Editorial roundup

By Melody Vallieu

March 23, 2014

China Daily on helping get relations right:

He may have been overly optimistic in portraying relations between the United States and China as “friendship”, but Max Baucus, the new US ambassador to China, hit the nail on the head when he said the two countries had to get their relationship right.

Despite all the rhetoric about a partnership, at the moment our countries are half-heartedly working together and endeavoring to build mutual trust because neither can afford to antagonize the other.

Ambassador Baucus’ immediate predecessor, Gary Locke, didn’t see much headway in improving bilateral ties, not because he didn’t work hard. His less-than-impressive personal record in China was symptomatic of Washington’s inability to adapt to a rapidly changing China.

Ambassador Baucus claims a long-running personal interest in China, having visited Beijing many times. However, that doesn’t guarantee he will fare better. Which is why expectations aren’t high.

Observers say Baucus has little experience of China, even less of diplomacy, and his expertise is largely confined to US trade policy.

However, the low expectations may actually be to his advantage. The close interdependence between Chinese and the US economies promises him a broad stage in Beijing. While his sponsoring of an un-enacted legislative proposal to punish China for “undervaluing” its currency may sound less than China-friendly, he will surely be embraced with gratitude here for championing this country’s inclusion in the World Trade Organization in 2001.

Baucus’ willingness to work across party lines in the US Senate may also prove an asset. The notorious “trust deficit” between Beijing and Washington calls for serious trust-building efforts from both side, and his consensus-building expertise may make him an effective messenger between Beijing and Washington.

The Chinese leadership has proposed a new-type of relationship with the US, which Chinese President Xi Jinping encapsulated as “no conflict, no confrontation, mutual respect and win-win cooperation”. That proposal was received positively by Washington. Yet there is still no consensus on how to build such a relationship.

That, too, is where ambassador Baucus can contribute.

Trust-building will require long-term hard work. As a marathon enthusiast who once completed a 50-mile ultra-marathon, Baucus knows what each step means to reach the end of a protracted journey.

We wish him well in his new post, and hope his ambassadorship proves to be a significant step toward getting US-China relations right.

Khaleej Times, Dubia, on Maduro’s call to the U.S.:

Venezuelan leader Nicolas Maduro is unrelenting in playing to the gallery. The man who revels in his past profession as a bus driver has kept his political opponents on the edge, and left the powers that be in the region guessing.

In the latest maneuver, the president has stunned his admirers and critics alike by urging the United States to join the ‘peace commission’ and work alongside South American nations to build a future in consensus.

At the same time, he has also let it be known that he fears his US counterpart will order his assassination and has warned President Barack Obama that such a measure will be a life-time blunder. Maduro has played his cards well and to a great extent has silenced his opponents. The confidence in his once-shaky government was evident as thousands marched on the streets of Caracas to thank the country’s security forces for their efficient policing during the recent unrest.

Maduro has mandated his National Assembly spokesperson to negotiate with the U.S. the terms and conditions for an amicable co-existence. This is to be done under the auspices of the Union of South American Nations. In a broadcast that made many recall his revolutionary predecessor Hugo Chavez, Maduro said, “Give peace and respect a chance and let’s set the foundation for a new type of relations between the US, Venezuela and if possible, Latin America and the Caribbean.” This is regarded as an attempt to engage the U.S. on the behalf of entire Latin America. Obama shouldn’t waste this opportunity in disaster, and follow up with a gesture that would lead to a workable cooperation.