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Hopes for Obama's Second Term

Bill Moyers gets post-election insight from veteran journalist James Fallows.

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BILL MOYERS: What do we want from them?

JAMES FALLOWS: We want them to become more liberal and responsible as they become richer. We want them not to destroy the world's environment, which they will do if other things being equal.

And so we want to work with them on avoiding environmental just destruction. We want them to continue bringing people from rural poverty to sort of urban working classness, which is what they've been doing. We want them to grow up in both international and domestic ways. Grow up internationally in having a foreign policy that's not just whatever's good for them commercially, which is what their foreign policy is now.

And to say, "Okay, you have to play a role in Iran and Syria or whatever, being responsible." Domestically, we want them to gain confidence so they don't have to have their foot on their people's neck. Most of the time in China you don't know the government's around. Just kind of a sort of state of chaos--



BILL MOYERS: I mean, not like Russia, the Soviet Union--


BILL MOYERS: --not that blanket--

JAMES FALLOWS: --entirely different. It's most of the time the areas the government cares about, the internet, democratic protest or whatever, Taiwan, Tibet, they're all over. When it doesn't involve that, you know, you can basically do what you want. You start a business, et cetera. So we want them to allow their people to have more a sort of liberal, normal life, as times goes on, which I-- and the government it's a country becoming more confident with a government that's still sort of nervous antique.

It's a Dick Cheney government with-- if not a Barack Obama, an FDR type nation behind it. Here's an illustration. Before the Olympics, the foreign ministry said, "We're going to have an authorized protest zone so that everybody can say," you know, the Beijing Olympics, four years ago, "we're going to show the world we can tolerate protest." When people applied to protest, they were all arrested. So there's parts of the government that say, "This would look good, to allow a protest." There's parts that say, "We can't tolerate this. We're going to arrest people."

BILL MOYERS: Did it strike you during the campaign, Jim, that neither Romney nor Obama mentioned human rights in China?

JAMES FALLOWS: They didn't, which is part of the-- nobody mentioned climate change, they didn't mention the Supreme Court. There's all sorts of things. You could write 20 books on things that didn't come up in the campaign. On Obama's side, in a way, he didn't need to because his policy-- the Chinese know his policy is as it has been for the U.S., we want to work with China, but there's things we're not going to give up.

We're going to-- the president will meet the Dalai Lama, even though you hate that. We will send arms to-- sell arms to Taiwan, even though you view that as Casus belli, et cetera. So I think Obama could say, "Okay, I've had four years of a balanced approach." Romney, his currency-- bluster was sort of proxy for saying, you know, he would be blustery in all ways.

BILL MOYERS: Tough on China currency manipulation. First day in office, he would accuse them of-- bring them to the court of public opinion--

JAMES FALLOWS: Which he would not do. We'll never know that for sure, but I tell you that for sure.

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