Posts tagged: President Obama

Events in Preparation for Hu’s State Visit

By , January 7, 2011

THE WHITE HOUSE

Office of the Press Secretary

______________________________________________________________________________

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                     January 7, 2011

Guidance on Events leading into the China State Visit

In advance of President Hu’s state visit to Washington on January 19, several senior members of the Obama Administration will be addressing different aspects of our relationship with China.

This weekend, Secretary Gates will travel to China to advance military-to-military ties between our two countries.  After he travels to China, Secretary Gates will also be making stops in Japan and the Republic of Korea.

On Wednesday the 12th, Secretary Geithner will delivers remarks at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS), where he will discuss our economic relationship with China, including our efforts to create balanced and sustainable global growth that supports jobs and opportunity for the American people.

On Thursday the 13th, Secretary Locke will be speaking to the U.S. – China Business Council, where he will discuss how leveling the playing field for U.S. businesses in the Chinese market will help spur global innovation and create jobs in America.

On Friday the 14th, Secretary Clinton will deliver a major address at the State Department that presents our broad vision of U.S. – China relations in the 21st century, including our efforts to make progress on a range of bilateral, regional and global issues.

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Imprisoned Chinese Dissident Wins Nobel Peace Prize

By , October 8, 2010

Liu Xiaobo

This morning, the Nobel Prize Committee announced the winner of its 2010 Nobel Peace Prize: Chinese human rights activist Liu Xiaobo (pronounced Leo See-ow Bwo).  But don’t expect Liu to be able to go to Norway to accept his prize; Liu is currently serving the first year of an 11-year prison term.

In all respects, Liu is perhaps the most famous of China’s human rights activists, at least internationally, and one of its longest serving.  Liu, an intellectual, literary critic, professor and writer, first emerged on the human rights scene in 1989 during the Tian’anmen student protests.  When the protests began in the Spring of 1989, Liu was at Columbia University in New York.  Immediately boarding a flight, Liu, a professor at Beijing Normal University, joined the students in hunger strikes on Tian’anmen Square.  But by June 3, sensing the danger of an impending crackdown, Liu encouraged the students to withdraw from the Square before the Chinese army was likely to violently suppress the student-led protests.  While many of the students did leave the Square, Liu’s pleas were for naught; on the streets surrounding the Square, an unknown number, likely reaching in the thousands, were killed.  After the suppression of the movement, Liu was tried for “counter-revolutionary propaganda and incitement” and convicted although ultimately exempted from criminal punishment. 

During the 1990s, Liu’s commitment to greater human rights in China did not waiver.  In the long tradition of the Chinese dissident, Liu took up the pen and during the 1990s, wrote a series of essays criticizing the Chinese government and calling for greater democracy for the Chinese people.  With his essays receiving accolades from abroad and censure from those high up in the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), the Chinese government detained him and sent him to a labor camp through China’s “Re-education Through Labor” (RETL).  RETL is an administrative punishment, not a criminal one and has become an important tool of the Chinese government to suppress dissent.  Even if China amends its criminal laws to be more in line with international standards, as long as it keeps RETL, the CCP will always have a way to suppress those individuals it deems a threat to its rule.  Individuals like Liu Xiaobo. 

But Liu’s current trouble stems from a document he helped author in late 2008 known as “Charter 08.”  Modeled after Charter 77, the document that sparked the Velvet Revolution in Czechoslovakia, Charter 08, called for greater human rights in China, the end of one-party rule and an independent legal system.  The morning that Charter 08 was to be posted to the internet, Liu was detained by police.  Liu was eventually arrested, tried and in December 2009, sentenced to a harsh term of 11 years.  In general, the average dissident sentence in China is between 3 and 5 years. 

