President Obama's starkly different tone in his visit to China—more congratulatory than confrontational—is less a shift in policy from his predecessors than a change in the two country's roles, write Andrew Higgins and Anne Kornblut in the Washington Post. When President Clinton visited in 1998, the US was the world's only superpower and American owed more money to Spain than to China.
As our largest creditor, a major emitter of greenhouse gases, and neighbor of Afghanistan, "China has clout that the United States now desperately needs," they write. White House aides say the conciliatory tone of the visit is in recognition of long-term goals, in which China's help will be crucial. They deny that China's holding of $800 billion in Treasury securities made Obama any less forceful on human rights. Behind closed doors, one adviser says, "the president dealt with every issue on his agenda in a very direct way and pulled no punches." (Read more Hu Jintao stories.)