chinese national anthem was played to welcome Hu, the White
      House announcer described the country as "the Republic of China,"
      the official name for Taiwan, rather than the "Peoples Republic of
      China," the title of the Beijing regime. Given that the status of
      Taiwan is the number-one foreign policy issue for China, this can
      hardly have been an oversight.

      More significant was the decision of White House officials to permit
      a prominent activist of the banned Falun Gong organization to
      participate in the joint press conference of Bush and Hu, which she
      then interrupted by shouting denunciations of the repression of the
      quasi-religious group. Wengyi Wang, a Chinese-born doctor who lives
      in New York City, was admitted to the press conference on a one-day
      pass issued to the Falun Gong's newspaper, Epoch Times, which
      recently carried a series of articles, written by Wang, alleging
      that Chinese authorities were harvesting the organs of imprisoned
      Falun Gong disciples.

      For several minutes, Wang stood on a camera platform shouting, in
      English and Chinese, "President Hu! Your days are
      numbered," "President Bush! Stop him from killing!" and other anti-
      Beijing slogans. She tried to unfurl a banner. Secret Service agents
      finally removed her, and she was later arraigned before a magistrate
      on charges of attempting to intimidate or threaten a foreign
      official, which carry a sentence of up to six months in jail.

      Given the current security mania in Washington, it is inconceivable
      that the decision to give press credentials to a Falun Gong activist—
      one with a record of heckling the previous Chinese president, Jiang
      Zemin, at an appearance in Malta in 2001—was made unwittingly. The
      White House routinely denies access to such events, not merely to
      those suspected of an intention of disruption, but to journalists
      from socialist and antiwar publications, who might ask embarrassing

      Only three months ago, Capitol Hill police arrested Iraq war
      activist Cindy Sheehan for wearing an antiwar t-shirt at Bush's
      State of the Union Speech, which she attended as the guest of a
      Democratic congresswoman. While Secret Service agents took three
      minutes to get to the Falun Gong representative (a Washington Post
      columnist commented that their strategy seemed to have been to let
      her shout herself hoarse), they would have been far quicker to grab
      and silence a heckler denouncing Bush for having blood on his hands
      in Iraq.

      Even after the fact, Bush administration officials defended the
      decision to give Wang a press pass, presenting it as an example of
      their commitment to democracy and a free press. One told the Los
      Angeles Times, "We can't go around denying access to reporters when
      we're going around the world trumpeting that to do so is incorrect."
      This from an administration that is currently engaged in
      investigating leaks on secret CIA torture prisons and illegal
      domestic spying by the National Security Agency, in which both the
      journalists and their whistle-blower sources could face imprisonment.

      The most ominous indication of US-China conflict, far more serious
      than the diplomatic slights, came in a statement little noted by the
      media, issued by the Pentagon on the day Hu visited the White House,
      confirming that the US military regards China as a dangerous
      potential adversary and is repositioning its forces to deal with a
      future military confrontation with Beijing. Bryan Whitman, a
      spokesman for Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, told reporters that
      the Pentagon remained concerned about "a lack of transparency and
      some uncertainty surrounding China's future path. Therefore, we and
      others have to naturally hedge against the unknown."

      Whitman was responding to questions generated by reports this week
      in the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Times, both
      publications closely linked to the right-wing forces directing the
      Bush administration, that the Pentagon has increasingly focused its
      long-range military planning and preparations on the likelihood of
      conflict with China. This includes shifting forces from Europe to
      the Asia-Pacific region and increasing both aircraft carrier and
      submarine fleets in the Pacific.

      According to these reports, one key change involves new maintenance
      procedures for Navy warships to keep four aircraft carrier battle
      groups on station in the Pacific at the same time. Another involves
      the shifting of 8,000 Marines from Okinawa to Guam, the US island
      territory in the western Pacific that is being built up as a center
      for long-range bombers, spy aircraft and logistical support

      These measures were hardly mentioned in the press coverage of the US-
      China summit, and there was no hint of the possibility of mutual
      annihilation in the carefully orchestrated public statements by Bush
      and Hu. The 10,000 nuclear weapons in the US arsenal could destroy
      not only China, but all life on earth. For its part, China has
      hundreds of nuclear weapons, together with missiles that can reach
      most major US cities.

