BEIJING, Feb 23 – Hillary Clinton’s trip to Beijing has come as a relief to China after the US secretary of state steered clear of human rights and other sensitive issues to focus on cooperation between the world powers.
The official English-language China Daily published an enthusiastic editorial, saying Clinton’s visit to China, part of her first overseas trip that also took in Japan, Indonesia and South Korea, reassured Beijing.
"Many had waited anxiously for the new administration’s China overtures, wondering if the precious signs of stabilisation in bilateral ties at the end of the Bush years could survive the new White House resident’s ambitions for change," it said.
"With Clinton in town highlighting common concerns, they finally received the much sought-after relief."
China’s communist leaders had initially given a nervous welcome to US President Barack Obama, fearing the Democrat leader would press them harder on human rights and trade issues than his predecessor, George W. Bush.
But Clinton, who wrapped up her trip on Sunday, sought repeatedly to reassure her hosts she wanted to spend her 40 hours in Beijing focusing on ways to work together, not debating their differences such as on human rights.
Clinton did meet with Chinese women’s rights advocates at the US embassy and said she raised the issue in private with China’s leaders.
But her comments that she would not let human rights stand in the way of co-operation on issues of major global importance, such as the economic crisis and climate change, drew criticism from activists in China and abroad.
Other points of dispute, such as US accusations of Chinese currency manipulation and Washington’s arms sales to Taiwan, were also off the public agenda.
Xin Qiang, deputy director of the Centre for American Studies at Fudan University in Shanghai, said the Chinese government would have welcomed Clinton’s conciliatory stance.
"Beijing doesn’t want to hear any criticism on these issues, and now Beijing will be much relieved and happy that human rights and issues on Tibet and Taiwan have not been raised by Secretary Clinton," he said.
On the specific issue of Clinton not pressing hard on human rights, Xin said: "Beijing will take it as a good and friendly gesture extended by Washington."
The Global Times, another state-run newspaper, said Clinton’s attitude towards China on human rights was "realistic."
"In the future, the United States will sooner or later raise the issue of human rights in China, but it might not be too extreme," it cited a professor at the China Foreign Affairs University, which operates under the guidance of the government, as saying.
"This type of realistic attitude could be followed by other Western leaders."
Other state media said Clinton’s visit had revealed a distinct change in relations between the United States and China, with the power imbalance between them evening out.
"Whether it is in methods of contact or how issues are formulated, everything is very different from before," the Beijing News said in a comment piece.
"On a diplomatic level, China and the United States are becoming quite balanced."
Xin made similar remarks, pointing to Clinton apparently not mentioning the currency row between the two nations, after US Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner accused China in January of manipulating the yuan for a trade advantage.
"The United States have realised that you cannot criticise China unilaterally while you are also trying to get help from Beijing," he said.