China and the United States both showed caution in dealing with Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng as the two countries needed to strike a balance between maintaining good relations and calming hardliners at home.
With China due to undergo a once-in-a-decade leadership change this year and the U.S. to hold a presidential election in November, the two countries have taken a practical approach in dealing with Chen's case while talking tough to protect themselves against a conservative backlash.
Washington's similar handling of the Wang Lijun and Chen cases also demonstrates that it now shows more respect for China when it comes to dealing with Chinese asylum seekers.
In both cases, the U.S. first opened its doors to the dissidents and later talked them into "voluntarily" surrendering themselves to Chinese authorities.
The open door gesture is important for the Obama administration in wooing Democratic supporters and swing voters.
But U.S. Republican presidential challenger Mitt Romney has strongly criticized Obama for taking a soft stance on Chen's case.
The open door gesture, the U.S.'s usual lecturing of China over human rights issue and Chen's subsequent phone call to a U.S. congressional hearing were ways for the Obama administration to appease people on both sides of the political spectrum, while Chen's voluntary departure from the U.S. embassy in Beijing was a way for the U.S. to show respect for China.
At the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue held in Beijing at the time of the incident, there was a smattering of hawkish rhetoric, but for the most part, the discussions held were largely smooth and efficient.
If Chen ends up studying abroad as has been reported, it would be a win-win for both China and the U.S.
The two countries' practical approach to Chen's case shows that if the two sides are willing to respect each other, a diplomatic spat can be avoided and a win-win outcome is within reach. (Editorial abstract -- May 13, 2012)
(By Ann Chen)