Given Liu’s current imprisonment doe this Nobel Peace Prize even matter?  Most certainly.  First, it brings attention to the weakness of the current Chinese regime. While most news stories in the Western press discuss China’s growing economic might and its increased military muscle and portray a China that is sure to achieve global dominance, Liu represents the very real flip-side of that story – a communist party that is increasingly fearful of any threats to its authority and that in many ways is retaining one-party rule on a shoe-string.  Second, the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to Liu after vigorous protest and threats from the Chinese government.  In fact, the Chinese government’s response has been shockingly quick – issuing a statement that Liu is a criminal and awarding him the prize is in contravention to the mission of the Nobel Committee.  Given that many governments have shirked from confronting China on its recent suppression of rights activists for fear of upsetting trade ties, the Nobel Committee’s action reflects its commitment to human rights and acknowledges the importance of human rights in Western diplomacy. 

But most importantly, the Nobel Committee’s actions will bring greater attention to Liu within China.  Although famous internationally, with media and internet censorship domestically, many Chinese are unfamiliar with Liu and his quest for greater human rights.  While censorship of the awarding of the Nobel Prize to Liu will surely exist in China, because this news is so huge, stories will slip through the Great Firewall, and those Chinese with access to the internet will learn more of Liu’s work and the push for human rights in China. 

But the award does not come lightly.  If history is a guide, the Chinese government will likely increase repression on other rights activists in China in the immediate aftermath and abuse of Liu in prison is a very real possibility. 

And from the White House and last Year’s Noble Peace Prize Winner:                                          

THE WHITE HOUSE

Office of the Press Secretary

______________________________________________________________________________

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                            October 8, 2010

Statement by the President on the Awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to Liu Xiaobo 

I welcome the Nobel Committee’s decision to award the Nobel Peace Prize to Mr. Liu Xiaobo.  Last year, I noted that so many others who have received the award had sacrificed so much more than I.  That list now includes Mr. Liu, who has sacrificed his freedom for his beliefs.  By granting the prize to Mr. Liu, the Nobel Committee has chosen someone who has been an eloquent and courageous spokesman for the advance of universal values through peaceful and non-violent means, including his support for democracy, human rights, and the rule of law. 

As I said last year in Oslo, even as we respect the unique culture and traditions of different countries, America will always be a voice for those aspirations that are universal to all human beings.  Over the last 30 years, China has made dramatic progress in economic reform and improving the lives of its people, lifting hundreds of millions out of poverty.  But this award reminds us that political reform has not kept pace, and that the basic human rights of every man, woman and child must be respected.  We call on the Chinese government to release Mr. Liu as soon as possible.

White House Press Release on Dalai Lama Visit and the Chinese Reaction

By , February 19, 2010

On Thursday, immediately following President Barack Obama’s meeting with the Dalai Lama, the White House issued the below press release and photo:

Official White House Photo of President Obama and Dalai Lama

Official White House Photo of President Obama and Dalai Lama

Statement from the Press Secretary on the President’ s Meeting with His Holiness the XIV Dalai Lama

“The President met this morning at the White House with His Holiness the XIV Dalai Lama.  The President stated his strong support for the preservation of Tibet’s unique religious, cultural and linguistic identity and the protection of human rights for Tibetans in the People’s Republic of China. The President commended the Dalai Lama’s “Middle Way” approach, his commitment to nonviolence and his pursuit of dialogue with the Chinese government.  The President stressed that he has consistently encouraged both sides to engage in direct dialogue to resolve differences and was pleased to hear about the recent resumption of talks.  The President and the Dalai Lama agreed on the importance of a positive and cooperative relationship between the United States and China.”

Meanwhile, in China, the state-run news agency Xinhua, issued what appears to be a fairly tepid response given the Chinese government’s prior saber rattling:

China urges concrete U.S. actions to maintain healthy ties after Obama-Dalai meeting

BEIJING, Feb. 19 (Xinhua) — China urged the United States early Friday morning to take concrete actions for healthy development of bilateral ties after U.S. President Barack Obama’s meeting with the Dalai Lama.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu said in a statement it was regardless of China’s repeated solemn representations for the U.S. to obstinately arrange the meeting between Obama and the Dalai Lama.

“The U.S. act grossly violated the norms governing the international relations, and ran counter to the principles set forth in the three China-U.S. joint communiques and the China-U.S. joint statement,” he said.

