Today is a shameful day for China, which refused to allow imprisoned Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo to receive his award in Oslo, Norway. The ceremony went on, but with Liu's absence marked by an empty chair, on which was set his Nobel Peace Prize diploma and medal, as seen in the photo above.
Liu Xiaobo, this year's Nobel Peace Prize winner, helped author Charter '08 calling for peaceful political reform in China and lost his freedom for the cause. On this Human Rights Day, I reiterate our call for his immediate release.
Clinton also hailed the world's "citizen heroes," from Cuba to Zimbabwe, and said "their courage to persist is a testament to all that is good in the human spirit." Click below to read Clinton's complete statement.
ODD ANDERSEN/AFP/Getty Images
Applauding the selection of Liu Xiaobo as the winner of this year's Nobel Peace Prize, Secretary Clinton urged China "to uphold its international human rights obligations and to respect the fundamental freedoms and human rights of all Chinese citizens." She also demanded "Liu Xiaobo's immediate release from prison."
Clinton's statement today is refreshing after remarks she made in February 2009 that seemed to place human rights in China as a back-burner priority. At the time she said, "[O]ur pressing on those [human rights] issues can't interfere with the global economic crisis, the global climate change crisis, and the security crisis."
Below is Clinton's complete statement, issued today:
I applaud the Nobel Committee's decision to award this year's Nobel Peace Prize to Liu Xiaobo. Throughout its history, the Peace Prize has often been used to recognize the heroism of those who have, through persistent and peaceful efforts, sought to build a world that is more fair and free.
Mr. Liu has been a consistent advocate for fundamental freedoms and human rights for his fellow citizens and for peaceful political reform. Mr. Liu's work, including his role in the drafting of Charter '08, and his receipt of this honor highlight the fact that while China has made tremendous economic progress in the last three decades, political reform has lagged behind. As I said in Krakow this summer, governments should recognize the constructive role that citizens such as Liu Xiaobo play. We urge China to uphold its international human rights obligations and to respect the fundamental freedoms and human rights of all Chinese citizens. We reiterate our call for Liu Xiaobo's immediate release from prison.
MIKE CLARKE/AFP/Getty Images
Secretary Clinton met with women civil society leaders in China this morning. It's wonderful that she's able to take time out of her busy schedule -- packed with talking to leaders about what to do with North Korea -- and support women in the strides they're making around the world.
[Update, May 27, 2010: The transcript from the meeting is here.]
Photos, from top: SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images, State Department Photo/Public Domain/Flickr, State Department Photo/Public Domain/Flickr
The United States welcomes China's progress and its accomplishments. And by establishing patterns of cooperation, rather than competition between our two countries, we see the opportunity, as we have just heard from Vice-Premier Wang, for win-win solutions, rather than zero-sum rivalries, for we know that few global problems can be solved by the United States or China acting alone. And few can be solved without the United States and China working together.
SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images
Secretary Clinton visited the Expo 2010 world's fair in Shanghai this Saturday, where you could hear "scattered calls" of "We love you, Hillary!" according to the Washington Post. Above, she greets Haibao, the Expo's mascot. Below, she checks out the logo-festooned USA Pavilion.
U.S. law makes government funding of an American pavilion difficult, so Clinton used her fundraising skills to bring in private money for the USA Pavilion. (See the March FP article, "A Sorry Spectacle." For fairness, check out the rebuttal piece "Defending the USA Pavilion.")
The result: an ugly USA Pavilion.
After mentioning that "corporate America" ponied up $60 million, the Washington Post describes the USA Pavilion this way:
[The USA Pavilion] resembles more a convention center in a medium-size American city than a national showcase -- a warren of dark rooms with movie screens that pales in comparison to the ambitious pavilions of, among others, Saudi Arabia, which features the world's biggest Imax screen, and Germany, festooned with hundreds of giant red balls.…
In addition, the message Clinton experienced at the American pavilion was so larded with corporate advertising that even some of the visiting U.S. officials appeared to have been taken aback.
One film on the creative power of children featured interviews with representatives from corporate powerhouses Chevron, General Electric, Pepsico and Johnson & Johnson, with Habitat for Humanity and the University of Washington thrown in for good measure. That film was aired in the Citicorp room.
