October 12th, 2013
02:12 PM ET

China gives U.S. lesson in grown-up policy making

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By Global Public Square staff

Last week’s Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit saw the presidents of China, Mexico, Russia and many others in Bali, Indonesia.  In the video, tucked away on the far right, you see John Kerry, the U.S. Secretary of State. And where is President Obama? Well, he was stuck in Washington, of course, dealing with the government shutdown and threats of default. Obama missed not only APEC, but also ASEAN, the Association of South East Asian Nations summit, as well as planned visits to Malaysia and the Philippines.

For Asians, the symbolism was clear. The United States was struggling to get its house in order. And perhaps to highlight a contrast, China was present in full force, putting on an exhibition of power and diplomacy. President Xi Jinping attended the APEC meeting and then made special trips to Malaysia and Indonesia. The Premier, Li Keqiang, attended the ASEAN meeting and traveled to Thailand.

Consider the deals that were struck last week. President Xi promised to triple his country's trade with Malaysia within four years. In Indonesia, he promised tens of billions of dollars in investment. And he courted Australia's new prime minister, Tony Abbott, to whom he promised more trade and more cooperation in technology and energy.

And it’s not just trade. A new report from the non-profit Rand Corporation outlines the dramatic escalation of China's foreign aid. In 2001, Beijing spent $1.7 billion dollars on foreign aid. By 2009, it was spending nearly $125 billion. In 2010, the figure rose to $169 billion, by 2011 it reached $189 billion dollars – about 3 percent of China's GDP – and it is still going up.

The money trail points to a country flush with cash, looking to snap up resources and opportunities around the world.

What has been less clear in the last two years is the effectiveness of Beijing's foreign policy. As the Chinese scholar Zheng Wang points out, not a single member of China's seven-member Standing Committee – the pinnacle of power in Beijing – is a foreign policy expert. The country’s foreign minister doesn't make it into Beijing’s 25-person Politburo.

More from CNN: World wants U.S. soft power

And China has made several missteps in the past three years. It escalated territorial disputes with Japan, the Philippines and Vietnam. It was seen as a bully flexing its muscles with its neighbors. These signals, mostly rhetoric, were a contradiction not only of China's stated policy of a “peaceful rise,” but also of its actual track record. Remember: China has actually not been involved in a single war since 1979, when it had a skirmish with Vietnam. But the moves worried its neighbors enough that they publicly asked for greater American involvement in Asia.

This past week, China's leaders were at pains to display a softer face. They described China as a gentle giant, not an aggressor. Meanwhile, they put the focus back on the economy and building business ties with their Asian neighbors. As Li put it last week, “We should make the pie bigger, and share this pie with our people.” It's a smart, win-win move. China's neighbors may worry about a big, powerful giant – but they still want to trade with it.

President Obama's pivot to Asia has been one of his wisest foreign policy moves, well-conceived and well executed. But it, too, has now been weakened, one more consequence of the vicious partisanship in Washington.

So you see a China that learns from its mistakes, smartens up, and moves ahead. Washington on the other hand, keeps returning to deadlock, repeats its most stupid moves, and continues to govern from crisis to crisis. It is a sad contrast that Asia and the world can see.

Post by:
Topics: Asia • China • What in the World?

soundoff (174 Responses)
  1. Lou50

    Great another refuff from a third world country because of Obama and the 50.4% of the voters fools enough to vote for him. A new low for America!

    October 14, 2013 at 10:29 pm | Reply
  2. Tim

    Of course Xi Jinping showed China's strength. It's a dictatorship. Let's all admire the murderous dictatorship.

    October 14, 2013 at 10:58 pm | Reply
    • Donald Paul Winston

      China and Russia like everyone else in the world have socialized health care. Your statement is silly.

      October 14, 2013 at 11:38 pm | Reply
      • action

        You mean like people who believe in a god or the farmers in the impoverished regions in china who think flooding their fields for factories 1000 miles away is not good for them?? Democracy is not pretty, the USA proves that everyday, but you will never see American citizens rolled over by tanks for their peaceful political views. You can have your 3rd world healthcare in china, where people are still getting malaria, or in mother Russia where American level healthcare is reserved for the super rich.

