Sep 15

The Next U.S. Administration and the Future of US-China Relationship

Written by Allen on Monday, September 15th, 2008 at 9:26 pm
Filed under:Analysis, Letters, News, politics | Tags:, , , ,
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Several bloggers here have asked that we start a discussion regarding which of the U.S. presidential candidates might be better for China – or at least, better for a solid U.S.-China relationship. 

While I am not quite ready to lead such a discussion yet, with the presidential debates still looming, the American Chamber of Commerce People’s Republic of China has recently published on its website two letters from the candidates regarding their visions of US-China policy.

Quoted below are excerpts from a letter by John McCain regarding US-China Policy Under a McCain Administration and a letter by Barack Obama regarding US-China Relations Under an Obama Administration.

I thought the letters were for the most part balanced.  I thought it was interesting that both candidates concluded their letters with references to “human rights” and a vision of a shared international order – with the U.S. continuing to play a leadership role.

From McCain:

China’s growing power and influence endow it with the obligation to behave as a responsible stakeholder in global politics. China could bolster its claim that it is “peacefully rising” by being more transparent about its significant military buildup and by working with the world to isolate pariah states. In addition, how a nation treats its citizens is a legitimate subject of international concern in today’s world. China has signed numerous international agreements that make its domestic behavior more than just a matter of national sovereignty. To be a responsible stakeholder in the modern international system, a government must also be responsible at home, in protecting the rights of its people.

China and the United States are not destined to be adversaries. We have numerous overlapping interests and I hope to see our relationship evolve in a manner that benefits both countries and, in turn, the Asia-Pacific region and the world. Our ties must be rooted in a broader regional and international order that provides the indispensible bedrock for the shared prosperity and stability we all desire. America itself must be a stakeholder in that system, and we must take seriously our responsibilities to contribute to it. It is in this spirit that America’s relations with China, and with the countries that comprise the region surrounding it, should proceed.

From Obama:

Greater progress in protecting the human rights of all its people and moving toward democracy and rule of law will better enable China to achieve its full potential as a nation, domestically and internationally. China’s own people will expect, indeed demand, this. Such change will not weaken China, as its leaders may fear, but will provide a firmer basis for long-term stability and prosperity. China cannot stand indefinitely apart from the global trend toward democratic government, rule of law and full exercise of human rights. Protection of the unique cultural and religious traditions of the Tibetan people is an integral part of such an agenda.

Since the 1970s, America’s policy of engaging China has produced major benefits for both sides and for Asia overall. The US-China relationship has had its share of challenges, and new ones will inevitably emerge. Especially in a world of common security, where events in any corner of the globe can affect the entire planet, the world more than ever requires that every major country not only pursue its narrow interests but also accept its responsibility to pursue urgently needed solutions to these broader problems. My administration will seek to revitalize America and lead it to realize its full potential for constructive engagement in Asia and in the global arena.

Any thoughts on the candidates’ letters?  Any preliminary perspectives on the candidates’ grasp of China?  Any comments on the candidates’ general outlooks on the international geopolitical order?

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63 Responses to “The Next U.S. Administration and the Future of US-China Relationship”

  1. wuming Says:

    I don’t think an American politician in campaign mode will even think about China seriously. Unless of course, if ICBC (Industrial and Commercial Bank of China or, more affectionately, 爱存不存) offers to buy Lehman.

  2. Charles Liu Says:

    US presidency is a facet of America’s overal political impetus, not that big of a deal when it comes to US-China relation. Honestly nowdays the left, the right, everybody seem to hate China.

    But lately those ideologically entrenched, genuinelly harbor hatred towards China, are by and large Republican “Blue Team” – with the exception of Fmr. Congressman Tom Lantos, who gave millions to a certain banned Chinese sect, thru his wife who is rumored to be a member of the sect.

  3. Daniel Says:

    One issue that seems to worry some people is that there are quite a few comments and articles state too frequently regarding China-US relations in such simplistic and/or extremist terms. When it is much more complex than that. Also the real outlook is more optimistic than what leaders, organizations, agencies, etc. usually talk about.

