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ISSUE 119 VOL 10 PUBLISHED 12/2/2005

China trip shows hypocrisy

By Megan Sutherland
Staff Writer

Friday, December 2, 2005

If nothing else, you saw the pictures of President George W. Bush attempting to escape a press conference in Beijing – only to be foiled by a locked door. The president was in China meeting with Chinese President Hu Jintao, and on the second day of his trip, a reporter inquired if he had been distracted by something at a previous press conference, where President Bush appeared unenthusiastic and "off [his] game," as the reporter put it.

I can only imagine how terrible the appearance must have been for the president to appear more inept than usual, but I suppose that is beside the point.

Responding to the reporter, President Bush assumed his typical condescending tone, retorting, "Have you ever heard of jet lag? Well, good. That answers your question."

When the same reporter asked if he could ask a brief follow-up question, the president declined and stormed off towards a giant wooden door, which proved to be locked. The president had to be directed by an aide towards the real exit.

While Bush made light of the situation (posing for photographers with a constipated look on his face) at this point, no amount of self-deprecation is comforting. Even when he is trying to smooth out strained relations, I only end up feeling more embarrassed for our president.

While the specifics of his meeting with Hu are somewhat inconclusive, the general sense is that the two leaders are becoming more comfortable with one another. Bush arrived in China on Nov. 19 to meet with Hu and discuss, among other things, North Korea, religious persecution, human rights, the status of Taiwan and economic relations between the two countries.

In regard to Taiwan and religious/political persecution, Hu made it clear that he would not cave to American pressure. Hu and Bush did work out a contingency plan of sorts regarding avian influenza, including a written plan of cooperation regarding research and development on a vaccine to combat it.

The main topic of the visit revolved around American hopes that China will revalue its currency. As it stands now, the yuan is undervalued, and consequently, Chinese goods are sold more cheaply than their actual market value were the Chinese to allow their currency to “float” rather than control its value. By the same token, American goods are more expensive in China and, therefore, not very popular.

Trade between the two countries is unbalanced, with Americans buying more Chinese goods than Chinese buying American goods. Aside from a $4 billion deal for China to buy 70 Boeing aircrafts, however, little tangible progress was made. Even the aircraft deal is not set in stone.

While economics is all well and good, it is the hypocrisy I dislike. The focus on human rights and freedom of religion is merely a moral fig leaf for the American government’s real desire: money and power.

Looking out for the welfare of one’s country is perfectly legitimate. But, it is impossible not to resent the way we tout ourselves as great champions of human rights, yet fail to recognize our own inconsistency in keeping mum on China’s atrocious record in that department, let alone our own failings. Who remembers Abu Ghraib?

There would be nothing wrong with initiating a dialogue with China about allowing political and religious freedom without fear of reprisal. We have seen the very tangible threat of political tyranny manifested in the North Korean nuclear weapons programs.

But, even the American interest in religious freedom appears hypocritcal to many Chinese. President Bush certainly has a penchant for placing fundamentalist Christians in prominent positions, as well as trying to legislate Christian values. People around the world have trouble listening to criticism from people who are engaging in the very practices they criticize.

The philosophies President Bush lauded on his Asian jaunt are not fallacious in themselves, but when it comes to credibility, many countries on the other end of Bush's lectures just do not see the United States as being in a position to hand out moral instructions. This has been a key problem with the current administration, and it will take more than waving and smiling to counteract such impressions.

Staff writer Megan Sutherland is a senior from The Woodlands, Texas. She majors in English and history.

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