中文请点击这里

China’s leaders and commentators think President Barack Obama’s visit in November was an unqualified success. Publicly, the White House sees a qualified success, and privately not even that. It may all depend on what “success” and “failure” mean. The differences have consequences.

American analysts generally are less equivocal than American officials. They mostly see failure. Elizabeth Economy, Director of Asia Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, called the trip “optically, one of the worst U.S. presidential visits to Beijing in memory.” Helene Cooper wrote in The New York Times from Beijing, “With China’s micro-management of Mr. Obama’s appearances in the country, the trip did more to showcase China’s ability to push back against outside pressure than it did to advance the main issues on Mr. Obama’s agenda, analysts said.” She went on to quote Eswar S. Prasad of Cornell University, “China effectively stage-managed President Obama’s public appearances, got him to make statements endorsing Chinese positions of political importance to them and effectively squelched discussions of contentious issues such as human rights and China’s currency policy. In a masterstroke, they shifted the public discussion from the global risks posed by Chinese currency policy to the dangers of loose monetary policy and protectionist tendencies in the U.S.”

Some Chinese critics share the American conclusions. Ying Chan, Director of the Journalism and Media Studies Center at the University of Hong Kong, headlined in The New York Times, “Obama Loses A Round,” writing, “While the jury is still out on what President Obama’s China visit has achieved for the long term, the president has most decidedly lost the war of symbolism in his first close encounter with China.”

Certainly China seems to have had its way with the President publicly. He wanted a spontaneous, televised meeting with students and bloggers in Shanghai and he got a rehearsed exchange with young members of the Communist Party in a sealed-off auditorium. He wanted to get out and meet people and he got what Helene Cooper reported in The New York Times to be a “ghost town” at the Great Wall, “the bustling tourist attraction” “largely shuttered for the presidential visit.” He was also diplomatically downgraded, accompanied to the Great Wall by the Chinese and American envoys and no senior Chinese official. At his joint press conference with President Hu Jintao, where the two presidents read mutually approving (and presumably mutually approved) prepared statements, the press were not permitted to ask questions. Ying Chan’s assessment was that “the Chinese outmaneuvered the Americans in all public events,” arguing that, “In status-conscious China, symbolism and protocol play a role that is larger than life.”

These conclusions are not good for Sino-U.S. relations. A cardinal principle of diplomacy is never to crush your opponent in a negotiation unless you expect the outcome to be definitive and final. What is perplexing, however, is that China is not gloating over a victory (although at least one senior U.S. official, quoted in The Washington Post anonymously, has referred to “a sense of triumphalism”). To the contrary, China appears to be sincere in its belief that the visit was a success for both parties, presumably understanding the meaning of such aphorisms and not trying to humiliate the President.

For President Obama, at least publicly, the trip to China was an investment with America’s bankers, and he was depositing good will. It was also intended as a foundation for a solid, long-lasting partnership. Chinese commentators believe he got what he said he was seeking. Xinhua reported, “When he left, analysts saw a new direction for developing the China-U.S. relationship, which had major significance, and believed the summit had rendered bilateral relations stronger.” Xinhua quoted Jin Canrong, deputy dean of the International Studies School at Renmin University referring to a “new goal” for the partnership as “positive and significant,” and Fu Menzgi, director of the Institute of American Studies at the China Institute of Contemporary International Relations ascribing “positive and new meanings” to the partnership. President Obama emphasized the need for mutual trust, and President Hu and Chinese commentators agreed. According to Xinhua, “Obama’s China visit turned to be fruitful. The two countries reaffirmed the new definition of their ties – a positive, cooperative and comprehensive relationship in the 21st century – as established by their heads of state, and enriched their relations and cooperation and more strategic connotation.”

Some critics think, however, that the President’s investment is naïve, the foundation less reliable than might be supposed, the rhetoric unsupported by anything of consequence. Writing in The Washington Post, Zhang Zuhua and Jiang Qishen counseled, “The Chinese government does not reciprocate when it is given things for free. It simply takes them and moves on. Foreigners may not know this, but to people in China it is plain as day.” They contend that the decision not to greet the Dalai Lama in Washington before traveling to China, the capitulation on attendees in Shanghai, the acceptance of a press conference with no questions, and the public silence on human rights were all things given away for free. They interpret the Chinese view of a “new direction” as diminishing the stature and role of the United States, taking advantage of a new, young, eager-to-please President.

Measuring Success And Failure

It may be that China and the United States are measuring success and failure differently. Americans may be inclined to consider the visit an optical failure because President Obama’s greatest populist skills, intelligent communication with “ordinary” people, were shut down by Chinese “micro-management.”

Many consider the visit a substantive failure as well, perhaps because President Obama spent only one full day out of three in serious meetings, mostly finalizing agreements reached before he ever got to China. None of the major items on his agenda – Iranian nuclear development and possible sanctions; climate change; global financial reorganization; valuation of the RMB; human rights and especially freedom of speech and communication – seemed to advance very much if at all.

The American presumption of a zero-sum game – American failure equals Chinese success – is not helped by the Chinese public expression of success, however two-way and sincere may be its intention. Most Americans see in the Chinese success a malevolent hand: a stage-managed, micro-managed visit that denied the President the rock star status he enjoys in much of the rest of the world and a denial of the priorities on his agenda. Some, such as David Lampton of Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies, predict “nasty” relations ahead because China’s celebration of the relationship now is little more than a prediction of an ascendant China replacing a declining United States on the world stage, casting the United States “in the role of the supplicant.”

Some critics of the trip (and they are by far in the majority among American commentators) contrast President Obama’s experience with the experience of his predecessors. Whether Nixon, Reagan, Bush, Clinton or Bush, admiring and enthusiastic crowds greeted the American President at Badaling (they all visited the Great Wall, and all in the same place). American-style press conferences were conducted; interactions with “ordinary” people were televised in China. This time, in Ying Chan’s words, there was “a package of faux public events” in which, he comments, “the Obama team” was “outmaneuvered.”

The contrast with predecessors is politically very damaging for Obama, whatever the long-term outcome of the visit for the bilateral relationship. It compounds an accumulating image at home of a president who avoids controversy through submission, whether on the critical details of a health care bill or on the entire manner of going to war, compromising in ways and with adversaries who seek only to exploit agreeability as manifestations of weakness more than courage. There is a growing American impatience with the President’s diplomacy, from the right over Iran, from the left over Afghanistan. And from the China visit there is an echo for some Americans of John F. Kennedy’s first encounter with Nikita Khrushchev, the young and inexperienced President faring poorly as the tough Soviet tested him in Vienna. It seemed China was testing Obama, and he yielded to Chinese preferences every time.

There was a context for the President’s performance in China. He had been excoriated in the American press for appearing deferential to the Emperor of Japan just before arriving in Shanghai. Sensitive Chinese leadership eager to work with the President as a partner would have recognized his precarious position and would have treated him fully as an equal, catering to his wishes as well as their own. Instead, either oblivious to what had happened in Japan or determined to pursue their own course regardless, the public display in China worked to confirm the impression from Japan of a young president perhaps too eager to please his foreign hosts.

That the trip to China likely contributed to this unflattering portrait at home strongly suggests that the next presidential trip to China will not come any time soon, and that President Obama will need to make up lost ground when President Hu Jintao visits the United States in early 2010. President Obama will need to regain the ground American popular opinion will suggest he lost, from being the lone superpower to being a mere equal with a developing country, or worse.