A film featuring a girl making her dreams come true and song lyrics that went, "You've got a dream, so plant it in your heart.… You can make it bloom so all the world will see," flashed this message in Chinese on the screen as it was ending, "This film was made by Pepsi."
Still, the USA Pavilion has proved popular among the Chinese. (The pavilion doesn't mention anything about democracy and freedom of expression, with the head of the pavilion's steering committee telling the Post that a main goal was not to be "insulting" to the Chinese.)
When asked her opinion of the Expo in its entirety, Clinton appeared moved and said,"It's so much of a tradition of these expos, all the way back to St. Louis or New York.… It's like a coming-out party for countries and cities. There's a real historical significance."
Asked about the USA Pavilion in particular, she said less enthusiastically, "It's fine."
Well, if corporate America paid for it, then it only makes sense that it should be a "corporate America" pavilion.
Photos: SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images
Clinton is out of the country until next week. She departed today for a weeklong visit to Asia. Her itinerary follows. (Meanwhile, I'll be busy finishing up FP's July/August issue for the next couple of weeks, so posting will be light.)
May 20: Departing Washington.
May 21: In Tokyo to discuss regional and global issues.
May 21-23: In Shanghai to visit Expo 2010 and attend a dinner to honor the USA Pavilion sponsors and others involved with creating it. On May 23, Clinton will attend a commercial diplomacy event to promote U.S. market access and job creation.
May 23-26: In Beijing, Clinton and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner will meet with Chinese officials for a meeting of the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue.
May 26: In South Korea, Clinton will meet with government officials to discuss regional stability and other topics. Later in the day, she'll fly back to Washington.
(In the photo above, Clinton boards a plane on March 1, 2010.)
PABLO MARTINEZ MONSIVAIS/AFP/Getty Images
Three other bits of Clinton-related news:
•China's Xinhua news agency reports that Clinton and Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi had a phone conversation today (perhaps Chinese time today?) in which they agreed to "spare no efforts in building a positive, cooperative and comprehensive Sino-U.S. relationship."
•After the attack against the U.S. Consulate in Peshawar, Pakistan, yesterday, Clinton said in her remarks, "The Pakistani people have suffered grievous losses, but they are standing firm in the face of this intimidation -- and the United States stands with them."
•After the noon news briefing on the new U.S. Nuclear Posture Review, Clinton will have Nigeria on her mind, launching the U.S.-Nigeria Binational Commission at 3 p.m. today, after a bilateral with the Nigerian secretary to the federal government.
Here are a couple of photos from the U.S. State Department's website of Secretary Clinton's meeting with the Dalai Lama last Thursday, Feb. 18. China expressed its disagreement with the meeting, saying it was U.S. interference in the country's internal domestic affairs. At Friday's press briefing, Assistant Secretary Philip Crowley said, "I think on this issue, obviously, we just agree to disagree on this subject."
U.S. State Department
JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images
Today in her speech on Internet freedom, Secretary Clinton declared:
I hope that refusal to support politically motivated censorship will become a trademark characteristic of American technology companies. … It should be part of our national brand."
She had some tough talk, saying:
Countries or individuals that engage in cyberattacks should face consequences and international condemnation."
She also said:
In an interconnected world, an attack on one nation's networks can be an attack on all."
Clinton took a tough stance, as she ought to have. So many of us rely so much on the Internet, and cyberattackers thousands of miles away can wreak so much havoc with just a few clicks.
Meanwhile, the Chinese government isn't too happy
Referencing Google's donations to Obama's campaigns, an editorial in the Chinese government-controlled Global Times yesterday labeled the U.S. administration as "Government Google" and stated:
The world's top search engine, once hailed by many Chinese as a flagship of global innovation, is now on the brink of being made a political football played by the White House, and has aroused strong, hostile reactions from some Chinese users."
Joshua Roberts/Getty Images
After learning that Google might pull out of China after an attack on its computer services, Secretary Clinton -- who, interestingly enough, will be giving a speech about Internet freedom on Jan. 21 -- said:
We have been briefed by Google on these allegations, which raise very serious concerns and questions. We look to the Chinese government for an explanation. The ability to operate with confidence in cyberspace is critical in a modern society and economy. I will be giving an address next week on the centrality of Internet freedom in the 21st century, and we will have further comment on this matter as the facts become clear."