        October 14, 2013 at 11:55 pm |
      • Tim

        Evidently you have never walked the streets of a Chinese town and seen cats and dogs wandering in and out of 'clinics'. The windows of hospitals are opened to the polluted air, heat and humidity. Next time you need healthcare find a small village in China and let us know how that works for you.

        October 15, 2013 at 1:34 am |
      • BK

        Oh, so healthcare makes everything ok? Awesome. Never mind the harsh dictatorship. Never mind the cultural genocide committed against the Tibetans. They get free healthcare!!! Woohoo!

        October 15, 2013 at 7:22 am |
      • Mantismech

        China does not have socialize health care. China is a Communist country in name only. It is a oligarchy, ruled by a group of men. China resembles to United States in the 19th century, where capitalism was king and ruled by a few men. If you are sick and have no money, you are out-of-luck. Health care is pure capitalism at its most ideal.

        October 15, 2013 at 8:35 am |
      • Mantismech

        Xie JinPing is not a dictator. A dictator has absolute power. China is a oligarchy. It is ruled by the Central Politburo Standing Committee of the Communist Party of China. Xie JinPing was selected by the Politburo to be the General Secretary of the Communist Party, or as President of China.

        October 15, 2013 at 8:45 am |
      • Bigfoot1776

        Yes, China has socialized medicine, but they need to use it much more because they can't breathe the air, drink the water or eat the food without being poisoned. And their retirement benefits will barely pay for rice and beans for the rest of their lives. The impoverished elderly in Hong Kong sleep on metal racks in rented rooms shared with several other extreme poverty cases. They don't use sheets or a matress because it only attracts more blood-sucking bedbugs than they already have.

        October 15, 2013 at 4:54 pm |
      • Bigfoot1776

        Yes, Chinese healthcare also includes organ transplants from executed Falun Gong members who have been tortured and murdered for not putting the Communist Party ahead of everything else in their lives, like home, family and spiritual values and beliefs.

        October 15, 2013 at 5:00 pm |
    • YahwehisReal

      Meh... I guess there is one thing we can agree on, China will never shoot itself on the foot because of infighting in their government byt shutting down their gov, for them patriotism and country comes before the need of their people.

      October 15, 2013 at 8:01 am | Reply
      • Embun

        Yes, I agree. The actions taken to shut down a government is NOT a democracy it is an act of terrorism to the people. Defaulting a country is equal to subversion to the people and the country.

        October 16, 2013 at 11:33 pm |
    • marc

      Yeah they invaded and killed hundreds of thousands on a lie in Iraq and keep going in Afghanistan... oh wait, they didn't, so apparently this murderous dictatorship has killed far less (zero wars in past 10+ years) than a murderous democracy.

      October 16, 2013 at 12:52 pm | Reply
  3. lmori

    Every other world leader is making Obama look like an amateur. First Putin (a Russian leader of all things) shows an American president how to avoid war through diplomacy. Then a Chinese leader shows Obama how to expand a nation's economic influence. Meanwhile, Obama spends his entire presidency trying to socialize health care. When people look back at when the US started to go downhill, they'll look back at this administration.

    October 14, 2013 at 11:03 pm | Reply
    • FactCheck

      No, they will look back on a defenseless Republic that had no way to defend itself from a traitorous group of Tea Partiers so consumed with hatred for a black president and intend on achieving its warped political ends that it subverted the machinery of government, machinery that had served the country well for more than two centuries, in order to spew its moronic vitriol. You do not understand the meaning of the word "socialize." Do you really not understand that you are ALREADY paying for every US resident's medical care in the most expensive way possible [assuming you have medical insurance]? Emergency rooms, by law, cannot turn away those in need of care. If these supplicants do not have coverage, those of us with insurance already pay for their care though footing the bill via increased premiums. Obama has tried to rationalize health care, not socialize it. It was socialized long ago.

      October 14, 2013 at 11:39 pm | Reply
      • allenwoll

        FC - EXACTLY : Your critics well illustrate your point, indeed ! ! - They NEVER learn, do they ? ? ?

        October 15, 2013 at 12:21 am |
      • maestromik3y

        Amen to that.

        October 15, 2013 at 12:21 am |
      • Pablo

        very well put.

