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China, unvisited, looms large over Obama trip

April 28th, 2014
02:17 PM ET

By Mick Krever, CNN

Sometimes, where you don’t go says as much as where you do.

At the end of his week-long, four-nation tour of Asia, the country that U.S. President Barack Obama didn’t visit looms largest: China.

“Our goal is not to counter China, our goal is not to contain China,” President Obama said after signing a security agreement with Philippine President Benigno Aquino. “Our goal is to make sure that international rules and norms are respected.”

The message is indicative of the tightrope he has had to walk over the course of his visit: reassure allies, but don’t frighten China.

“I think he and his entire administration have been striking a very good balance,” says Gary Locke, who until two months ago was a member of that very administration as U.S. ambassador to China.

“Just in the last several weeks and months there have been numerous high-level visits by top administration officials” to China, he told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour in an exclusive interview.

“The Administration [and] the President are paying a lot of attention to China, but also making sure that [the U.S.] pays attention to its other allies in the entire region.”

American allies have been put at ease by the American President’s visit, Locke said, and by his very public reiterations that the U.S. would stand by its treaty obligations.

“The United States has long indicated that it welcomes a growing and prosperous China – but a China that actually abides by international standards.”

China has territorial disputes with many of its allies, including two of the countries President Obama visited, Japan and the Philippines.

“Clearly he’s also sending a message to China that it needs to be very, very careful in terms of its alliances and what position it takes – whether it’s on Syria or what’s happening with Ukraine,” Locke said.

Before departing his ambassadorial post, Locke – who is of Chinese ancestry – was the recipient of a scathingly racist attack in an opinion piece published by a state-run newspaper in China.

The piece called him a “banana” – “yellow” on the outside and “white” on the inside.

“The [Chinese] citizens themselves expressed embarrassment and outrage over the tone and the substance of the article,” Locke said, saying that he was “gratified and honored” by their reaction.

“I have long said that I am proud of my Asian heritage, my Chinese heritage – proud of the contributions of China over thousands of years to civilization – but I am one hundred per cent American, and proud of all that America has brought to the modern world in terms of our values, our innovations, our symbol of freedom, hope, and democracy.”

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soundoff (25 Responses)
  1. Doh

    The Chinese know Barry is a weak leader who can't fulfil any agreement, they are no longer interested in meeting him, but Michelle on the other hand, has become a celebrity in China.

    April 28, 2014 at 9:37 pm | Reply
    • sblue

      Celebrity? Chinese call her "a monkey on vacation". Excuse me for the clearly explict racist comment, but it is what they said and Chinese, (and all the east asians) are explicit racists without knowing it. (In this case, are they still racists? That is some food for thought. )

      April 29, 2014 at 12:38 am | Reply
      • Elias Alder

        First of all, the Chinese did not say this, this sounds like something a Caucasian American would say or a European football hooligan. But to the actual point, he's probably not welcome, with all of his thinly veiled attempts at pretending to be a threat to a country who owns most of our debt, exports most of our goods and has been a thorn in the side of our errant foreign "policy." Obama knows that he wouldn't be just dealing with China over land disputes, but China and Russia. He's not welcome.

        April 29, 2014 at 1:13 am |
      • gabrieltopson

        just to add to your comment chinese know they are racist ..i am married to a mix chinese and she hates her own people because they think backwards she said and hate black people with passion she said.

        April 29, 2014 at 2:36 pm |
      • achilles

        To gabrieltopson: U must married the wrong woman, what kinda woman would betray her own race and say bad things about them. Plus, you can't really base on some stereotype statement about a whole race. U are just racist and ignorant fool. Please do search what stereotyping means. Anytime you make a statement against a whole race is stereotyping. I can say any thing bad and also true about white ppl also. But i don't. Every individual is different. Maybe your wife's chinese family is backward. duh.

        May 3, 2014 at 5:44 pm |
      • Mo

        To Achilles:Chinese are terrible racists.i have lived here for fifteen years and still living in the country.i am olive colored because I come from the tropics but I do not have African ancestry.When my son who has my complexion was in kindergarten,he couldn't go to school because of all the bullying,children saying he didn't wash his face because he was so "black".Black in China is everything that is not milky white.U are classified black as soon as you have a slight tan and everything that is darker than the Chinese skin tone is ugly.if u say Chinese are not racists clearly u have never lived here.

        May 8, 2014 at 1:32 am |
    • samantha

      No one over here in Asia understood what Michelle Obama was doing except the timing was great for her and her daughters to see the historical cities in China during an awesome Spring break. She neither understood, or even learned much of the culture, she made so many cultural mistakes – not worth recounting. She only exacerbated the already damaged opinion the Chinese and most Asians have of President Obama. The perception is the President is arrogant. Comparing Michelle's visit with other first ladies trips to China, she's a D-. This doesn't take a way that Michelle may be an awesome person, but as a representative of our country she shouldn't have been over there without a real plan.

