China and U.S. breathe sigh of relief: economy more important than human rights
Beijing (AsiaNews) - China's official media have defined the visit of Hillary Clinton as "a relief," because the new U.S. secretary of state has set aside the question of human rights, and talked instead about the economies of the two countries.
China Daily commented that "if the point of Hillary Rodham Clinton's maiden voyage overseas in her new role as United States secretary of state was to assure and reassure, she made it."
At a press conference in the capital, Clinton clearly explained that human rights in China must not be a distraction from the more vital questions of trade and the environment, and expressed hopes for closer collaboration between the two powers in confronting the economic crisis.
Just a few years ago, Clinton unleashed a harsh attack against Beijing, which had censored part of one of her books published in China, where it talked about women's rights.
Yu Wanli, an associate professor at the Centre for International and Strategic Studies at Peking University, said that after this visit issues like human rights and Tibet will be pushed to the sidelines, in order to "work on something meaningful now." The American decision brings a "sigh of relief" for Beijing, since there are significant anniversaries this year that could lead to social tensions: the 50th anniversary of the revolts in Tibet, and the 20th anniversary of the massacre in Tiananmen Square.
Clinton also breathed a "sigh of relief," because China has considered the economy more important than the (past) criticisms about human rights: to the request that Beijing continue to buy and accumulate American Treasury bonds, the Chinese said yes. More precisely, Chinese foreign minister Yang Jiechi said that China wants its foreign currency reserves - at 1.95 trillion dollars, the largest in the world - to be invested safely, at good value and liquidity. But he added that China wants to continue to work with the United States. Similar assurances have been given by President Hu Jintao.
Clinton said that China and the United States find themselves "in the same boat," and are "rowing in the same direction." Beijing holds about 700 billion dollars in U.S. Treasury bonds. But the leadership is under pressure to diversify its holdings, because of the depreciation of the dollar. The economic crisis afflicting the United States risks reducing to nothing the value of its bonds.
According to the analyst Wang Xiangwei, however, Beijing has no alternative but to support the U.S. economy and invest in U.S. Treasury bonds, precisely as the Obama administration is seeking new funds to pay for the 787 billion dollar economic stimulus package. Wang Xiangwei (c.f. today's edition of the South China Morning Post) says that there seems to be some minor blackmail on the part of the United States: if China does not buy Treasury bonds, information will be published in the United States about the money that the leadership and their relatives have deposited in banks there.