There are at least two superficial challenges here, and then a third that cuts more deeply into the relationship. Superficially, President Obama’s conduct in China was not inconsistent with his personality and governing style more generally. He has been no more forceful with Congress than with China. He conserves effort for the highest priorities and is inclined to let the symbolic be the worry of others. China may have been exploiting this perceived weakness when it may be little more than style, and the exploitation may have, for purposes of the long-term bilateral relationship, little meaning. Or, it could mean a great deal, and more favorably for the United States than critics suppose: having ceded the superficial symbolism, President Obama may have deposited good will for which he expects later, more important dividends. Many Chinese commentators, in claiming the bilateral relationship was stronger after the visit, seemed to endorse this calculation.

The second superficial challenge may be in distinguishing substance from style. Here the President may have a larger problem, for as a candidate he exploited his rock star receptions abroad to win favor and votes at home. As President, he cannot easily reduce to insignificance, therefore, how foreign nations receive him. He made those receptions important and now cannot escape them. He understood instantly that the Nobel Peace Prize, awarded by Norwegians on promise more than performance, could be more of a burden than a boon, and there was nothing he could do about it.

While there is already some evidence of dividends in quiet diplomacy, there are also troubling signs, particularly in the unaddressed agenda of trade, the third challenge that may cut more deeply. Most of what was visible in Copenhagen was more of the same: lower level Chinese officials publicly disagreed with the President of the United States in meetings that were to have been attended only by heads of state, and Chinese security attempted to bar the President from a meeting chaired by Premier Wen Jiabao. Yet, the breakthrough in Copenhagen, right after the visit in Beijing was not trivial: President Hu seemed to give in to the President on critical points that he had refused in Beijing. Perhaps it was easier when out of China than in, holding on to an independent public profile while getting to more substance . Perhaps there was some payback for the President’s conduct, or some fulfillment of private promises. The apparent progress in Copenhagen on climate change, an apparent failure on the Beijing agenda, is not matched, however, as to trade, which seems to be turning into the third rail of the relationship.

The Chinese view and communication of success, then, needs to be understood better. Did China celebrate the success of the visit because it got its way (no populism, no trappings of democracy, no embarrassments, almost no public criticism in China), or because the relationship for the future is stronger and better? If the latter, was the achievement not possible without wounding the President at home, or were wounds self-inflicted, consistent with the President’s personality and aversion to conflict and confrontation? Or, could China not have been more sensitive to the political risks for their new friend, the Pacific President (a potentially discomfiting double entendre), and permitted him to have more of what he asked symbolically?

There are at least two competing interpretations of the current situation. One refers to a new Chinese “swagger,” a confidence that China and the United States are moving in opposite directions and that the Chinese formula – a capitalist, authoritarian state – is more likely to succeed in the twenty-first century than capitalism and freedom.

China projected many signs of this view during the last year of the decade in addition to the President’s November visit. On the authoritarian side, it has openly restricted internet access and use. It has jailed protestors on transparent pretexts. It summarily executed a British citizen for drug trafficking despite international pleas to reconsider. And on the capitalist side, it has begun lending to American enterprises as diverse as Southwest Airlines and Wal-Mart in a global promotion of trade and investment. It has taken its WTO membership very seriously.

A second interpretation, that China’s actions are not merely expressions of confidence, even arrogance, lies in a cultural difference contributing to a growing mutual incomprehension. China never fails, when the United States appeals for its leadership on issues in its neighborhood – whether North Korea’s nuclear capabilities or Pakistan’s harboring of Al Qaeda – to remind the United States that it is a developing country. While demanding treatment as better than an equal (reveling in suggestions of a G-2 while demurring that it would not want such a thing) , it asks for substantial financial aid on global warming and technology transfer on energy efficiency. China wants to be revered and admired for its astonishing achievement pulling hundreds of millions out of poverty, but it also wants sympathy and help. It is happy to leave the most difficult global problems to American leadership, but it wants deference whenever it chooses to take a position. It wants to develop in its own way, on its own time, although it is also in a hurry. Chinese leadership worries every day that a retardation of economic growth could inspire dangerous protest, the kind of fear no American president experiences.

President Obama needs to address both theories in both substance and in symbols. As he tucked into his steak dinner in the Great Hall of the People with knife and fork, so President Hu perhaps should expect to dine with chopsticks in Washington, D.C., each side catering to the other’s cultural preferences and expectations. Perhaps only with such paradox will Chinese leaders understand the domestic damage the visit to China may have done to the President whom they profess to like and admire, and Americans will need to learn the cultural side of why the Chinese do not perceive American failure in the visit. It is not unlike the contrasting perceptions of the Beijing Olympics, whose disciplined coordination frightened many westerners while seen in a proud China as the success of an ascendant nation.

The Xinhua News Agency carefully selected only favorable comments from a handful of Americans who insisted the trip went well. Sometimes the spinning was transparent, as in a subtitle, “China Pulls U.S. Out Of Recession,” leading a quotation from President Obama that read, “China’s partnership has proved critical in our efforts to pull ourselves out of the worst recession in generations.” President Obama obviously did not credit China with pulling the U.S. out of recession. The bias in this reporting, however, seems to have reflected the sincere views of at least some Chinese authorities.

One well-placed source has explained that the acute attention to every detail of the Obama visit demonstrated China’s respect for the President. This idea is captured well by Ni Shixiong, a professor at Fudan University and an organizer of the sanitized Shanghai meeting. He said the organizers felt “there was no need to make both sides embarrassed and stop our guests in their tracks,” and that they did not want to upstage the subsequent meetings in Beijing. In Mr. Ni’s words, as quoted by Sharon LaFraniere in The New York Times, “The climax was in Beijing. We could not overshadow what really counted.”

“What really counted” in Beijing were prepared statements with no questions, and tourism with only one tourist. American reports indicate consistently that, however much the Chinese may have perceived they were honoring their guest by protecting him from potential embarrassment, they were not honoring his wishes, which had been for a different audience in Shanghai and more direct exposure to the people of China. Arguably, however, Chinese officials believe that, on their turf, they know best, and it is better to honor their own views of protecting their guest, rather than the views of the guest himself. There is more in this idea, unfortunately, than a mere whiff of “father knows best.”

Trade And Electric Cars

If Copenhagen were the first test of the new relationship, electric cars may be the second. In President Hu’s words, “I stressed to President Obama that under the current situation, both China and the United States should oppose and reject protectionism in all forms in an even stronger stand.” On the eve of the meetings, China initiated wide-ranging investigations alleging enormous subsidies (in the tens of billions of dollars) and dumping of U.S. automobiles sold to China, and just after the meetings the United States imposed prohibitive tariffs on oil country tubular goods (“OCTG”) from China. Neither action seems mindful of “the current situation,” nor that either China or the United States is opposing or rejecting protectionism.

The Obama visit to China produced a contradiction at the interstices of climate change, energy efficiency, and international trade. Presidents Obama and Hu announced on November 17 the launch of the “U.S. China Electric Vehicles Initiative,” following a U.S.-China Electric Vehicle Forum in September. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, “The two leaders emphasized their countries’ strong shared interest in accelerating the deployment of electric vehicles in order to reduce oil dependence, cut greenhouse gas emissions and promote economic growth.”

The Electric Vehicles Initiative is to be operationalized within the U.S.-China Clean Energy Research Center, created by a protocol on the same day, along with two other projects, building energy efficiency generally and developing clean coal, including carbon capture and storage. The program is extraordinarily ambitious considering that joint funding may be only $150 million over five years, split evenly between the two countries. Still, as a joint venture it is an important declaration of common good intentions and a commitment of government funds to solve a common environmental problem.

