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Week of February 11, 2000

Week of February 11, 2000

The U.S. and China This Week

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US-CHINA RELATIONS: House Vote in Favor of Taiwan Bill

SUMMARY:On February 1, the United States House of Representatives approved the Taiwan Security Enhancement Act in a bipartisan vote of 341-70. The bill, which establishes direct military communication between Washington and Taipei and increases U.S. military training of Taiwanese officers, still faces a vote in the Senate and a presidential veto before it would effectively become law. The House vote took place a month and a half before the second Taiwan presidential election scheduled to be held on March 18. Taiwan’s first democratic election in 1996 was extremely tense - China test-fired missiles off the coast of Taiwan to protest the election and to threaten against candidates?considerations to formally declare Taiwan’s independence from the mainland.

The majority of the legislation’s supporters in the House vote are pro-Taiwan Republicans. Many claim that the bill clearly reminds Beijing of the United States?long-standing commitment to the peaceful resolution of the Taiwan reunification issue. The strongest opponent of the bill is the Clinton administration. Officials of the National Security Agency and State Department have made remarks stating that the bill decreases security in Taiwan and the East Asia, exacerbating cross-strait relations.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry has expressed its ‘strong indignation?over the vote and claims that the legislation has interfered in the internal affairs of China. Furthermore, the Ministry stressed that the bill will undermine the basis of Sino-U.S. relations if passed as law. Taiwanese officials welcomed the vote but were reluctant to take any strong position which might provoke an unwanted reaction from Beijing.

Despite the Clinton administration’s opposition, many analysts note that strong support for the bill in Congress could help enact permanent Normal Trade Relations (NTR) with China, an issue that will be voted in Congress later this spring. Granting permanent NTR status to China, a top priority for the administration in the year 2000, would implement the November 1999 trade accord between Washington and Beijing. Even if the Taiwan bill does not become legalized, pro-Taiwan members of Congress are thought to be more likely to approve permanent NTR status with China if they can balance the pro-Taiwan vote this spring. While most Republicans are in favor of permanent NTR, they want to avoid being called ‘soft?on China. The Taiwan bill is considered a safeguard against such possible accusations.

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U.S.-CHINA RELATIONS: Great Expectations and Concerns for PNTR with China

SUMMARY:As he unveiled the new budget on February 7 for the fiscal year to begin October 1, President Clinton introduced initiatives which would extend free-trade so that its benefits may be felt by more people worldwide. One such initiative would inrease funding to the Export-Import Bank in order to further the efforts of US companies attempting to sell their products abroad.

Despite such enthusiasm on the part of the Clinton administration to bolster free trade, especially with respect to China, many still remain apprehensive and in some cases opposed outright to such initiatives, especially to the idea of granting China permanent normal trade relations status, which would accord to China the same low-tarriffs access to U.S. markets enjoyed by many other nations. Despite the historic allegiance between labour groups and Clinton’s Democratic party, labour unionists, as well as several members of Congress (including Democratic party members) consider the trade agreement to work against American economic and national security interests, while many human rights organizations are opposed to the agreement on the basis of China’s record of human rights violations.

Nonetheless, President Clinton remains committed to China’s accession to the WTO and PNTR. Samuel Berger, Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs, delivered a speech at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars on February 2, in which he affirmed that China’s entry into the WTO would benefit American farmers and businesses. Furthermore, he stated that "denying China PNTR would deprive American companies and workers of China’s concessions ?the favorable market access and dispute settlement that our European, Japanese, and other competitors will have." Despite the shortened legislative calendar due to the election year, the Clinton administration and many prominent businesses are lobbying to encourage Congress to pass the controversial trade legislation later this year.

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SOCIETY/RELIGION: Falun Gong Arrests Dampen New Year Celebrations

SUMMARY:The festive celebrations of the Chinese new year were partially eclipsed on Saturday when 300 Falun Gong members were reportedly arrested as they orchestrated one of their largest demonstrations to date in Tian’anmen Square. As Falun Gong members congregated to usher in the Year of the Dragon, which ironically is regarded as one of the luckiest times in the 12-year zodiac, Chinese police took immediate action, rounding up the Falun Gong members and confiscating photographic film of standers-by. Some members were sitting together in a cross-legged pose characteristic of the group, while others tried to display red Buddhist banners.

The Chinese government banned Falun Gong last summer after a series of protests in which Falun Gong members demanded official recognition of their faith. The Chinese government has accused the spiritual association, which combines elements of Buddhism, Taoism, and ancient stretching, of being an "evil cult", and has issued a warrant for the arrest of its leader, Li Hongzhi, who currently lives in New York. Moreover, the Chinese government has reportedly sent more than 5,000 Falun Gong members to labor camps without trial and sentenced 300 others to jail since September.

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SOCIETY: Welcoming the Year of the Dragon - Message From Top Leaders

SUMMARY: On February 4, the eve of the Chinese New Year, China awaited the last Year of the Dragon of the 20th Century. President Jiang Zemin addressed a gathering of 4,000 in the Great Hall of the People and extended greetings to all Chinese people of various ethnic groups. He also extended Spring Festival greetings to the peoples of Hong Kong, Macao, and Taiwan, and overseas Chinese around the world. Jiang thanked all of China’s friends for helping China with its modernization process.

Premier Zhu Rongji also gave a speech. He declared that in 2000 China will continue strategic economic reforms including expanding domestic demand, exploring inland areas, and aiding state owned enterprises to maintain economic development.

Zhu further stressed the determination of China to quickly resolve the Taiwan question, saying that China missed its Taiwanese compatriots. The Premier stated that he would continue to work towards peaceful reunification in line with the ‘one country, two systems?principle.

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

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