On Chinese Trip, Obama Lacks Leverage

By Beacon Staff

Much has been written about how scripted and intentionally uncontroversial President Barack Obama’s visit to China has been, with a stilted talk to hand-picked students in Shanghai and a denial by Chinese leaders of an overture by the U.S. for a kind of “G2” partnership between the two global powers. The obvious reason is the massive U.S. trade deficit, but an excellent analysis by The Washington Post sums up nicely how hamstrung Obama finds himself in negotiations due to the trade imbalance and America’s fragile economy. Unsettling stuff.

From the Post:

In 1998, when President Bill Clinton stood before television cameras in Beijing’s Great Hall of the People, the United States owed more money to Spain than to China and did more than twice as much trade with Mexico. At a freewheeling news conference, Clinton criticized China’s military crackdown a decade earlier in Tiananmen Square and traded spirited jibes with President Jiang Zemin.

On Tuesday, Obama stood in the same building alongside another Chinese leader. This time, with the United States in hock to China for more than $1 trillion dollars and flooded with Chinese-made goods, it was a Chinese-style news conference. Each leader read a prepared statement and eyed the other in silence. There were no questions.