Just last week, Clinton dined with a small group of leading technology executives, including Google CEO Eric Schmidt.
PHILIPPE LOPEZ/AFP/Getty Images
The following is adapted from today's Morning Brief on FP's Passport:
Arriving in Honolulu yesterday wearing a lei (as seen above), Secretary Clinton is kicking off her tour of the Pacific region with a meeting in Hawaii with her Japanese counterpart, Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada. The meeting will likely focus on the relocation of the U.S. air base on Okinawa, which the United States wants to keep on the island but which the Japanese want moved elsewhere. More generally, the talks may be aimed at defusing tensions that have emerged since the election of Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama, who is looking to make Japanese security policy less dependent on the United States. Clinton said she's hoping the talks will "reaffirm the centrality of our 50-year-old alliance."
En route to Hawaii, Clinton also discussed U.S. relations with China, denying that recent arms sales to Taiwan and President Obama's upcoming meeting with the Dalai Lama would damage the relationship. "What I'm expecting is that we actually are having a mature relationship," she said. "That means that it doesn't go off the rails when we have differences of opinion."
MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images
LifeNews.com, which describes itself as a news agency that brings "pro-life news to the pro-life community," has highlighted an important comment that Secretary Clinton made in her recent interview with the New York Times. In discussing women's rights, she said:
Obviously, there’s work to be done in both India and China, because the infanticide rate of girl babies is still overwhelmingly high, and unfortunately with technology, parents are able to use sonograms to determine the sex of a baby, and to abort girl children simply because they’d rather have a boy. And those are deeply set attitudes. But at the governmental level, there is a great deal of openness and commitment that I am seeing."
Clinton's comments on this deplorable practice are commendable, though she left out some nuance when she said parents do it "simply because they'd rather have a boy." Often, it's a matter of economics: Boys bring wealth into a family, and girls drain tons of money out. Sons earn more money and financially support their elderly parents in communities where nothing like Social Security exists. Meanwhile, in India, parents must pay enormous, financially crippling dowries when their daughters get married. Absolutely none of this morally justifies sex-selective abortion, but these are issues that must be addressed in order to eradicate this shameful practice.
(Obviously, other factors -- such as family and social pressure -- are at play, too. Sex-selective abortion in India has been found to occur at higher rates among more educated people, presumably because they're more likely to be able to afford an ultrasound exam and abortion.)
Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images
A roundup of Hillary Clinton news:
•It's official now: Secretary Clinton will be visiting seven African countries starting next week. She'll commence her trip in Kenya -- the birthplace of President Obama's father -- on Aug. 5 and continue on to South Africa, Angola, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Nigeria, Liberia, and Cape Verde. She'll also be meeting with the president of Somalia's transitional government while in Kenya.
•Clinton, above, continues today with the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue in Washington. Check out the Wall Street Journal op-ed that Clinton and U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner wrote about the talks.
•A Wall Street Journal editorial accuses Clinton of "pandering to dictators" for saying last week that if Burma releases Aung San Suu Kyi, it could open many opportunities, such as investment, for the country. The editorial did praise her for suggesting that ASEAN consider kicking out Burma.
•Audio of the BBC's interview with Clinton last week is posted online.
Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images
•Secretary Clinton was interviewed by David Gregory for the full hour of Meet the Press yesterday, and she did an outstanding job. She answered each question clearly, intelligently, and -- of course -- diplomatically. For example, when asked whether she would be betraying the democracy movement in Iran by engaging and negotiating with the regime it aims to overthrow, Clinton responded:
We have negotiated with many governments who we did not believe represented the will of their people. Look at all the negotiations that went on with the Soviet Union. Look at the breakthrough and subsequent negotiations with communist China. That's what you do in diplomacy. You don't get to choose the people; that's up to the internal dynamics within a society. But clearly, we would hope better for the Iranian people. … Yet, we also know that whoever is in charge in Iran is going to be making decisions that will affect the security of the region and the world."
