U.S. senators urge nominee for Beijing ambassador to be tough on China

WASHINGTON Tue Jan 28, 2014 2:28pm EST

U.S. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus questions Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius during a Finance Committee hearing on ''Health Insurance Exchanges: An Update from the Administration'' on Capitol Hill in Washington November 6, 2013. REUTERS/Jim Bourg

U.S. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus questions Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius during a Finance Committee hearing on ''Health Insurance Exchanges: An Update from the Administration'' on Capitol Hill in Washington November 6, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Jim Bourg

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. lawmakers expressed concern about China's territorial ambitions at a confirmation hearing on Tuesday for the next American ambassador to China, and they urged him to take a tough line with Beijing.

Senator Max Baucus, President Barack Obama's nominee for the ambassador's post, told a Senate hearing he would do all he could to reduce tensions between China and its neighbors and said he would follow a "cautious" approach with Beijing.

Baucus said he agreed with an assessment of Republican Senator John McCain that China was trying to reassert its historical position as the dominant power in Asia.

McCain said China's construction and acquisition of an aircraft carrier was "a statement of a desire to project power" that should worry the United States. He said tensions in the region had "implications that could lead to another 'Guns of August'" - a reference to the start of World War One in 1914.

Beijing's declaration of an air defense identification zone in an area that includes disputed islands triggered protests last month from Japan, South Korea and the United States, which said China was trying to change the status quo in the East China Sea.

"The role that China is playing in Asia today should be of great concern to all of us," McCain said.

"I don't disagree with you," Baucus replied, adding that the United States should "hope for the best and assume the worst."

"I am a realist, believe me, and I understand the version of Chinese history that you have just espoused; there is a hard ring of truth to it," Baucus said in response to McCain, who advocates an assertive U.S. foreign policy.

Baucus said setting up the East China Sea zone was "unfortunate" and expressed concern about the "delicate relationship" between China and Japan, in which miscalculation could easily result in "a major problem."

Although the Senate hearing was not always smooth, with Baucus at one point acknowledging he is "no real expert on China," his nomination is widely expected to be approved.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee is likely to vote on Baucus' confirmation as early as next Tuesday. If he is approved as expected, his nomination will then be sent to the full Senate.

Asked about his response to McCain, Baucus told reporters after the hearing that what was most important in the U.S.-China relationship was "results" and "how to manage the relationship in a positive and constructive way."

"So I try not to get too involved in the motives and try to focus more on reactions and finding common ground as best we can," he said.

Senator Bob Corker, the top Republican on the committee, said the U.S. relationship with China was probably the most important with any nation over the next decade, yet it was not well defined by the Obama administration.

"Many Americans wonder today whether China is friend or foe," he said, adding that the United States should shape the relationship so that "Western values" were upheld.

(Reporting by David Brunnstrom; Additional reporting by Patricia Zengerle; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

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Comments (1)
zhubajie wrote:
What is that B.S. about a more equitable economic relationship?

1. The profits balance is hugely lopsided. 60,000 American projects and companies together broke the $100 billion profits per year mark, from and in China, as of 2010, and they never looked back. But due the the xenophobic discrimination imposed by the U.S. Congress, profits by the Chinese entities from and in America is a measly fraction of that. The typical “profit” on exports from China to America is 1-3%. The imbalance in the service trade is even more extreme. Equitable trade has to mean equal profits.

2. After Snowden came clean, it is clear that America has been stealing (OK, taking without permission, same thing) massive amounts of data from China and others – and the misconduct CONTINUES unabated. If that does not stop, at a tariff of just $1 a byte for data taken, America owes China quadrillions of dollars – and that is without imposing treble damages against the willful misconduct.

What is good must be universal. Whatever America demands of China, first look at how America is doing in the category.

Baucus would have a very tough row to hoe, if he believes he can bully his way through China. A real G2 of equals is the only viable way forward, but Washington wants to impose obligations only on Beijing, without acknowledging the privileges. Continuing to ignore China’s redlines will just cause more disputes.

Start by yanking Commerce back from the solar trade wars. Do what Europe did – compromise and start negotiating a free trade deal with China.

Jan 28, 2014 4:47pm EST  --  Report as abuse
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