U.S.-China relations to face strains, experts say Obama’s looming Dalai Lama meeting, Taiwan weapons

     

   
   
 
 
    
 
 

U.S.-China relations to face strains, experts say

Obama’s looming Dalai Lama meeting, Taiwan weapons sale could sour ties

 

 

By John Pomfret

updated 5:57 a.m. ET Jan. 3, 2010

 

WASHINGTON – The United States and China are headed for a rough patch in the early months of the new year as the White House appears set to sell a package of weapons to Taiwan and as President Obama plans to meet the Dalai Lama, U.S. officials and analysts said.

The Obama administration is expected to approve the sale of several billion dollars in Black Hawk helicopters and anti-missile batteries to Taiwan early this year, possibly accompanied by a plan gauging design and manufacturing capacity for diesel-powered submarines for the island, which China claims as its territory. The president is also preparing to meet the spiritual leader of Tibet, who is considered a separatist by Beijing. Obama made headlines last year when the White House, in an effort to generate goodwill from China, declined to meet the Dalai Lama, marking the first time in more than a decade that a U.S. president did not meet the religious leader during his occasional visits to Washington.

The expected downturn with Beijing comes despite a concerted effort by the Obama administration for closer ties. U.S. officials have held more high-level meetings with their Chinese counterparts — including a summit in Beijing in November — in the first year of this administration compared with the inaugural years of the four previous presidencies since relations were normalized with Beijing in 1979, records show.

 

 

President Barack Obama shakes hands with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao prior to their talks in Beijing on November 18.

 

 

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World War II alliance

After Japan’s Dec. 7, 1941, attack on Pearl Harbor brought the United States into World War II, Washington joined forces with China’s Nationalist leader Chiang Kai-Shek to drive Japan’s invading forces out of China. This 1942 photo, taken in Burma, shows U.S. Gen. Joseph Stilwell with Chiang and Madame Chiang, aka Soong May-ling. At this meeting, Chiang informed his military staff that Stilwell would lead them against the Japanese forces. The Nationalist and rival Communist forces cooperated in fighting the Japanese invaders, but ultimately turned against one another to battle for control of China

AFP – Getty Images

1949: Communist victory

Soviet-backed Communists, led by Chinese Communist Party Chairman Mao Zedong, won the nation’s power struggle — ultimately putting Beijing and Washington on opposite sides in the Cold War. In this Oct. 1, 1949 image, Mao proclaims the founding of the People’s Republic of China. With the Communist victory, Chiang and many influential Nationalists fled to the island of Taiwan, where they set up a rival government in hopes of one day regaining control of the mainland. Despite its close wartime ties with the Nationalists, U.S. President Truman initially took a position of nonintervention in the bitter dispute between Beijing and Taipei. The outbreak of the Korean War in 1950 prompted Washington to get more involved in the region’s conflicts and to strengthen its military presence in the Taiwan Straits.

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1950-1953: Korean War face-off

Conflict erupted between Russian-backed North Korea and U.S.-backed South Korea, creating a hot front in the Cold War. The Korean War pitted American-led U.N. troops and South Korean forces against North Koreans and their allies, including Chinese forces. The Korean War ended with a cease-fire — but not a peace treaty — cementing the division of the Korean peninsula at the 38th parallel. It also established a substantial U.S. military presence in Asia — a long-term irritant to U.S.-China ties. In this image from the Korean War, U.S. Gen. Douglas MacArthur, right, commander of U,N. forces in Korea talks with Maj. Gen. Doyle Hickey.

AFP – Getty Images

1972: Nixon visit “changed the world”

In February 1972, U.S. President Richard Nixon, who had a reputation as a tough anti-communist, traveled to China to hold talks with Communist Chairman Mao Zedong and Premier Zhou Enlai. On the final stop of the trip to Beijing, Hangzhou and Shanghai, the U.S. and Chinese governments issued the Shanghai Communiqué — a pledge to work toward the normalization of diplomatic relations. Nixon later said of the trip: "This was the week that changed the world,” in which the two sides agreed “to build a bridge across 16,000 miles and 22 years of hostilities which have divided us in the past.” In this Feb. 22, 1972, image, Mao and Nixon shake hands after their meeting in Beijing.

AFP/Getty Images

1976: Mao’s end, start of a new era

The death of Chairman Mao Zedong in 1976 marked the end of an era of radical politics and isolation from the West. In just a few years, Deng Xiaoping triumphed over conservative ideologues who had surrounded Mao, and rose to leadership of China’s Communist Party and government. While beginning experiments with economic reforms, Deng also opened the doors to broad cultural and educational exchange with the United States. In this image, Chinese citizens file past Mao as he lies in state in Beijing on Sept. 12, 1976.

