Threatened by a growing and influential China, Hillary Clinton consciously reiterated US commitment to an enhanced partnership, before embarking on her South Asia tour.
Before US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton embarked on her whirlwind tour of South Asia, she made a pit stop in Beijing to attend the fourth round of the US-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue (SED). This meeting came amidst the brewing crisis regarding blind lawyer and human rights activist, Chen Guangchen. Chen, who was persecuted by Chinese authorities for years, miraculously escaped house arrest and took refuge in the US embassy in Beijing. Leaving only after he had struck a deal with Chinese authorities to be reunited with his family, Chen left the embassy but soon changed his mind upon discovering that his wife had ‘almost been beaten to death’ after his escape.
It is not clear whether the US will grant the family political asylum but Chen’s accusations and demands dominated the SED. However, Clinton used her diplomatic flair to reiterate the US commitment to raise fundamental human rights and stand by those who have suffered injustice.
Apart from this distraction, the SED aimed to address strategic mistrust between China and the U.S. and introduce a dialogue beyond bilateral issues such as trade with Iran and North Korea. Acknowledging that a partnership, rather than competition, is in the best interests of the U.S, Clinton stated, “We need this kind of open regular mechanism for strengthening our partnership and managing those areas where there are tensions and differences. US-China ties are the most consequential relationship of the 21st century.”
The U.S and China are constantly at loggerheads regarding strategic issues, regional dominance and technological advancements. A relationship replete with mistrust and rivalry requires sensitive diplomacy and honest commitment. Clinton’s efforts to enhance a partnership come in the wake of growing US concerns over global hegemony. In hopes to build a committed partnership, the U.S guaranteed to not interfere in the outstanding South China Sea issue, for which Manila has requested U.S assistance. As China moves towards a more market oriented exchange rate system, it has in return committed to provide greater protection and responsibility to US intellectual property rights as well as allow increased market access to US companies.
How far such initiatives will be followed is uncertain but what is obvious is that the U.S. is certainly threatened by a growing global power and is consciously trying to “build a resilient relationship that allows both of our nations to thrive without unhealthy competition, rivalry, or conflict while meeting our national, regional, and global responsibilities.”