By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
As Olympics near, US sees China playing more positive role in global affairs
China US Rice XHG10 5297786
Chinese President Hu Jintao, right shake hands with U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice prior to their meeting at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2008. Rice said Tuesday she expects China to help prod North Korea into fully declaring its nuclear programs as part of efforts to breath life into a stalled disarmament process. - photo by Associated Press
    BEIJING — China is reaching out for a greater role in global affairs and opening up at home, too — at least a little — as the once-reclusive Communist giant gets ready for this summer’s Olympic Games.
    That’s good news, says Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
    Whatever the motivation for the change, the Bush administration sees China adopting what it thinks are more responsible positions, from North Korea to Sudan and elsewhere, moving from isolation to engagement. China is going to great lengths to burnish its image as the Olympics bring worldwide scrutiny to the country, though Rice didn’t draw a direct connection in remarks here Tuesday.
    ‘‘I can’t get into their motivations, but ... China is opening up to the world in a lot of ways,’’ Rice said after talks with President Hu Jintao and other Chinese leaders.
    ‘‘I do believe that there is more of an effort to reconcile China’s size and influence in international politics, which is a relatively new thing, with China’s foreign policy behavior,’’ she told reporters.
    While still averse to the kind of high-profile interventions that Western countries and human rights groups are known for, China has recently begun to weigh in on issues it has long avoided for fear of opening itself up to criticism for its own well-documented lapses.
    ‘‘There is a broadening, I think, in general of China’s view of itself in international politics and I think we’re benefiting from it,’’ Rice said.
    U.S.-China ties have been strained on numerous occasions since the countries established diplomatic relations in 1979.
    The two nuclear powers have massive militaries and often spar over Taiwan. Perhaps their biggest fallout came after China’s 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown on pro-democracy protesters, which led to years of recriminations.
    The Olympics are widely seen as China’s biggest opportunity yet to rub away more of the stain of Tiananmen.
    Rice praised China for its recent willingness to press North Korea on its nuclear program, to broach the subject of repression with Myanmar’s military rulers and to support a hybrid United Nations-African Union peacekeeping mission in Sudan’s Darfur region.
    ‘‘China is making an impact,’’ she said, recalling that only a few years ago many in Washington doubted Beijing would use its political and economic clout as a ‘‘responsible stakeholder’’ in international affairs.
    ‘‘I see them grappling with the ’responsible stakeholder idea,’ which everybody said they couldn’t translate,’’ Rice observed. ‘‘It turns out that they can translate it and they talk about it actually.’’
    Although she did not link the evolution to the Olympics, China is thought susceptible to outside influence now, and some advocacy groups want to use the games to push for Chinese action, notably in Darfur because of the country’s significant investments in Sudan.
    The United States has been cool to the idea of using the Olympics as leverage, and Rice reiterated that ‘‘we’ve been very clear, the president has been very clear, that this is a sporting event.’’ President Bush plans to attend the opening ceremony.
    Chinese officials have rejected attempts at pressure but still agreed this week to send a battalion of engineers to Darfur, a step Rice lauded.
    And despite Beijing’s insistence that its foreign policy remains rooted in opposition to meddling in other nations’ internal affairs, it appears ready to open itself up for human rights scrutiny, albeit within limits.
    Rice raised three human rights cases with Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi.
    Those were the arrest of Hu Jia, one of China’s most prominent political dissidents; the jailing of Jude Shao, a China-born U.S. businessman who is serving a 15-year sentence on tax evasion, and the case of Shi Tao, who is serving a 10-year sentence for sending information about a government crackdown to an overseas Web site.
    Even as China has sought to improve its image in the run-up to the games, human rights groups have accused Beijing of failing to improve freedoms for its citizens and media in line with its Olympic promises in 2001.
    Just Tuesday, a Chinese activist in Shanghai said an activist lawyer who was beaten and harassed several times in recent days had been taken away by police again. Human Rights in China said the man apparently was detained because of recent advice he gave to Shanghai downtown residents who have been evicted to make room for large development projects, and for an interview he gave the Epoch Times, a U.S.-based newspaper linked to the banned Falun Gong spiritual movement.
    Hollywood director Steven Spielberg recently quit as an artistic adviser to the opening and closing ceremonies of the August games, accusing China of still not doing enough to press for peace in Darfur.
    Even as Yang repeated the non-interference stance on Tuesday, he announced that Beijing is ready to resume a human rights dialogue with the United States that China broke off in 2004.
    Rice said she was pleased and a date would be set soon.
    ‘‘That’s something that we have been trying to do for some time,’’ she said.

Sign up for the Herald's free e-newsletter