    Whoever gets elected as the American president will still face the same challenges and most likely have to deal with it roughly similar manners, maybe a few differences here and there. It’s hard to believe what they are going to do with domestic issues, let alone foreign policy. Well, for starters, of course human rights are important. However, as many have noticed, a lot of these leaders will use it more as a political tactic.

  4. Dan Says:

    I hate to plug my own blog here (I hate to plug it, but I love the idea of everyone going to it to check it out), but I did a post linking to two fine posts by other blogs (Asia Logistics Wrap and China Rises) analyzing the views of McCain and Obama on China. Reading all that would be good background for this discussion: http://www.chinalawblog.com/2008/09/mccain_and_obama_on_china_in_t.html

  5. Otto Kerner Says:

    McCain is dangerous, but I suspect he will spend most of his time paying attention to countries that are small enough for him to push around (he believes Iran falls into that category), unless something flares up with Taiwan. It’s also possible he might try to do something with North Korea, which could lead to conflict with China, but I suspect he won’t.

    Obama gives the strong impression that he is not interested in foreign affairs, other than ending the unpopular occupation of Iraq. By default, I expect him to continue roughly the Clinton-Bush policy toward China. There is a slight chance that he might give more an ear to do-gooder human rights activists and such, but I think it’s very unlikely he will allow that to interfere with business as usual.

    To sum up, neither of the major-party presidential candidates is very interested in China, so I expect more of the same regardless who is elected.

  6. Allen Says:


    Thanks for the links. I disagree with the opinions expressed in one of the blogs that the letters from Obama and McCain are a YAWN.

    Compared George Bush in 2000 when he pronounced China to be a “strategic competitor” – or Bill Clinton in 1992 when he campaigned against coddling to the “butchers of Beijing” – I think the rhetoric we are getting today are definitely much more mature and nuanced…

  7. Allen Says:

    @Otto Kerner,

    Some times I am not sure if Obama is really a dove compared to McCain. Obama has been uncomfortably gun-ho with respect to Pakistan recently.

  8. Otto Kerner Says:

    Obama is not much of a dove, but everyone is a dove compared to McCain.

  9. werew Says:

    I think their policy on China are going to be pretty much the same, with very minor differences with regards to trade. The only logical policy to make is to be friendly with a rising power China, especially since CCP never took on any highly antagonistic role against the US government. Obama is probably going to give more rhetorics on protectionism and McCain is going to give more rhetorics on free trade, but both of them are not going to rise dramatic tariffs against China or whatever and violate the major interest of business giants who definitely want to trade with China. Their differences in middle east policy affect China more than their differences in pure China policy. McCain is probably going to invade another Middle Eastern country which might affect the vital oil supply of China. It will be especially bad if McCain choose to invade Pakistan, instead of Iran for whatever reason, since China is forced to act if a long time ally and a border country gets invaded. Pakistan borders on 2 disputed territories which India claims and also the unstable Tibet no less.

  10. DS Says:

    I also think that the relations between the two will remain stable whoever is in charge. Elections are about talks, so they don’t have time for any in depth analysis on this particular issue. But it will remain important. The good thing is that these two countries have worked together long enough to know that injury on either side hurts both. It is maturing, which is very encouraging. I hope the leaders in Beijing realize the problems in the U.S. will damage Chinese interests too. Maybe not all out assistance, but China should do something to help out the U.S., just like it did during the Asian financial turmoil a few years back. I also hope China will stand up and be more vocal about the U.S. international policies. You see any conflicts between these two will bring tremendous difficulties to the world. The U.S. administration is not hostile to China, it is the media and some of its uneducated citizenry. If Bush can keep a cool head with Cheney, Ashcroft and Rumsfeld on his side, Obama or McCain wouldn’t do any worse.

  11. The Trapped! Says:


    “It will be especially bad if McCain choose to invade Pakistan, instead of Iran for whatever reason, since China is forced to act if a long time ally and a border country gets invaded.”

    I don’t think China can give a shit about this. China’s best and ever-loved neighbor and ally Russia asked for China’s support over Russia-Georgia conflicts, (in fact Russia–NATO conflict). Russia was completely disappointed by the fact that China is about to shit in her trousers in fear of possible confrontation with NATO.

