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Week of March 29, 2002

Week of March 29, 2002

The U.S. and China This Week


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DOMESTIC: CHINA LAUNCHES UNMANED SPACESHIP

SUMMARY: (3/26) - China's Shenzhou III aircraft lifted off Monday evening from the Jiuquan launch center in Gansu province. President Jiang Zemin was on hand to witness the event, hailing the launch as evidence of the Chinese people's spirit. China Central Television devoted considerable airtime to the launch, underscoring the significance Beijing attaches to its space program. President Jiang was shown repeatedly during the broadcast, smiling broadly as he watched the rocket's flight on monitors at the launch center. The president was dressed in military-style clothing, emphasizing the space program's close ties to the military.
China hopes to join Russia and the United States as the only nations to have sent a person into space. Although uncertain of how soon this might be accomplished, Beijing aims to launch a manned aircraft by the end of the decade. The Shenzhou III is a prototype capsule equipped to handle human life, and is carrying dummy astronauts and equipment to simulate and monitor human vital signs. The craft will orbit the earth for a couple of days before the re-entry module separates from the orbital module and returns to earth. The orbital module will then continue to orbit the earth for several months.


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US-CHINA RELATIONS: US WARSHIPS DENIED HONG KONG PORT CALL

SUMMARY: (3/26) - China has blocked a US warship from making a port call in Hong Kong. The US had issued a request to allow the USS Curtis Wilbur, a guided missile destroyer from the Seventh Fleet, to visit Hong Kong this April. Beijing rejected the request, but has given no reason for the disapproval. US warships regularly visited Hong Kong while it was under British rule, injecting several million dollars into the Hong Kong economy with each port call. Under the terms of the handover to Chinese rule, Beijing is responsible for Hong Kong's foreign affairs. Thus although Hong Kong still maintains wide-ranging autonomy, US warships must apply to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for permission to call at Hong Kong. Since 1997, Beijing has occasionally denied such requests as a way of protesting US actions.


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DOMESTIC: RETIREES STAGE PROTEST

SUMMARY: (3/27) - Retired car workers staged a protest Wednesday at the Beijing Automobile and Motorcycle Works factory. Retirees had arrived at the gates of the factory expecting to meet with management, but found themselves locked out. After being assured that their complaints would be addressed by factory officials the following day, the demonstration ended peacefully. The protest is the latest in a rash of demonstrations held by laid-off workers who are upset over a missing back pay and a lack of compensation for retirement benefits

The retirees had arrived at the factory to discuss overdue pension payments. They claimed that pension payments had decreased to virtually nothing since a series of deductions began around 1990, and that the protest began only after they were barred from taking their grievances to the company. Some pensioners claimed the factory owed them up to four years worth of welfare, housing, and medical compensation. Their discontent increased after the factory sold land to CCTV last year for a profit but made no payments to the retirees.


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US-CHINA RELATIONS: NSB SCANDAL TAINTS TAIWANESE LOBBYISTS

SUMMARY: (3/28) - Taiwanese Presidential senior advisor Yao Chia-wen recently met with congressional aides and various Washington think tank scholars in an attempt to gather opinions on the National Security Bureau spy scandal. The NSB allegedly set aside NT $3.5 billion in two secret slush funds, with which it used to buy political favors overseas. After speaking with his wife in Taiwan, Yao told reports in Washington that more details of the scandal will likely be revealed. Congressional staffers assured Yao that they are not overly concerned with what has been revealed so far, but warned that they may become increasingly concerned as new information comes to light. Think tank scholars also expressed concern that as more information and more names are made public, those who support Taiwan will increasingly be suspected of involvement. This raises concerns in Taiwan that the recent revelations will damage it ability to effectively lobby the US Congress.

Currently, only two officials in the Bush administration have been implicated in the scandal, Carl W. Ford, Jr., the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Intelligence and Research and James Kelly, the Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs. Ford, an influential Taiwan lobbyist, allegedly received NT $400,000 in late 1999 and early 2000 from the Lee Teng-hui administration. Kelly has been accused of shuffling funds from Taiwan to Japan while heading the Center for Strategic and International Studies' Pacific Forum in Honolulu. So far, neither Ford nor Kelly has commented on the affair.


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DOMESTIC: PLA SEEKS TO MODERNIZE WEAPONS

SUMMARY: (3/29) - The People's Liberation Army has opened a campaign to modernize its stock of weapons. President Jiang Zemin's recent remarks at the launching of the Shenzhou spacecraft initiated the propaganda campaign, which is believed to be indicative of the PLA's increasing concern over perceived threats from the US. In Jiang's remarks, he expounded on the necessity of developing high technology as a means to strengthen China's military prowess. Cao Gangchuan, the Head of the General Armaments Department, called on the PLA forces to head Jiang's instruction. Cao was quoted in the official Liberation Army Daily as saying the PLA must "ceaselessly win new triumphs in military high technology and in the construction of weapons and equipment." Several PLA units are also holding classes to study President Jiang's exhortations.


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

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