Relations with China must be realistic

President Barack Obama shares one thing with most of his predecessors, whether Democrat or Republican: All try their best to put a bright face on U.S. relations with China – while worrying in private about Beijing’s intentions.

During a visit to China last week, Obama expressed optimism and remarked in a speech that in some ways, what is good for the Chinese economy is good for Americans, and vice versa.

Clearly, he is right about that. But the Chinese are not playing by the same economic rules as Americans. They steal U.S. technology and other ideas shamelessly. The environmental regulations by which U.S. companies must abide are virtually non-existent in China. Both marketplace and personal freedoms most Americans take for granted are still in their infancy in China.

Another concern is China’s military ambitions. Beijing is moving forward with a major expansion of its navy, obviously intended to make it the dominant power in the western Pacific. Meanwhile, Obama and other liberals have allowed the U.S. Navy to stagnate.

Neither side has been willing to declare open hostility – yet a competition exists economically, militarily and diplomatically.

Pretending Washington and Beijing are the best of friends may play well in public. But U.S. leaders should view the relationship more realistically – understanding that Chinese officials intend for their country to dominate Asia in every way. That requires a response that has been missing from U.S. policy for some time.