In the US, different constituencies like to focus on different issues, not realizing that Chinese tend to see issues as a whole, with everything connected in one way or another.
President Obama has said that he intends to draw a harder line with China on human rights, and recently invited some China human rights experts to discuss the issue with him.
At the same time, former vice president Cheney said that the Obama administration had come around to its hardline point of view on the war on terror, and was now following closely in the Bush administration’s footsteps.
The problem here is that the policies that the US has done in the Bush version of the global war on terror have made the Chinese government’s human rights violations look small in comparison. Many Americans would contest this view, but the better part of diplomacy is about being able to understand how others view issues in our globalized world.
If this is indeed the case, then Obama is at a distinct disadvantage in even bringing up the issue with the Chinese president, and should even consider not broaching the subject. Bringing it up would get a quick rebuttal from the Chinese president for its own human rights violations, and helping him to win points with Chinese, and the current and future Chinese leadership, for standing up to the US’s interference in domestic affairs.