Clinton’s legacy scanty, but political advantages strong

Source:Global Times Published: 2012-11-5 19:10:04


Illustration: Liu Rui
Illustration: Liu Rui

Editor's Note:

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has received praise in the US for her handling of diplomatic affairs during her four-year term, but has drawn controversy in China for a supposedly aggressive stance. Obama has reportedly said he would love for Clinton to stay, but Clinton decided to move on. Clinton may seek the Democratic nomination again in 2016, but what will her chances be? What diplomatic legacy has she left behind?


Discussions about whether US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, one of President Barack Obama's most popular cabinet members, will stay if Obama is reelected have been ongoing since the election campaign began.

When she first took office as the top US diplomat, Clinton's attitude toward China was based on the foreign policy of the Obama administration. Amid the financial crisis, the US needed China's help to overcome its economic downturn. She took a friendly approach to China.

This could be seen from the speech she made during her visit to China in February 2009, stating that the US and China could help lead a global economic recovery by working together. But later, she gradually took a tougher stance on China.

Two aspects have influenced her approach to China. She has a strong sense of ideology and always stresses democracy and human rights.

Meanwhile, she practices the traditional foreign policy that focuses on geopolitics and the balance of power. That's why she promotes the idea of Sino-US competition in the Asia-Pacific region and looks for ways the US could balance China's power.

Generally, Clinton's role in Sino-US relations during her office has been negative. She undermined China's trust toward the US.

Clinton paid visits to China's neighboring countries, and sowed discord and division between China and these countries. She harshly criticized China on several occasions without the appropriate style that a top diplomat should have.

She also turned the earlier positive approach of the Obama administration to China into more mutual friction. Her pushing of the US pivot to the Asia-Pacific region is aimed at China, which adds strategic uncertainty to Sino-US relations. She didn't seek more cooperation between the two, but provoked zero-sum competition.

Some said Clinton may be the most diligent diplomat in the Obama administration, as she spent most of her time visiting other countries and expanding relations with them. However, her visits were more like putting on a show.

Whether the US' national interest is boosted does not depend on where Clinton went or the number of visits she made, but on whether the US tried to develop a constructive and positive relationship with them.

Clinton's "efforts" did not necessarily yield the results she had expected. I can't think of a major diplomatic legacy that she left behind.

It is hard to say whether it is because Obama appreciates Clinton's style that he wants her to stay. It may come from Obama's concern for domestic politics.

Former president Bill Clinton still has a great deal of influence among Democrats. He gave the presidential nomination speech for Obama this year, which produced good results. It's reasonable to conclude that Obama is trying to woo Secretary Clinton to win Democrats' support in the election.

Four years ago, Clinton was defeated by Obama in the presidential primary campaign.

Since she has great political ambition, there is a possibility that she will compete in the 2016 US election, if no younger and more promising politician emerges in the Democratic Party in the next four years. The resources her husband has are definitely an advantage for her.

The article was compiled by Global Times reporter Wang Wenwen based on an interview with Wu Xinbo, deputy director at the Center for American Studies of the Fudan University.

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