        October 15, 2013 at 5:31 am |
      • jayb18

        FC the "Tea Party" is more about runaway spending by botb Republicans and Democrats. Lay off the MSNBC talking points and find different points of view regarding the way Washington DC works.

        October 15, 2013 at 7:50 am |
    • Ruby

      Of couse these others already have health care programs in place and do not tolerate minority extremist political movements.

      October 14, 2013 at 11:48 pm | Reply
    • Magister

      Obama IS an amateur.

      October 15, 2013 at 12:10 am | Reply
      • tiddle

        You have it backwards. The Tea Partyers are the amateurs; they don't even know what it means if our government fails and US doesn't have the power to borrow anymore. Wait till their mortgage interest rate shoots up and they'll realize some real impact of a diminished US and dimming appeal of the treasury.

        October 15, 2013 at 8:03 am |
    • aj

      I can just imagine the outrage if Obama had gone to the summit. The headlines on Fox "Obama takes a cushy vacation overseas while his economy flounders"

      October 15, 2013 at 3:21 am | Reply
    • tiddle

      Thanks to the house republicans, they succeeded in diminishing the presidency and US as a world power. GOP might think they're reducing Obama's stature, but they didn't realize they're reducing America as a whole because the US president is our projection to the world. Fools.

      October 15, 2013 at 8:00 am | Reply
    • jon wilson

      Nope... Bush got the ball rolling on this one. Yes I'm blaming Bush. Why is congress trying to stop something that's already been enacted.

      October 15, 2013 at 8:04 am | Reply
    • Mantismech

      China's health care is capitalism at its ideal. If you have money, no problem. If you have no money you are out-of-luck. I always tell my Republican friends that if you like few rules and regulations, you need to move to China.

      October 15, 2013 at 8:56 am | Reply
    • Bigfoot1776

      If Obama followed the example of China or Russia, the Tea Party dingalings would have been rounded up and shot years ago.

      October 15, 2013 at 5:06 pm | Reply
  4. Magister

    Hardly surprising that Farina-head Zakaria and the Communist News Network are siding with China. Oh well. More to purge.

    October 15, 2013 at 12:11 am | Reply
    • jon wilson

      China is right and that hurts a lot of people feelings. The whole world looks at America like we are a bunch of whining two year olds. China's the only country to have balls enough to put their foot down and say something about it.

      October 15, 2013 at 8:09 am | Reply
      • Well Said

        Amen Brother.

        October 16, 2013 at 9:29 am |
  5. Peace

    Even the smartest sometimes make stupid remarks..

    Really CNN ? You are comparing a single party communist government's decision making ability to a democratic two party, three tier government ? There is nothing wrong with US government or the parties..Disagreement is fine. Shutdown happens when one party wants to ground offices .. They are elected officials too..Sanity wins at the end..That is called Democracy.. I am really worried about the future with these social idiots writing articles on news media when they should be confined to just social media.

    October 15, 2013 at 12:32 am | Reply
    • Mantismech

      I agree with your comment. I have traveled and lived extensively in China and you are right.

      October 15, 2013 at 8:57 am | Reply
  6. George

    Is there anything at all that Fareed Zakaria likes about the United States? Why does he live here?

    October 15, 2013 at 12:44 am | Reply
    • Obi Ikeako

      OMG!!! Is this NAZI GERMANY? What do you mean why does he live here? – Fareed Zakaria can agree or disagree with whom ever he wishes – that's the AMERICAN WAY!

      October 15, 2013 at 2:38 am | Reply
    • More thinking

      This does not sound very American

      October 15, 2013 at 6:07 am | Reply
    • Bigfoot1776

      Zakaria lives here because the paycheck is very good and after trashing the national leader, he doesn't have to worry about the knock on the door in the middle of the night and never seeing his family again.

      October 15, 2013 at 5:11 pm | Reply
  7. Vox populi

    Short term gain for China with no long latest consequences.

    October 15, 2013 at 12:55 am | Reply
  8. Dave Green

    That's one benefit f an oligarchy. The ability to have long term goals and policies without having to worry about them being sabotaged or repealed by opposition. Of course the draw back is there is no one to tell you if you're making a mistake. Either way, china has managed to prove that their system works..At least in so much as they are economically sound.

    October 15, 2013 at 1:24 am | Reply
    • Pablo

      Careful what you say about China. You do know that they are our landlords don't you. If we default, they will repossess everything.