    China is fed up with Mao’s stubborn fighting for ally tradition. And PLA soldiers are less committed for such stupid things, because unlike 50 years ago they now have something to lose and may not have anything to gain. PLA was strongest because Mao promised them wealth after robbing the riches, and poor farmers were convinced because they didn’t have much to lose at that time anyway.

    @Otto Kerner

    “McCain is dangerous, but I suspect he will spend most of his time paying attention to countries that are small enough for him to push around (he believes Iran falls into that category)”

    I simple doubt Iran can be any easier to be “pushed around” than China is.

  12. The Trapped! Says:

    …simply doubt

  13. Wahaha Says:

    “China is about to shit in her trousers in fear of possible confrontation with NATO. ”

    What ?

  14. The Trapped! Says:

    Look at small Taiwan island, PLA could give no shit for over 50 years. Is that because PLA is too kind to same blood Taiwanese? Then why didn’t they show any same blood kindness in Mainland when they are fighting with ROC army?

    PLA simply has no gut to confront anyone other than club-armed Tibetans…haha….

  15. The Trapped! Says:


    What “what”?

    Why couldn’t China stand with Russia over recent Russia-Georgia conflict then? I don’t think your memory is that bad to forget just last month’s event.

  16. Wahaha Says:

    The Trapped!

    Thx for showing off your true color.

    Tibet exile government is just a puppet of West.

  17. Wahaha Says:

    The Trapped!

    Read something other than about Tibet, then you know what is “what”.

  18. The Trapped! Says:


    Your true color is too good to show….

  19. Wahaha Says:

    The Trapped!

    You assume I am a CCP ?

    That is fine with me, you believe or not. what is important is if what you said before holds water. I dont even believe you are a tibetan.

  20. Wahaha Says:

    Wait a minutem, maybe I was wrong.

    Are you a oversea Tibetan ?

  21. The Trapped! Says:


    “Read something other than about Tibet, then you know what is “what”.”

    Same request goes to you, “Read something other than about” propaganda, “then you know what is “what”.”.

    Anyway, see! I know you are the kind of person who can even suspicious of his own shadow, that’s why I have taken care of your temper with every possible sweet words. Your kind of angry-generation can never solve any problem–can not tolerate even speculation of one’s own weakness.

    And you still haven’t answered my question before getting so red, “Why couldn’t China stand with Russia over recent Russia-Georgia conflict then?” Is there anything wrong for asking this question?

  22. The Trapped! Says:


    “Are you a oversea Tibetan?”

    What does that mean? Talk on issue and then categorize what you like.

  23. Wahaha Says:

    Yeah, I read AND I SEARCHED, you know what I found ?

    here is something you SHOULD be interested :

    In Australia :

    Consider life expectancy and education. Indigenous Australians can expect to live 17 years less than non-Indigenous Australians (59 years for Indigenous men), meaning that life expectancy in Nigeria, Nepal, India and Bangladesh is considerably greater.6 Schooling rates in Australian Indigenous communities are also considerably lower. Indigenous persons are only half as likely as non-Indigenous persons to have completed Year 12 (18% compared with 41%) and only one-quarter as likely if they are living in remote areas.5, 7 Saliently, a 2003 review of schooling in Indigenous communities found that poverty limits literacy and numeracy.

    The Indigenous people of Australia provide one example of the multifaceted impact of poverty on health. Australia is home to 21 million people, including 410,000 Indigenous Australians.5 Although the incomes of Indigenous Australians’ do not meet the United Nation’s criteria for absolute poverty (less than US$1 per day) the income gap in Australia means that the problems plaguing the world’s poor are mirrored in these communities, in reduced life expectancy, low schooling rates, poor access to water and sanitation, and reduced access to health care.

    Receiving an income is, at least in part, dependent on participation in paid employment. In 2004–05 over half of Indigenous people received their individual income from government pensions and allowances, and a further 10% received income from government work schemes.5 Today, fewer than half of Indigenous people aged 15 years or more report paid employment (42%), and Indigenous people are almost three times more likely than non-Indigenous people to be unemployed (20% compared with 7%).


