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Week of March 10, 2000

Week of March 10, 2000

The U.S. and China This Week


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US-CHINA RELATIONS: Clinton Formally Calls for Congress to Grant PNTR to China

SUMMARY: The Clinton Administration has begun another aggressive push for Congress to speed up the vote on permanent normal trade relations (PNTR) status with China. In a major policy speech on March 8, President Bill Clinton made what some analysts regard as his strongest argument to date for why PNTR should be passed and the United States should support China’s entry into the WTO. Clinton made clear to his audience that he is placing part of his legacy on the PNTR debate claiming, "Supporting China’s entry into the WTO represents the most significant opportunity that we have had to create a positive change in China since the 1970s."

In his speech, Clinton noted the opportunities, both for promoting economic benefits for the US and encouraging civil society in China, that would be lost by not supporting the legislation. Clinton reminded that, "Congress will not be voting on whether the United States will share in the economic benefits of China joining the WTO," referring to the fact that the PNTR vote only determines whether the United States gains the concessions made in last November’s landmark bilateral trade agreement. Even if Congress does not pass PNTR, China will still join WTO and US trade competitors will enjoy comparatively advantageous trade arrangements, which Clinton says, "will cost American jobs."

Supporters and opponents of PNTR on and off Capitol Hill have been debating the legislation for several months, each side trying to lobby support for or against the measure that would end Congress?annual debate on renewing NTR (formerly MFN) based on China’s human rights record. One member of Congress, Rep. Robert T. Matsui D-CA) responded positively to President Clinton’s latest initiative, claiming that it provided, " a focus that hasn’t been there on this issue." The Administration and other proponents of PNTR hope that the Senate Finance Committee will approve the legislation and have it sent to the House and Senate floors in the next few months. The administration recognizes that chances for PNTR approval will only get slimmer as the November presidential elections get closer, and are eager to speed up the process.


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CROSS-STRAIT RELATIONS: Taiwan Presidential Candidates Respond to White Paper

SUMMARY: Two of three of the front runners in the upcoming presidential elections on March 18 rejected Chinese threats issued in the white paper issued last month by China’s government. The white paper claimed that China could use "drastic measures, including military force" against Taiwan if reunification talks between the two sides were stalled indefinitely and did not adhere to a more concrete schedule.

At a recently televised forum, Independent candidate James Soong and Democratic Progressive Party candidate Chen Shui-bian both criticized the white paper. Soong stated that, "any kind of timetable would note meet the needs of Taiwan’s people at this point," and Chen went further claiming "We refuse to accept talks with a time limit…Even more we cannot accept negotiations under a ‘talk or fight?military threat." The other top presidential candidate at the forum, Taiwan vice president Lien Chen of the Nationalist Party, remained silent on this matter.

Several analysts believe that China’s white paper is an attempt to scare voters into not supporting Taiwan’s candidates most closely associated with an independent stance for Taiwan’s future in the upcoming election.


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FOREIGN RELATIONS: China and Russia Reaffirm Ties, Policies and Criticize US

SUMMARY: During a recent pair of high-level meetings between Chinese and Russian government officials, both sides reaffirmed their commitments for a strategic relationship and repeated their mutual support for territorial policies. In late February, Chinese Foreign Minister Tang Jiaxuan visited Moscow to meet his Russian counterpart Igor Ivanov. During his visit, Tang stated to the media that, "the talks reflected a positive shift in deepening and extending the content of the Sino-Russian strategic partnership." With regards to territorial issues, Ivanov directed a warning at the United States and its role in Taiwan, claiming, "We are against any third-party interference…especially by the means of extending one’s military presence in the region." Several days later, Russian Vice Premier Ilya Klebanov traveled to Beijing to meet with Chinese President Jiang Zemin and other top Chinese leaders. During this exchange, Jiang returned Russia’s support for China’s sovereignty over Taiwan, stating that China backed Russia’s military actions in Chechnya despite the international criticism it has received.

In the last several months, Russia and China have stepped up efforts in building an alliance aimed at counterbalancing what both nations perceive as the domination of US influence in East Asia and around the world. U.S. Ambassador to China, Joseph Prueher, describes the alliance as a "relationship of convenience." In addition to the recent joint reaffirmations and criticisms, the two nations have both opposed the US changes the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) treaty which allows for the installation of high-tech national missile defense systems. On another front, China and Russia have ended a 30-year border dispute, a development which some analysts say was spurred by Russia’s increasing disenchantment with the West.


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FOREIGN RELATIONS/DEFENSE: India and China Participate in Security Talks

SUMMARY: Indian and Chinese officials met in Beijing last Monday to discuss international security issues. This was the first-ever security dialogue between the two nuclear powers who engaged in a bloody war over Kashmir in 1962. The talks were led by Rakesh Sood, the Indian foreign ministry’s Joint Secretary In Charge of Disarmament Affairs and China’s Zhang Jiuhuan, Director-General of the foreign ministry’s Asian department.

Among the topics for discussion was the issue of nuclear proliferation. Since India’s first nuclear test in 1998, China has been verbally opposed to India’s nuclear weapons program and has been urging India to implement UN Security Council resolution 1172 asking India to rollback its nuclear program. Recently, however, India has charged that China supplied M-11 missiles to rival Pakistan, threatening peace in the region. At the meeting, India warned against Chinese assistance to Pakistan’s nuclear and missile program. India further refused to implement Resolution 1172.

Despite obvious diffenences on issues of nuclear weapons, Chinese Foreign Minister Tang was positive about the outcome of the talks. He indicated that overall, "China and India do not pose a threat to each other and what we have in common, or our agreements, outweighs or differences." Tang said that the development of strong relations between between the two countries was good for the regional stability and for peace in South Asia.


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DEFENSE: China Increases Defense Budget

SUMMARY: On Monday, China announced its a 12.7 percent increase in military spending, bringing the total defense budget to $14.5 billion. The budget increase is part of a trend since the early 1990s to take steps towards modernizing China’s military. Defense Minister Chi Haotian reportedly told delegates to the People’s National Congress that "The Chinese People’s Liberation Army is strengthening its combat readiness, to at anytime and under any conditions, carry out the sacred mission of defending the unity of the motherland." Chi also reiterated the message in a recent Chinese White Paper saying, "Choosing ‘Taiwan Independence? means choosing war." The increased defense budget will be used mailnly to protect the former Portuguese territory Macao and to raise salaries for PLA troops as well. Overall, the central government’s budget is 12.3 percent higher than in 1999 and the projected deficit is $27.7 billion.

China’s actual defense budget, however, is believed to be much higher than the figure reported earlier this week. Taiwanese officials, in reaction to Beijing’s military spending increase, said on Tuesday that they believe China is actually spending three to five times the amount publicly announced . A spokesperson from the Chinese Foreign Ministry defended against verbal attacks from Taiwan with a a statement that per capita, China’s military spending is the lowest in the world.


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SUMMARY: Hu Changqing, deputy governor of the southern province of Jiang Xi was executed after the supreme court rejected his final appeal early this week. Hu was charged for issuing business licensees and permits allowing people to move to Hong Kong in exchange for bribes worth $660,000 and property valued at $200,000. This is the highest ranking Chinese official to be put to death on charges of corruption in decades.

The People’s National Congress, currently in session, has promised to take a bigger lead on fighting against corruption; the execution of Hu seems to be proof of China’s commitment to the issue. Other officials suspected of taking bribes, including the deputy chairman of the parliament who was suspended


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

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