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"As long as human rights are violated, there can be no foundation for peace. How can peace grow where speaking the truth is itself a crime?"

China's Economic Leverage Over U.S. Growing

October 12, 2009

by Frank Langfitt
NPR - October 8, 2009

President Obama's decision not to meet with the Dalai Lama is a reminder of
China's growing influence with Washington.

Longtime China watchers also say it's a sign of how economic and other
interests have come to trump human rights.

China's influence with the United States has been increasing throughout this
decade, but this year it gained a lot of ground. The United States sparked a
global recession, and China, thanks in part to huge government stimulus
spending, is helping to lead the way out.

Nicholas Lardy, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International
Economics, says the U.S. is reluctant to irritate China these days.

The Dalai Lama arrives for a meeting with the Senate Foreign Relations
Committee on Wednesday, but his meeting with President Obama was postponed.

"I think in the midst of an economic crisis, the administration is kind of
bending over backwards" to ensure cooperation on big issues - including
boosting the world economy, addressing climate change and dealing with North
Korea, Lardy said.

He said postponing the direct visit between President Obama and the Dalai
Lama is helping to meet those ends.

James Mann, with the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies,
said when President Nixon went to China in 1972, the trip had nothing to do
with economics.

The author of About Face, a history of China-U.S. relations, Mann said
Nixon's goal was to counter the influence of the Soviet Union. Human rights
didn't become an issue until 1989 when the Communist Party unleashed tanks
on student demonstrators.

"There were a couple of years after the Tiananmen crackdown when human
rights were a more significant element of American policy, but they didn't
last long," Mann said.

A key reason is that Chinese leaders began to fully embrace capitalist-style
reforms in 1992, allowing foreign investment and trade between the U.S. and
China to skyrocket.

China used the money it gained from a giant trade surplus to buy U.S. debt,
and - in recent years - become America's banker.

"The result of that has been enormous economic leverage over the United
States," Mann said.

Mary Beth Markey, with the human-rights group International Campaign for
Tibet, said pressing the campaign's agenda became harder as China joined the
world economy.

Before 2001, Congress had to vote on trade relations with China each year.
Markey and others used the vote to highlight China's human-rights record and
force Congress, in essence, to vote on it.

But when China joined the World Trade Organization, that forum disappeared.

"When that annual vote went away, Congress need[ed] not pay as much
attention," she said, adding that the leverage of human-rights advocates was
diminished by the change. "In the end the decisions are made by a very small
group in the White House, I think."
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