What Kind of US President Would Chinese Like?

By Wen Zhao
Published: 2008-11-05

With Obama having completed his historic path to the White House, we feel a need to let it be known what kind of president Chinese would most welcome.

Over the past decade, every time the White House has changed hands, its relationship with China has hit rough seas. As each president sought to flex their newfound strength, China became one of the victims. Trade protectionism gave way to a new period of relationship repairing. Only by the third or fourth year did relations stabilize.

Bill Clinton and George Bush both spent two terms in the White House. The former at first supported setting limits on China's most favored nation status, while Bush framed China as a competitor. In the end, shared interest forced both countries to shelve their differences, and they were able to establish mutually agreeable terms for cooperation. Because of this, during both the Clinton and Bush era,the two countries benefited economically from the stable bilateral relationship.

This year, we noticed political and academic circles in both countries were more optimistic. They broadly believed that the relationship was entering a period of maturity, and that regardless of who would take office next, they would not be able to dramatically shake this trend. During this year's election, China did not become a major campaign issue, indicating that both sides agree over it more than they disagree.

Meanwhile, with the financial crisis still storming forward, economic issues have taken paramount importance. Two major engines of global economic growth – the US and China – have both begun to exhibit signs of slowdown. In the third quarter, the US economy shrank by 0.3%, while China's economy only recorded 9% growth.

With both countries gearing up to avoid an economic slide, stable relations are especially critical. It should be clear to the new president that both countries are mutually dependent on trade. Before the crisis, China accumulated US dollars through exporting, and spent most of them on Treasury bonds. Americans were able to maintain their consumption levels by borrowing, while aslo providing a huge market for Chinese products.

The global financial crisis has forced both countries to abandon previous paths for growth. China needs to base its growth on increasing domestic consumption, and the US must forfeit its reliance on heavy financial leverage to spur it. The new president should not simply blame China for a trade imbalance, and blindly demand that the yuan appreciate.

The November 15 G20 meeting is being seen as an opportunity for the US and the international community to jointly solve the financial crisis and build a new global financial system. At this juncture, we should not overly preoccupy ourselves with how to prevent the further deepening of the crisis, but instead focus on how to solve the fundamental and fatal flaws in the financial system. The new president should be willing to courageously take up this cause, and show more self-restraint in the printing of the US dollar.

Regarding other long-standing differences between the US and China, for example, in human rights, Tibet, and other problems, the new president should learn how to be more respectful of China's sovereignty. Countries will inevitably be different, and reckless condemnation will only deepen mistrust between them and leave problems unsolved. Globalization is bringing the hearts of people the world over closer together, and foresightedness and modesty will go a long way towards earning their respect.

China and the US have both affirmed that Taiwan is a part of China. With this significant premise set, the Taiwan question should not be a stumbling block for the two countries' relationship, and instead, be a chance to catalyze a stronger one. The new US president should not continue arms sales to Taiwan, as peace in the strait of Fermosa is of the interest of all parties. With both Taiwanese and mainlanders sharing the same blood and traditions, unification will come sooner or later, and the new president should work towards making this inevitability a more perfect and mature one.

Finally, we want to reiterate that Iraq has become the biggest mistake of the Bush presidency. We are looking forward to a president who does not walk with a big stick, strutting with the air of a haughty soldier. The new president should let the children wearing soldier's uniforms come home soon, and pour their energy into making the US economy flourish once again.

This is the kind of president we would like to see.