The Washington Post editors observe:
In its first year, the Obama administration went out of its way to cater to China’s communist leadership. It publicly put human rights concerns on a back burner, delayed a presidential meeting with the Dalai Lama and did not press Beijing hard about its currency manipulation. Now it appears that effort produced the opposite of the intended effect. Rather than respond with its own gestures of cooperation, Beijing is pressing hard for more American concessions. Bursting with hubris about its emergence as a global power, it is testing to see how far a new and inexperienced U.S. president can be pushed.
But all the bowing and scraping didn’t pay off. Instead, we have a new level of bellicosity reflected in threats over our arms sale to Taiwan and the delayed upcoming meeting with the Dalai Lama. There is reason to fret that the Obami will retreat to more conciliation in their ongoing effort to gain China’s support for Iran sanctions.
This is, of course, a lesson that extends beyond China. It should serve as a warning to the “smart” diplomats that weakness and reticence in advocating our interests will engender not respect but contempt from adversaries. While the Chinese threaten to sanction our companies that provide weapons to Taiwan, the mullahs in Iran shoot off a missile and continue to imprison and murder their citizens. Have we incurred goodwill or encouraged brazenness there?
After a year of the apology tour, reductions in our own missile-defense program, yanking missile defense from our allies, and remaining largely mute on human rights, we have communicated to foes that there are few adverse consequences to fear from the Obama administration. That has made the administration’s job even tougher now. When it finally acts with appropriate forcefulness — in announcing the Taiwan arms sale, for example — it must withstand screams of protest and redoubled threats. Had it projected greater strength and determination sooner, perhaps the task of convincing foes and friends of our resoluteness would not be so difficult now.