This week even the stunning sunset-and-white-sands setting of Hawaii was not enough to take the edge off sharp divisions between United States and Chinese delegates in Honolulu for a summit meeting of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation organisation.
Two distinct areas of disagreement between the two nations were in the spotlight — trade policy and human rights in Tibet.
On human rights, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton threw down the gauntlet to her Chinese interlocutors when she said at an event at Honolulu's East-West Centre that the U.S. had “made very clear our serious concerns about China's record on human rights.” “We are alarmed by recent incidents in Tibet of young people lighting themselves on fire in desperate acts of protest, as well as the continued house arrest of the Chinese lawyer Chen Guangcheng,” she said.
On the trade policy front, the APEC summit saw U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk and Chinese Assistant Commerce Minister Yu Jianhua go head to head over the question of membership in the evolving Trans-Pacific Partnership, a initiative to create a free-trade zone in the APEC region.
Reports quoted Mr. Yu Jianhua saying bluntly that Beijing had not been asked to join the discussion on the TPP but “if one day we receive such an invitation, we will seriously study the invitation.”
However Mr. Kirk immediately hit back, arguing that the TPP was not a “closed clubhouse, [and] all are welcome.” He went on to add that the TPP was however “not one where you should wait for an invitation.”
Ms. Clinton also alluded to the high-tension area of bilateral economic ties, in particular focusing her remarks on the currency manipulation question. She said, “China needs to take steps to reform... China must allow its currency to appreciate more rapidly and end the measures that disadvantage or pirate foreign intellectual property.”