      The danger of a military conflict between the United States and
      China, with all its potentially cataclysmic consequences, does not
      arise out of the personalities of Bush or Hu, but out of deep-going
      objective contradictions. The same economic forces that have
      produced an ever-greater integration of the US and Chinese economies—
      perhaps the highest expression of the overall globalization of the
      world economy—lead inevitably to conflicts between these two powers
      over access to natural resources, control of key strategic positions
      and, ultimately, world power.

      From the early 1980s, the major imperialist powers—the US, Japan,
      the European powers—have poured capital into China, building China
      up as an offshore manufacturing platform that plays a decisive role
      in their class strategy, allowing them to put unrelenting pressure
      on labor costs and generating super-profits. The growth of world
      capitalism over the past quarter century is largely bound up with
      the opening up of China.

      But this same process has generated a challenge to US domination of
      the Asia-Pacific region. The growing industrial and financial might
      of China increases its strategic weight in world affairs and makes
      possible a more ambitious program of armament, diplomacy and
      cultivation of economic ties. US imperialism reacts to China's rise
      as a threat to its hegemony all along the eastern shore of Asia, as
      well as in the Indian Ocean and even in Africa and South America.

      For all the ritualistic invocations of democracy by American
      politicians, the US-China conflict has nothing to do with any
      repressive actions on the part of the Stalinist dictatorship in
      Beijing. On the contrary, maintenance of China as an almost
      inexhaustible supplier of cheap labor for international capital
      requires an internal political regime that denies workers any
      democratic rights and suppresses all opposition to the most brutal
      sweatshop methods.

      Corporate America relies on the Beijing dictatorship to police and
      suppress the Chinese workers as well as to provide an increasingly
      important market for the sale of US goods. Hu Jintao's trip was
      clearly intended by the Chinese leadership to showcase this
      relationship. The Chinese president spent two days in Seattle,
      meeting with corporate executives, touring the Boeing aircraft
      factory and dining with Microsoft billionaire Bill Gates. In
      Washington, after his chilly reception at the White House, Hu was
      the guest of honor at a dinner sponsored by the US-China Business
      Council, where he was introduced by former secretary of state Henry
      Kissinger, an architect of the turn by US imperialism to cultivate
      Beijing in the early 1970s. More than 900 corporate executives
      attended the dinner, while several dozen more were guests at the
      White House luncheon.

      China has, if anything, proceeded extremely cautiously in response
      to the US drive to seize control of the oil resources of the Persian
      Gulf and Caspian basin, even though these are vital to the future
      development of the Chinese economy. Clearly, Beijing would rather
      use diplomatic and economic methods than risk a confrontation with

      The Bush administration's policy, however, has been considerably
      more provocative, with top officials like Defense Secretary Rumsfeld
      and Secretary of State Rice suggesting that China must have some
      dark and ulterior motive for building up its military forces—which
      remain far inferior technologically to the United States. There is a
      considerable degree of recklessness in this posturing, not only
      because of the danger of sparking military conflict, but because of
      China's growing role in the world financial system.

      China has accumulated the world's largest foreign currency reserves,
      surpassing Japan this year. The Chinese central bank holds more than
      $1 trillion, currently mostly in dollars, although it has begun, at
      least on a small scale, to shift some of these reserves into euros
      and the Japanese yen. As the New York Times observed in a commentary
      on Hu's trip, "If China were to begin a fire sale of these and other
      American securities—perhaps as part of a policy to loosen the yuan's
      peg to the dollar—American interest rates could increase
      significantly, delivering a powerful blow to the housing market and
      consumer spending." This in turn would undermine the ability of
      consumers and US corporations to pay their debts, with incalculable
      consequences for financial markets worldwide.
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