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Week of January 17, 2000

Week of January 17, 2000

The U.S. and China This Week

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MILITARY/DEFENSE: Talks Resume Between the Pentagon and Chinese Military


Lt. General Xiong Guangkai, the deputy chief of the People’s Liberation Army general staff, is scheduled to arrive in Washington, DC, on January 24 for two days of talks. It is hoped that regular military contacts between China and the pentagon can resume. Ideally, a series of exchanges will be set up throughout the year, including visits to China by the commander of American forces in the Pacific, Admiral Dennis C. Blair, and later by William S. Cohen, the Defense Secretary.

After the bombing of the Chinese Embassy in Yugoslavia, China rejected the explanation that the bombing was accidental, and suspended talks on trade, human rights, and military issues. Steps to mend the bilateral relationship were taken when President Clinton met with President Jiang Zemin in New Zealand last September and the subsequent agreement on the terms for China’s entrance into the WTO. In addition, last month, the United States agreed to pay $28 million in compensation for the damage to the embassy in Belgrade.

Officials say that regular contact between the Chinese and American military will ease tension between the two countries by increasing transparency. Even before the bombing of the embassy in Belgrade, building a stronger relationship with the Chinese military has been difficult, as China continues to be wary over issues such as Taiwan and the proposed deployment of national and regional missile defense systems. In addition, Congress has imposed a series of restrictions on the Pentagon’s relations with the Chinese military due to allegations of Chinese espionage to obtain nuclear secrets. These restrictions prohibit any contact or exchange that would give Chinese officers "inappropriate exposure" to US military expertise in everything from logistics to defense against chemical or biological attacks.

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BUSINESS/ECONOMICS: China Increases Support for the Private Sector


In a statement recently released by the State Development Planning Commission (SDPC), argued that the government should actively guide and encourage private investment. "We will eliminate all restrictive and discriminatory regulations that are not friendly towards private investment and private economic development in taxes, land use, business start-ups and import and export," said Zeng Peiyan, a minister in the SDPC. "In the area of stock listings, private enterprise should enjoy equal opportunity which was enjoyed by the state-owned enterprises." Chinese economists say the increased emphasis on the private sector is fueled in part by a recent decline in investment over the past year.

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RELIGION: China Faces Religious and Spiritual Turmoil on Many Fronts


Last week, the 17th Gyalwa Karmapa Lama left for India, without informing the Chinese government of his plans. This is a large embarassment for the Chinese government, and highlights China’s unsuccessful campaign to win the trust of Tibetan leaders. The 14-year-old Karmapa Lama is recognized as the third most powerful religious figure in Tibet, and the Chinese government worked hard to develop a strong relationship with him as well as to assure his patriotism and loyalty to the People’s Republic of China. He was even introduced to President Jiang and honored at the National Day celebration in 1994. No official statement has been made about why the young Karmapa left his family behind in China to suddenly show up at a hotel in Dharmasala, India. The Associated Press reported on January 8th that "those close to the Dalai Lama’s administration said the motive for the journey appears to have been the Karmapa’s frustration at not being allowed to meet with his teachers to obtain the instruction necessary for his religious position."

Last Thursday, as Pope John Paul II appointed 12 bishops in Rome, the Chinese government also ordained five of its own bishops to its officially sanctioned Catholic Church. Many view this as a warning to Chinese who remain loyal to the Pope, practicing their faith in one of many illegal underground house-churches. Such house-churches, both Catholic and Protestant, have become the country’s fastest-growing Christian movement. The Washington Post quoted a Hong Kong-based rights activist, Frank Lu, as saying that "Beijing cannot tolerate uncontrolled faith, especially faith that expresses loyalty to a foreign government."

By far Falun Gong is still the most troubling to the Chinese government. The Falun Gong movement is the first time since 1949 that China’s workers have joined an organization not affiliated with the Communists. Wang Shan, an independent political analyst, was quoted by the Washington Post saying "It’s the first proletarian movement since liberation that the party doesn’t control." Frank Lu argues that, right now, the Chinese government is even more concerned about the recent growth of religion than democracy activists. "While China continues to jail any democracy activist it can find, these days the Communists are concerned about religions. They realize there is a spiritual void in China. They know most people are cynical about politics, so they won’t follow the democratic activists. But they will follow a new messiah." The traditional Communist ideology of Mao and Deng is loosing ground, but the government has yet to find something appealing to replace it. The Washington Post quoted "the editor of one of China’s largest newspapers" as saying that he and many other party members fell as though China is "at the end of a dynasty, when traditionally all sorts of cults and sects rose up and challenged the emperor’s rule."

This feeling of uncertainty is coupled with the passing of China’s first millennium using the West’s Gregorian calendar, and with the traditional lunar calendar ushering in the Year of the Dragon, regarded as a time of tumultuous change. There have been 13 supposed UFO sightings around China in the last month, and such sightings are treated seriously by both the government and the people. One such sighting took place in the small village of Pusalu, about 30 miles from Beijing. Many of these villagers are Buddhists, and to them such cosmic sightings have distinct religious overtones. While the government does not want to play up potential religious interpretations of such sightings, China does have a bimonthly magazine with a circulation of 400,000 devoted to UFO research, and all of the sightings were reported in the usually conservative state-run media. Geremie Barme, a Chinese culture watcher at Australian National University said, "All that sort of millennial fear and trepidation fits in so nicely with Chinese cosmology and also the Hollywood propaganda that everybody’s been lapping up."

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FOREIGN RELATIONS: Jiang Zemin to Visit Israel


This spring Jiang Zemin will visit Israel and the Palestinian Authority, becoming the first Chinese President to do so. It is hoped that this visit will strengthen bilateral relations between the countries. Jiang will be the highest-ranking Chinese official to visit Israel since the two countries began diplomatic relations eight years ago. He will meet with both Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and Palestinian President Yasser Arafat. Israel has been selling arms to China for at least the past twelve years, beginning before official ties between the two countries began. Deputy Foreign Minister Nawaf Masalha hopes that Israel and China can strengthen their relations in a variety of areas, such as agriculture, although increased military cooperation is on the agenda.

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

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