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Obama pinches China over human rights

Published time: February 14, 2012 19:42
Edited time: February 15, 2012 06:04

US President Barack Obama and Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping speak in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, DC, February 14, 2012. (AFP photo Saul Loeb)

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US President Barack Obama warmly welcomed Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping to the Oval Office on Tuesday. But etiquette did not keep him from raising a sensitive human rights issue with the Chinese leader-in-waiting.

­Obama said Washington would “continue to emphasize what we believe is the importance of realizing the aspirations and rights of all people.”

Human rights is not the only stumbling block in the relationship between the US and China. The two countries disagree on various policy questions including Syria, Iran and the global economy. However, both Obama and Xi spoke about their cooperative partnership and trust.

“We want to work with China to make sure that everybody is working by the same rules of the road when it comes to the world economic system,” Obama said.

He also said that Washington praises China’s “extraordinary development over the last two decades” but noted that with such power comes “increased responsibilities.”

Earlier, Xi met with his American counterpart Joe Biden and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. He is also expected to visit the Pentagon.

The trip comes amidst expanding US presence in the Asia-Pacific region, which many say is a reaction to China’s growing global influence.

­‘The United States is trying to slow down China’s economic rise’

­Paul Craig Roberts, a former Assistant Secretary of the US Treasury, believes US and Chinese hopes for an equal relationship are obstructed by America’s drive for global dominance.

The main problem with the Chinese and United States' relationship is Washington’s drive for world hegemony. And that makes it very difficult to have a real relationship,” he told RT.

He said that one of America’s main foreign policy goals is to thwart China’s economic development by disrupting oil supplies from Libya and Iran.

It doesn’t make a lot of sense for Washington to go to China and say, look, embargo yourself from Iranian oil and let us put an American puppet in office in that country as well so we can prevent your economic development from catching up to us too quickly,” he noted. “I think that’s what the real game is. The United States is trying to slow down China’s economic rise because it sees that rise as a threat to continuing American hegemony.

He also gave his reasoning for China’s currency policies.

The reason why China originally pegged its currency to the dollar is that when it was making its transition from a communist country to a capitalist country, it wanted to assure the world that its currency was as good as the dollar.

Roberts said China’s trade surplus with the US was not so much due to its undervalued currency, but because of the American tendency to outsource manufacturing and services to foreign countries.

It’s all the American firms that took their own production from American markets offshore to China. So, when you produce offshore for your home market, when the goods and services come back into the United States, they come in as imports. So the trade deficit with China is at least fifty per cent due to the offshoring of jobs and production by American corporations.