While China and the United States were convening in Beijing in September to discuss electric cars under the auspices of China’s Ministry of Science and Technology and the U.S. Department of Energy, China’s Ministry of Commerce was entertaining a petition requesting an investigation of alleged U.S. Government subsidies to develop electric vehicles. The petition’s complaint about government support for fuel efficient cars began with President Obama’s August 2009 announcement of $2.4 billion “to develop cells for new-fuel cars and parts & components.” The petition argued, “Ultimately, with R&D subsidies, the auto industry boasts advanced production technologies and levels, improve their product varieties and quality, and enhance competitiveness.” Such subsidies, the petition contended, violate Article 3 of Chapter 2 of the PRC Anti-subsidy Regulations.

For ten more pages, the petition focused on American programs promoting the development of fuel efficient and electric cars and buses, concluding “that the US government or the Congress, or governmental organs (especially the Department of Energy) funds R&D of electric vehicles in the form of grants, investment, injection of supporting funds, and all the programs involve fund transfer from the government to the auto industry.” The industry gained, the petition claimed, “a competitive edge” from this support.

MOFCOM initiated a subsidy investigation based on this petition days before President Obama’s arrival in Beijing. Support for fuel efficiency in 2009 had nothing at all to do with the petition’s target, “Saloon cars and Cross-country cars (of a cylinder capacity ≥ 2000cc) exported to the People’s Republic of China which originated and were manufactured in the United States.” Yet, MOFCOM did not exclude from its investigation the allegations aimed at support for R&D in fuel efficiency and electric cars, the very same support the Ministry of Science and Technology was promoting, at the very same time.

Amidst a great deal of chatter about retaliatory trade cases (particularly China’s pique over subsidy cases brought in the United States under President Bush while treating China as a “non-market economy,” beginning in November 2006, and the low-grade commercial tires safeguard enacted by President Obama in September 2009), it is easy to interpret Chinese actions (against American chicken parts, steel, and now automobiles) as merely a way for China to remind the United States of sauce for the goose. There is, however, much more to these actions. Notwithstanding the apparent agreement in Pittsburgh at the G-20 meeting that “rebalancing” requires more American saving and more Chinese spending and consuming, China’s growth remains predominantly export-driven. It still needs Americans, and Europeans and Canadians, to buy its products. As much as exports are helping lift the United States out of recession, the Chinese market still lags behind Canada and Japan. China knows it needs the U.S. market more than Americans need to sell to China. Undertaking these investigations, therefore, must be about more than the allegations themselves.

China, or at least MOFCOM, may now think a way to keep open the American market is to warn that it could close its own. In the automobile petition, it also appears to be a way to remind the United States that its own subsidy allegations against China as a non-market economy are being advanced from a glass house. This trade-off, however, remains unbalanced and legally unsound. The U.S. Department of Commerce, for all its protectionism, would not likely have initiated an investigation into allegations that have little or nothing to do with subject merchandise. Assistance for the future development of electric cars has little or nothing to do with saloon and cross-country vehicles already imported into China. Should China link these alleged subsidies to the subject merchandise in final findings, the WTO almost certainly will reject the link.

There is no sensible way to reconcile MOFCOM’s investigation into electric car subsidies with the joint Electric Vehicles Initiative proclaimed by the two presidents. The U.S.-China Clean Energy Research Center is expected to raise and distribute public and private funds for joint research and development on electric cars, the very thing MOFCOM decided to consider as illegal and subject to trade restrictions and penalties. While President Hu was insisting upon President Obama’s concurrence to resist protectionism, and was celebrating joint research and development to overcome the environmental scourge of carbon emissions from automobiles, President Hu’s Ministry of Commerce was launching a hostile investigation into every American effort to solve that very problem.

It is not as if China were not playing by the rules. The Chinese Anti-Subsidy Regulations are translated almost verbatim from the WTO’s Subsidies and Countervailing Measures Agreement. The countervailing duty laws in the United States, based on this same international agreement, routinely are invoked by U.S. industries to complain about the same kinds of programs identified in the United States by the Chinese petition, and the United States Department of Commerce routinely finds such subsidies in violation of U.S. law and international norms. The Department of Commerce regularly now imposes countervailing duties on Chinese goods (more than a dozen times since 2007) when U.S. industries have complained about Chinese government financial support in a variety of forms. And China, in its investigation of electric vehicles, appears to be pursuing a theory long popular in the United States, that all money is fungible and any government assistance, for any purpose, when within the same company, impacts subject merchandise. Although the U.S. Department of Commerce has experienced judicial setbacks in stretching this theory, MOFCOM has not. Notwithstanding that MOFCOM likely will lose a legal showdown on this theory, if not at home then at the WTO, there is no legal impediment to trying.

Certainly one way to combat the American proclivity to impose countervailing duties on Chinese products is to serve up to American industry, especially prominent industry, high doses of the same medicine. It is also logical to emphasize the overbearing presence of the U.S. government in some sectors, such as automobiles, while combating the American treatment of China as a non-market economy. But such actions hardly reflect President Hu Jintao’s promise to combat protectionism “in all forms” and to promote a stronger, deeper partnership to solve common problems.

Nor is China combating protectionism in all forms when resisting U.S. trade actions. Unlike other countries, China is not appearing before the United States International Trade Commission to challenge injury allegations. It is not appealing adverse agency determinations in U.S. courts. It is not pursuing administrative reviews of countervailing duty orders, when final duties are determined and set for collection. Instead, China is counting on the WTO for trade vindication, a strategic choice almost certain to disappoint.

The only publicly disclosed item on President Obama’s trade agenda in Beijing was the value of the RMB. He apparently made no more progress on this subject than his predecessor, and of course the United States does not comment publicly on “the weak dollar” which, according to Dana Hedgepeth in The Washington Post, “has made it easier for U.S. manufacturers of parts for appliances, automobiles and other equipment to compete globally on price and is helping them win back business lost to overseas competitors, a shift that economists say should help the country’s economic recovery.” That description sounds like a strategy for pulling out of the recession, delivering to the United States exactly the same benefit about which the United States has complained so loud and long with respect to China.

Economists are distinguishing between the weak dollar and the undervalued RMB. Although China may be acting legally, they say China is not acting fairly nor wisely. Countries disadvantaged by China’s currency policy may have no legal complaint, but China’s policy may entitle them to complain about trade on other grounds. Even free traders see protectionism, confronting China’s mercantilism, as justifiable.

On New Year’s Eve, Nobel Prize winner Paul Krugman wrote in The New York Times, “China has become a major financial and trade power. But it doesn’t act like other big economies. Instead, it follows a mercantilist policy, keeping its trade surplus artificially high. And in today’s depressed world, that policy is, to put it bluntly, predatory.” Krugman goes on to indict specifically China’s currency policy: “In the past, China’s accumulation of foreign reserves, many of which were invested in American bonds, was arguably doing us a favor by keeping interest rates low … But right now . . . that trade surplus drains much-needed demand away from a depressed world economy. My back-of-the-envelope calculations suggest that for the next couple of years Chinese mercantilism may end up reducing U.S. employment by around 1.4 million jobs.”

“The Chinese refuse to acknowledge the problem,” Krugman writes. “Recently Wen Jiabao, the prime minister, dismissed foreign complaints: ‘On one hand, you are asking for the yuan to appreciate, and on the other hand, you are taking all kinds of protectionist measures.’ Indeed: other countries are taking (modest) protectionist measures precisely because China refuses to let its currency rise. And,” Krugman concludes most conspicuously, “more such measures are entirely appropriate.”

In making currency valuation the only trade issue on his Beijing agenda, President Obama may have been treating it as a surrogate for other trade concerns. However, he thereby avoided confronting the massive government interventions in the economy that unavoidably contravene the rules of the WTO when products benefiting from these interventions are exported. China is now calling the United States on the very programs essential to economic recovery, and as China is unwilling to discuss the value of the RMB, the United States apparently is unwilling to discuss its massive subsidies to banks, automobiles, and other economic sectors.

