China and foreign relations

Chinese papers note Bush’s Russian reconciliation

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Bush and Putin, very cosy
Unfortunately for the Bush administration, Bush's rhetorical softening toward his Russian hosts at the G8 summit has not gone unnoticed in China.

For the past few years, both Russia and China have derided U.S. rhetorical support for liberalization in Central Asia and supposed material support for recent “color revolutions.” But commentators noticed a distinct change in American attitudes during the G8 summit.

Among them was Wang Honggang (王鸿刚) who pointed out in his Xinhua article, “Why do Western nations yield to Russia?” that during the joint press conference, Bush “failed to use the lofty and provocative phrases 'democratic regression' and imperial foreign policy but instead stressed that the current state of U.S.-Russian relations was good.”

The softer stance was widely interpreted to be a product of Russia’s rise in power, not the deteriorating international situation. This has significant implications in China where the same characters for “rise” (崛起) are used frequently to describe China’s increasing prominence.

To the People’s Daily, the change in tone was a vindication of a long held belief that America’s insistence on democratization could only come at the expense of stability in the region. An editorial on Tuesday closed gleefully: “it can be said that the demands of reality as well as various practical considerations overcame America’s lofty democratic tone.”

Yet despite the apparent similarity between the positions of Russia and China, most papers did not go so far as to suggest China might actually join the G8. Those that did broach the subject generally concluded China was just fine as an outsider.

Interestingly, in analysis published in the Beijing Youth Daily, after listing a host of reasons the G8 and China were coming together, the author concluded that the G8’s emphasis on “so called ‘democratization of political process’” made China’s joining unlikely. Unfortunately, in the Sohu web portal version of the same article, this final paragraph was left out, dramatically changing the conclusion of the author.

The softer stance and its welcome in China will likely come as a disappointment to the New York Times, the Council on Foreign Relations and John McCain who all urged Bush not to get too comfortable with his Russian hosts at the G8.

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