You have to admit it’s quite curious.
I’m talking about the elaborate state visit that President Obama is hosting this week for Chinese President Xi Jinping, replete with a star-studded, formal White House state dinner and a 21-gun salute on the South Lawn tomorrow.
Those are honors not given to many foreign heads of state.
I mean, isn’t this the leader of the same People’s Republic of China that we’ve been having so much trouble with lately?
For instance, China has:
• been fingered, by many accounts, in pilfering the personal information of some 20 million-plus Americans in a hack of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management’s computer systems, for yet to be determined purposes;
• allegedly stolen billions of dollars’ worth of intellectual property (including designs, industrial processes, etc.) from American commercial and defense firms, both here and in China, through both cyber and human espionage;
• engaged in a massive military build-up in the Pacific theater, largely pointed at the United States, including the recent parading of ballistic missiles purposed to take out U.S. aircraft carriers or to strike American bases on Guam;
• literally built new islands in the South China Sea, claiming them as sovereign Chinese territory and potentially threatening freedom of the seas for both military and civilian shipping as well as access to fisheries and natural resources;
• caused trade troubles with the United States due to a range of issues, including creating a hostile business environment for foreign firms, forcing American companies to share their technology with Chinese companies as a condition of doing business, and promoting other protectionist practices.
• repressed the human, especially political, rights of its people for the purposes of perpetuating Communist Party rule over nearly 1.4 billion Chinese — that’s about one-fifth of humankind. The government also controls the media.
I could go on but I think you get the point.
Don’t get me wrong: I think there is value in world leaders (in some — not all — cases) getting together to hash over important issues, with the possibility that a meeting of the minds will lead to some sort of positive result.
The White House would probably say exactly that.
For example, Team Obama would undoubtedly note that the Chinese played a role in concluding the recent Iran nuclear deal as a symbol of potential Sino-American collaboration on the international stage.
It could also point to the need for more cooperation on global issues such as climate change (China being the largest global polluter), international trade (China boasts the world’s second-largest economy) and cyber-security issues (China = the worst offender).
Indeed, there are reports of an agreement between the U.S. and China on cybercrime; there will undoubtedly be a slew of so-called bilateral “side agreements” and business deals to puff up perceptions of a successful summit.
So what’s the problem?
A “state visit” — as opposed to a “working visit” without the pomp and circumstance, such as the 2013 Obama-Xi get-together in California — conjures an image of American endorsement of Chinese policies and actions, especially as the Sino-American rivalry ratchets up.
That’s troublesome because perception is reality, after all.
It is clearly the White House’s call on how the president receives a foreign leader. But you really have to wonder what inspired the administration’s decision to seemingly put a stamp of approval on current Sino-American ties — both here and in China.
-Peter Brookes is a Heritage Foundation senior fellow and a former deputy assistant secretary of defense. Follow him on Twitter @Brookes_Peter
This piece originally appeared in the Boston Herald