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How is Obama's tough stance on China playing in Beijing?

Not well, of course. The president is now "reckless" and "protectionist."

Howard Cheung, CEO of toy maker DiD Corporation, eyes a 12-inch action figure of U.S. President Barack Obama at the corporation's offices in Hong Kong on Jan. 26, 2009. China is watching closely, and cautiously, as Obama makes clear his policy toward the emerging power. (Garrige Ho/Reuters)

BEIJING, China – U.S. President Barack Obama’s tough new stand on China is not playing well in Beijing.

A week before meeting President Hu Jintao at the G20 in Pittsburgh and barely two months before he visits China for the first time as head of state, Obama is being called “reckless” and “protectionist."

Chinese trade experts, political scientists and media have had little good to say about the president’s two controversial China-related decisions in the past week, although his actions on China might win him support at home.

On Sept. 11, Obama changed course in U.S.-China trade relations by agreeing to impose prohibitive import tariffs on Chinese-made tires. The next day, a delegation representing the president visited the Dalai Lama in Dharamsala, India, home of the Tibetan government in exile — pressing China on one of its most politically sensitive spots.

“I was a little bit surprised because the timing was not so good,” said Di Dongshen, a political science professor at Renmin University in Beijing. “It seems the White House put these two things together and it was a choice of very bad timing.”

That timing ignited a firestorm of criticism in China, much of it channeled through official media and internet message boards. Many here, including Di, have accused the president of trying to deflect domestic political pressure about health care reform by shifting the focus to China.

Obama’s China policy remained largely unclear for months, with many here speculating that he would simply follow in the steps of former President George W. Bush with pragmatism and open trade. But he may now have chosen a more aggressive approach toward this emerging power, threatening perhaps the world's most important bilateral relationship. The decision to impose punitive duties on Chinese tires marked a turnabout from Bush trade policies toward China, which have primarily been about dialogue and negotiation since China joined the World Trade Organization in 2001. Obama’s decision is the first time the United States has used the tool that it negotiated in as a safeguard when China joined the WTO. In response, China swiftly filed an appeal to the WTO, and launched anti-dumping investigations over U.S. imports of chicken products and auto parts.