That China would threaten American trade, both by refusing to discuss currency valuation and by launching cases against American exports, while entertaining the President and applauding new cooperation, should worry everyone sharing agendas of economic recovery and environmental improvement. That the United States should persist in imposing countervailing duties on Chinese products because they benefit from state support should be equally worrisome. There is an inescapable hypocrisy in countervailing loans from Chinese banks going to Chinese goods exported to the United States while American companies are borrowing from the same Chinese banks and the United States has been taking virtual ownership of the key private financial institutions lending to American enterprises.

Embedded in these actions – an effective refusal to confront honestly the pressures of the recession as they impact trade laws and practices — is either a cultural misunderstanding, a failure to communicate, an intellectual dishonesty, or some dangerous combination. It catapults trade, the subject apparently left behind in Beijing, to the head of an agenda about recovery and climate change. Unfortunately, either the two Presidents do not yet know it, do not want to know, or are ill-equipped to deal with it.

A Further Meaning

China wants the sympathy to be accorded a developing nation historically deprived and exploited, but it also wants the respect of a major power. It wants the United States to provide aid and technology transfer for climate change, but it also wants joint ventures on the basis of equality. It wants President Obama to believe he is admired and respected while it wants him to behave according to Chinese norms and with full respect for Chinese preferences. President Obama seems to have understood these mixed messages and tried mightily to satisfy them all. In 2009 he placed China at the center of his foreign policy, continuing everything he thought good about the Bush Administration’s approach to China, and expanding upon it. In the process, he opened himself to criticism that he satisfied none of China’s expectations, and diminished himself and the United States in the process.

This Chinese paradox inevitably arouses suspicion. China’s celebration of a successful presidential visit may endorse future partnership, but it may also signal an interpretation of a long-term reversal of fortunes. Again, the automobiles petition may be one of the clearest possible statements of Chinese intent, and some Chinese trade experts believe it is an expression of MOFCOM’s own views, perhaps even the product of MOFCOM’s own drafting. It may enable President Hu to say one thing and mean another, his Ministry of Science and Technology devoted to cooperation and government support for technical and technological development, his Commerce Ministry evening the score with American trade agencies by aggressively seeking remedies for state involvement in the economy.

The automobiles petition characterizes the automotive industry as the most important in the United States, “a pillar industry playing a key role in the stability and development of the U.S. economy.” It then accuses past American presidents as acting consistently “to protect the U.S. automobile industry,” but concludes that they failed: “instead, the policies eventually resulted in the decline of the industry.” The protective subsidies “severely violated the relevant provisions of the WTO and distorted the normal market competition.” The petition barely disguises its view that this decline is emblematic of a greater decline of the United States.

The message about decline and bankruptcy is matched by the contrasting description of China’s industry and, without much subtlety, China. However, the most important element of the contrast, the one that raises the most important questions about world trade, contends that China’s rise is attributable to the shedding of state influence, to “the reform and opening up” of China. The petition wishes the legacy of state support to disappear in the mists of time, and pretends that none effectively remains. It wants its audience to believe that the state-driven economy is now in the United States; China is the paragon of a free market.

The automobile industry is the vehicle for this grander argument and seems, therefore, deliberately chosen at the highest levels of the Chinese government. It was bound to get American attention.

Before describing the rise and fall of the U.S. industry, from its creative days as a free enterprise a century ago to its demise at the hands of the state at the dawn of the new millenium, the petition offers a history of the Chinese industry: “By 2008, three decades have passed since the reform and opening up of the country, which is also three decades of reform and opening up of China’s auto industry. In three decades, China’s vehicle production developed, from producing 149,000 vehicles to 9.5 million vehicles, and from less than 1% of world production to nearly 13%. In 2007, car ownership in China exceeded 43 million, ranking fourth in the world. The automotive industry employed 2.91 million people, and employed more than 30 million in related industries.” This astonishing growth, so the petition claims, resulted from free enterprise: “China’s automobile industry grew in strength in the reform and opening up, rapidly becoming one of the world’s largest automobile manufacturer and consumer, and since joining the WTO six years ago, it has achieved the most prominent and fastest sales growth in history.”

The argument of the petition is that China’s automotive ascent matched exactly the U.S. decline, and that as China liberated economic forces, the United States constrained them. Implicitly, as the last century belonged to America, the new one belongs to China. Of course, none of this story has anything to do with trade laws entitling China to impose tariffs on American goods. Instead, the automobile industry here is a surrogate for contrasting the fortunes of China and the United States, a way of saying that the Chinese formula of authoritarian capitalism is better than the American way.

In the new century, China has been innovating, so the automobile petition claims, while the United States has fumbled (the translation apparently was prepared in the Office of the United States Trade Representative but may have originated elsewhere, and is decidedly less elegant here than in some other passages):

Automobile industry is one of the most important pillar industries in America, with a huge number of employees. Less efficient, poor management, and high cost have long since hovering American automobile and keep it down. Under the impact of the economic crisis, American automobile industry is between the beetle and the block. All three top forms are driven to corner. President Obama once declared in public, ‘I may not, can not, and will not let our automotive industry perish . . . It is a pillar of our economy, it is where millions of dreams dwelt.’ Just like what Obama had said, above measures is only the first step. US government will take further measures in domestic automobile industry, and help them get through the difficult period of reorganization. No to mention the competitive power of American new energy vehicles, just from the fact that the government spent such a huge capital and appointed the three top automobiles of General Moto [sic], Ford and Chrysler for its new energy automobiles procurement, we can see that the US automobile industry and new energy automobile project to walk out of their embarrass [sic].

Such statements are rich in irony. They expose resentment of presumed American advantages, criticism of American performance, and rejection of American efforts to stand in the way of a rising China. They demand immediate action because the United States has taken but a “first step” in trying to overwhelm the developing Chinese industry. And since new-energy vehicles define the American strategy for saving its automobile industry, it is the government support for the new-energy vehicle that must be stopped.

President Obama likely did not know, when he used the term “pillar,” that it is a favorite of Chinese central planning and the frequent target of the U.S. Department of Commerce in its assault on alleged Chinese subsidies. The petition authors likely salivated over the American use of the term, confirming their worst suspicions of an American conspiracy to thwart an ascending China by blocking its exports to the United States while shipping to China subsidized goods.

What Now?

The contradiction between the Electric Vehicles Initiative and MOFCOM’s investigation of alleged subsidies to U.S. automakers translates into a much larger problem of cultural misunderstanding and trade protectionism. It echoes the contrasting views of success and failure in the President’s visit in China. It tests whether China and the United States will be able to cooperate or be forced to compete antagonistically. It requires the United States to reexamine the most fundamental aspects of its trade policies and address its hypocrisies, particularly over subsidies and currency valuation. It requires China to tell an honest history and to deal forthrightly with the engagement of the state in the economy.

The avoidance of a trade agenda during President Obama’s visit suggests that neither country is ready for the conversation that could determine the future of the world. Both may well want the same things for the health and prosperity of their societies – gainful and productive employment, clean air to breathe and safe food and water to eat and drink. Both may know, abstractly, that they must trade freely with each other in order to achieve these simple and precious goals. But so absorbed is each country in saving itself that they cannot even talk effectively about saving each other. Instead, they are wrapped in paradoxes and contradictions, leading Krugman to warn that “the victims of [ ] trade mercantilism have little to lose from a trade confrontation.”

