Money talks

A handful of human rights NGO’s are up in arms because Madame Secretary Clinton is not going to beat China up over human rights abuses during her upcoming visit.  The State Department announced that human rights would be “an important issue” for Clinton but that she would be careful to only raise this important issue when “appropriate”.  Groups like Amnesty International believe that only the United States has the power to move China on the issue of human rights, so to hear that Madame Secretary will only discuss them as an aside when the important talking wraps up strikes the human rights campaigners as defeat.  It probably is defeat.  And while the upset is understandable, it stems from an inability to connect dots outside their specific area of concern.

China has never been pushed on human rights, particularly by anyone named Clinton.  The same consternation existed when Madame Secretary’s husband worked to have China become the most-favored nation of the United States and to bring about its ascension into the WTO.  The same caveat was employed then: (roughly) “It’s very important to us, but not as important as other things.”  Diplomacy is an art of many personas, the one presented to the public almost never gives an indication of the true face beneath the pronouncements.  In fact, it is almost always carefully desinged not to reveal much of anything unless you know the code and read between the lines.

Either Secretary Clinton is terrible at diplomatic code speak or she just doesn’t care if the mask slips.

She remarked to reports in Seoul, “But our pressing on those issues can’t interfere on the global economic crisis, the global climate change crisis and the security crisis.”  Rare is the event of a top-level diplomat speaking so honestly.  Allow me to rephrase, “Look, I’m heading to Beijing with hat-in-hand.  If you honestly expect me to harangue them for jailing the Fulon-gong, then you’re delusional.  You wouldn’t walk into the bank and preface a mortgage application with demands on the banker’s behavior, yet you expect me to do just that?  You’re all out of your frickin’ minds.”

It wasn’t much more than a week ago that a director-general at the China Banking Regulatory Commission said, “We hate you guys. Once you start issuing $1 trillion-$2 trillion [$1,000bn-$2,000bn] . . .we know the dollar is going to depreciate, so we hate you guys but there is nothing much we can do.”* Another statement of uncharateristic bluntness.

So not only is Clinton going to see the banker, she’s going to see a very upset banker.  Her boss has already signed a massive stimulus plan; the  military machine must be kept running; and there are two very conflicts that require large, extra-budgetary expenditures.  All of this on an empty bank account.  She knows who pays the bills, even if Amnesty International and Students for a Free Tibet do not…or don’t want to think that these realities factor into US behavior towards China.

She’s going to Beijing on her knees.  Welcome to the New American Century.

*Quote is from an FT.com article that now requires a paid subscription.

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~ by Lex on February 21, 2009.

One Response to “Money talks”

  1. We are currently a necessary evil to the Chinese. We are that relative that always shows up with our hands out. We need each other right now and our ability to “look the other way” will likely get even more fine tuned…

    Also, I’m curious about some of these NGOs – what did they really expect? China just had the world’s scrutiny with the Olympic games. All those cameras didn’t change anything – what power exactly did they think Madame Secretary of State possessed?

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