Barack Obama

Beijing observers make convention debut

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 30 August, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 30 August, 2008, 12:00am

In an unprecedented move, the Chinese Communist Party sent two senior party members to observe the Democratic National Convention in order to 'learn more about future policies of the US', the semi-official China News Service reported.

Ma Hui and Jiang Lin , both from the Central Committee's international liaison department, attended the four-day national convention in Denver with observer status at the invitation of the National Democratic Institute - an NGO whose mission is to expand democracy worldwide.

'It's the very first time the Chinese Communist Party has sent representatives to a US party convention,' the news agency quoted Mr Ma as saying.

'The signal is the [party] wants to communicate [with political parties in other countries] ... It should have its voice heard on a global stage like this.'

Analysts say the move also showed the Communist Party's desire to further modify some of its largely rigid structure by learning from more experienced political parties.

Apart from listening to speeches from Democratic Party speakers, the pair also took part in a round-table discussion, where they were joined by Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations, former secretary of state Madeleine Albright and former US ambassador to the UN, Richard Holbrooke.

The two observers noted that despite relations with China being one of the most significant US foreign policy concerns, the issue has not featured prominently in the campaigns of Barack Obama or John McCain.

'China has not been a central issue in this campaign,' Mr Ma said. 'What they most care about are economy, employment, medicare and Iraq.'

The two diplomats also had lunch with Susan Rice, chief foreign policy adviser to Democratic nominee Barack Obama, on Tuesday. They raised the issue of Senator Obama's trade policy, describing it as something that 'needs paying close attention to'.

'If the Democratic Party adopts protectionist polices, it's going to affect us in a certain way,' Mr Ma was quoted as saying. 'Also ... an over-emphasis on democracy and human rights will affect the Sino-US relationship.'

The Communist Party was not worried by some of the 'provocative' remarks about China during the election season, because most presidents - most recently Bill Clinton and George W. Bush - switched positions once in office, Mr Ma said.

'The Sino-US ties during the first few months in both the Clinton and Bush presidencies were getting a little difficult, but it gradually steered onto the right track in both administrations, and we're basically fine with it. Now we hope for a peaceful and smooth transition in the Sino-US relations for the next presidency, and we're confident the two countries won't detour too far away from that.'

It was not known if observers would attend the Republican convention.