China invited the President, deft with chopsticks, to eat with a knife and fork in China, yet one more detail detaching him from the Chinese people and, consequently, from his popular image at home. President Hu’s visit to the United States will, therefore, be all the more important, for its substance and for its symbols. President Obama will demonstrate either that his personality inevitably produces a portrait of unnecessary compromise when China pushes hard, or that as host he can restore his own aura by setting the terms and tone that win at home without exacerbating the tensions already rising between the world’s most significant powers.

 

        中国领导人和评论家认为,奥巴马总统11月访华获得空前成功。白宫在公开场合也宣称访华取得成功,但私下却不这么认为。如何看待访华结果可能都依赖于如何诠释“成功”和“失败”。两者间的差异带来不同后果。 

        美国评论家一般不像美国官员那样模棱两可。他们大都认为这次访华是失败的。美国外交关系委员会亚洲研究主易明女士(Elizabeth Economy)认为这次访华是“记忆中最失败的美国总统北京之行。”海伦•库珀(Helene Cooper)在《纽约时报》撰文指出,“分析家说中国严格管理奥巴马中国之行的每个细节,这次访华更多展示了中国抵抗外界压力的能力,而未推动奥巴马议程上的主要问题。”她接着引用美国康乃尔大学埃思瓦尔•普拉萨德(Eswar S. Prasad)原文,“中国成功地操纵了奥巴马总统的公开露面,让他发言赞同对中国而言重要的政治立场,并有效地压制了对有争议的问题的讨论,如人权和中国的汇率政策。这是一个大手笔,他们把公众讨论从中国的货币政策可能带来的全球风险转移至美国宽松的货币政策和保护主义倾向带来的危险 。”

        一些中国评论家赞成这一美国观点。香港大学新闻及传媒研究中心主任陈婉莹教授在《纽约时报》题为《奥巴马输了一局》的文章中指出“虽然陪审团还在争论奥巴马总统中国之行的长期贡献,在首次与中国近距离接触时他显然已经失去了象征意义上的战争。”

        表面来看中国都自行其事。总统想与上海学生和博客展开自发式电视会议,结果却在封闭的礼堂和年轻共产党展开经过排练的交流。他想外出会见中国民众,看到的却是《纽约时报》海伦•库珀报道中空无一人的“鬼城”的长城,这一“繁华的旅游景点”因为奥巴马总统访华基本关闭了。同时他也受到外交降级对待,陪伴他登长城的是中美大使,并没有中方高级官员。在与胡锦涛主席共同主持的记者招待会上,两位领导人宣读了双方事先准备的(大概是双方都已批准的)发言稿,不允许新闻记者提问。陈教授的评论是,“中方在公共场合都略胜美方一筹。”她认为,“在对地位异常敏感的中国,象征意义和利益发挥的作用大于生活本身。”

         这些结论是不利于中美关系发展。外交基本原则之一是永远不在谈判中击败对手,除非你期望这一结果是明确的最终结果。令人费解的是,中国却没有炫耀自己的胜利(但至少一位不愿透露姓名的美国高级官员在《华盛顿邮报》报道中提到他感受到“中方有一丝胜利的喜悦”)。相反,中国似乎是真的认为访问是对双方而言都取得了成功,假设中方了解这一词的含义,而不是试图羞辱总统。
至少在公开场合,奥巴马总统中国之行是与美国银行家的共同投资,他用良好意愿投资。此行也是为坚实、持久的伙伴关系打下基础。中国评论家认为,奥巴马总统得到了他提出希望实现的目标。新华社报道,“当他离开中国时,分析家看到中美关系向新的方向发展,这具有重大意义,分析家同时相信首脑会议加强了双边关系。”新华社援引人民大学国际关系学院金灿荣副院长的谈话指出伙伴关系的“新目标”是积极、重要的;中国现代国际关系研究院美国研究所所长也认为奥巴马访华为两国伙伴关系带来“积极、崭新的意义。”奥巴马总统强调双方需要相互信任,胡锦涛主席和中国评论家赞同他的意见。据新华社报道,“奥巴马对中国的访问取得丰硕成果。两国重申了双方关系的新定义——面向21世纪的积极、合作、全面的关系——就如两国前任元首建立的、并不断丰富、巩固的合作关系,且更具战略性内涵。”

         但是一些批评者认为总统的投资是幼稚的,两国关系的基础可能比预想的更不坚固、公开场合的论调得不到实质内容的支持。张祖华和江棋生在《华盛顿邮报》撰文告诫:“中国政府并不回报免费获得的东西。她只会纳入囊中,然后迈步前进。外国人可能不知道这一点,但对中国人而言却俨如白昼。”两位作者认为,未在华盛顿接见达赖喇嘛、在上海与学生会面、没有提问的新闻发布会、以及在公开场合对中国人权保持沉默都是奥巴马总统免费赠送的东西。他们解释中方认为的“新方向”是指美国的地位和作用逐渐削弱,欺负一位新上任的年轻的、渴望和解的美国总统。

衡量成功与失败

         这可能是因为中国和美国是衡量成功和失败的标准不同。美国人可能倾向于认为这次访问在镜头前是失败的,因为总统奥巴马与“普通”民众交流的高超技能因为中国的“细节管理”而无法发挥。
许多人认为总统之行在实质性问题上也是失败,或许是因为奥巴马总统三天内只花了一整天参加严肃会谈,而且主要是在他抵达中国前已经达成的协议上签字。他议程上的重要话题——制裁伊朗核发展、气候变化、全球金融重组、人民币升值、人权、尤其是言论自由和通信自由——似乎都未取得突破。

         无论中国如何真诚地希望取得互惠的成功,尽管中国公开声称访问取得成功,却无助于改善美国人眼中的零和游戏——美国的失败等于中国的成功。多数美国人视中国的成功为操纵的手:舞台管理、微观管理总统访华的每个细节否定了总统在世界其他国家享受的明星地位,同时否定了总统议程上的优先事项。约翰霍普金斯大学高级国际关系学院蓝普顿教授等人士预测两国关系将面临一些阻碍,因为中国对两国关系的庆祝只显示她预测不断上升的中国将在世界舞台上取代下降中的美国,把美国放在“从属者角色。”

          对此行持批评态度的评论家(他们在美国评论家中占绝对多数)将奥巴马总统此行与他前任的中国之行对比。无论是尼克松、里根、老布什、克林顿还是小布什,都在八达岭受到热情民众的欢迎(他们都游览了长城,并在同一个地点)。他们举行了美国式的新闻发布会;中国电视台播出他们与“普通”人的互动。陈教授认为这一次却是“人造公共活动的组合”,奥巴马团队“受挫”。

         无论此行为两国关系带来何种长期结果,与前任总统中国之行的对比都对奥巴马总统造成政治危害。此行与奥巴马在美国国内留下的、通过妥协避免冲突的印象产生化学反应:无论关于卫生改革提案的关键细节还是战争全局部署,他的妥协只助长把他的和气视为软弱的对手的气焰。美国人对总统外交政策的不满日益渐长,右翼不满他的伊朗政策,左翼不满他的阿富汗政策。他的中国之行让一些美国人认为此行与肯尼迪和赫鲁晓夫的首次会面很相似,强硬的苏联领导人赫鲁晓夫在维也纳测试年轻、缺乏经验的肯尼迪的总统,并给了他一个下马威。同样,奥巴马每次都屈从于中国的偏好。

         此处需要指出总统在中国的表现是有根源的。在抵达上海之前,他因对日本天皇异常恭敬受到美国媒体痛斥。敏感的中国领导人意识到奥巴马总统的处境、给予他平等待遇、希望以伙伴关系与总统合作,充分迎合他以及中国领导人自身的愿望。相反,不知是不了解究竟在日本发生了什么,还是决心实现自身利益,中国的工作强化了他在日本留下的年轻总统过分取悦受访外国主人的印象。

