For anyone still in doubt that the recent round of "Strategic and Economic Dialogue" between the US and China was a waste of time, there’s now the testimony of Gary Locke, the US Commerce Secretary to the Senate to consider.
The dialogue, which took place last month, utterly failed to make headway on any serious political or economic issues. As my colleague Peter Foster pointed out, the major achievement of the talks, which involved hundreds of negotiators from both sides, was to agree "to continue working toward a successful construction of a Chinese garden at the National Arboretum in Washington DC".
(As Peter joked at the time: "I’m not sure quite what is “strategic” about a garden, except perhaps the path up which the hapless American negotiators (I used that term lightly) are being led by the Chinese.")
In Mr Locke’s relatively forthright testimony he touches on the issues that are driving US companies mad in their efforts to do business in China.
"My meetings there last month reinforced my view that despite progress in many areas, far more needs to be done before we can be sure that commercial trends affecting US businesses in China are once again heading in the right direction. This perception is increasingly echoed by American businesses and increasingly spoken aloud," he told the Senate committee on Finance.
That sounds very much to me like an admission that the atmosphere for US business is heading is deteriorating, with little sign of improvement in the near future.
Over several pages of written testimony, Locke lays out the enlargement of SOEs ("the state-owned sector is growing, and the sway of government policy in place of market principles has been increasing"), the new regulations that are stifling foreign competitors ("China has increasingly erected barriers at or behind the border in sectors that are supposed to be open to foreign products and services") and the absence of any real ideas about how to persuade the Chinese to be more open.
While the foreign business community in China continues to by-and-large bite its tongue, there is a sense of despair among diplomats that China’s emergence onto the world stage has not be accompanied by any real concessions, either politically or economically. And worse? No one has any idea whether things will change.