The Obama Visit to China – What the U.S. Press Missed

By , November 23, 2009
DSC04715Originally Posted on the Huffington Post.
 

 

 Beijing, China – The U.S. press has not been kind to President Barack Obama and his recent visit to China.  Claiming that the U.S.’ tone has become conciliatory toward China, that the trip “yielded precious little” and even oddly comparing the Obama Administration’s behavior on the visit to a one-party, authoritarian regime, the U.S. press has all but designated the trip a failure.

But the trip was most certainly not a failure and in many ways fulfilled the U.S. press’ predictions – an event filled with a huge agenda covering a multitude of global issues, likely offering few deliverables, and probably playing down, at least publically, human rights.

So if the trip confirmed the press’ earlier predictions, then what’s got their panties all in a bunch?  Perhaps the one thing that upsets the press more than anything is a lack of access, and on this trip, the press certainly played second fiddle.  Questions were not taken from the press during last Tuesday’s press conference and very little other access was offered to the President.  But with only a day and a half in Beijing, this trip was not really about the press.

But in measuring President Obama’s trip based solely on their access, or lack of, the U.S. press has failed to report on some pretty substantial results of President Obama’s trip to China.  In what you likely will not find in other media outlets that are still licking their wounds from an alleged snub, below are some of the surprising deliverables from the visit.    

1.  Increased Military-to-Military Contact and High Level Military Exchanges

If the lack of communication between the U.S. and Chinese militaries does not keep you up at night, well it should.  The U.S. has a better relationship with Russia’s military than it does with China’s, but has more potential to cross paths with China’s because of the U.S.’ military presence in Asia.  Without proper channels of communication between the two militaries, a small skirmish can easily become a major crisis, as President Obama knows from his first months in office when Chinese navy ships circled and threatened a U.S. navy vessel in the South China Sea. 

Adding to the lack of communication is China’s broad interpretation of its “exclusive economic zone” (EEZ). A chinese-fleet-review-a-ch-008country’s EEZ extends 200 miles from the coast and gives the country sovereign rights over economic activities in those waters (usually the country uses its economic zone to search for natural resources).  By China’s broad definition, its sovereign rights in the EEZ expand outside of the economic realm, permitting it to interfere with other countries’ ships that enter its EEZ.  The U.S., as well as most other countries, perceives the EEZ as providing solely economic sovereignty for the coastal state, allowing other countries’ ships free access.  For the U.S., this also includes ships that are conducting military surveillance on the coastal state (for an excellent assessment of these different interpretations, see Margaret K. Lewis’ “An Analysis of State Responsibility for the Chinese-American Airplane Collision Incident”).  Needless to say, these different interpretations only add to the tensions between the two militaries. 

In the U.S.-China Joint Statement issued last week, much needed progress was made on the military front, especially in terms of communication.  High level exchanges between the U.S. and Chinese militaries will continue, with the Chief of the General Staff of the China’s People’s Liberation Army, General Chen Bingde, visiting the U.S. and both Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Michael Mullen making a trip to China.

In regards to differing definitions of the EEZ, the Joint Statement alludes to this issue, showing that the two sides likely discussed and acknowledged the problem (From the Joint Statement: “The United States and China agreed to handle through existing channels…maritime issues in keeping with norms of international law and on the basis of respecting each other’s jurisdictions and interests”).  Granted they failed to reach a compromise, but this is not an issue that will be easily solved.  Just discussing this sensitive topic is progress. 

2.  Both Public and Private Discussion of Human Rights

Interestingly, a press that largely ignored this issue prior to President Obama’s trip is making a big deal of his “silence” on human rights violations in China.  Last I checked though, freedom of speech is usually regarded as one such right and President Obama discussed this issue rather bluntly and passionately at the Shanghai town hall.  While it is debatable as to whether focusing on freedom of expression on the internet is sufficient to assist China with a development of a civil society and a rule of law, it is difficult to argue that President Obama did not publically bring up the subject of human rights. 

