TIME says: Three Key Lessons from Obama's China Tour





... China's concerns, of course, have dramatically expanded in recent years, as was emphasized by Beijing's anxiety over the implication for its own dollar-denominated wealth of U.S. budget deficits. At the same time, Beijing is in no hurry to play the "other" global superpower rule vacated by the Soviet Union two decades ago.

Herewith, three key lessons to draw from the visit:

1. China's Star Has Risen and America's Has Ebbed, But the U.S. is 'Too Big to Fail'

As the Washington Post noted, when Bill Clinton visited Beijing a decade ago, the U.S. owed more money to Spain than it did to China. President Obama's America owes China some $800 billion and counting. China's economy is humming again, while America's is likely to remain sluggish for years. The sharp economic downturn, and the failure of the U.S. to impose its will in two very costly ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, have shrunk America's global leverage. Today, far less powerful countries than China routinely decline to follow Washington's lead. An ironic dividend of capitalism's Cold War triumph has been the emergence of new power centers in the world economy — Brazil, Russia, India and, of course, China....

... 2. China Doesn't Want to Run the World, But It Has Interests That Differ from America's

Russia may be engaged in a geopolitical chess game with the U.S. aimed at recovering from the demise of its great power status, but China is different. It pushes back against U.S. initiatives only when those are deemed inimical to its national interests. Iran is a good example. Beijing's heavy investment in and reliance on Iran's energy sector make it extremely averse to serious sanctions or strategies that create political turmoil in Tehran. While insisting on compliance with the non-proliferation regime, Beijing does not believe Iran represents an imminent nuclear weapons threat. And its response to North Korea going nuclear suggests that a nuclear armed Iran is something it could live with...

... 3. Personal Chemistry Can't Change the World

The personal trust between President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev was indispensable in fostering the climate for a rapid, peaceful end to the Cold War. Presidents Clinton, Bush and now Obama have all tried to cultivate personal relationships with their Chinese counterparts in the hope of smoothing a tricky relationship. But the usefulness of personal chemistry in dealing with China has strict limits, for a simple reason: While the President of the United States is, in George W. Bush's words, "the decider," his Chinese counterpart is not...






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