BEIJING – Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton flew into a storm of criticism in Beijing on Tuesday in the midst of a six-nation tour perceived by China as aimed at curbing its influence in Asia.
“Many Chinese people dislike Hillary Clinton,” the often-acerbic Communist Party-controlled Global Times newspaper stated in an editorial. “She has brought new and extremely profound mutual distrust between the mainstream societies of the two countries.”
Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei was more polite, saying at a briefing in advance of Clinton’s arrival late Tuesday, “We hope the U.S. side will keep its commitment and make efforts that help, rather than harm, regional peace and stability.”
High on the agenda in Beijing are the myriad of disputes between China and neighbors – Japan, Vietnam, the Philippines, Brunei and Malaysia – over uninhabited islets and fishing waters.
Clinton has proposed a code of conduct to be used as a mechanism to resolve such disputes through the Association of South East Asian Nations. Such a code would “literally calm the waters,” Clinton said in Jakarta, Indonesia, ahead of her flight to China.
Beijing has rejected what it calls U.S. meddling in the conflicts, apparently believing it has more clout asserting its claims bilaterally with its neighbors.
“We feel there are too many different countries ganging up on us. The U.S. is playing the role of the aggressor here. It is a sign of their insecurity in the global arena,” said Xu Guangyu, a retired military officer and analyst for the China Arms Control and Disarmament Association in Beijing.
China’s irritation with Clinton has been building for months. The Chinese are still simmering over remarks she made over the summer during a tour of Africa in which, without mentioning China by name, she urged nations on the continent to deal only with pro-democracy foreign powers.
Clinton comes to Beijing in the middle of an 11-day tour designed to show the flag in a region where China’s influence – and money – increasingly hold sway. It began with an improbable visit to the tiny Cook Islands (population 13,000) and includes stops in Indonesia, East Timor, Brunei and the Russian Far East.