Obama’s Journey to Tougher Tack on a Rising China
China also underlies Mr. Obama’s opening to Myanmar. During the long estrangement between the United States and its military dictators, China set out to turn the isolated country, also known as Burma, into a colonial outpost. On Wednesday, Mr. Obama welcomed Myanmar’s opposition leader, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, to the White House.
Mr. Campbell rejected the suggestion that the United States was pursuing a cold-war-style containment of China, saying that the notion was “simplistic and wrong.” At the same time, he said, “the Chinese respect strength, determination and strategy.”
Exhibit A in that approach, he and others said, is the tortuous but ultimately successful negotiation over the dissident Chen Guangcheng, who sought refuge in the American Embassy in Beijing and was allowed to fly to New York.
With China embroiled in a leadership transition, Beijing now sometimes sounds like the beleaguered party. Over lunch with Mr. Donilon in Beijing recently, China’s foreign minister, Yang Jiechi, complained about being pressured over the South China Sea. “Big countries can get bullied by little countries,” Mr. Yang said, according to a senior aide who was in the room.
But China shows few signs of backing down. It filed its own case at the World Trade Organization against the United States on the same day as Mr. Obama’s latest action. And when Mr. Panetta met in Beijing with China’s presumed next leader, Xi Jinping, he got an earful on a territorial dispute involving tiny islands claimed by Japan and China.
Looking back, some former officials argue that it was not Mr. Obama who changed, but the Chinese. “People say we got mugged by reality,” Mr. Bader said. “No, the Chinese behaved differently in 2010, and what we did reflected their behavior.”
This story orginally appeared in The New York Times.