What China Thinks of Hillary Clinton

A commentary by Lin Baohua
2015.04.16
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us-hillary-clinton-iowa-april15-2015.jpg Democratic presidential hopeful and former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton participates in a small business roundtable discussion in Norwalk, Iowa, April 15, 2015.
AFP

Former U.S. Secretary of State and First Lady Hillary Clinton announced on April 12 that she would run as Democratic Party candidate in next year's presidential elections.

Public opinion polls suggest that she could win support within her party for selection, and so far, the Democrats have yet to come up with anyone to compete with her [for the candidacy].

After the news broke, the official Chinese news agency Xinhua ran an article on April 13 titled "How will Hillary play the China card?" This tells us that Beijing is paying close attention to her China policy.

As a woman, Hillary will inevitably draw the female vote. The Xinhua article notes: "Hillary Clinton will be attaching great importance to women's issues, including gender equality in the U.S. and internationally, projecting an image of charm and responsibility.

And as a recent grandmother, she will want to show people that she is far from elderly.

Of course there is a connection between Hillary's concern for women's rights and China, which could hardly escape her attention, as the world's most populous nation where there is little gender equality.

So she didn't address the fact that that there has never been a female member of China's [all-powerful] Politburo standing committee. But she cares in a universal way about the human rights of Chinese women.

Criticisms of China

As First Lady, she attended the United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing, in September 1995, along with the U.S. permanent representative at the U.N. Madeleine Albright.

During her speech to the conference, she made some sharp criticisms of human rights violations against women in China and in all developing countries.

The text of this speech was deleted from the Chinese translation of Hillary's memoirs, published in Nanjing in 2003, a piece of censorship about which she has already expressed anger.

On the eve of International Women's Day this year, five Chinese feminists—Li Tingting, Wang Man, Wei Tingting, Zheng Churan, and Wu Rongron—were detained by police in Guangzhou, Hangzhou, and Beijing on charges of "gathering a crowd to disrupt public order."

This didn't escape Hillary Clinton's attention, and she made a personal statement on April 7 on Twitter calling on the Chinese authorities to release them.

So we can see that she won't let China lightly off the hook on human rights issues.

Xinhua commented on the matter: "Generally speaking, presidential candidates make strong, even acrimonious comments, about China to win votes, and yet, once they get into the White House and are confronted with the reality of the situation, they take steps to avoid messing up Sino-U.S. relations."

"This is a common tactic in U.S. politics. It seems that Hillary Clinton is an exception. She is taking a hard line before the election, but she'll take an even tougher one afterwards," Xinhua said.

A tough line

While this might previously have made it hard for Hillary to win the primaries, as Secretary of State under the Obama administration, she has taken an extremely tough line on China—for example, when she came up with the "pivot to Asia" policy, which has continued since she left office.

In the past, the U.S. military always took a tougher line on China, while the State Department took a more conciliatory approach. Clinton's successor Kerry has continued with this.

But Hillary Clinton is different. At the July 2010 ASEAN regional forum in Hanoi, Vietnam, which brought together representatives of 27 nations in the region's biggest-ever security convention, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton issued an open challenge to China on the issue of the South China Sea, saying that the maintenance of freedom of navigation through the region was in the U.S. national interest.

She even alluded to Chinese "coercion" and threats of force against other countries over disputes in the South China Sea. In response, Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi immediately came out and expressed Beijing's fierce opposition to the "internationalization of the South China Sea issue."

However, the South China Sea has always been an international waterway. China, Vietnam, Taiwan, Malaysia, the Philippines, Brunei, Indonesia, and other countries have claimed sovereignty over the South China Sea. It was internationalized a long time ago.

The U.S. stance found support from many countries in ASEAN. At the 5th ASEAN defense ministers' conference in Jakarta, Indonesia on May 5, 2011, the issue of the South China Sea was raised for discussion for the first time at this meeting, resulting in the declaration of a set of management rules governing South China Sea territorial disputes.

The meeting also agreed to strengthen defense and security cooperation among ASEAN member nations, in order to ensure and promote regional peace and stability. Singapore's leader Lee Kuan Yew, who has long enjoyed a good relationship with China, later publicly expressed the hope that the U.S. military should stay in Asia as a counterbalance to China.

It seems as if, under President Clinton, the conflict between the United States and China could intensify.

Rumored concerns

This is why Xinhua ... recently started badmouthing her, in an article titled "Can Hillary Get Into The White House?" Xinhua wrote, "Hillary Clinton is 67 this year, and there have been rumored concerns over her health in the past."

It even went on to quote experts as saying that: "From the point of view of the American voter, an even bigger issue is that Hillary presents a face that looks too old. She has already spent too long in the White House, and from the point of view of the electorate, she looks like a veteran politician, the sort of politician that people are tired of."

"The voters would actually prefer some fresh energy from the grassroots. This was one of the factors that led to Hillary's defeat by Obama. In addition, her strong character won't help her when it comes to attracting middle-of-the-road voters."

"Her personality is too distinct," Xinhua wrote. "Those who like her, like her a lot, but those who don't really hate her."

Of course, whether or not Hillary Clinton is elected president will depend on the U.S. electorate.

But China has already taken some measures. On March 16, CBS News reported that the Clinton Foundation run by the Clintons and their daughter received a donation of around U.S.$2 million from a company with close ties to Beijing, the Liaoning-based Rilin Construction Group.

Company chairman Wang Wenliang is a delegate to the National People's Congress (NPC), and his company has won bids to build a number of Chinese government projects and consular and diplomatic properties overseas, including the Chinese Embassy in Washington, D.C.

The same company also spent around U.S.$1.4 million in 2012 on lobbying the U.S. Congress and State Department. So it's not hard to imagine the intention behind that donation.

So money can keep the demons at bay, can it? Such actions only expose the dark and dirty psychology of the [ruling] Chinese Communist Party.

Translated by Luisetta Mudie.

Lin Baohua is an exiled pro-democracy activist turned political commentator.

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