Furthermore, in his letter written to China’s Southern Weekend newspaper, President Obama stressed the importance of a free press.  True, this letter was not permitted to be circulated to a wider audience, but it portrays the President’s continued emphasis, both publically and privately on human rights.

The Joint Statement also discusses human rights in general and calls for the next official human rights dialogue between the U.S. and China to be held by the end of February 2010 in Washington, D.C.  The Joint Statement also stressed the importance of rule of law in China and agreed to reconvene the U.S.-China Legal Experts Dialogue (see the Dui Hua Foundation website for further background).  With the increasing push back by the Chinese government in the area of rule of law, especially as it pertains to civil rights and civil liberties, deepening cooperation is an important deliverable.

It is true that the Obama Administration has opted more for a strategy of quiet engagement on this issue.  Whether the approach is effective remains to be seen.  This past summer, the Administration was able to secure the release of public interest attorney Xu Zhiyong through behind the scenes pressure on the Chinese government.  However, almost immediately after President Obama left China, the Beijing police apprehended and beat public interest lawyer Jiang Tianyong (pronounce Geeang Tian-young) as he was walking his 7 year old daughter to school.  While Mr. Jiang has since been released, he is under very tight surveillance.  Perhaps if President Obama had mentioned the plight and importance of public interest attorneys in China, the arrest of Mr. Jiang might not have happened.  Or maybe it would have.

Either way, the U.S. press’ conclusion that President Obama “soft-peddled” human rights on his trip does not appear to ring true.  Human rights was certainly discussed, both publically and privately, it just appears that perhaps China was not listening. 

3.  Clean Energy and Climate Change

As expected, the U.S. and China entered into a series of cooperative agreements pertaining to clean energy and climate change technology.  While neither side agreed to emission targets, the level of detail provided for in the issued agreements was more than anticipated.  Most interestingly, the U.S.’ Environmental Protection Agency and China’s National Development Reform Commission signed a memorandum of cooperation to help China develop its capacity to measure its greenhouse gas inventories.  This is no small feat.  China’s does not currently have the capacity to accurately measure its greenhouse gas emissions and thus, if it was to agree to emission targets, would be unable to provide verifiable data.  China’s lack of capacity on this front has rightly been a sticking point for many in the U.S. Congress, preventing the passage of domestic climate change legislation that would be used to bind the U.S. internationally.

This memorandum of cooperation is the first step to enable China to agree to emission targets and for the rest of the world to believe them. 

President Obama’s visit to China was certainly not overly exciting but it was far from the failure that the U.S. press has made it out to be.  It also does not signify the U.S.’ decline as some alarmist media outlets have claimed.  Instead, the visit was a series of tough negotiations between two global powers.  Both had winning issues and losing ones.  And in the end, President Obama likely walked out with a little more than expected.  For me, that’s an accomplishment.

The U.S.’ Willy-Nilly Legal Development Policy in China – Times Are A Changin’?

By , November 10, 2009

I wholeheartedly agree with Prof. Stanley Lubman’s recent call on the Obama Administration and Congress to provide willy nillymore funding for legal development work in China.  But in requesting additional funding, it is important to ensure that such funding is provided in the way best able to achieve results.  Current U.S. development policy could do a better job at this.

The amount of government funding to legal projects in China is a small fraction of the funding for similar projects in places such as Iraq. While the development of a functioning legal system in Iraq is an important goal, in some ways it is even more critical for China.  China is already one of the largest economies in the world with influence that far extends beyond its borders and even beyond Asia.  With the world’s increasing interaction with China, a legal system that functions in China is essential for its relations not just with other countries, but with its own people.

Prof. Stanley Lubman

Prof. Stanley Lubman

But in increasing the amount of aid for China’s legal development, it is also important that the U.S. seeks to distribute that aid in the most efficient way.  Prof. Lubman correctly points out that to effectively assist China with its legal development, the U.S. must not preach to China and should not ignorantly call for the all out adoption of Western values by China.  Instead, it is important to look to areas of legal reform, like environmental law, administrative law, and open government policy, that the Chinese government has willingly begun to move forward in.