        奥巴马总统对中国的访问很可能影响他在美国国内的形象,这说明短期内他不会再访问中国,同时他将在胡锦涛主席2010初访问美国时力争扳回一句。奥巴马总统将需要挽回在美国民众眼中失去的战场——从唯一的超级大国沦落为仅仅与一个发展中国家平等的地位,或许更糟。

        这里至少有两个表面挑战,第三个挑战更深层。表面上,奥巴马总统在中国的行为符合他的个性和执政方式。他对待中国不如对待国会有力。他节约精力以用于最优先事项,倾向于让象征性事务成为他人的担心。中国可能利用奥巴马总统的这个弱点,但这种利用对长期双边关系而言没有多大意义。或者它有重要涵义,比批评家评论的更有利于美国:虽然象征意义上奥巴马总统输了,但是他表达、存储了今后可以利用的良好意愿,还带红利。许多声称双边关系在访问后更强大中国评论家似乎赞同这一观点。

        第二个表面挑战是如何区分风格和实质内容。此处总统可能面临更严重的问题,因为作为候选人他利用他在国外受到的摇滚歌星待遇在国内赢得青睐和选票。因此,身为总统在接受外国首脑接待时,他不能轻易降低至微不足道的地位。在他的努力下这些接待显得重要,现在无法排除这些接待的重要性。他明白挪威授予的诺贝尔和平奖是建立在希望而非认可之上,可能是负担而非福音,但对此他无能为力。 

         虽然有证据显示总统的行为已经在安静的外交领域得到红利回报,也有令人不安的迹象,特别是在尚未提上议事日程的贸易领域。第三个挑战则更深入。在哥本哈根会谈上最引人注目的是:在只应有国家元首出席的会议上,较低级别的中国官员公开反对美国总统的意见,而且中国安全人员试图阻止奥巴马总统参加由温家宝总理主持的会议。然而,在北京之行之后举行的哥本哈根会谈取得了重大成果:胡锦涛主席虽然在北京拒绝就关键问题做出让步,但在哥本哈根却对美国总统做出让步。也许是因为在中国境外、面对独立的公众,比较容易讨论实质问题。或许是对奥巴马总统的回报、或是履行私下承诺。在哥本哈根举行的气候变化会议上取得的成就,显然与北京议程的失败不匹配,这将转入第三点:贸易。

        必须更好地理解中方眼中及媒体宣传的成功。中国庆祝这次访问成功是因为她占上了风吗(没有民众对奥巴马的狂热追捧,没有批评中国民主,没有尴尬,中国几乎没有受到公开批评),或因为未来关系得到加强和改进?如果是后者,成就可否不建立在不让总统在美国国内受伤的基础上呢?或是伤口是奥巴马自己造成的,是由于总统厌恶冲突和对抗的性格?或许,中国对新朋友——和平总统(一个潜在的尴尬双关词)面临的政治危险过于敏感,未让他得到他象征性的需要呢?

        对现状至少有两个相互竞争的解释。其一认为新的中国“招摇”,相信中国和美国正朝相反方向发展,而中国公式——资本主义专制国家——比资本主义加自由在21世纪更有可能成功。

        不仅在奥巴马总统11月访华时,中国去年还在其他场合多次表明这一意见。在专制的一面,中国公开限制互联网接入和使用。她用自欺欺人的借口关押示威者。她不顾国际社会的请求坚决处决了贩毒的英国公民。在资本主义方面,它在全球推广贸易投资过程中开始贷款给不同企业,如西南航空公司和沃尔玛。它对世界贸易组织成员地位非常重视。

        第二种解释认为中国的行动不只是表现信心、甚至傲慢,而是文化差异导致的日益加深的互不理解。当美国在邻近中国的区域问题上寻求中国帮助时,无论是北朝鲜核能力或巴基斯坦庇护基地组织,中国从未忘记提醒美国中国仍是发展中国家。在要求高于平等待遇的同时(一方面建议建立G2集团,一方面又声称不希望这样的事情发生),中国要求获得防止全球变暖和提高能源效率的技术及资金。中国希望因实现数亿人摆脱贫困而被尊敬,但也同时希望同情和帮助。中国很高兴地把最困难的全球问题留给美国的领导,但当她选择立场时总想获得尊重。它希望根据自己的时间安排走自己的路,虽然也有些着急。中国领导人每天担心经济增长迟缓就将激发危险的抗议,没有一位美国总统有这样的经验。

        奥巴马总统需要用实质内容和形式回答。他在人民大会堂用刀叉品尝牛排晚餐,所以胡锦涛主席或许应该期待访问华盛顿时用筷子吃饭,因为双方都照顾到对方的文化取向和期望。也许只有这样,中国领导人才能了解对他们喜欢和欣赏的美国总统的美国国内形象造成的损害,而美国人需要学习中国文化,了解为什么中方没有察觉到奥巴马访华在美国人眼中的失败。就像北京奥运会给中西方留下不同印象一样,中国的纪律严明、协调一致让中国引以为豪,却让西方人感到可怕。

        新华社精心挑选了一些赞同此行顺利的美国评论。有时操纵是透明的,如一副标题写道“中国拉动美国摆脱衰退”,并引用奥巴马总统的评价,“中国的伙伴关系在我们努力摆脱几代未遇的、最严重的经济衰退时起到关键作用”。奥巴马总统显然没有认同中国拉动美国摆脱经济危机这一看法。但这篇偏颇的报道似乎反映了一些中方领导真实的想法。

        一可靠来源解释说密切关注奥巴马访华的每个细节表明中国对总统的尊重。上海会议的组织、消毒者、复旦大学倪世雄教授对这个想法领会颇深。他说组织者认为,“没有必要让双方尴尬,阻碍我们的客人的行程”,他们更不想影响北京会议。《纽约时报》Sharon LaFraniere引用倪教授原话:“高潮是在北京举行的会谈。我们不能遮掩最重要的事件。”

        在北京眼中“真正重要”的是没有提问的记者招待会、只有一个游客的旅游观光。美国报道显示尽管中国可能认为他们履行了保护奥巴马总统的职责,让他免遭可能的尴尬,但他们没有尊重奥巴马的意愿,让他在上海面对不同的观众、更直接地接触中国人民。尽管中国官员相信:他们最了解自己的地盘,他们应服从自己的意见,而不是尊重客人的意见。不幸的是,这一想法不仅显示“父亲知道最多。”

贸易和电动车

       如果哥本哈根是对新关系的第一次测试,电动汽车可能是第二次。胡锦涛主席指出,“我在和奥巴马总统的谈话中强调,当前形势下中国和美国都应该更强硬地反对和摒弃一切形式的保护主义”。会议前夕,中国针对美国出口至中国的轿车和越野车发起了覆盖面极广(价值数十亿美元)的反补贴和反倾销调查;会议刚刚结束,美国向中国出口的油井管材征收惩罚性关税。这两个行动似乎都没有意识到“当前形势”,中国和美国也没有反对或拒绝贸易保护主义。

        奥巴马对中国的访问是气候变化、能源效率和国际贸易的检验。奥巴马总统和胡锦涛主席于11月17日宣布启动“美中电动汽车项目”,这是继9月中美电动车论坛之后两国在这一领域的又一举措。根据美国能源部的新闻公告,“两位领导人强调加快电动汽车发展可以减少对石油的依赖、减少温室气体排放、促进经济增长,符合两国共同利益”。

         同一天,根据另一议定书,美中国清洁能源研究中心及其他两个项目也宣告成立,这一清洁能源研究中心将研究如何节能尤其是包括捕获和储存碳释放技术在内的清洁煤发展。这一项目非常雄心勃勃,因为两个国家在5年内仅仅平均分摊1.5亿美元的投资。尽管如此,作为一个合资企业,这是体现善意的重要宣言、承诺提供政府资金以解决共同面临的环境问题。