      April 30, 2014 at 11:19 am | Reply
  2. oharris30

    amazing how people seem to know so much about the president and why he didn't do this or that. How do you know the president is not welcomed in china and also if those racist comments were made about michelle and the president why should he want to go to china. Our debt with china is also not a debt created by this president. So sad that many in this country share the same racist ignorance they proclaim others do toward Blacks.

    April 29, 2014 at 12:57 pm | Reply
    • gabrieltopson

      thanks oharris my lil brother in turkey use to say i think the Asian people dont feel good about the way they look and that's why the get it at black people and he has met many asking him why do you have a big dick .its just funny the way Asian people thick and act like babies .they have a really bad mind and thoughts about other people. i plan to leave here soon .

      April 29, 2014 at 2:41 pm | Reply
  3. USA pro russian


    April 30, 2014 at 8:24 am | Reply
  4. Hank

    That make me believe more on political hypocrisy. Why not make it more straight forward? Yes, we are targeting China. We have to contain China. So what?

    April 30, 2014 at 11:34 am | Reply
    • David

      But can you?You guys thought innocently.Manage yourselves.

      May 2, 2014 at 12:35 am | Reply
  5. eyeonukraine

    And does he have to go to China? He did go but everywhere he went during his uh, not very successful trip, China was on his lips more than other issues combine. And as to Hank's comment – "we have to contain China, so what". Who is we? And how would you contain China? Did that from the 50's and was it successful? Just a joker you are.

    April 30, 2014 at 10:26 pm | Reply
  6. Chewy Chen

    In fact, USA losing its power and control, and doesn't want to pay bill anymore, so the more USA calling for China to be responsible in the area, the weaker USA stands.
    This tough "obligation" is no longer a real target USA want, Obama want to do, is only his shallow opinion, "Hey dogs, watch the wolf", and said to the "wolf", "little sheep, I'm a tiger, we should sit here to obey my international rules".

    April 30, 2014 at 10:42 pm | Reply
    • williamgreenii

      Really, who are you working for Chen? Don't believe everything that they tell you! Don't be so one0sided and stop being the mouthpiece for others.

      May 3, 2014 at 6:45 pm | Reply
  7. CSI

    There is one country Obama didn't visit in South East Asia?
    Anybody game to answer this?
    And why he didn't visit?
    Appreciate your answers.

    May 1, 2014 at 4:12 am | Reply
  8. Roeskidmore

    Obama is a weak leader, China knows it. Avoiding China shows how weak he is. His wife was an embarrassment in China, spending tax payer money recklessly. Obama has alienated most of the world.

    May 1, 2014 at 7:54 am | Reply
  9. popseal

    The complete silence of the CNN web site in regards to the "email revelations" and the embassy attack in Bengasi, Libya leads to one of three conclusions. CNN is so in the tank for Obama and Clinton, it would not report anything harmful about them, CNN is in the dark about a giant story, or FOX News is out to lunch. Hmmmmm, what could it be?

    May 4, 2014 at 7:34 am | Reply
  10. Toppies Van Vuuren

    At Roekskidmore explain what you mean by "Obama has alienated most of the world". Isn't he the President who stopped the Iraq war and cooled others plus reversed the mounting hatred towards Americans. Didn't the economic freefall sort of stabilise under his watch and show signs of recovery. About him being weak have you heard him talk to Putin or the Chinese about their territorial claims despite holding so much USA debt. Domestically he might be weak but everyone knows the big contributing factor is opposition to his evey idea by Republicans but has still managed to make them look directionless at times. Come-on Folks! Which Presidential Couple has least scandal in recent USA history!

    May 6, 2014 at 5:26 am | Reply
  11. Toppies Van Vuuren

    Obama didn't visit China because he went there to reassure USA allies that the USA stands with them! It was very smart of him to have said "Our goal is not to counter China, our goal is not to contain China", "Our goal is to make sure that international rules and norms are respected."
    Folks please understand the basics of smart foreign policy in this particular situation.

    May 6, 2014 at 5:35 am | Reply
  12. Louis

    What Obama had done was pushing China to Russia. Just see what happened after Obama's visit. Philippines police seized a Chinese fishing boat. Obviously it's US that bring redundant courage to increase the tension in South China Sea. What a joke! A very good balance, oh seriously?

    May 7, 2014 at 5:00 am | Reply
  13. SLY

    “Our goal is not to counter China, our goal is not to contain China,” President Obama said after signing a security agreement with Philippine President Benigno Aquino. “Our goal is to make sure that international rules and norms are respected.”

    Makes sense. I don't think China wants to follow international rules.

    June 6, 2014 at 9:35 am | Reply
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