•Clinton also engaged in a bit of damage control after Vice President Joe Biden's eyebrow-raising comments that Russia was a country with a "withering economy" and was "clinging to something in the past that is not sustainable." Clinton told Gregory, "We view Russia as a great power." She added:
What we're seeing here is the beginning of the resetting of that relationship, which I have been deeply involved in. I will be co-chairing a presidential commission along with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. We'll be following up on what our two presidents said in Moscow. And the Russians know that, you know, we have continuing questions about some of their policies, and they have continuing questions about some of ours."
•Clinton, above, and U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner are leading the U.S. delegation at the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue today and tommorow in Washington. Clinton opened the talks by saying that China and the United States "are laying brick by brick the foundation of a stronger relationship" and that it is time to transition from "a multipolar world to a multipartner world."
•Clinton will be visiting Nigeria Aug. 10 to 12. She'll also be visiting four other African countries -- Kenya (the birthplace of President Obama's father), and tentatively Angola, Liberia, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo -- Dow Jones Newswires reports.
Photos, from top to bottom: Meet the Press, Alex Wong/Getty Images
[W]e are deeply concerned over the reports of deaths and injuries from violence in Western China. We are trying to sort out, as best we can, the facts and circumstances from the region, and we’re calling on all sides to exercise restraint. We know there’s a long history of tension and discontent, but the most immediate matter is to bring the violence to a conclusion."
On Monday, Clinton "dropped by" a meeting between Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg and Chinese Deputy Foreign Minister Wu Dawei, according to State Department spokesman Ian Kelly. When asked during Monday's press briefing whether the riots were dicussed during the meeting, Kelly said, "I understand that it did come up," but said he did not have a "full readout" of what transpired.
Meanwhile, U.S. Reps. Bill Delahunt (D-Mass.) and Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.) wrote an open letter to Clinton stating, "The Chinese regime in Beijing should not be allowed to engage in another Tienanmen [sic] Square with impunity."
Photo: PETER PARKS/AFP/Getty Images
China has expressed "strong dissatisfaction and resolute opposition" to Secretary Clinton's statements marking the 20th anniversary of the military crackdown on the Tiananmen Square pro-democracy protesters. (In the photo above, the People's Liberation Army guards a street leading to Tiananmen Square on June 6, 1989, two days after the infamous crackdown.)
On June 3, Clinton called on the Chinese government to "provide a public accounting of those killed, detained or missing, both to learn and to heal." She also said China should "give the rule of law, protection of internationally-recognized human rights, and democratic development the same priority as it has given to economic reform."
In response, the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman criticized Clinton for "crudely meddling in Chinese domestic affairs." He also said, "We urge the United States to forsake its prejudices, correct its erroneous ways and avoid obstructing and damaging China-U.S. relations."
The Chinese government has never published a count of those who died. A New York Times article yesterday stated that hundreds died.
The bold tone of Clinton's remarks are a contrast to those she made in February, in which she seemed to downplay human rights as a priority.
Photo: MANUEL CENETA/AFP/Getty Images
Yesterday at a state banquet hosted by outgoing Salvadoran President Elías Antonio Saca, Secretary Clinton and Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou had a rare informal chat when they shared a table and Clinton made the first move in greeting him and shaking hands.
The United States and Taiwan have not had formal relations since the United States severed diplomatic ties in 1979 in order to normalize relations with the People's Republic of China. Perhaps in keeping with the absence of formal ties, the Taiwanese president addressed Secretary Clinton as "Mrs. Clinton" while introducing himself as "the president of Taiwan."
Later, Ma told Taiwanese media that the informal chat was typical of "courtesy encounters" that occur at diplomatic functions.
Photo: Thumbnail from Central News Agency-Taiwan
Some comments of hers that have stirred debate:
Basically, Clinton has been boldly telling it like it is when normally in the diplomacy world unpleasant facts aren't addressed with such candor. "She's saying the emperor has no clothes," L. Gordon Flake of the Maureen and Mike Mansfield Foundation told the Tribune. "She's saying the things that nobody else would say, but that 99 percent of the people in Washington agree with."
