A Conversation On Obama / Xi China ‘Summit’ Outcome

Dave Johnson

This week I hosted a blogger call to discuss the outcome of last week’s Friday/Saturday meetings between President Obama and Chinese President and General Secretary of the Communist Party of China Xi Jinping. None of this matters much, unless you care about your job, wages, retirement, kids, community, democracy — and just possibly if things go the wrong way another Cold War.

The Meeting

Last Friday and Saturday President Obama met with Chinese President Xi Jinping. They met on a private estate in Southern California for a total of eight hours together talking. This was an informal “get to know you” event, with no items expected to be resolved. However they did emerge from the meeting with agreement to limiting a very important greenhouse gas.

The Call

On the call to talk about the meeting, its results, and what we should try to do next were Clyde Prestowitz of the Economic Strategy Institute and Scott Paul of the Alliance for American Manufacturing.

You can listen to a recording of the call here.

“They’re Not Going To Be Like Us”

A couple of interesting points. At about 13:00 we had some back-and-forth on how our countries see their own interests. Clyde made an interesting point about how China has a very different way of looking at our relationship, especially concerning trade. Clyde:

“We have promoted since the end of WWII the notion that a country that is doing its job is opening its markets, that free trade, golbalization, will not only make everybody wealthy but being wealthy they’ll become democratic and being democratic they’ll become peace-loving. So our leaders conceive of “doing their job” as opening markets and protecting commercial property, not stealing intellectual property, not hacking China’s computers and stealing China’s corporate secrets and so forth. “

“But the Chinese conceive of doing their job in an entirely different way, albeit they are members of these global organizations the principles of which are what WE have proposed as open markets, free markets, capitalism and globalization. So we have two different definitions of doing their jobs as a country, this is where we have to come to grips. We keep telling the Chinese to be more like us – responsible stakeholders in the current system. We go to the CHinese and say say “Oh it’s bad to steal intellectual property. We need stronger patent laws for protection of intellectual property.” So this is saying, “Be like us,” At some point there has to be more recognition that they’re not going to be like us.”

I asked a question about how it is said that the US won’t declare China to be a currency manipulator because we want their cooperation to help reduce regional tensions, such as with North Korea. If we hold back on confronting China over their trade violations in exchange for China’s help with tensions such as North Korea, doesn’t this create an incentive for China to create those very tensions?

Clyde said he doesn’t think China got North Korea to threated to nuke South Korea – and us – as a way to get us to lay off on currency, hacking and other issues.

Again, you can listen to a recording of the call here.
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