The slights and disruptions at Bush’s meeting with President Hu of China did not make for a diplomatic success. But beneath them are greater strains that may do real damage.
In a pique of pettiness, Bush refused to grant Hu the honor of a formal state visit.
Then there were the gaffes, such as the White House announcer referring to China as the Republic of China, which is the official name of Taiwan.
On top of that, the Falun Gong protester got to heckle Hu, but I’m always for a little heckling, whether it’s aimed at Bush or Hu or anyone else in power, for that matter.
But these breaches of etiquette are but surface tensions. The significant ones go much deeper.
Prior to 9/11, China was the next big enemy on the Pentagon’s horizon.
The last four and a half years have been a distraction from this looming conflict.
But the Bush Administration has been quite clear: It is U.S. doctrine that no country can be allowed to compete with the United States either economically or militarily.
China is already competing with us economically. And while it’s in no position to challenge the United States militarily, the Bush Administration eyes it with suspicion.
In March, Bush signed an updated national security strategy document that warns China not to “ ‘lock up’ energy supplies around the world” and not to support “resource-rich countries without regard to the misrule at home or misbehavior abroad of those regimes.”
This is a none-too-subtle reference to Iran, which supplies China with 11 percent of its oil.
So here’s where Bush’s plan to bomb Iran takes on added significance.
For it would be a warning shot across the bow of China: We’re still the big kids on the block, and we can mess with your economy if we want to.
This kind of playground bullying is just what Bush likes to do, regardless of the consequences.
If Bush does bomb Iran, the indignities China suffered in Washington will be next to nothing compared to the humiliation and deprivation of having one of its major oil suppliers attacked.
And it’s hard to imagine how humiliating and depriving the Chinese is in the long-term interests of the United States.