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Week of March 24, 2000

Week of March 31, 2000

The U.S. and China This Week

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CROSS-STRAIT RELATIONS: Aftermath of Taiwan Elections

SUMMARY:After winning the Presidential elections last week, Chen Shuibian eased cross-strait tensions by toning down his independent rhetoric and reaffirming continued and growing economic ties with China. The DPP also expressed a willingness to think about changing its charter clause that advocates establishing a "Republic of Taiwan".

Furthermore, Chen has expressed his desire to open the "three-links" (direct communication by air, sea and postal services), which would end Taiwanís deliberate isolation from China. On March 21st, concrete steps were taken in this regard when the KMT-controlled legislature passed a law that allowed the three-links between Fujian province and the islands of Quemoy and Matsu. However, Chen has reiterated that he will not accept talks with China based on the one-China principle and that Taiwan is part of China.

Chinaís reaction to Chenís olive branch has been guarded. Beijing said it will cautiously wait until after Chenís inauguration to gage whether he is "sincere?or not. Also, on March 30th China again warned Taiwanís new government that in order for cross-strait talks to be resumed, the new government must accept the one-China principle as the basis for dialogue.

The U.S. responded to Chenís win by sending an envoy, including Lee Hamilton, a retired US congressman, to Taipei for unofficial talks with Chen and incumbent president Lee Tenghui. Reports have said Clinton asked the envoy "to express Washingtonís hopes for a re-opening of cross-strait talks and exercise restraint to lower tension in the region." After the conclusion of the three-day visit, both parties declined to comment about the details of the meeting, but Hamilton did say, "I have been impressed by President-elect Chenís prudent, positive statements on cross-strait relations since the election."

Washington also sent US Ambassador to the United Nations Richard Holbrooke to Beijing in order to contain the fallout from the elections and to express the desire for a peaceful resolution.

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FOREIGN RELATIONS: China and EU Resume WTO Talks in Beijing

SUMMARY:European trade commissioner Pascal Lamy is scheduled to begin the third round of talks in Beijing on March 28 with Chinese trade officials to negotiate a bilateral agreement on Chinaís entry to the World Trade Organization (WTO). The European Union (EU) is the most significant of Chinaís trading partners with which it has yet to complete a deal for entering the international trade body. The primary outstanding issues to be settled between the countries are in the areas of services, telecommunications, life insurance, banking, and distribution.

Representatives from both sides are optimistic for progress towards an agreement, but have also been relatively inflexible in making further concessions than those already made. Chinese press articles have repeated trade officials?assertions that China is unlikely to grant the EU more than what has already been offered to the United States in last Novemberís U.S.-China WTO trade agreement. Likewise, EU representatives have stated that they would not hesitate to return to Brussels without a trade deal if their demands are not met.

However, Commissioner Lamyís participation in the upcoming negotiations may be a sign that the EU and China will strive towards reaching an agreement. Lamy declined the Chinese invitation last February to join the EU team because negotiations had not progressed far enough. The meetings in Beijing takes place as the U.S. Congress prepares for the debate over granting permanent trade relations (PNTR) to China. The legislation, which is expected to be voted on in May, will determine whether the annual vote on renewing normal trade relations (NTR) with China will be continued and if the November trade agreement will be enacted.

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U.S.-CHINA RELATIONS: Another High-Level U.S. Official Visits China

SUMMARY:U.S. National Security Advisor Samuel Berger will hold talks in Beijing with Chinese leaders beginning March 28 and is the second senior U.S. official to visit China since the second presidential elections were held in Taiwan on March 18. He is the Clinton Administrationís latest envoy to Beijing to encourage restraint from use of force after the election of Taiwanís pro-independence candidate Chen Shui-bian and resumption of cross-strait dialogue on reunification, among other issues. In the weeks preceding the election, Chinese officials warned that the use of military action to reunify Taiwan with mainland China might be inevitable if a pro-independence candidate was elected. Since Chenís election, the lack of such provocative rhetoric has so far reassured the Adminstration of any outbreaks of military conflict.

Bergerís trip was preceded by visits from U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Richard Holbrooke, Undersecretary of State Strobe Talbott, Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Stanley Roth, commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet Admiral Dennis Blair, and former senator Lee Hamilton, all who carried similar messages to Beijing.

During the visit, Berger is expected to see several senior leaders in China, including Foreign Minister Tang Jiaxuan. While Taiwan will be a topic of discussion, the meetings have been characterized as a part of a regular dialogue between the United States and China that, according to Berger, aims to "look at issues ahead for the year." Discussion of the Clinton Administrationís efforts to get Congress to pass permanent normal trade relations (PNTR) for China is expected to be 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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