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Clinton adviser quits over China rhetoric

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  • Greg Cannon
    http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0408/9719.html Clinton adviser quits over China rhetoric By LISA LERER | 4/18/08 8:32 PM EST A top expert on China has
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      http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0408/9719.html

      Clinton adviser quits over China rhetoric
      By LISA LERER | 4/18/08 8:32 PM EST

      A top expert on China has resigned as an informal
      adviser to Hillary Rodham Clinton’s campaign in the
      wake of the candidate's increasingly harsh anti-China
      rhetoric.

      Richard Baum, a political science professor at the
      Center for Chinese Studies at UCLA, resigned in light
      of what he called “grossly misguided accusations” made
      by Clinton about China.

      “As a lifelong Democrat, it saddens me that Sen.
      Clinton has chosen to take the low road in her effort
      to gain our party’s presidential nomination,” Baum
      said in an e-mail to Politico.

      The Clinton campaign did not immediately respond to
      requests for comment by Politico.

      Clinton recently has ratcheted up her anti-China
      sentiments, criticizing the country on everything from
      its human rights violations to its undervalued
      currency.

      “I’m the only candidate who isn’t just talking about
      cracking down on China but I have a specific plan on
      how to do it,” she told union members at the AFL-CIO’s
      Building Trades National Legislative Conference on
      Wednesday.

      “China should be our trade partner, not our trade
      master.”

      Baum was part of an informal advisory group of East
      Asia specialists formed by the campaign in January.

      Led by Susan Shirk — who served as deputy assistant
      secretary of state in the Bureau of East Asia and
      Pacific Affairs under President Bill Clinton from 1997
      to 2000 — the group of a dozen or so advisers has
      given the campaign input on issues affecting U.S.
      foreign policy in Asia. Shirk now directs the
      University of California’s system-wide Institute on
      Global Conflict and Cooperation. She could not be
      reached for comment.

      Over the past three or four months, Baum said, the
      group held several telephone conferences with the
      campaign. During those calls, a few members advised
      Clinton to avoid what they considered “gratuitous
      China bashing,” particularly on inflammatory issues
      such as human rights violations, the trade deficit,
      currency valuation and the loss of American jobs to
      China.

      “Our reasoning was that while China certainly bears a
      share of responsibility for these (and other)
      problems, much (if not most) of the blame, at least on
      the economic issues, lies elsewhere,” Baum wrote in an
      e-mail. He attributed the problems, at least in part,
      to America’s high level of consumption, deficit
      spending and selective trade protectionism.

      On the question of human rights, Baum said he and
      others in the advisory group believe the Chinese
      leaders respond better to persistent advice than
      “self-righteous finger-pointing aimed at publicly
      shaming and humiliating them.”

      Clinton, however, took a different approach.

      In early April, she urged President Bush to boycott
      the opening ceremonies of the Beijing Olympics, citing
      China’s recent violent crackdown on Tibetan protesters
      and refusal to condemn the genocide in Darfur.

      That sounded some alarm bells for Baum and other
      members of the advisory group, who felt that a
      presidential decision to boycott the ceremony could
      have long-term diplomatic ramifications.

      “Calls for a presidential boycott should not be
      opportunistically injected into Democratic Party
      politics during a heated presidential primary
      campaign,” Baum said.

      A week later, Baum felt that Clinton crossed a line.
      At an appearance April 14 at a trade forum in
      Pittsburgh, she called for punitive trade sanctions
      and retaliatory measures against China. That’s when he
      decided to resign.

      Since then, she’s continued to hammer China on a host
      of issues.

      “I will get tough on China,” she said on Wednesday
      during the speech in Washington. “Because right now,
      China’s steel comes here, our jobs go there. China’s
      exports, our jobs across the economy are sent there.
      We play by the rules, they manipulate their currency.
      We get tainted fish, lead-based toys, polluted
      pharmaceuticals.”

      Her stance is particularly curious given her husband’s
      historic support for China.

      Then-President Bill Clinton made his first visit to
      mainland China in 1998, making him the first president
      to visit since troops crushed pro-democracy
      demonstrators in Tiananmen Square in 1989.

      At the time, Republicans in Congress attacked Clinton
      for his decision to be welcomed by China’s president,
      Jiang Zemin, in Tiananmen Square.

      “I believe that leaders of vision and imagination and
      courage will find a way to put China on the right side
      of history — and keep it there,” he famously said
      during that visit.

      On Friday, The Huffington Post reported that the
      former president has earned $1.25 million for six
      speaking engagements for Chinese businesses and forums
      since leaving the White House. He also pushed for more
      open economic relations between the U.S. and China.

      Of course, not all China experts agree with Baum’s
      strong stance.

      Every president since Nixon, after getting into
      office, has moved toward greater engagement with
      China, said Kenneth Lieberthal, a professor at the
      University of Michigan’s business school and former
      special assistant to President Clinton on Asia-related
      issues.

      Lieberthal, who declined to comment on his
      relationship with the Clinton campaign, has said he
      would advise against boycotting the Beijing Olympics.

      “I thought [Clinton’s speech] reflected what
      unfortunately tends to happen in political campaigns,
      which is that there is an effort to tell the story
      that fits well with the preconceptions of the
      audience,” he said.

      Beth Frerking contributed to this report.
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