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老成持國 -- P. Hartcher

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The blind ambitions of warming superpowers


Peter Hartcher, 05/08/12


It is historically unprecedented that the world experiences the rise of a great new power without a war. But the evidence of the last week is a promising portent for the future of the Asia-Pacific.


Britain's Economist magazine was just one of many expecting that the blind Chinese dissident who took refuge in the US embassy in Beijing would precipitate a full crisis between the world's two biggest economies.


"At rare moments the future of a nation, even one teeming with 1.3 billion souls, can be bound up in the fate of a single person," the magazine editorialised. And it might have been so.


The world braced for a convulsion between the reigning superpower and the potential one. It was a tense week as they negotiated a deal, and then the deal collapsed. But the crisis didn't come - a second deal was reached and all parties declared victory.


The truly remarkable fact is that the case of Chen Guangcheng was the crisis that didn't happen.


Chen rose to fame as an activist campaigning against the Chinese government's practice of forced abortions as part of its one-child policy. After being jailed on a charge of "sedition", he'd been held under strict house arrest for a year and a half with his wife and child. He and his wife had been regularly beaten, Chen says. He had emerged as a cause celebre with the US Christian lobby as well as the international human rights community. The US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, last November called for China to release him from house arrest; Australia, too, had made representations on his behalf.


His escape to the US embassy was especially fraught, coming at a time of quickening political adrenalin in both countries; the US presidential election is due in November, and China in October is due to conduct its first leadership changeover in a decade.


It was remarkable that the Chen incident was resolved in just a week - the last time the US sheltered a Chinese dissident, in 1989, he was forced to live in the embassy for nearly a year before the government allowed him to be flown to London. It was even more extraordinary that, as the Chen incident was being negotiated in the glare of the global media, the two governments were able to agree on a major set of new market-opening deals.


In yet further evidence of a new maturity in the relationship, China's Defence Minister arrived in San Francisco at the weekend to declare: "China and the US are not competing rivals in a zero-sum game, but partners with mutual benefits, whose common interests far outweigh their differences."


The visit by General Liang Guanglie was the first to the US by a Chinese defence minister in nine years.


There is good, bad and ugly to emerge from the Chen incident, and this is the good - that two great powers have achieved a new and impressive stability in their relations. They have just demonstrated a strategic equilibrium that very few experts and observers thought possible.


An editorial in the Communist Party's mouthpiece, the People's Daily, expressed the hope that the two countries could "improve their co-operative partnership from a strategic height and a long-term perspective," and it seems that this is, indeed, what is under way.


So much for the good. The bad to emerge from the incident is that while Beijing might have been prepared to swiftly agree to settle the Chen case, it has intensified its repression of his friends and allies.


The government-controlled nationalist Global Times website may have written nonchalantly last week that "China can take a composed attitude when such cases happen again," but there is no evidence that the Chen case is any kind of turning point in China's tolerance for dissent.


The Chinese leadership has agreed to allow Chen and his family to travel to the US to study. But it is plainly signalling its basic attitude to dissidents by rounding up, arresting and beating Chen's associates over the past few days. Indeed, the Global Times went on to warn Washington that if it allowed its Beijing diplomatic compound to become an "escape route for more extreme elements", it would be "too much for the US embassy to bear". It's safe to assume that the embassy will be guarded henceforth by the Chinese security agencies from the outside with even greater vigilance than the Americans guard it from the inside.


And the ugly? The Chen case also showed US politics in an unflattering light. When the initial Sino-American deal over Chen seemed to be falling apart, the US Republican candidate for the presidency, Mitt Romney, raced to exploit the moment.


Romney castigated the Obama administration for its handling of the case, calling it a "day of shame for the Obama administration" and "a dark day for freedom".


He did this while Hillary Clinton was still in Beijing, still negotiating the new trade agreements, and still trying to settle the Chen case. If Romney had any real concern for Chen, or for the US national interest, he would have kept mum until the outcome was clear and Clinton had left China.


But by showing a concern only for his own narrowest political interest, elevating the opportunity to attack Obama over all else, he showed just how petty, squabbling and disappointing Western democracy can be.


The Chen case was a heartening sign that grown-ups are prevailing in Washington and Beijing in the conduct of one of the world's most vital and difficult relationships. Mitt Romney is not one of them.


Peter Hartcher is the international editor.



