Thayer Consultancy

ABN # 65 648 097 123

Background Briefing: The U.S. Promotes Democracy, China Lectures the United States Carlyle A. Thayer July 11, 2012

[client name deleted] How do you interpret Clinton’s statement in Mongolia and China’s reaction? Is there going to be any progress during this meeting or is the thing going to stay stalled with China insisting on bilateral talks? ANSWER: Secretary Clinton was in Mongolia to attend the fourth meeting of the Governing Council of the Community of Democracies and to launch the LEND (Leaders Engaged in New Democracies) Network. She had to make the point that democracy and democratic values are universal and can flourish in Asia as well as Europe or North America. She hit at the Achilles heel of China’s development model by challenging the assumption that economic growth and authoritarian rule leads to political stability. This touched the raw nerve of the Chinese who still view the U.S. as out to engineer peaceful evolution in China. Chinese commentary once again retorted that U.S. policy only stirs up conflict. The Chinese media called for peaceful coexistence. The most interesting commentary came from the People’s Daily that argued Clinton’s policy showed the hidden American agenda towards Vietnam. Vietnam, the commentary declared, “is following the path of China, realizing rapid development by taking the road of gradual reform.” The sub-text was if Vietnam wanted a strategic partnership with the U.S. against China, it would have “to give up its current path of development”, in other words, change its political system. The People’s Daily further argued that Vietnam cannot have its cake and eat it, meaning Vietnam cannot have good relations with China and the United States and keep its domestic political forces under control. Expressing concern about U.S. in-roads in Vietnam, the People’s Daily asserted, “The only viable path for Vietnam is to coordinate with China to limit the US pivot to Asia.” In summary, China has tried to deflect Secretary Clinton’s message by harping on two themes. The US pivot to Asia is all about gaining a military advantage in order to contain China. Second, the US seeks regime change in both China and Vietnam by encouraging democracy and human rights, in other words by peaceful evolution. Given the power shift now underway in China, nationalist sentiment over Chinese sovereignty claims in the East China and South China Seas, Clinton’s remarks touched

2 on China’s worst unspoken nightmare – political instability in China could give birth to democracy as it did in Europe.

Suggested citation: Carlyle A. Thayer, “The U.S. Promotes Democracy, China Lectures the United States,” Thayer Consultancy Background Brief, July 11, 2012.

Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful