Fri, Jan 28, 2011 - Page 8 News List

How successful was Hu’s US visit?

By Sushil Seth

Chinese President Hu Jintao’s (胡錦濤) US visit has been called a success by some commentators. Judging by the pomp and ceremony extended to him by US President Barack Obama’s administration, the first of its kind to a visiting Chinese president, that should be the obvious conclusion.

And not surprisingly, the Chinese media were lapping it up, treating it as a relationship between two equals.

Xinhua news agency commented: “China and the United States agreed … to jointly establish a cooperative partnership based on mutual respect and mutual benefit.”

A BOOST FOR HU

Personally and politically for Hu, whose lackluster personality and performance has been a serious drawback of his presidency, the larger-than-life ceremonial treatment in the US certainly did some good back home.

As political science professor David Shambaugh said in a TV interview the other day, Hu has been a lame duck from the time he took over as his country’s president.

Indeed, China’s collective presidency after the death of Deng Xiaoping (鄧小平) is becoming a bit of a liability for the country’s governance because its president, especially after Jiang Zemin (江澤民), is a hostage to all sorts of competing and contending interests in the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and the military.

Therefore, Hu’s successor as president is not going to fare any better in this politically incestuous environment. And this will be a serious problem for China from the viewpoint of social and economic stability.

However, from the viewpoint of Hu, his US visit was the first and the last hurrah of his presidency. Things are not going to get any better than this. He will remain a lame duck president, even more so than before.

EMPTY WORDS?

In the context of his just-completed US visit, some commentators point to things Hu said and acknowledged that make this an important visit for US-China relations.

“China still faces many challenges in economic and social development. And a lot still needs to be done in China in terms of human rights,” Hu said. “We will continue our efforts to improve the lives of the Chinese people, and will continue our efforts to promote democracy and the rule of law in our country.”

It is considered important that Hu even acknowledged that there was a need to do more on human rights, and that democracy and rule of law remains China’s goal.

However, what does this abstract commitment mean? China’s leaders have said and acknowledged these things in the past, but have then gone on to do whatever was necessary to perpetuate the monopoly on power of the party and the suppression of human rights.

On Dec. 25, 2009, they sentenced the democracy activist Liu Xiaobo (劉曉波), who is now a Nobel laureate, to 11 years in prison for subversion, branding him a criminal.

And they threw tantrums to warn off the world against participating in the award ceremony in Norway for the absent Liu.

The world was, in effect, told to bugger off because this is the way they do things in China.

Obama obviously was not effective in pleading on behalf of Liu, his immediate successor as Noble peace laureate. That means that Liu is going to rot in China’s jails for a long time to come.

TRADE DEALS

However, Obama is happy that China has undertaken to buy US$45 billion worth of goods from the US, including a contract for 200 Boeing aircraft over three years. Some of these were old deals.

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