Biden confronts China on human rights

Vice President Joe BidenJoseph (Joe) Robinette BidenObama tweets birthday message to Biden: 'The best vice president anybody could have' The Hill's 12:30 Report Tech beefs up lobbying amid Russia scrutiny MORE and Secretary of State Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonO’Malley tells Dems not to fear Trump FBI informant gathered years of evidence on Russian push for US nuclear fuel deals, including Uranium One, memos show Pelosi blasts California Republicans for supporting tax bill MORE confronted China Monday over its recent crackdown on dissent at the opening of talks that are also expected to feature frank discussions about the U.S. budget deficit and China’s undervalued currency.
 
Speaking at the opening of the annual U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue, Biden said the United States welcomes a strong China, but “there is one area where we have vigorous disagreement. ... We have vigorous disagreement in the area of human rights."

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“We have noted our concern about the recent crackdown,” Biden said of the detention of public-interest lawyers, journalists, bloggers and artists.
 
Biden acknowledged that China is “rankled” by talk from U.S. officials about human rights, but he said the U.S. will continue to raise the issue and argue that China’s future prosperity and stability require it to become more free.
 
“I recognize that some see our advocacy of human rights as an intrusion and Lord only knows what else,” he said.
 
But Clinton told her Chinese counterparts, “Societies that work toward respecting human rights are going to be more prosperous, stable and successful.”
 
She said she is worried about the effect China’s treatment of dissidents might have on U.S. domestic politics and noted that some in the U.S. view China as a threat.
 
Since the Egyptian revolution that led to the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak earlier this year, China has rounded up a number of its dissidents in an effort to prevent a feared “Jasmine Revolution” there. Most recently, famous Chinese artist Ai Weiwei, who is under investigation for unspecified crimes, has disappeared.

Chinese State Councilor Dai Bingguo defended China's record, saying that U.S. vistors will find China has made "enormous progress" including on human rights.
 
The U.S. must tread carefully with China, which is the U.S.’s largest creditor, holding $1.15 trillion in U.S. treasuries.
 
Biden, who will lead another round of deficit-cutting talks with six members of Congress on Tuesday, said that Chinese officials “may have noticed” the raging debate over budget policy in the U.S.
 
Chinese officials have made clear in recent weeks they are closely watching U.S. efforts to shore up its finances and prevent a future debt crisis that could hurt China’s investment.
 
“We hope that the United States in its fiscal clean-up will be able to adopt effective measures based on President Obama's proposal," Chinese Vice Finance Minister Zhu Guangyao told reporters in Beijing on Friday, according to published accounts.

In an April speech, Obama called for reducing deficits by $4 trillion over the next 12 years through a combination of spending cuts and tax increases.
 
Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said the U.S. is enacting ”reforms that will force us to once again live within our means as a nation” while working to maintain crucial investments in education, innovation and infrastructure.

Dai and Vice Premier Wang Qishan did not mention U.S. debt issues during the meeting's opening remarks.

China expert and Brookings Institution scholar Eswar Prasad predicted Friday that the Chinese will put "tough questions" to the U.S. during this week's meetings about the possibility of a default on the debt, if Congress refuses to raise the nation's debt ceiling in the coming months.

He said that there is not a credible threat that China will take its investments elsewhere, however. "The stark reality is that China has little choice but to accumulate even more U.S. government debt if it continues to pile up reserves at the rate of $150-200 billion each quarter," he wrote on the Brookings website.

—This post was updated at 11:17 a.m.