Clinton might be stating her views "undiplomatically," but perhaps such tough talk gets results. Regarding her comments on the Pakistani government, an unnamed State Department official told the Tribune "They weren't doing anything before she said that. Then after she said it, they suddenly were taking it pretty seriously, and met with greater success. … I think she got their attention."
Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images
Secretary Clinton said on May 1 that Iran and China have made "quite disturbing" gains in Latin America. She asserted that while the Bush administration worked to isolate countries such as Cuba and Venezuela, Iran and China were hard at work cultivating "very strong economic and political connections."
Defending the Obama administration's strategy of reaching out to Cuba and Venezuela, Clinton warned, "I don't think in today's world -- where it's a multipolar world, where we are competing for attention and relationships with at least the Russians, the Chinese, the Iranians -- that it's in our interest to turn our backs on countries in our own hemisphere."
Is it believed that since the 1990s, Iranian-backed Hezbollah has had a base of operations and intelligence gathering in Venezuela. As for other Iranian activity in the Western Hemisphere, Clinton said (referring to the Nicaraguan capital), "The Iranians are building a huge embassy in Managua, and you can only imagine what it's for."
Clinton's negative remarks about Iran come at the same time that the Obama administration is trying to engage more with the country, an expert on Latin American politics told the Chicago Tribune. Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki definitely had a strong reaction. On TV this weekend, he said, "Clinton's statements are in direct contradiction with those of the U.S. president." He added, "At a time when even Obama admits that decades of U.S. interference and gunboat diplomacy in South America have led to so many unresolved issues, it does not make sense for Clinton to drag Iran into regional disputes."
Meanwhile, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is scheduled to visit Venezuela, Brazil, and Ecuador later this week. Might it no longer be in the United States' interest to turn its back on Venezuela and Cuba?
Photo: BEHROUZ MEHRI/AFP/Getty Images
Given Secretary Clinton's working lunch with Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner today and speculation that both want to take over the China file, I asked Minxin Pei, a noted China expert at the Carnegie Endowment for Interntional Peace, for his thoughts on who should spearhead the China brief - Clinton or Geithner?
The right answer is neither. In the past, the most successful handler of U.S.-China relations was either the president himself (both Bush Sr. and W, for example) or the National Security Advisor (Kissinger, Brzezinski, and Berger) who has the ear of the president.
The reason is quite simple:Given the complexity of the relationship and the conflicting interests among various bureaucracies, the only person who can manage this relationship and balance competing interests would be the president or his national security advisor.
Hillary Clinton might want to be spearhead this relationship, but she might want to think twice. She would be treading on many toes -- the Pentagon, the Treasury, USTR, and, needless to say, Congress. And for what? The relationship is not in deep trouble. There are some problems to be ironed out. She would be spending a lot of energy but getting very little in return.
As for Geithner, I doubt whether he wants to repeat what Paulson did. Geithner has neither the personal interest in China nor the political backing from the very top to handle the U.S.-China brief. Paulson supposedly got a commitment of support from W as a condition of signing on as the Treasury Secretary. In any case, Geithner will be spending most of his time on rescuing the U.S. economy. If I were him, I would do anything to avoid 14-hour flights to Beijing and the jetlag.
That leaves one possible choice -- Joe Biden. The Chinese press is already floating unconfirmed rumors -- out of Japan -- that Biden will be heading the Strategic Economic Dialogue between the U.S. and China. That could be wishful thinking on Beijing's part because this would give him even more face than what Paulson has done.
UPDATE: Cheng Li, director of research at the Brookings Institution's John L. Thornton China Center, writes in with his take:
Given the global financial crisis and the rise of economic protectionism in both countries, economic issues are at the forefront of US-China relations. In this regard, Tim Geithner will be appropriate for interacting with China. However, as the most important bilateral relationship of the 21st century, it must go far beyond economic matters. Counterterrorism, nuclear non-proliferation, climate change, human rights, and religious freedom are also essential. Therefore, the State Department led by Hillary Clinton must take the lead on these issues. On balance, it may be a good idea that the Office of the Vice President, or even that of the President, should play a primary role in coordinating this important relationship.
Madam Secretary is an obsessive blog about all things Hillary Clinton. From her policies to her pantsuits, Madam Secretary delivers up-to-the-minute news, analysis, and gossip about America's top diplomat.