    Feel better, do you want to know something about native in Canada ?

  24. Wahaha Says:

    “What does that mean? Talk on issue and then categorize what you like.”

    That means a question “if you were one of those protested against China ?”

  25. The Trapped! Says:


    Is this real question or you have already decided and then asking rhetorical question?

  26. Wahaha Says:

    Forget #24, how do you feel about #23 ?

  27. The Trapped! Says:


    Wait, I am just reading…

  28. The Trapped! Says:


    No special feeling, nothing new. Human being’s first migration from Africa, Northern Europe ice age, whites’ colonizations in Asia and America and the slave trade and British triangle trade, I know enough of them and I always feel that no first mistake and misconduct should be an excuse for second mistake or misconduct.

    Police: Why are you robbing?
    Robber: Because other robbers are also robbing?

  29. DS Says:

    You two are driving away customers. Please calm down.

  30. Wahaha Says:

    The Trapped!

    Thank you.

    Tibetans under people like you would be hopeless.

  31. The Trapped! Says:


    And if my memory is not as bad as yours, Australia officially apologized for the mistreatment of indigenous people, which is quite impossible in face-saving-culture-oriented country.

    If you sit on the shit in fear of other people seeing your shit, then the bad smell only comes back to you.

  32. The Trapped! Says:


    “Tibetans under people like you would be hopeless”

    Chinese “under people like you would be” very hopeful… Hehe….

  33. Wahaha Says:

    Thx for admiting what Chinese government has done is right …. they should keep people like you away from tibetan people, as you never care about them, all you care is “mememe.”

  34. BMY Says:

    Hi gentlemen,

    please calm down and focus on topic not on each other

  35. Oli Says:


    Re: The Trapped!

    Well what can anybody expect from a lost generation overseas Tibetan whose only claim to any sort of ability or skill is to fling accusations of plagiarism etc. about like confetti without any sort of coherent substance to back it up.

    Its really sad that if this is the true reality of the Overseas Tibetan community then is it any wonder that the Dalai Lama wants to return to China?

    @The Trapped!

    You are a great big shining example for your people, especially the way you like to fling faecal matter about. Congratulations you must be so proud.

  36. Wahaha Says:

    Sorry, guys

    Admin, can you delete my posts ?

  37. The Trapped! Says:


    Ok, lets listen to BMY and stop our childish tit-for-tat play. It seems we both do not have much to share on the blog with specified title. I had some “Maodun” in my mind concerning Chinese decision about not supporting Russia over recent conflict and I just hoped to get some ideas by triggering some wise guys here. Unfortunately, we two stubborn faced each other and are about to ruin this arena. Let us stop and leave the space for others to share some ideas on the issue in hand. OK?

  38. Wahaha Says:

    The Trapped!

    Just one thing I like to remind you to pay attention :

    I never say a bad word about Dalai Lama.


  39. The Trapped! Says:


    “I never say a bad word about Dalai Lama.”

    Thank you and noted. You are one more step closer to Tibetans.

  40. wukong Says:

    @The Trapped!

    Why China wouldn’t bring herself to support Russia outright in the Georgia matter?

    The reason is quite easy to understand: national interest and geopolitics.

    It serves no Chinese interest to support Russia, in fact, it will even harm China’s national interest a great deal if China were to come out strongly support Russia.

    For one, doing so would greatly weaken China’s position on Taiwan issue, and might even fan Taiwan’s ambition for independence; Secondly, doing so would needlessly antagonize Nato and the West, with no obvious payout.

    It’s such an easy call to make, it’s almost an no-brainer that China would do exactly what she did: not supporting Russia, but opposing either. In fact, both Russia and the West can claim victory on China’s position and they did.

  41. wukong Says:

    Yeah I am glad both candidates used moderate languages on China this time, instead of the usual bashing China to get elected and engage later.

  42. RMBWhat Says:

    Blah. Both Obama and Mc-CAIN are nothing but sock puppets to advance the agenda of the NWO empire. They are there for show only, and will do whatever the bilderberg/club-of-rome/CFR want (which is to play the nations off against each other to finalize the final solution, the NWO), ie. the globalist elites. But I guess an evil Obama is better than a good Mc-Cain…Whatever that means.

