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The U.S. and China This Week

Week of October 6, 1999

The U.S. and China This Week

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POLITICS: The PRC's Silver Anniversary


On October 1, 1999, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) celebrated its 50th anniversary. A five mile long parade was planned near Tiananmen Square with approximately 500,000 people participating in the festivities. President Jiang flanked by Premier Zhu and parliament leader Li Peng, oversaw the events from atop the Gate of Heavenly Peace facing Tiananmen Square. The festivities were estimated to cost over 35 million dollars and included 10,000 soldiers, 400 military vehicles, 25 different weapon systems, and assorted floats documenting important aspects of the PRC’s history. The city took many steps to ensure a peaceful celebration of the 50th anniversary including placing Beijing under martial law, arresting falun gong protesters, and sweeping the streets of migrant workers. The celebration did indeed proceed smoothly and included massive portraits of the Mao, Deng, and Jiang. Jiang is the only one of the 3 former leaders who is still alive and some speculate that he was attempting to elevate his status to that of Mao, the Father of Communism, or Deng, the Economic Reformer.

On this important anniversary, many people tend to look back on the past 50 years and ponder what the next millennium holds in store for the PRC. In examining the past half century, the progress of the PRC is impressive as evident in the changing world view of China. The path from containment to engagement was long, arduous and fraught with failure. Yet remarkably US China relations have developed beyond the imagination of the 1949 era statesmen. China has experienced turbulent and chaotic times as evidenced by the Cultural Revolution; but the country has also sustained enormous economic growth and altered the very agricultural basis of its early society. Through economic reforms, China has become a member of the international community and moved to a more urban based population. Agriculture is still a prominent sector of the Chinese economy, but in the past 50 years the economy has expanded deeply into industry and services. Will the economic reforms and their corresponding social changes lead China to become more democratic in the coming century? Possibly. Will China gain greater respect for internationally accepted human rights? Maybe. It is difficult to predict where China will be in the coming years and how she will respond to the many social and bureaucratic problems she faces. What is clear is that the 50th anniversary of the PRC is a time to look back on all the events of the past 50 years and appreciate how far China has come.

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WORLD POLITICS: Humanitarian Interventionism - A New Foreign Policy?


Clinton’s emphasis on Humanitarian Interventionism in U.S. foreign policy has made waves throughout the international community, especially in the past year. In an Asia Society Washington Center roundtable discussion Tuesday night, former Indian Ambassador to the United States K. Shankar Bujpai explained India’s concern over America’s increasing emphasis on this policy. India’s primary concern, according to Ambassador Bujpai, is the lack of transparency; in that there are no absolute criteria for when such a policy will be applied. Indian officials and academics feel they cannot ignore the question of what constitutes the criteria for intervention. This question is causing a stir in many other countries as well, and China has been among the most vocal.

China frequently criticizes the U.S. for intervening in the domestic matters of sovereign countries, and does not find the prospect of increasing U.S. intervention pleasant. If the U.S. becomes the world’s judge and jury of humanitarian violations and retains unchallenged the power to intervene as it sees fit, the Chinese perception of the U.S. as a threat to national independence may gain more credibility. The U.S. has passed several resolutions chastising China for human rights violations, leading many Chinese to question whether this humanitarian policy could allow the U.S. to intervene in China. This is an unlikely scenario, but it is now a more concrete possibility. The policy of humanitarian intervention appears presently to be limited in use, invoked with reluctance and only in egregious situations such as Kosovo and East Timor; but with specific criteria for intervention still unclear, countries such as China and India are worried that they could be the site for the next intervention.

The worry among many nations is that there have been 1000s of injustices in the world that have gone unnoticed by the U.S.; but in the past year these nations perceive a dangerous trend of increasing U.S. intervention in foreign countries?domestic problems. Some countries fear that as the U.S. continues to follow this policy, its hesitation will diminish, the definition of egregious situations will broaden, and the U.S. will permit itself greater interference in other countries?domestic affairs. From the U.S.’s perspective, it has taken a decisive, supportive, role in humanitarian intervention in East Timor, but has noticeably left the leadership role to Australia. This may in part have been prompted by Chinese, Russian and Indian condemnation of U.S.-led humanitarian intervention after the mistaken NATO bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade last May. As such, this policy, that is increasingly espoused by Clinton, carries ramifications

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INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS: Forum on U.S.-China Relations


On Wednesday, October 6, in Washington DC, SAIS hosted a forum on U.S.-China relations in memory of the late A. Doak Barnett. One of Mr. Barnett’s lifelong goals was the betterment of U.S.-China relations. In Dean Wolfowitz’s opening remarks, he reminded the audience of Mr. Barnett’s basic belief that Americans needs to get on with the Chinese. Mr. Barnett devoted his life to the promotion of understanding between the U.S. and China. This forum was a time to remember him and to commemorate him by discussing the "forces shaping the future of U.S.-China relations."

Dr. Kenneth Lieberthal, Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director of Asian Affairs, described Doak as decent to all a believer in understanding a country through its culture. Dr. Lieberthal then catalogued some of the key similiarities in American and Chinese interests. The first commonality was economic as it involved mutual access to market and Chinese access to U.S. technology. The second and third points overlapped and were of a diplomatic and strategic nature relating to the countries mutual desire for the U.S. to reduce its strategic dominance levels in Asia and give China more responsibility in the region. He also touched on the environmental challenges facing China and the need for U.S. technology to combat these environmental woes. Thus, expressing an interdependence between China and the U.S. on environmental issues. Dr. Lieberthal also stressed a point that seemed quite simple but often overlooked, that the U.S. does wants China to prosper because we are prepared to deal with a strong China, but the U.S. does not know how to deal with a China weakened by domestic problems. As such, the U.S. and China have many common links as the world moves towards increasing global interdependence.