        当中国科学技术部和美国能源部于9月在北京共同主持召开会议讨论发展电动汽车,中国商务部提供了一个小插曲,声称收到了要求对美国政府为发展电动汽车提供的补贴展开调查的申请。申请书中的指控项目包括奥巴马总统2009年8月宣布用于“开发新能源汽车零部件”的24亿美元。申请书说“最终,研发补贴将帮助汽车产业拥有更先进的生产技术和水平、提高产品质量、增加产品品种、增强竞争力。”申请书认为这些补贴违反了《中华人民共和国反补贴条例》第二章第三款。

        申请书用长达10多页的篇幅讨论促进提高燃料效率、电动汽车和公共汽车的美国项目,总结道“无论是美国政府还是美国国会,或者政府机关(特别是美国能源部)以赠款、投资或是配套资金形式注入的研发电动车的资金,以及所有把资金从政府转移至汽车业的项目。”申请书称,“美国汽车业从这种支持中获得竞争优势”。

         就在奥巴马总统抵达北京前几天,中国商务部根据这份申请书发起了反补贴调查。2009年支持提高能源效率的项目和申请书的目标——“出口到中国的、美国制造的轿车和越野车(气缸容量≥2.0升)”没有任何关联。然而,中国商务部并没有把为提高燃油效率和发展电动汽车提供的研发支持排除在这一调查之外。虽然几乎同时中国科学技术部宣布为这些项目提供支持。

         当人们纷纷讨论报复性贸易案件(特别是布什总统在其任内,虽然仍视中国为“非市场经济国家”,却从2006年11月开始对中国展开反补贴调查,至2009年9月奥巴马总统宣布对低档商业轮胎采取贸易保障政策),很容易理解中国的行动(针对美国鸡肉产品、钢材、汽车的贸易行动)仅仅是为了提醒美国她也会面临同样的贸易行动。但中国的行动不局限于此。20国集团在匹兹堡协议会议上提出的“平衡”需要美国增加储蓄和中国扩大投资和消费。中国的经济发展仍主要是出口导向型。她仍然需要美国人、欧洲人和加拿大人购买她出口的产品。当美国需要扩大出口以摆脱经济衰退时,中国市场仍落后于加拿大和日本市场。中国知道她对美国市场的需求大于美国对中国市场的需求。因此,中国展开这些调查的含义一定超过指控本身。

         中国(至少是中国商务部)可能认为为了保障美国市场大门畅通无阻,必须警告美国中国可以关闭中国市场大门。在汽车案申请书中,中国似乎想提醒美国,美国对中国这一非市场经济的补贴指控似乎来自一座玻璃房子。中国的权衡仍是不平衡、法律上不健全的。贸易保护主义推动下的美国商务部不太可能对与商品无关的指控发起调查。为电动汽车发展提供的补助与中国进口的美产轿车和越野车很少或几乎没有关联。如果中国在最后裁决中把这些这些指控和受补贴商品联系在一起,世界贸易组织几乎肯定会否决这一联系。

        中国商务部宣布对电动汽车展开补贴调查以及两国领导宣布联合研发电动汽车,没有理智的办法可以调和这两个决定间的矛盾之处。美中清洁能源研究中心预计将筹集、用于联合研究、开发电动汽车的公共、私人资金,这正是中国商务部考虑视为非法、应受制裁的贸易项目。当胡锦涛主席坚持要求奥巴马总统同意共同抵制保护主义、庆祝联合研究和开发克服汽车二氧化碳排放带来的环境危害,他领导下的商务部却对美国试图全力解决这一问题的努力展开调查。

         并不是中国不依规矩。《中华人民共和国反补贴条例》几乎是逐字逐句翻译世贸组织的反补贴措施协定。美国反补贴法也是建立在此同一国际协议基础之上,美国产业的指控和中国申请书中的指控项目类似,美国商业部则经常发现这些补贴行为违背了美国法律和国际惯例。当美国产业界对中国政府各种形式的财政支持提出指控时,美国商务部经常决定对中国产品征收反补贴税(自2007年来也有十多起案件)。同时中国对电动汽车的调查使用了一个在美国长期受欢迎的理论:所有的钱都可流通至不同领域、政府为任何目的提供的补助在某一公司可对受调查产品产生影响。虽然美国商务部在使用这一理论时经历了司法挫折,但是中国商务部还没有经历挫折。尽管中国商务部很可能不是在国内、就是在世贸组织会失去这一理论的法律战役,但是没有任何法律条款阻碍尝试。

         当然 ,对付美国向中国产品征收反补贴税的倾向的办法之一就是对美国产业,尤其是著名产业,使用同样高剂量的药物。同时强调美国政府一方面在某些领域,如汽车领域,作用过大,一方面视中国为非市场经济的做法不合乎逻辑。但这些行动似乎不符合胡锦涛主席打击“一切形式”的保护主义,促进更强大、更深入的伙伴关系以解决共同面临的问题的承诺。

         中国也不是利用一切行动抵制美国的贸易保护主义。与其他国家不同,中国不参加美国国际贸易委员会调查、挑战产业损害指控。也不在美国法院上诉美国政府机构的不利裁决。中国也不参与反补贴行政复审,而一年一度的行政复审决定最终税率。相反,中国完全依赖世贸组织为贸易平反,这一战略选择几乎肯定会令中国失望。

        奥巴马总统访华议程中唯一公开的贸易项目是人民币汇率问题。就这个议题,他显然没有比他的前任实现更多进展。当然美国也不会公开评论“美元疲软”,据《华盛顿邮报》的Dan Hedgepeth,美元疲软为“美国电器、汽车和其他设备的生产商和零件制造商提供了价格竞争优势,并帮助他们在全球夺回输给了海外竞争对手的市场份额,经济学家认为该转变应该帮助美国经济复苏。”这一解释听起来就像是拉动经济发展的战略,提供给美国的利益和美国对中国的大声抱怨完全一致。

        经济学家区分美元疲软和人民币被低估,他们说中国采取的行动不明智、不公平。那些因中国的货币政策而处于不利地位的国家可能还没有用法律行动表达不满,但中国的政策迫使她们在其他领域抱怨不公平贸易。即使自由贸易者也认为用保护主义抵制中国的重商主义有理。

        元旦前一天,诺贝尔经济学奖得主保罗•克鲁格曼(Paul Krugman)在《纽约时报》专栏发表评论:“中国已经成为一个重要金融和贸易强国。但她并不像其他经济大国那样行动。相反,她奉行重商主义政策,人为地保持高额贸易顺差。在今天低迷的世界经济中,这一政策说穿了就是掠夺性政策。”克鲁格曼接着具体评论中国的货币政策:“过去,中国积累的外汇储备大多投资于美国国债,这样做可以说是有利于我们,因为它保持美国的利率较低……但是现在,贸易顺差使急需的需求流失。我的粗略计算显示在未来两年中的重商主义可导致美国失去140万人左右的就业机会。”

        “中方拒绝承认这个问题,”克鲁格曼写道。“最近,温家宝总理反驳外国控诉:‘一方面,你要求人民币升值;另一方面,你却采取各种保护主义措施。’事实上:其他国家采取的(适度)的保护主义措施正是因为中国拒绝人民币升值。而且,更多的此类措施是完全适当的。”克鲁格曼总结道。
选择人民币汇率作为他北京议程上唯一的贸易问题,奥巴马总统可能想用它替代其他贸易问题。他从而回避挑战中国政府巨大的、违背世贸组织规则的经济干预措施,并把受益于这些措施的产品出口至其他国家。中国现在对美国急需的经济复苏计划提出批评,就像中国不愿意讨论自己面临的问题一样,美国显然不愿意讨论对银行、汽车和其他经济领域的巨额补贴。

