As the U.S. and China prepare to meet on Wednesday and Thursday for their annual Dialogue on Human Rights, Beijing and Washington have begun sniping at each other mercilessly. Beijing has blasted America's wars in Afghanistan and other countries as human-rights abuses and warned the White House not to "position itself as a preacher of human rights." The Obama administration, meanwhile, has emphasized the growing crackdown on rights activists across the People's Republic, publicly chastising Beijing even before the dialogue begins.
Far from being a cause for concern, the sniping is a positive sign that the Obama administration has learned that its toothless approach to China over the past two years has failed. Its also an indication that the president has come to understand something that previous administrations knew very well—namely, that Washington can criticize the pragmatic Beijing regime on human rights while continuing to work with it on other important global issues.