FOR THE WEEK OF NOV. 14, 2005
President heads for China
Ask your students to check out clothing and electronics ads in their newspapers, then go out to the stores and make a list of all the goods they find that are marked "Made in China." What do they think about that? Goods manufactured in China keep millions of Chinese employed and benefit American shoppers because they are relatively inexpensive. Is that good for American workers? What can American do to compete?
Assign them to follow news reports of the President's trip. How was he received in the various countries? What did the news stories teach them about the countries he is visiting?
Ask them to write a report about what they think are the three most important achievements of the trip, and what they think are the three most interesting moments.
Thirty years ago, a young man who would become the 43rd President of the United States celebrated his 29th birthday bicycling around Beijing. It was a hoot for him. "I rode all over the place," George W. Bush told Phoenix Television of Beijing last week during an interview leading up to his visit there this week. "I can remember how odd people thought I looked," according to a White House transcript of the interview. "There wasn't much exposure to the West, and all of a sudden, an American starts riding a bike amongst them and it, frankly, surprised some people."
Bush was responding to a question seeking his "deepest impressions" of China from his early visit while his father was the first chief of the U.S. Liaison Office there. Aside from the number of bicycles in Beijing, Bush also remembered "the uniformity of dress." Now Beijing is full of cars, clothing has taken on individual style. And, Bush said, "There's high-rise buildings that are magnificent."
Returning to China Saturday in his third official visit, the President has many more spectacular changes to contemplate. China is turning itself into a global colossus and generally is viewed as the next country likely to achieve superpower status.
How the two nations adjust to that future is critical to world peace and prosperity.
"The history of the twenty-first century will largely be determined by the relationship that emerges between the world's greatest power and the world's greatest emerging power," according to Kishore Mahbubani, dean of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy in Singapore.
What's on the agenda? Bush plans to discuss free trade, intellectual property rights, currency issues and North Korea's nuclear program. The trade deficit with China is approaching $200 billion annually and Chinese counterfeiting of American movies, books and computer programs cost the United States another $250 billion each year and thousands of jobs, according to federal estimates. China wants renewed assurances that the United States will continue to oppose Taiwan independence. Perhaps not on the agenda, but clearly an ambition is China's increasingly unabashed desire to secure an invitation to join the G-8, a prestigious group of leading industrialized nations. Membership would recognize China's enormous economic growth and give the nation an international status it believes it has earned.
Common concerns: Both countries share an economic interest in fostering a stable international environment. Both nations, the world's two largest oil consumers, must bank on reliable oil prices. And so for both nations, that means it is vital to deal successfully with terrorism. The United States, of course, is the world's most aggressive opponent of terrorism, going to war in Afghanistan and Iraq after the 9/11 attacks against this country. China's terrorism nightmare is the security of sea-lanes through which its oil tankers travel. The Strait of Malacca, which separates Malaysia and Indonesia, is its chief concern because four-fifths of China's imported oil passes through that narrow body of water so susceptible to terrorist action. And Indonesia, home to the world's largest Muslim population, has struggled with radical Islamic terrorists. The Taiwan Strait also is a concern because if Taipei should declare sovereignty, China's oil fleet might well be a target. At any rate, China would take military action if Taiwan declared independence and that in itself could disrupt the oil supply.
Oil gamesmanship: Because both countries are so dependent on foreign oil, each has been busy looking out for itself. China is keenly aware of the enormous stake America has claimed in the Middle East and of U.S. interest in Central Asian oil fields close to China's borders. China, on the other hand, has signed a potential $70 billion oil and natural gas deal with Iran, the U.S. nemesis in the Middle East, and has reached agreement on buying oil from Latin American nemesis Hugo Chavez of Venezuela. Chavez has never believed for a minute U.S.denials of backing an attempt by the Venezuelan business community to overthrow him. And he hardly was charmed by evangelist Pat Robertson's suggestion that the United States assassinate him. Happy to twit the United States, Chavez told Chinese executives last year, "We have been producing and exporting oil for 100 years. But these have been 100 years of domination by the United States. Now we are free, and place this oil at the disposal of the great Chinese fatherland." In another move, China signed a memorandum of understanding with American friend and neighbor Canada to build a $2 billion pipeline to move oil to Canada's west coast for shipment to China. The oil would come from the very Canadian tar sands that Vice President Cheney coveted in his 2001 national energy policy security plan.
Military moves: China's growing military spending over the past several years has caught Washington's eye. In February, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said the Pentagon was watching China's burgeoning naval power. And then he said he could not confirm reports that China's fleet would surpass the U.S. Navy within 10 years. In May, Rumsfeld invited China to explain why it is continuing to increase military spending when it faces no major threat.
The Asian journey: China is not the only country Bush will visit this week. His journey will include a Wednesday stop in Japan where he will discuss a realignment of U.S. troops on Okinawa and urge the Japanese to resume importing American beef. On Thursday he will arrive in South Korea and discuss trade and the North Korean nuclear issue. On Friday and Saturday, he will attend the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit in Busan, South Korea, and discuss measures to deal with bird flu and the North Korean issue. His three-day China visit begins on Saturday. He also will find time to visit Mongolia.
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