But state-side, the U.S. needs do more as well.  Currently, various U.S. agencies, committees and other government bodies, with little to no coordination, provide funding to multiple NGOs and academic institutions doing legal development work in China.  This has caused the U.S. approach to legal development in China to be less one of strategy and more one of “throw anything against the wall to see what sticks.”

Apparently, this is a problem throughout the development field in the U.S.  Both the White House and the State

Dueling Directives between the White House and State or Friendly Competition?

Dueling Directives between the White House and State or Friendly Competition?

Department are currently undertaking in-depth studies to reorganize and revitalize the U.S.’ global development policy (the White House called for a “Presidential Study Directive” on the issue on August 31, 2009; the State Department began a “Quadrennial Diplomacy & Development Review” on July 10, 2009.  Both reports should be issued in the next month or two).

While flexibility is important and to some degree should remain, with China, a better organized effort on the U.S. end is necessary.  Prof. Lubman has called on President Obama to discuss with President Hu Jintao a U.S.-Chinese program on legal issues.  If this does come to pass, this could be the perfect opportunity for the U.S. to coordinate across various agencies and governmental bodies its legal development work in China. The U.S. side of such a program should not just serve as a representative to China on the U.S.’ legal work there, but should also serve as the creator of a coherent China legal development strategy and seek to coordinate that strategy across the various U.S. agencies that provide funding for legal development work in China.

Additionally, the individuals who serve in this program should be individuals with knowledge or experience with China and its legal development.   In developing a U.S. strategy, these individuals should not just rely on their own experience however, but should also look to the many and varied people and organizations working on legal development in China, including U.S. academic institutions, U.S. NGOs on the ground in China, and even Chinese legal development organizations. Only through an informed, coordinated strategy will the U.S. effectively assist China in its legal development, justifying increased funding for such efforts.

CECC Releases 2009 Annual Report on China

By , October 21, 2009

On October 16, 2009 the Congressional Executive Commission on China (CECC) released its 2009 Annual Report examining China’s human rights record and its progress toward a rule of law.  Click here for a PDF version of the CECC’s 2009 Annual Report.

US-ChinaThe CECC was established in 2001 after the U.S. normalized its trade relations with China.  Prior to normalization, Congress reviewed U.S. relations with China every year to determine if most favored nations status should continue to be granted to China.  Inevitably, this annual review focused on China’s human rights record and legal development.  However, with China’s accession into the World Trade Organizations (WTO), a yearly Congressional vote on trade relations with China was no longer possible.  As a result, in agreeing to China’s entry into WTO, the CECC was created to monitor China’s human rights, review its legal development, and maintain a political prisoners database.

As part of their mandate, the CECC is required to issue an annual report.  This report is thoroughly researched and provides an excellent snapshot of China’s progress in regards to international human rights standards and development of rule of law in more sensitive areas such as freedom of expression, criminal justice and access to justice.  The 2009 Annual Report is perhaps the most in depth, providing over 300 pages of data; pages 8 through 39 provide a summary of the Commission’s findings, showing both China’s progress as well as recent set-backs, and recommendations for U.S. policy makers.

Interestingly, the 2009 Annual Report was issued on the eve of President Obama’s trip to China (set for November 15-18), raising the question, will President Obama discuss any of these issues with Chinese President Hu Jintao?  On Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s visit to China in February 2009, Secretary Clinton seemed to imply that human rights would take a backseat to other issues with China, such as the global financial crisis, climate change, and nuclear non-proliferation and regional security.  However, more recent events, such as the release of rights activist and attorney Xu Zhiyong as the new U.S. Ambassador to China arrived in Beijing and even more recent interviews with Secretary Clinton, have shown that the Obama Administration is raising human rights issues, albeit in a behind the scenes sort of way.  Will President Obama publically discuss human rights and legal development to the Chinese public in November?  And even if he does, will that portion of his speech be translated into Mandarin?

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