From: NY Times
Published February 11, 2009 09:22 AM

U.S. Prepares to Broach Hard Issues With China

WASHINGTON - The Obama administration plans to realign the United States’ relationship with China by putting more emphasis on climate change, energy and human rights, widening the focus beyond the economic concerns of the Bush years, according to senior administration officials.

With Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton scheduled to visit Beijing next week as part of her first foreign trip in her new job, the administration is said to believe that a broader relationship with the Chinese could create opportunities for collaboration - not only on a response to the global economic crisis, but also on the environment and on security issues like the North Korean and Iranian nuclear programs.


Yet the new focus, which is being championed by Mrs. Clinton, carries risks, experts said, because it could aggravate tensions on delicate issues like China’s repression of Tibet and its position as the world’s leading emitter of greenhouse gases.

An added hurdle for Mrs. Clinton, these experts said, is that the United States urgently needs China’s support on the economic front. Putting new issues on the table now may complicate efforts to seek Beijing’s help in areas like financial regulation and stimulus campaigns.

“The difficulty is not just that the timing is off,” said Minxin Pei, a China expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. “Rebalancing the relationship means introducing elements that have friction. Those areas that have been ignored are precisely the more contentious ones.”

Mrs. Clinton said recently that relations during the Bush administration “turned into an economic dialogue,” adding, “That’s a very important aspect of our relationship with China, but it is not the only aspect.”

Speaking last week to reporters, she said, “We want it to be part of a broader agenda, and that’s what we’re working to achieve.”

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