    As for China attacking Taiwan. That would be bad. Simply because my friends parents in Taipei will get bombed as well as my relatives in Beijing will also be bombed. It’s stupid. Do you guys understand the word that are coming out my mouth??? You don’t think real people are going to be hurt once the bombs starts to fly? And you would all just be playing into NWO’s hands.

  43. RMBWhat Says:

    See I told you Obama has a bunch of controllers behind him (re: the Pakistan article). Just research his backers… The backers are behind both candidates.

    I also get the feeling that some posting HERE ARE NWO masonic shill. Yes, you! We know what you are up to. I will fight you to the last breath, you hear me!

    Come and GET ME!

  44. RMBWhat Says:

    China should support Russia IF Russia’s agenda is to fight the NWO, and not just a part of the NWO’s secret machinations. But it’s all very confusing, and I would tread carefully.

  45. RMBWhat Says:

    And no, why do I keep on talking about China? Do I hate America? Am I an American traitor?

    The answer is NO. I love America. I’m simply here because to burn time (although I really should be working). Well, I was born in China, and I am ethnically Chinese, so that’s why I care. Although you can argue that I should be like most Americans (eg. An 3rd gen. Irish/German may say, FUCK Germany man, I don’t give a damn about them. America!) but I’m only first gen. So I still have connections to the old country, if you will.

    I don’t hate America. I will fight the NWO!

  46. RMBWhat Says:

    Both Obama and Mc-Cain was rumored to be at Bohemian Grove this year.

    Ask yourself, why are they symbolism on the NEW dollar bill (yes, they changed it after the Federal Reserve came into being).

    Why is there an OWL on your dollar??? LOL. Messing with the serfs?


    Check out Bohemian grove doc:


  47. RMBWhat Says:

    Actually I take it back.

    I’m sorry Masters. I do not want to fight you.

    I just want to live a simple life (preferably you can just sent me to a natural reservation where I can live the simple live, instead of killing me).

    Don’t kill me!

    Don’t use your secret weapon on me, please.


  48. Lidage Says:


    Do you really believe that you will be considered an “american” when the proverbial shit hit the fan? No!

    You are a dumb-ass.

    China do not welcome you.

  49. S.K. Cheung Says:

    The next US admin will be decided by Americans. I think if an American were to concern themselves with foreign events at this point, it’d be about Iraq and Afghanistan. So I don’t think China policy will be on the front burner for either ticket…it may not even make it to the back burner. And the result is the vanilla letters you noted at the beginning.

  50. A-gu Says:

    Bottom line: China policy is always a complicated issue, and no administration can really tip their hand too much before the election. Many people are also involved in the real policy decision making process too. So expect some hawkish rhetoric in the domestic sphere, and don’t expect that to reflect real policy after election.

  51. Michelle Says:

    These are Am Cham China letters. I’d suggest that we need to have a look at what the candidates say to the folks back home…

  52. GNZ Says:

    I presume Mccain will be slightly better for China. the dislike for the US creates a political vacuum for China and I don’t see McCain as a threat to China in any serious form. Obama probably would not be much different but might have more influence in getting those policies done. Although I do have a concern that McCain will spend too much money on wars with the little people that he can bully and his countries economy will crash (worse than it will anyway) and that that will spill over to China. China might benefits from the US being less influential but no one benefits from their economy melting-down.

    P.S. Wow this thread is the craziest one I’ve seen.

  53. Chops Says:

    “People outside the US would prefer Barack Obama to become US president ahead of John McCain, a BBC World Service poll suggests.

    Democrat Mr Obama was favoured by a four-to-one margin across the 22,500 people polled in 22 countries.

    In 17 countries, the most common view was that US relations with the rest of the world would improve under Mr Obama.

    If Republican Mr McCain were elected, the most common view was that relations would remain about the same.

    The poll was conducted before the Democratic and Republican parties held their conventions and before the headline-grabbing nomination of Sarah Palin as Mr McCain’s running mate.”


  54. Wukailong Says:

    @GNZ: “Wow this thread is the craziest one I’ve seen.”