        中国一方面通过拒绝讨论人民币汇率、对美国出口产品展开调查威胁美国贸易,另一方面迎合美国总统、赞扬新的合作,这应当使每一个关心经济复苏和改善环境议程的人士担心。同时美国坚持向享受中国政府支持的产品征收反补贴税同样令人担忧。中国的银行向中国企业提供的贷款面临美国反补贴指控,而美国公司的贷款也来自这些中国银行,同时为美国企业提供贷款的主要美国金融机构现在都几乎变为国有。

        拒绝诚实地面对经济衰退带来的压力以及它对贸易法和惯例的影响——要么是文化误解、沟通失败、思想上的不诚实、或是危险的组合。贸易议题被留在北京,重点被移至经济复苏和气候变化议程上。遗憾的是,不知两国总统是不知道、不想知道,还是没有能力处理这一问题。

深层涵义

        中国希望受到给予历史上被剥夺、被剥削的发展中国家的同情,但同时也希望获得大国享受的尊重。她希望美国提供气候变化援助和技术转移,但也希望在平等的基础上设立合资企业。她希望奥巴马总统相信他受钦佩和尊重,同时也希望他的行为符合中国准则、充分体现对中国文化的尊重。奥巴马总统似乎理解这些混合的信息,并试图满足中方需求。2009年他把外交政策的中心放在中国,延续他认为合适的布什政府对华政策,并继续扩大。在这一过程中,他因没有满足中国的期望使自己面临批评,同时减弱自己以及美国地位。

         这中式矛盾不可避免地引发猜测。中国庆祝总统访问成功可能是表示支持未来伙伴关系,但也可能预示中国认为两国命运将发生长期逆转。再次,汽车案调查申请书可能是中国意图最明确的表白,一些中国贸易专家认为这是中国商务部自己的看法,甚至可能是商务部自己起草的。它使胡锦涛主席显得说一套、做一套:他的科技部长致力于合作,并为技术和科技发展提供支持;他的商务部长却与美国贸易机构不相上下,积极对政府参与经济活动采取贸易救济行动。

          汽车案调查申请书把汽车工业视为美国最重要的产业,“为美国经济稳定和发展发挥关键作用的支柱产业。”然后指责前任美国总统“坚持保护美国汽车产业”,但认为这些措施都失败了,“相反,这些政策最终导致美国汽车产业的衰退。”这些保护性补贴“严重违反了世贸组织有关规定,扭曲了正常市场竞争。”申请书毫不掩饰地表明这一下降象征美国综合国力的进一步下降。

         与美国衰退、破产消息相对照的是对中国工业和中国的描述。两者差别中最重要的一点,同时也是世界贸易中最重要的问题,是中国的崛起是由于国家影响力的减弱,以及“改革开放的中国”。申请书希望国家支持的影响随着时间推移而消失,并装作认为所有影响都已经完全消失了。它希望读者认为,国家推动的经济目前存在于美国,中国是自由市场的典范。
汽车行业是这个宏大论点的载体,因此故意选择由中国政府最高级别部门发出这一信号。这一行动旨在吸引美国注意。

         在描述美国工业崛起(一个世纪前的自由企业)和衰退(二十一世纪由政府主导的企业)之前,申请书对中国汽车工业史展开描述:“至2008年,中国改革开放30年以来,中国汽车工业也经历了30年的改革开放。三十年来,中国的汽车生产蓬勃发展,从生产14.9万辆至近一亿辆(0.95亿辆),从不到1%的世界产量到接近13%的世界产量。2007年,中国汽车拥有量超过四千三百万辆,居世界第四位。汽车行业就业人口达到两百九十一万人,相关产业就业人口达到三千多万。”申请书声称这一惊人的成长源自自由企业:“中国汽车产业在改革开放中成长,迅速成为世界上最大的汽车制造商和消费者之一;而且自6年前加入世贸组织以来,它取得历史上最突出和最快速的销售增长。”

          申请书认定中国解放经济力量和美国限制经济力量导致中国汽车工业的崛起与美国的衰退同时出现。暗指上世纪属于美国,而新世纪属于中国。当然,这个故事与中国依法享有对美国商品征收惩罚性关税的贸易权没有任何关联。相反,汽车行业在这里仅是对比中国和美国的工具,为了说明中国式的专制资本主义比美国式资本主义更优秀。

         汽车案申请书认为,在新世纪,中国一直不断创新,而美国却笨手笨脚(翻译源自美国贸易代表办公室,但也可能源于他出,在这里不再像其他段落那么优雅):“汽车业是美国最重要的支柱产业,雇有大量员工。长期以来美国汽车工业面临效率较低、管理不善、成本过高等问题,这些问题一直延续至今。在经济危机影响下,美国汽车业面临重重困境。三大汽车公司被逼到角落。奥巴马总统曾公开宣称,‘我不可能、不能、也不会让我们的汽车产业消亡……这是我们经济的支柱,这是数百万人的梦想。’就像奥巴马总统宣布的那样,上述措施只是第一步。美国政府将采取进一步措施帮助汽车行业,帮助他们渡过重组困难时期。更不用提美国新能源汽车的竞争力,仅从政府花费的巨额资金、并指命三大汽车生产商独占政府新能源汽车采购项目,我们可以看到美国新能源汽车项目和美国汽车产业走出尴尬境地。”

         这些陈述极具讽刺意味。它们显示了对假定的美国优势深怀敌意、批评美国的表现、反对美国阻碍中国崛起。它们要求立即采取行动,因为美国已经采取了“第一步”试图压倒发展中的中国产业。而且,由于新能源汽车被定义为拯救美国汽车工业的战略,必须制止美国政府对新能源汽车发展提供支持。

         奥巴马总统很可能不知道,他使用的“支柱”一词,这是中国人最喜爱使用的中央计划词语,并经常在美国商务部的补贴调查中受到攻击。申请书的作者可能被美国的唾沫淹没了,认为这证实了他们猜测中的、美国企图通过阻止中国产品出口到美国,同时补贴出口至中国的商品以挫败中国的阴谋。

现在怎么办?

         电动汽车发展计划和中国商务部对美国汽车制造商展开的补贴调查间的矛盾展现一个更严重的问题:文化误解和贸易保护主义。这和对总统访华成功和失败的讨论相呼应。它探讨了中国和美国能否合作还是被迫竞争。它要求美国重新审视其贸易政策最根本的问题,并解决补贴和货币估价等矛盾之处。它要求中国诚实叙述历史、直截了当地处理政府参与经济这一问题。

         奥巴马总统访华时回避贸易问题表明两国都没有为参与可以决定世界未来的对话做好准备。两国都想实现本国社会健康和繁荣发展——高效率的生产力、呼吸清洁空气、安全食品和饮用水。两国可能都知道她们必须彼此贸易,以实现这些简单、珍贵的目标。但到目前为止,两国却被包裹在悖论和矛盾之中,这导致克鲁格曼警告说,“重商主义的受害者在贸易对抗中没有什么可失去。”

         中国邀请不善使用筷子的美国总统用刀叉参加晚宴,在中国这是另一个使他脱离中国民众的细节,也使他在美国国内脱离受欢迎的形象。因此,当胡锦涛主席访问美国时实质将比符号更重要。奥巴马总统或是将证明在中国努力推动下,他的个性将不可避免地导致不必要的妥协;或是作为东道主设置条件和基调,既不加剧紧张局势,又重塑自己的光辉形象。