AFP – Getty Images

1979: Formal ties

Formal diplomatic relations were restored between Beijing and Washington on Jan. 1, 1979. Simultaneously, Washington severed formal relations with Taiwan (Republic of China), while continuing business and cultural ties. Through the Taiwan Relations Act, Washington also promised to supply defensive weapons to Taiwan. Shortly after the resumption of ties with Beijing, Chinese Vice Premier Deng Xiaoping visited the United States, meeting with top U.S. officials and business leaders. Deng was pressing economic reforms in China and preparing to greatly expand his free market experiment in the 1980s. In this image, Deng, right, and his wife Zhuo Lin, far left, appear with U.S. President Jimmy Carter and First Lady Rosalynn Carter on Jan. 31, 1979.

Sam Yeh / AFP/Getty Images

1992: U.S. weapons sales anger Beijing

China protested vehemently when U.S. arms sales to Taiwan, which had been hovering around $500 million a year, suddenly jumped more than 1,000 percent with the sale of 150 F-16 fighter jets. China charged that the sale violated a 1982 agreement with Beijing in which Washington said it would not increase weapons sales to Taiwan in either quality or quantity. Supporters of the sale said it was in line with the 1979 Taiwan Relations Act, in which the United States pledged to provide arms to Taiwan seen as necessary for its defense. In this Sept. 12, 2007, image, missiles are arrayed next to an F-16 fighter jet at the Chiayi air force base in southern Taiwan.

Bob Strong / AFP/Getty Images

1995: Lee trip rankles Beijing

For the first time since it re-established formal diplomatic ties with China, Washington granted a visa to a sitting Taiwan president. The move drew a harsh protest from Beijing, which also suspended nuclear and missile control talks with the United States. Lee Teng-hui, Taiwan’s first democratically elected president, especially angered Beijing because of his ambivalence to reunification with China. Breaking from decades of Nationalist Party rhetoric, Lee stressed the right of Taiwan people to determine their future. Some feared that if Lee or newly empowered Taiwan voters made a formal call for independence, it could prompt military action by Beijing and pull the U.S. into the conflict. In this June 10, 1995, photo, Lee chats with Cornell University President Frank Rhodes after speaking at the school.

Paul J. Richards / AFP – Getty Images

1997: Breaking the ice after a decade

Chinese President Jiang Zemin and U.S. President Bill Clinton held formal talks in Washington in late 1997, marking the first state visit by a Chinese leader since before the 1989 Tiananmen crackdown. The meetings covered trade tensions, nuclear technology, human rights abuses and religious persecution in Tibet. In this image, Jiang and Clinton share a toast during a state dinner on Oct. 29, 1997 in the East Room of the White House. A year later Clinton traveled to Beijing for formal discussions, signaling that relations between the two countries were getting back on a more normal footing after a decade of tension.

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2001: Midair collision

A U.S. spy plane made an emergency landing on Hainan Island off China’s southern coast after a collision with a Chinese F-8 fighter jet. One Chinese pilot died after parachuting into the South China Sea. China detained the 24-member U.S. crew of the EP-3 Aries II reconnaissance aircraft for 11 days, releasing them only after the U.S. sent a letter of apology. Beijing also suspended all U.S. military visits to Hong Kong, a key stopover point, for three months. In this image from an April 13, 2001, briefing at the Pentagon, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld tells reporters that the Chinese jet became aggressive and hit the U.S. plane from below.

 

AFP/Getty Images

2006: China’s top technocrat tours U.S.

Chinese President Hu Jintao, who assumed control of the Communist Party, the government, and the military between 2002 and 2004, made his first visit to the United States as president. Hu, a member of what is known as China’s “fourth generation” of leaders, was generally seen as more pragmatic and less driven by ideology than past leaders — Mao, Deng and Jiang. Hu’s four-day visit, which included a tour of Boeing, dinner with Bill Gates, a speech at Yale University, and talks with President George W. Bush, departed from the heavily scripted state visits of past Chinese leaders. In this image, Hu, second from left, listens to a presentation about new technology at Microsoft headquarters in Redmond, Wash. on April 18, 2006.

2009: U.S.-China recession tensions

Amid global recession, U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner traveled to China to discuss economic issues with China’s top leaders. Washington pressed Beijing to let its currency trade more freely to help correct the trade imbalance. The U.S. also urged Beijing to encourage Chinese citizens to save less and spend more to help boost the global economy. An increasingly assertive Beijing also presented its agenda, calling on the United States to "guarantee the safety of China’s assets" in the U.S. Beijing worried that Washington’s policies would cause the dollar to depreciate, with dire consequences for its investments. Beijing holds $1.45 trillion in U.S.-denominated assets. In this June 2, 2009, image, Geithner meets with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao in Beijing.

 

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