    No shit! 🙂

  55. pug_ster Says:

    @GNZ #52


    I totally agree with you on this one. The problem with Obama is with with his rhetoric about how to fix every situation. Obama’s rhetoric (as his replacement for his inexperience) about China seems that he knows how to run the country more than Hu Jintao. I think McCain will follow Bush’s mostly Laissez-faire policy toward China. I’m probably going to vote for McCain even though I’m a democrat.

  56. admin Says:

    @Wahaha and The Trapped!

    One thing I hate to do is to delete/moderate other people’s comments so I am glad that you two were able to reach a truce. Thank you all who were appealing for calm and staying on topic.

  57. MoneyBall Says:

    one thing I like McCain over Obama is that he’s firmly for free trade.
    one thing I like Obama over McCain is that he comes from an internationlist rather than nationalist background

    McCain ‘s vp pick worries me, it proves again he’s a hot head.

  58. EugeneZ Says:

    Consideration of American national interest will drive the US president’s position towards China, not ideology. There would be almost no difference for US-China relation between Obama and McKay. They may say different things while compaigning, because they have to taylor to their respective base, but those words should just be ignored. George W. Bush started out as a hawk to China, but overtime he shifted to the center and became a friend to China – the circumstances required it.

    The only worrisome scenario is if McCain is elected, and dies in office due to old age or skin cancer, and Sarah Palin takes over. That would be wild because she is completely clueless – her interview with Charlie Gibson on foreign affairs remind me of those days as a student when I got an exam question that I did not quite understand, I would search for answers which I had memorized just before the exam and I would try to fit the somewhat relevant answer to the question. I may sound like I know something, but I actually do not.

  59. S.K. Cheung Says:

    I don’t think Palin is on the ticket because she’s shown in her one term as mayor of some armpit in Alaska and as a 2 year governor of a sparsely populated state that she has the goods to be VP, and to be one 71 year old heartbeat away from the big comfy chair; I think she’s there because of her gender, and because she appeals to the religious conservative wingnuts of the GOP base. If McCain wins, I hope he has 4 good years left on the odometer.

  60. GNZ Says:

    If Palin wins I’d expect her to just be a weak president, as in one where the decisions are made mostly by others and who tends to follow the path McCain cut for her. She would probably be much less able to get stuff done in Washington anyway.

    What is ironic is that people talk at all as if US VP’s are chosen for their ability to do their job. they are almost entirely chosen for the benefits they offer to electability – and it is only a side effect if they are good at their job (which really is waiting for the chance to be president).

  61. werew Says:

    @The Trapped
    China will definitely feel a lot of pressure if US occupies a neighboring country which borders Tibet no less. I don’t think it will confront US militarily but it can’t sit around and just let US surround itself more. China can’t do nothing while it also can’t use military or any agressive policy. This will indeed be very hard for the CCP to make policies if US choose to invade and occupy Pakistan. Letting US set up military base in Pakistan will not lead to war, but will up the US military threat against China. Also, Pakistan is the only strong middle east ally that China have.

    China didn’t support Russia directly because China can’t support separatists, and China didn’t go completely against Russia as much as the media made it seems like. China still stated that it support Russia’s “peace keeping” role in the region.

  62. yo Says:

    Interesting discussion, thank you Allen for bringing this up, because I think it is worth discussing the implications of a McCain/Obama presidency and it’s effect on China(if not the world)

    Reading the post, I agree with others who say it’s a bit run of he mill stuff. In addition, the letter is targeted imo to their own constituents, and not to someone else. But the overall theme of both letters is engagement, which I feel is a great.

    I’ll make no bones about it, I’m an Obama supporter 100%, but I have to say that McCain’s letter was a bit more “straight talk”(e.g. saying that we can’t be a protectionist country, and not all Americans will benefit from a China-U.S relationship). That’s not the most popular thing to say right now, but I agree with him.

  63. Mont Blanc Pens Clearance Says:

    A few days ago French Kering group chairman and CEO of Fran? Ois – Henri Pinault will represent Pinault family of looted yuanmingyuan bronze beast in twelve big water rat and rabbit heads donated to China, and at that time become the domestic and international major news topics

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