President Bush will be hosting Chinese President Hu Jintao this week. The convocation will take place in Washington, not as is the president's penchant for high-level diplomacy at Bush's ranch in Crawford.
That's good news. In a rustic environment, Bush has a tendency to make diplomacy so personal as to obscure some very important matters of state. It was at the ranch that Bush got to know the "heart and soul" of his pal Vladimir Putin, that is, the former KBG official who now presides over the decline of democratic institutions in Russia.
And it was in Crawford that Bush took a stroll through the wildflowers with then-Crown Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, while some of his countrymen and members of the Saudi royal family continued their financial support of international terrorism and the jihadists targeting American troops in Iraq.
Before the president becomes enamored of China's spectacular economic progress and makes the mistake of praising Hu's supposedly enlightened leadership, let me suggest a preparatory reading list.
He can begin with the White House's own 2006 National Security Strategy for the United States. There, in the first paragraph, he'll read:
"It is the policy of the United States to seek and support democratic movements and institutions in every nation and culture, with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world. In the world today, the fundamental character of regimes matters as much as the distribution of power among them. The goal of our statecraft is to help create a world of democratic, well-governed states that can meet the needs of their citizens and conduct themselves responsibly in the international system."
The document praises China's progress down the road of reform, but cautions against "old ways of thinking and acting." One example it cites is China's continuing military expansion.
Bush might read the Pentagon's recently released Quadrennial Defense Review, which singles out China as the country with the greatest potential to compete militarily with the United States for some more details.
The only thing growing faster than the economy in China, says the QDR, is the military budget. Annual military expenditures have increased 10 percent per year since 1996. The QDR expresses concern about China's "lack of transparency" in its strategic objectives and its aggressive military posture toward Taiwan.
The White House strategy paper also criticizes China for supporting resource-rich countries without regard for misrule at home or misbehavior abroad. It doesn't elaborate this point, but Bush can turn to a report from Human Rights Watch that does.
China, in recent years, has become increasingly protective of the genocidal Sudanese government, obstructing efforts at the United Nations to establish sanctions against it or mount a meaningful international response to the humanitarian crisis in Darfur. China's solicitousness for the butchers in Khartoum is based on valuable oil concessions to the China National Petroleum Co. and a lucrative arms trade.
A final bit of preparatory reading can come from the State Department's 2005 International Religious Freedom Report. It describes the Chinese govern- ment's respect for freedom of religion and freedom of conscience as poor. Communist Party doctrine maintains that party membership and religious belief are incompatible. Individuals who attempt to practice religion beyond the scope of government control are subject to intimidation, harassment and imprisonment.
Despite liberal economic reforms, the character of the Chinese government remains fundamentally anti-democratic at home, menacingly antagonistic to freedom in Taiwan and immorally supportive of some of the world's most violent regimes.
None of this means that China, which now boasts the world's fourth largest economy, isn't an important economic partner of the United States or that its leaders can't play a constructive role on the world stage. But Bush and the American people should have a very clear perception of what kind of partner it has and the guiding principles of its leaders.