Obama Plays Good Cop to Google's Bad Cop with China

Tiananmen Square

President Obama received the new Chinese ambassador to the U.S., Zhang Yesui, with more than the customary platitudes promising a beneficial relationship between two countries. After all, the U.S. has essentially been pissing China off recently.

Google's much-ballyhooed strikes over internet freedom and censorship, though they lacked formal participation from the U.S. government, were still huge symbolic strikes against a Chinese regime more concerned with controlling its citizens than allowing them freedom of press and information. China has not bent an inch on their Internet policies, but the situation has been nothing but bad press for the country.

There are also debates over China's possibly suspect yuan currency:

The United States is also pressuring China to allow the yuan to appreciate, with lawmakers pushing the US Treasury to label Beijing a "currency manipulator" in a report due out next month.

And, perhaps worst of all, the U.S. has, at least in China's mind, implicitly supported either or both independence movements of Taiwan and Tibet, which goes against China's sometimes-violent chokehold on the two territories. Back in January, the U.S. government signed a 6.4-billion-dollar arms sale to Taiwan, and the very next month, Obama spoke with the Dalai Lama in the White House.

But China is simply too important a trading partner, both now and in the forseeable future, for Obama to risk angering them. Even now, alongside this news, the two countries are collaborating on a joint energy research facility which will have branches in both the US and China. That research facility, toward which both countries are putting up about $75 million in earmarks, will work towards improving "energy efficiency, clean coal technologies, carbon sequestration and green vehicles." And that's important, since China and the U.S. are the most energy-hungry countries on the planet, and both stand to make a whole ton of money solving that problem.

So for now, Obama has to kowtow a bit, say his piece about "reaffirming" Washington's "One China" policy, stating his "determination to further develop a positive relationship with China," and other such pleasantries. All that goes right in the face of Google's recent initiatives, which perhaps more accurately mirror the feelings of the country itself—but then, Google, unlike Obama, has very little to lose by insulting China.

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10 Comments

  • Gregory Ferenstein

    @Louann, why do you think severing trading ties would be more productive than engagement?

    --
    @ferenstein

  • Louann Oravec

    China is simply too important a trading partner.
    Why we buy more of their stuff, then they buy of ours. Maybe we should STOP buying their crap. Then the people will have a reason to revolt; no money coming in.

  • Aly-Khan Satchu

    Your Paragraph

    Google's much-ballyhooed strikes over internet freedom and censorship, though they lacked formal participation from the US government, were still huge symbolic strikes against a Chinese regime more concerned with controlling its citizens than allowing them freedom of press and information. China has not bent an inch on their Internet policies, but the situation has been nothing but bad press for the country.

    If anything Google hijacked the US Administration. It was therefore incumbent on the President to make it crystal clear that Sergei Brin did not write US Policy.

    Beyond Mountain View and yourself and outside the US this argument plays very differently to the way you are reporting it. Since when was Google's Mission To Make Life better for the Chinese People. That Comment was surely the straw that broke the Chinese Camel's back.

    We exist in an Information Century. Google is the Predominant Market Maker and Custodian of the World's Information. This Situation is surely set to rub against and collide with Individual States National Interest. Faux Naif Arguments whilst they might resonate at Home confirm a breath taking and worrying Naivete.

    Aly-Khan Satchu
    www.rich.co.ke