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政治理想主義與政治現實主義 - B. KELLER



Diplomats and Dissidents


BILL KELLER, 05/13/12


DISSIDENTS are heroic. They speak truth to power and challenge us to be better. They put human faces on the victims of abhorrent regimes. Their stories inspire the less brave.


Dissidents are difficult. They moralize. They don’t compromise. They don’t know when to shut up. They don’t see the Big Picture. All the qualities that made them dissidents in the first place can make them irritants to American diplomats who have important business to transact with countries that don’t share our values.


The case of the blind Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng, which briefly wrought havoc in the U.S. embassy, is a good occasion to contemplate the perennial tension between our respect for human rights and our need to deal with undemocratic regimes on issues like nuclear proliferation, trade, counterterrorism and climate change. Our relationship with China is perhaps the hardest test out there, because it has an atrocious human rights record but holds the keys to the deadly puzzles of North Korea and Iran, not to mention America’s mortgage.


At this writing Chen’s situation seems to be mostly resolved. It is likely that he moves to America with his family, unlikely that he returns to China anytime soon, and unknown whether reprisals will befall the outspoken friends who helped his daring escape from provincial house arrest. Despite some bobbles — suggesting an eagerness to get this distraction out of the way before a big bilateral meeting — the Americans handled this diplomatic grenade reasonably well. But I hope the experience has not left them feeling that dissidents are more trouble than they’re worth.


The fault line on human rights is not partisan; both Republicans and Democrats have at times been torn by internecine dissension over whether to speak up or intervene when freedom is tormented in faraway places. Candidates who talk a good game on human rights often lose their enthusiasm when they have to actually govern. The real divide is between camps that are crudely labeled realists and idealists.


Groups like Human Rights Watch and Freedom House and Amnesty International and a legion of more specialized lobbies labor passionately to force human rights onto the official agenda. They argue that American interests are inseparable from American ideals, and that high-profile cases like Chen’s are not distractions but opportunities. Their job is to hold official feet to the fire, and they can sometimes seem as unbending as the dissidents they defend.


But the most expert of these advocates understand (at least when the microphones are off) that America operates in the real world: that our influence over the internal abuses of other countries is limited; that it’s easier to condemn a relatively inconsequential regime than one that provides us with oil or military bases; that humiliating leaders of countries like China may strengthen the hand of hard-liners; that sometimes quiet diplomacy is more effective than a public rebuke. They get all of that, but idealists believe a consistent, patient mix of pressures and incentives, public and private, can nudge an authoritarian regime in a civilized direction. “At the end of the day, no one likes to be an outcast,” said Nicholas Bequelin, who covers China for Human Rights Watch.


The realists, whose reigning philosopher is that master of realpolitik Henry Kissinger, counter that wrapping ourselves in human rights may play well for domestic audiences, but it impedes progress on vital issues, especially in the case of countries like China that put a premium on respect.


“The Chinese are very focused on issues of face,” said Kenneth Lieberthal, a China expert who worked in the Clinton administration and now is based at the Brookings Institution. “It’s very hard to be effective if you are very public.”


The realists are not necessarily indifferent. They argue that we can more effectively influence autocracies by exposing them to our values, and by setting a good example at home. Fair enough. But realists, who put a premium on nuance in dealing with countries like China, can be remarkably unnuanced on this subject. In a wicked takedown of Kissinger’s 2011 book, “On China,” Andrew Nathan, a China expert at Columbia, pointed out that in arguing against the elevation of human rights Kissinger combines “three fallacies: that the universality of international human rights is a matter of opinion rather than international law, that human rights equals American principles of governance, and that promoting human rights means holding hostage progress in all other areas.”


President Obama’s record on human rights is — like that of most of his predecessors — mixed. Bill Clinton intervened to stop genocide in Bosnia, but he had to be dragged there. George W. Bush made “the freedom agenda” a signature of his administration, but America’s moral authority was seriously compromised by the excesses of the war on terror. Obama has shown little interest in beaming his personal spotlight on prominent dissidents — the Dalai Lama, to cite one conspicuous snub. He was slow to hail the 2009 Green Revolution in Iran. And the silence on the crackdown in Bahrain, which provides us both oil and a naval base, is excruciating. (“The U.S. is to Bahrain as Russia is to Syria,” one activist said, overstating an uncomfortable truth.) On the other hand, Obama has stopped American agencies from using torture; he has promoted Internet freedom; he sent special ops to pursue Joseph Kony, the crazed butcher of central Africa; he was cautious on the Arab Spring, but ultimately helped ease Mubarak toward the exit in Egypt and backed the opposition in Libya. Hillary Clinton’s speech embracing gay rights as a civilized international norm should be required listening — in North Carolina.


