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Week of May 14, 1999

Week of May 14, 1999

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U.S.-China Relations Marred by Belgrade Bombing


NATO missiles hit the Chinese embassy in Belgrade on March 7th, killing three journalists and unleashing a storm of protest in China. James Sasser, the U.S. ambassador to China, and members of his staff were trapped inside the American embassy in Beijing for four days as violent anti-American protests--largely state-sponsored and orchestrated--targeted the embassy building and U.S. consulates in other cities.

China has been a vocal opponent of the NATO campaign in Yugoslavia since its beginning in March and has increased its criticism of the air strikes in the wake of the bombing. The leaders of NATO-member nations, including U.S. President Bill Clinton, have apologized and NATO has maintained that the bombing was an accident caused by a map error. The Chinese, however, have refused to believe this explanation and official news sources continue to insist that the hit could not have been accidental.

Although the recent events do not seem to have greatly harmed business interests, plans for greater military co-operation and cultural exchanges have suffered. In addition, the growth of nationalist and anti-American sentiment in China seems to favor the hard-liners who oppose President Jiang Zemin and Premier Zhu Rongji in their efforts to reform the Chinese economy and promote better relations between the U.S. and China.

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Will NATO Bombing Affect China’s WTO Bid?


China has been seeking entry into the World Trade Organization (WTO) for over a decade and the issue was on the top of Premier Zhu Rongji’s agenda during his U.S. visit last month. Some analysts have said that the recent NATO bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade may create extra leverage for the Chinese in the negotiations. Other observers have commented that, after the anti-American protests in Beijing, the climate in Washington is not conducive to making progress in this area. In any event, it seems clear that some of the concessions offered by China during Zhu’s April visit are no longer on the table.

Meanwhile, Taiwan continues to move forward with its own bid to join the organization. However, while the island may complete the application process by mid-summer, it is not yet clear if member nations, knowing that a diplomatic crisis may result if Taiwan joins before Beijing, will allow it to enter at this time.

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New Ambassador to China Nominated


The White House has just announced the nomination of Admiral Joseph W. Prueher to the post of U.S. Ambassador to China after a six-month search. Citing Admiral Prueher’s military credentials and good relations with Chinese leaders—both civilian and military, President Clinton has taken the unusual step of nominating a military official rather than a career diplomat.

As Commander of the Pacific Fleet, Admiral Prueher took great pains to establish and maintain military exchanges with China at many levels, and has gained the respect of many Chinese leaders. His support of the decision to send U.S. warships into the Taiwan Strait in 1996 to deter Chinese use of force against Taiwan during its national elections has strengthened his reputation as a tough military statesman as well. Formal confirmation hearings in the Senate are expected to begin in June and to be non-controversial as Admiral Prueher has great support in the Congress, White House and in China.

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More Light Shed on Campaign Finance Scandal


Testifying for five hours before the House Government Reform and Oversight Committee on May 11, 1999, Johnny Chung described his ties to Chinese military officials who gave him large sums of money to donate to the 1996 Clinton campaign and Democratic National Committee. Chung characterized his actions as "old-fashioned influence peddling" and denied working for the Chinese government.

A central figure in his testimony is General Ji Shengde, chief of China’s military intelligence. Chung told the committee that General Ji gave him $300,000 to contribute to the re-election of President Clinton. Chung admitted to having spent the majority of that money on himself, but Congressional investigators have determined that approximately $30,000 was donated to the democratic cause. While taking responsibility for his actions, Chung also extorted Congress to pass legislation that would improve the campaign finance system—a step that Congress has been unwilling to take thus far. Chung pleaded guilty to tax evasion and illegal campaign contributions last year. In exchange for his assistance with a federal investigation into the 1996 election, he has avoided a lengthy jail term.

The U.S. and China This Week
The U.S. and China This Week

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