Friday, December 19, 2003

Appeasing China?

Richard Halloran, writing in The Japan Times, wonders if President Bush is "appeasing" China:

After nearly three years of careful strides toward strategic clarity on a China policy, U.S. President George W. Bush has slipped back into strategic ambiguity, a posture that is certain to raise diplomatic questions in Asia and to cause him political problems at home.

The president's statements during a White House visit on Tuesday by the premier of China, Wen Jiabao, so angered some of his conservative supporters that they accused him of "appeasement." His equivocal stance has also left the president open to a Democratic charge during the re-election campaign next year that he has gone soft on China.

Moreover, hazy briefings by the White House press secretary and two unnamed senior officials, one evidently from the National Security Council staff and the other from the State Department, left the distinct impression of a policy in disarray.

The ambiguities of earlier administrations on China were intended to keep Beijing and Taipei guessing about U.S. intentions in the event of hostilities over the fate of the island that China claims, and thus to deter them from war. This new ambiguity, which may be inadvertent, will leave American voters and Asian leaders wondering if Bush has any China policy at all.


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