Matt Frei's diary: Obama visits America's banker By Matt Frei BBC News, Washington http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/programmes/world_news_america/8365563.stm It should not come as a surprise that President Obama has been dancing delicately and deftly around the issues of Tibet and human rights while on his visit to China. Who after all would kick sand in their banker's face? China now holds reserves of $2.3 trillion. It owns more US debt than anyone else. China's savings sustain the US economy for better or worse. It is the financial equivalent of assured mutual destruction. The lingering existence of Guantanamo Bay and memories of Abu Ghraib have eroded the moral high ground like a swarm of termites, however insistently Obama has banned the use of torture. But something else has changed in the chemistry of the world's most important bilateral relationship. America is now more in awe of China than vice versa. Afghanistan and Iraq have shown the limits of US military power. We are no longer impressed, as we once were, by million-dollar smart bombs if crude but deadly IEDs planted in drinks cans can kill or injure American soldiers on a daily basis. The stonewalling, sandbagging and petty in-fighting on Capitol Hill have shown the limits of democracy in the world's greatest democracy. And the Great Recession has shown the limits of America's economic clout. We are limping towards a jobless recovery. A year ago, China saw millions of people laid off from the factories of Guandong and Fujian. Now they are posting more than 8% growth, reaping the benefits of a whopping stimulus package that even dwarfs America's, while taking dramatic steps to encourage their own citizens to consume. According to the New York Times, an astonishing 86% of the population believe the country is heading in the right direction. In the US, that figure languishes at 37%. In Europe and America, we are managing decay. In China, they are managing expansion. Oh and did I mention the number of billionaires? China now boasts 130, still behind America's 349 but multiplying at a much faster rate. On the whole, Chinese people are prepared to make enormous personal sacrifices in order to see the next generation flourish. I remember meeting an engineer at the tip of southern China who had left his family in Hohhot in Inner Mongolia 1,500 miles (2,400km) away to make a living. He was desperately homesick. He returned home once a year, but it did not even occur to him to ditch the job. What you see in China today is a curious combination of breathless expansion and boundless optimism, wrapped in national pride, combined with the patience produced by 5,000 years of continuous history. America at its best has the energy and the optimism. It does not lack in patriotism. But it also labours under the need for instant gratification.