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Barack needs Hu, who misses George

US President Barack Obama is making Beijing nervous. Communist Party leaders are worried about the implications of Obama’s slogan of ‘change’ in context of the US’ China policy, reports Reshma Patil.

world Updated: Jan 23, 2009 13:04 IST
Reshma Patil

US President Barack Obama is making Beijing nervous. Communist Party leaders are worried about the implications of Obama’s slogan of ‘change’ in context of the US’ China policy.

President Obama and his counterpart Hu Jintao in China — the biggest foreign holder of US treasuries — need each other to lift their economies out of the financial crisis. (A Chinese website even carried a cartoon of Superman Obama borrowing from his Chinese girlfriend who advises prudent spending).

But the reaction in Beijing’s government-run media clearly indicates that Communist authorities already miss Bush despite what they call his ‘wrecking-ball approach’ to world affairs.

“Anchoring relationship between the world’s single superpower and the largest developing country is no easy job. But the Bush administration managed it,” said an editorial this week in the State-run China Daily newspaper, a mouthpiece of Beijing’s foreign policy.

The paper rubbed in that ‘many wonder, or worry to be precise,’ whether President Obama would ignore the ‘hard-earned progress in bilateral ties’ from the Bush years.

During Obama’s live inaugural speech, Chinese television scrambled to censor his reference to communism and regimes that silence dissent. Some Chinese websites deleted the lines.

On the day Obama took oath, Beijing released a defence policy paper that warned the US that its arms sales to self-ruled Taiwan, over which China claims sovereignty, were ‘seriously harming’ Sino-US relations.

During his campaign, Obama had criticised China’s trade surplus with the US as ‘directly related to its manipulation of its currency’s value’.

“If China continues to inject capital into the US via the purchase of US treasuries, bilateral ties are sure to improve,” professor Shi Yinhong, at the Institute of International Relations of the Renmin University, told China Daily. But if US expectations for Chinese capital injection are not met, Shi said, the US could show its discontent through China’s financial market access.

A piece in the influential government-run Beijing Review said this month that the Obama team has a list for China, which, if not fulfilled, would harden their China policy. It listed areas of potential tension like scrutiny of Chinese labour standards as Americans urge Obama to prevent jobs from shifting abroad. “The Obama administration might increase its demands, asking China to send troops or capital aid to Afghanistan, while continuing to pressure China on its relations with Myanmar and Sudan. Therefore, the diplomatic relationship could become turbulent,’’ the article said.

The message from Beijing, as plainly stated in the China Daily, is that Obama should ‘generously embrace’ the Bush policy on China.