Longtime Washington and US government China policy analysts Richard C. Bush and Jeff Bader are out with an all-too Establishment piece that seems to live in its own dreamworld on US-China relations, calling on Obama and McCain to Tread Lightly On China:

The Beijing Olympics coincide with our party conventions heralding the countdown to November’s presidential election. With the world’s media spotlight on China and the United States, both presidential candidates will undoubtedly be tested by unforeseen developments.

Contenders Barack Obama and John McCain should avoid condemning China, and instead signal their intention to develop a personal relationship of trust with their Chinese counterpart soon after taking office. China’s human rights are best advanced through discrete encouragement, not negative sound bites.

In three election campaigns — in 1980, 1992 and 2000 — future U.S. presidents announced their intention to dramatically toughen national policy toward China. In each instance, the United States then endured months or years of costly fumbling. Bill Clinton, for instance, set conditions for approving Most Favored Nation status for China. But when China didn’t show sufficient improvements in human rights, the new president abandoned his policy after damaging U.S. credibility and Sino-American trust.

Since President Richard Nixon’s historic visit to China in 1972, all subsequent chief executives have ultimately stayed the course with the People’s Republic. The logic is simple: China has massive capacity to affect the world for better or worse. Cooperating with Beijing may challenge U.S. values, but the bond between nations improves global equanimity.

Presidential candidates should signal China’s leaders that they value a constructive and cooperative relationship with China. Personal relationships of trust are highly valued. The Chinese will react negatively if a new president throws difficult issues on the table before establishing such trust.

Yes, it is 2008 and there really are American policy thinkers still asking that we treat China “like a Ming vase.” Bush and Bader argue that when America gets tough with China, it results in policy failure, and instance the Clinton Administration failure on MFN. But the problem arises because China knows that because there are plenty of people working to undermine clear US policies on China, all it has to do is be patient and it can outlast any policy — there is a whole class of American officials and analysts dedicated to explaining that it isn’t China’s fault and we should just understand China better — just like this piece, whose position is that we should let Chinese reactions determine how we treat China — in other words, hand off our China policy to the Chinese. The reality is that China does whatever it wants no matter how it is treated, and the only way to negotiate with Beijing is with a Really Big Stick. “Trust” in the China case cannot lie in personal relationships between leaders, but must be instantiated in routines of interaction between the two states.

In a moment we’ll discuss why these two officials are so important, but I think once again it is time to bring out The Kitty Hawk Paragraph, to which I have added a few new events, and show how China treats its good friends and those who trust it:

Anyone who has observed China’s relations with the outside world for any length of time has seen this pattern again and again. In the midst of negotiations with the Vatican, it consecrates two bishops for the state Church. In the midst of negotiations over the Olympic Torch coming to Taiwan, it denies a visa to the representative of the city of Kaohsiung to discuss the games to be held there in 2009. Arriving in India for negotiations, its ambassador announces a whole Indian state is part of China. Last year the Chinese government shut down an expat magazine in China that was widely considered the most sympathetic and supportive expat rag in that nation. After attending the ASEAN meeting in November where it has positive interactions with ASEAN members, it immediately goes out and holds war games in waters disputed by those nations, without informing them. With ally Ma Ying-jeou newly elected President of Taiwan and needing 3,000 tourists a day, what do they send him? 1,000. After many years of France helping China, emphasizing its ’special relationship’ with China and demanding the Europe drop the post-Tiananmen ban on weapons sales to Beijing, who does China protest against during the Olympic Torch mess? France. And of course China gets the Olympics with promises to upgrade its rights situation, yet crackdowns on the internet and journalists intensify, while state security arrests double. Catch the pattern?

Particularly apropo is that last sentence, because China once again this week showed how effective the policy of “discreet encouragement” is: the IOC was Kitty Hawked by Beijing. The original agreement between the International Olympic Committee stipulated that Beijing must reporters in Beijing unrestricted internet access. And the IOC trusted Beijing….

The International Olympic Committee failed to press China to allow fully unfettered access to the Internet for the thousands of journalists arriving here to cover the Olympics, despite promising repeatedly that the foreign news media could “report freely” during the Games, Olympic officials acknowledged Wednesday.

Since the Olympic Village press center opened Friday, reporters have been unable to access scores of Web pages — among them those that discuss Tibetan issues, Taiwanese independence, the violent crackdown on the protests in Tiananmen Square and the Web sites of Amnesty International, the BBC’s Chinese-language news, Radio Free Asia and several Hong Kong newspapers known for their freewheeling political discourse.

The restrictions, which closely resemble the blocks that China places on the Internet for its citizens, undermine sweeping claims by Jacques Rogge, the International Olympic Committee president, that China had agreed to provide full Web access for foreign news media during the Games. Mr. Rogge has long argued that one of the main benefits of awarding the Games to Beijing was that the event would make China more open.

“For the first time, foreign media will be able to report freely and publish their work freely in China. There will be no censorship on the Internet,” Mr. Rogge told Agence France-Presse just two weeks ago.[MT: Sucka!]


Jonathan Watts, president of the Foreign Correspondents Club of China, said he was disappointed that Beijing had failed to honor its agreement to temporarily remove the firewall that prevented Chinese citizens from fully using the Internet.

“Obviously if reporters can’t access all the sites they want to see, they can’t do their jobs,” he said. “Unfortunately such restrictions are normal for reporters in China, but the Olympics were supposed to be different.”

As the NY Times report indicated, the fiasco was complete when US Senators, fresh from empowering the Bush Administration to spy on US citizens and curtail our liberties, introducing a resolution demanding that China not spy on its hotel guests even though those selfsame Senators have given the Bush Administration a green light on warrantless surveillance. There’s a point where interaction with the stupidity, hypocrisy, and spinelessness of the US Congress transcends the bounds of ordinary human cognitive abilities and becomes almost like an ecstatic religious experience….

And Bush and Bader say we should tread lightly with China and cultivate trust. Perhaps President Obama can include President Hu in his guanxi network and send him a red envelope now and then, but trust? By all means let us cultivate trust, but let us do it with a large Pacific navy and fat airbases brimming with late model fighter aircraft, and an alliance system that includes all the nations around China.

The worst aspect of this letter is not that its advice is bad. It is that the letter writers, longtime Dems, are advisors to the Obama campaign. I have not condemned the Dems for their Taiwan and China stances because I have heard good things privately — that new draft policy for the Dems calls for upgraded relations with Taiwan, and of course, as Randall Shriver said at his talk in Taipei earlier this month, both campaigns had asked the Bush Administration to unfreeze the arms sales to Taiwan. Those were hopeful signs. But an open and public call for policy like this is not a hopeful sign at all. It appears obvious, at least at this point, that US-China and US-Taiwan policy are going to be better off if McCain is elected. And that’s sad, because the world needs Obama, and not McCain.

A few years ago there was a controversy over facilitated communication, where the mother of the autistic child holds its hand as it types on a keyboard or writes. Subsequent studies went on to show that in fact the autistic child’s writing skills were the product of the facilitator, and not the child. For the center of the US political Establishment, US policy on China has become little more than a case of facilitated communication.