After touching on the major pertinent issues influencing the future of U.S.-China relations with growing global interdependence a key theme, his speech then turned to what could go wrong and included 5 major issues. Firstly, China may not meeting the needs of its people and become unstable. This instability may be derived from China not building an international economy (technologically dynamic, high information society, globally interdependent, high physical mobility, high levels of legitimacy in government, & competition for pools of capital). The second issue is conflict across the Taiwan strait, which has escalated since Lee Denghui’s call for state to state relations between Taiwan and China. Possible conflict in the Korean peninsula region is another important issue on which the U.S. and China might find themselves on opposing sides. The fourth issue is the national military defense and a backlash against the U.S. Basically, missile defense systems can appear very hostile unless handled in a diplomatic and careful manner. Handled correctly, this issue could lead to an increase rather than decrease in the stability of the region. The last major problem would be if the leadership of our 2 countries were to act in ignorance and create a "self fulfilling prophesy" of hostility rather than talk through issues and seek an understand of each other’s perspective. This problem would be one of politicians making quick judgments without truly trying to seek the other side’s perspective.

Ambassador Li Zhaoxing discussed similarities between the U.S. and China in a lively and articulate manner remarking on the fact that both countries have had their share of challenges and difficulties. He stressed both countries responsibilities in maintaining world peace and the economic ties between the U.S. and China reminding the audience that the U.S. is China’s second largest trading partner and that China is the U.S.’s fourth largest. From an educational standpoint, China has sent many students abroad to the U.S. Thus, there are many links between these countries that should not be overlooked and that are important to the future of the 2 countries?relations.

Reiterating Dr. Leiberthal’s point about politicians causing problems in the smooth relations of the 2 countries, Ambassador Li mentioned that many politicians here have the "cold war mentality." Here, he suggested that people like to have an enemy and when the USSR disappeared the U.S. looked for some other tangible force to fight against and pointed to China. He stressed that China has never threatened another country and that this cold war mentality was ridiculous as China is far too busy building itself to worry about attacking anyone else. Ambassador Li said the Cox report was harmful to U.S. China relations because it sought to cast China in the role of an enemy stealing secrets. In closing Ambassador Li stressed Mr. Barnett’s theory of finding the basic facts as a way to enhance understanding between our 2 countries. He expressed hope that the2 countries could cooperate and work through their differences together. In thinking about the future he closed with a witty quote of Ben Franklin, "nothing is certain but death and taxes."

Thus, in this forum both Dr. Lieberthal and Ambassador Li held forth their ideas on the forces shaping U.S. China relations in commemoration of A. Doak Barnett. The evening was an informative look at what both countries felt to be pertinent issues effecting the future of U.S. China relations. In commemorating this China scholar and promoter of U.S. China relations, the evening reminds us that there are may ties between the U.S and China and that our relationship may have its stumbling blocks but they are worth overcoming.

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SOCIETY: Problems in Xinjiang Continue


In Xinjiang, China’s western Muslim province, 2 members of a gang were killed by police. This gang was supposedly linked with a string of deadly explosions in the region. The precise location and time of these explosions has not been made available to the public. Authorities claim that the group had been causing unrest and has killed an unspecified number of people. Xinjiang is experiencing a great deal of anti-Chinese feelings due to unemployment, discrimination, and curtailing of religious freedoms in the region.

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WORLD: Nobel Peace Prize Rumors?


Presently, about thirty people know the identity of this year’s Nobel Peace Prize recipient, while many attempt to guess his identity. A cryptic statement regarding the winner has left many discussing the possibility of Lee Teng-hui, Wang Dan, or Wei Jingsheng as this year’s winner. A person who knows the identity of the recipient said, "The Chinese authorities will be unhappy with this year’s Nobel Peace Prize." Speculation abounds over who this recipient is and specifically, whose selection would make China unhappy. This speculation has led to the rumor that either President Lee, Mr. Wang, or Mr. Wei is indeed the laureate.

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POLITICS: Nuclear Test Ban Bill’s Future Uncertain


On October 12, 1999, Congress will vote on the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, which bans underground testing of nuclear weapons. In theory, this bill would stop countries from testing nuclear weapons and end nuclear proliferation. In fact, many see it as tying the U.S.’s hands because once this treaty is signed, the U.S. can no longer test nuclear weapons. This ban would hinder the U.S.’s ability to create more accurate defensive weapons. The second fear is that though the U.S. would adhere to this treaty, other nations may not because countries can get around this treaty’s enforcement methods. India, Pakistan, North Korea and Iran have not yet signed this treaty, which may be another reason legislators are hesitant to pass such a bill. Many members of Congress are supportive of the treaty, but feel that passing such a bill at this early stage is more detrimental than helpful to the U.S. Thus, it appears that the bill will not be passed if voted on in October due to the mixed feelings regarding its ratification.

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POLITICS: NPC Delegation Coming to U.S.


During the next 2 weeks, a delegation of current members of the National People’s Congress will be hosted by former members of the U.S. Congress. As part of their itinerary, these ten members of the NPC will travel to Washington, D.C. and New York.

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