Three issues Obama should raise with Hu - but probably won't 

There will be champagne toasts galore and endless speeches about good will and mutual cooperation between America and China during tonight's White House state dinner for Chinese President and Communist Party General Secretary Hu Jintao. Here are three issues that probably won't be on the agenda during Hu's time in this country because President Obama and others in the U.S. government fear that raising them would offend Beijing.

First, China remains the world's largest, most powerful and longest-lived communist regime. It famously came to power, according to Mao Zedong, "at the barrel of a gun" and has thereby remained in power ever since, slaughtering millions of its subjects along the way. There have never been free and open elections that would let the Chinese people choose their leaders. Though carefully structured and monitored economic freedom has been allowed in recent decades, there is no freedom of speech, religion, petition or assembly in China. Obama should remind Hu of these facts and press him to allow public circulation and discussion of Charter 08, the underground democracy manifesto associated with China's Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xaiobo, if only to give hope to the millions who yearn for freedom in his country.

Second, Obama should press Hu for an explanation of China's military buildup. China's newest Jen-class ballistic missile submarines, for example, enable Hu's regime to project its nuclear power worldwide. Similarly, why is Hu's regime developing the J-20 stealth fighter, which is obviously designed to challenge America's F-22 for air supremacy? And what is to be made of China's launching at least 15 satellites in 2010 for its Beidou global navigation system that, like America's Global Positioning System, enables precision targeting of any point on the globe?

Third, Obama should ask Hu why the Chinese government has invested so heavily in acquiring cyberwarfare capabilities for the Peoples Liberation Army. Over and over in recent years, cyber intruders linked to the Chinese military have sought to penetrate the U.S. military's command-and-control computer networks. Hackers often penetrate computer systems just to prove they can; when it's the PLA hacking our systems, shouldn't we assume the purpose is weakening or blinding our military?

The American people historically are slow to awaken to overseas threats, but once they do, there can be no doubt about their resolve to protect this country's legitimate interests against threats wherever they may originate. Eyes across America are opening to the realities behind China's Great Wall. As leader of the free world's pre-eminent power, Obama should speak softly but firmly -- and not let Hu forget that America carries a big stick

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