The first thing the U.S. did right in Chen’s case was to offer sanctuary. Given Chen’s prominence and bravery, this was an obvious call, but the Americans did not merely let him in, they smuggled him into the embassy past Chinese security, and promptly assembled a knowledgeable team to face the Chinese. It was a brazen show of what we stand for. When Chen declared his determination to stay in China, the State Department negotiated a truly extraordinary deal with the Chinese, including an understanding that he would be allowed to live his life more freely. (Whether the Chinese would have kept their side of the deal is an excellent question; we don’t know, because Chen changed his mind about staying.) The U.S. provided Chen with cellphones to keep in touch with supporters, and even to call in to a Congressional hearing — and in the face of American resolve, the Chinese let it all happen.


A couple of factors favored Chen. The Chinese Foreign Ministry, which seems to have won an internal debate with security services over his fate, had some potent arguments in favor of playing good cop. For one thing, local authorities who flouted Chinese law could be blamed for Chen’s persecution. For another, sending Chen to America means good riddance to a defiant voice. (Although in the age of social media, it’s no longer clear that exile means irrelevance. Chen’s adventure has been a phenomenon on China’s version of Twitter, including wonderful pictures of ordinary Chinese paying silent tribute to the blind lawyer by posting photos of themselves in dark glasses.)


Kissinger’s disciples argue that we need to keep these individual dissident cases off the table, lest they lead to deadlock on weightier issues. But China also has an interest in those weightier issues. This time, they were willing to bend in order to prevent an embarrassing drama from getting in the way.


Professor Nathan says when the U.S. soft-pedals human rights, it reinforces the view of many Chinese that the United States is in decline, inviting miscalculation of our seriousness. The Chen case, on the contrary, illustrates that — sometimes — if we stand firm we can have our diplomacy and our self-respect. “It is good Kissinger realism,” Nathan told me, “to show yourself to be strong in support of your own values.”



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在禮貌上或外交詞令上,雙方政府把中、美關係定位為「戰略伙伴」;實際上,它們不過是共同分贓,或雙方政府試圖維持一個穩定運作的國際社會,以便各自的財團(= 跨國企業)共同宰制世界資源的關係;因此,把中、美關係稱之為「狼狽為奸」也恰到好處和入木三分。


在我看來,將雙方關係建立在「利益」上,遠比建立在什麼「道義之交」或「國際和平」要穩固。除了「道義」和「和平」(包括「民主」、「人權」、... 等等)往往是另有圖謀的「羊頭」外,世人多數見利忘義。一開始就「以利結合」和根據實力分配利益的關係才能實事求是,領導人及其團隊能夠理性的衡量雙方(如果發生)衝突可能導致的損失及後果。這種運作模式才不至於受到雙方社會中一些意識型態學究或意識型態文字打手的干擾維持可長可久的合作。這是何以「陳光誠事件」或類似的隨機偶發意外不會影響中、美關係的基本原因。

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中美關係持續穩定 - 白樂琦


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U.S.-China Ties Survive Stress Test


Douglas H. Paal, 05/11/12


Despite a series of diplomatic challenges, relations between the U.S. and China have remained productive. Personal diplomacy is paying dividends.


Since February, there have been repeated incidents in U.S.-China relations that could have produced significant strains and disruptions between Beijing and Washington. Nonetheless, relations so far have remained productive and durable. This is likely a product of the Obama administration’s top-level initiative since 2010 to draw China’s leaders into personal engagement in managing affairs to avoid or deal with tensions.


The latest test was the bizarre and heroic episode last week of the “barefoot” blind lawyer and human rights protestor Chen Guangcheng finding his way out of extra-legal confinement and being spirited into the U.S. embassy in Beijing. Despite what must have been serious differences between China’s security forces and foreign policy officials over how to treat him and the Americans, Chen has so far been able to continue planning to take his family to the United States to study law in the next few weeks.


