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China’s One-Way Diplomacy

A good relationship between free societies and China is not something that the communist regime in Beijing bestows. It is something that China must earn by respecting the rules and norms of international behavior and by recognizing other countries’ sovereignty instead of just asserting its own.

LONDON – The late George Shultz, US Secretary of the Treasury under President Richard Nixon and Secretary of State under President Ronald Reagan, was one of the finest public servants in recent American history. When I was the last British governor of Hong Kong, he once offered me wise advice about dealing with the People’s Republic of China.

Shultz told me that, in his long experience in business and government, Chinese communists always tried to define other countries’ relationship with them entirely on their own terms. They wanted the rest of us to regard our ties with China as the political equivalent of a beautiful and priceless Chinese vase. They would allow us to look at or even touch it, provided we didn’t risk dropping it by saying or doing anything that they believed should disqualify us from the honor of Middle Kingdom’s favor.

In my experience, that is a pretty fair summary of Chinese attitudes. But it is not how sovereign states usually conduct their relations with each other.

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