Week of June 4, 1999
Week of June 4, 1999
Cox Report Released
Since the release on May 25, 1999 of an unclassified version of a House select
committee report (known as the Cox report for its chairman, Christopher Cox,
R-CA) on allegations of Chinese spying, questions have been raised as to the
appropriate nature of bilateral relations, the accuracy of the conclusions
reached in the report and the responsibility of various American government
agencies for serious lapses in security. The report’s conclusion that technology
transfers, espionage and lapses in security at America’s nuclear laboratories
have resulted in China’s acquisition of sufficient information to bring its
nuclear program on par with that of the United States has been brought into
question by the Chinese government, the Clinton Administration, members of
Congress, some U.S. technology firms, the members of the intelligence community
and the media. The report’s critics claim that the report over-states the
threat and paints China as a military adversary for domestic political gains.
The report’s supporters, however, charge their opponents with risking America’s
national security for the sake of good relations with China.
In reaction to the report, both the Senate and the House have introduced
amendments to the 2000 defense authorization bill to tighten export controls
and security at the nation’s nuclear labs. While the Senate passed a set of
initiatives sponsored by Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.) on May 27, 1999,
the House was unable to agree on such measures before the Memorial Day recess.
In addition to proposing legislation, several members of Congress have called
for the resignations of Attorney General Janet Reno and National Security
Advisory Sandy Berger. Reno issued a statement defending herself against accusations
that her department failed to adequately address national security concerns
raised by the FBI in its investigation of possible espionage at the Los Alamos
nuclear laboratory. Reno admitted that her department should have briefed
her on the details of the FBI’s request to wiretap the phone of scientist
Wen Ho Lee, who is the target of the espionage investigation. But she supported
the determinations reached by Department of Justice attorneys that the FBI
did not provide sufficient evidence to warrant a wiretap. Sandy Berger also
defended his actions and those of his staff publicly.
The Chinese government and media responded negatively to the report, describing
it as a "return to McCarthyism" and an attempt to erode bilateral relations
to prevent China’s development. The report has been linked in the Chinese
press to the NATO bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade and even to the
1989 demonstrations in Tiananmen Square as evidence of America’s intent to
dominate China and the world. In support of its claim that China did not steal
American defense secrets, the Chinese government aired a program which showed
a Chinese researcher easily obtaining information on several U.S. missiles
from American internet sites.
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TIANANMEN ANNIVERSARY--10 Years After
June 4, 1999 marks the 10th Anniversary of the student-led demonstrations
in Tiananmen Square. In the days leading up to this significant anniversary,
Chinese authorities took steps to prevent the commemoration of the movement.
More than 70 dissidents were recently detained for questioning, and about
28 remain in police custody. The government took other measures to stifle
a new movement such as disconnecting CNN cable to avoid viewing programs on
the Tiananmen legacy, clipping out articles from Western and Hong Kong newspapers,
and closing off Tiananmen square for the month of June.
In a search for redress, over 100 relatives of the people killed ten years
ago in the demonstrations are now petitioning through the government’s elementary
legal system to open a criminal investigation of the officials responsible
for the tragedy a decade ago. Knowing that the chances of success are minimal,
the petitioners plan to seek an international legal forum, such as a UN tribunal,
to investigate the Tiananmen incident.
NTR Renewal Battle and China’s WTO Entry
On June 3 President Clinton sent his recommendation to Congress to once again
extend China’s trading privileges with the U.S. Renewing normal trade relations
(NTR) will be far more difficult this time around than at any point since
the Tiananmen incident in 1989. Concerns surrounding Chinese espionage, the
ever-increasing trade deficit, and China’s back-tracking on trade concessions
reached during Zhu Rongji’s April 1999 visit will undoubtebly be scrutinized
as Congress debates whether or not to renew trading privileges with China.
Of equal deliberation will be the extent to which the U.S. should link national
security to trade, as Clinton attempted to do with human rights early in his
first term. Many believe that support for normal trade relations will continue
to decline in the next few months.
To further complicate matters, China suspended talks with the U.S. on WTO
entry as of May 7 because NATO accidentally bombed the Chinese Embassy in
Belgrade. Conservative Chinese officials and others used this event to further
criticize the Zhu Rongji for ‘selling out?China by offering to lift too many
trade barriers and agreeing to a higher Western stake in joint-ventures last
April. Given recent espionage accusations, conservatives in Congress wish
to follow suit and further postpone WTO talks. Both reformers in China and
the Clinton administration would like to reach an agreement that would bring
China into the WTO by year’s end. However, heated debate in the U.S. over
NTR renewal, combined with domestic pressure in China to limit the extent
of cutting trade regulations, may mean that China will not enter the WTO this
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