When the former police chief of Chongqing visited the U.S. consulate in Chengdu in February, he revealed innermost secrets of crimes and corruption by family and associates of a potential top leader, Bo Xilai, the party secretary of Chongqing. Reports are rife but unconfirmed that the chief of the security forces in China, Zhou Yongkang, has since suffered lost influence due to his relationship with Bo. Yet there’s an absence of signs that the security forces are seeking to retaliate by making a case that the United States needs to be taught a lesson about its diplomatic interference in China’s internal affairs.


Two weeks ago, in a letter to Congress intended to unblock the nomination of new Assistant Secretary of Defense for Asian and Pacific Security Affairs Mark Lippert, the White House promised to consider, but not necessarily sell, new military aircraft to Taiwan. This is a perennially neuralgic issue for Beijing, yet it seems so far to have brushed the letter off more as internal maneuvering over personnel than a real sign of an impending arms sale, which is an accurate assessment.


Quite impressively, China swallowed all these events and proceeded to host a comparatively productive and smooth Strategic and Economic Dialogue (S&ED) last week. Though most observers wouldn’t have noticed the conclave, given the excited reporting about Chen Guangcheng that dominated the news, it produced modest breakthroughs on financial services investment, the currency regime, and expanded high technology exports. The companion Strategic Security Dialogue between the two militaries also met smoothly and at greater length than previously. These outcomes are respectable in what is a sensitive political year in both countries.


Further, Chinese Defense Minister Liang Guanglie traveled to the United States in the immediate aftermath of the media turmoil last week for the first visit at his level in nine years, a gap produced by successive spats that made the People’s Liberation Army reluctant to meet. At neither of these two recent military meetings did China raise the Taiwan arms letter, when its officers could easily have done so in the context of other discussion about continued U.S. sales to Taiwan.


China’s relative flexibility in the negotiations over the fate of Chen, when it could have escalated allegations of the U.S. embassy violating the Vienna Convention through inappropriate activity at its diplomatic posts, additionally indicates Beijing doesn’t want trouble with the United States now or during this political year.


Why has Beijing been so restrained and relatively cooperative? The possibility can’t be ruled out that the strife within China’s leadership ranks, though almost invisible to non-participants, is so delicate and tricky that it’s easier and conceivably safer for the leaders to compartmentalize the U.S. relationship and insulate it from Chinese politics. Still, U.S. missions in China have been so directly involved in those politics that it’s hard to imagine some elements, possibly the security forces, wouldn’t want to play the “U.S. card” to defend their interests. Indeed, there may be a mountain of magma building that we can’t now detect.


Further, the consequences of the fall of Bo may have thrown the balance of vested interests in the ruling Politburo Standing Committee out of kilter. Under the nine-member body, consensus became the watchword and possibly a major impediment to new directions in policy. In the Chen affair, President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao could well have found themselves able to make decisions quickly, with the S&ED calendar pressing them to act, without laborious consensus building. The speech Hu made to the S&ED suggests a context of considerable self-confidence and articulated a long-term constructive approach to relations with the United States. And of course, traditional clumsy handling of the Chen case would have undermined Hu’s campaign to build China’s “soft power.”


On present evidence the more likely explanation is that the Obama administration’s diplomatic initiative in September 2010 – when tensions were rising between China and the United States and several of China’s neighbors – to create a positive agenda of interaction and cooperation between the two countries’ leaders is now paying dividends. Reciprocal visits by their presidents and vice presidents, and regular communications between the secretary of state and national security advisor and their Chinese counterparts have reduced suspicions about the other’s intent.


When, for example, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton appealed privately to her opposite number in the S&ED, Dai Bingguo, for flexibility in disposing of the case of Chen, Beijing resisted what must have been a temptation to toy with the Americans over their diplomatic missteps and changing requests. Beijing made a simple declaration that Chen was a free citizen and welcome to study abroad, and so far hasn’t permitted that plan to be impeded and reportedly has sent a government official to help Chen prepare.


If this analysis is correct, the recent episodes illuminate the value of constructive diplomacy of a personal nature at the top levels, even between countries with such different political systems and cultures. It suggests that it should prove durable for the remainder of this year, even in the face of further tough tests. This is a remarkable achievement in light of the widespread belief that distrust between the two countries and their leaders is deepening.


Douglas H. Paal is vice president for studies at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. He previously served as vice chairman of JPMorgan Chase International and as the unofficial US representative to Taiwan as director of the American Institute in Taiwan. This is an edited version of an article that was originally published here.



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