      October 15, 2013 at 5:34 am | Reply
      • Bigfoot1776

        Thats a hilarious childs view of China investing in US government bonds. The majority of US debt is owed to the people of the USA.

        October 15, 2013 at 5:14 pm |
  9. TBONE

    Fareed, where was Obama, Obama is here dealing with the people's business and trying to get the knuckleheads in Congress and Senate, to pass a budget so we do not default on our debt. As much as he wants to be in Asia at the summit, he is doing what a responsible leader should do, take care of business at home first. When I saw the picture I never bothered to read the rest of the article. Your an intelligent man Fareed, but this was probally the most useless topic. You of all people are more informed and should stay out of the opinion journalism specter forum and stick with what you do best, fact based journalism.

    October 15, 2013 at 5:00 am | Reply
  10. Skeptic

    If China's policy making were so great, there wouldn't be one billion Chinese hoping to immigrate to America.

    October 15, 2013 at 5:19 am | Reply
    • Pablo

      Careful what you say about China. You do know that they are our landlords don't you. If we default, they will repossess everything.

      October 15, 2013 at 5:34 am | Reply
      • allenwoll

        Best that you check your numbers, Pal !

        October 15, 2013 at 8:30 am |
  11. Kung Malaysia

    American doesn't know what to do when it cannot benefit the 'hidden hand' of private interests – it's set up to benefit cruise missile manufacturers, aircraft carrier maintenance and supply contractors, and regime change interests. That's why Obama initially went along with the idea of missile strikes in Syria only to realize finally he's helping Al Qaeda! what a surprise it must have been to him. They don't know what to do with Great Britain – the formula is so entrenched. How to change? This must be a huge dilemma to them! democracy-missile-leons!

    October 15, 2013 at 6:21 am | Reply
  12. Diagda

    China pundits or policy makers call the USA a paper tiger NO were a Bald eagle younger more agile and flies faster and higher and sees farther than a Dragon long destined to never truly rule but become bloated and collapse in on itself in a not too distant future sure it can destroy a Bear lol.
    This old archaic system can no longer be a viable sustainable system, the investment driven profit sum game feeds the feudal system in Pakistan rural slavery for example in the Lahore Province and federated states that sow high divorce rates spewing the fathers out into the overseas Jihadt construct and the fathers children drop out of school to work washing windshields of cars lose,out on education these examples show our Global System needs to transition away from old school profit reality constructs to a more robust Anti-Poverty system and work days to be flexible 30 days off and 30days work perhaps basic needs such as universal healthcare on a global level should be the norm and a flat rate high wages the world over equalizing the pay will firewall job loss prevention from one member state to another .

    October 15, 2013 at 6:30 am | Reply
  13. sharkusg

    Yeah, well, it's lot easier to steer a country any direction you like when you don't have the inconvenience of the people's voice occasionally chiming in....

    October 15, 2013 at 7:23 am | Reply
    • allenwoll

      Certainly you do not refer to us, the U S A ? ? . We are now a Corporatocracy - No one in government anymore listens to the people - They only listen to Political Influence Money emanating from the Boardrooms.

      October 15, 2013 at 8:34 am | Reply
  14. Reason

    madhuthangavelu and Eli, you're both right. China's foreign aid has skyrocketed and continues to go up and part of it , possibly a lot of it, goes to finding food and miner resources to support its people and its rapid industrial growth. The interesting part of all of this the difference in how the West has used its foreign aid to suppress and oppress developing countries by many different methods which included supporting both sides of a boarder war between neighboring countries and arming both sides. On the other hand although China is not completely altruistic it does make an attempt to support development of the countries from which they get the resources that they need. The scary unknown is the possible undermining of the future (e.g. the youth) of theses countries.

    Lets see if CN is willing to post THIS note.

    October 17, 2013 at 9:44 pm | Reply
  15. marc

    considering we give them about a thousand lessons and lectures a year, I think one from them to us is....okay

    October 29, 2013 at 1:44 am | Reply
  16. JAL

    In the global community, the tacit consent or China which does not notice aims at the world hegemony; if is the same, the all world will fall into the Chinese hand

    November 5, 2013 at 4:24 pm | Reply
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