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3 March 2004

• China Hosts Second Round of Six Party Talks in Beijing
• Chinese Culture on Trial in Memphis
• Would a Stronger Yuan Help the U.S. Economy?



China Hosts Second Round of Six Party Talks in Beijing

Delegations from the United States, North Korea, China, South Korea, Japan and Russia met between February 25th and February 28th for a second round of meetings to negotiate the nuclear issue on the Korean peninsula. In their opening remarks, all sides expressed their desire for peace, stability and cooperation. This was the first time all parties have met since the second round of talks broke down over last August.

While North Korea had requested energy and food assistance before negotiating the status of its nuclear program, the United States stated that it will only negotiate an aid package after North Korea verifiably ceases all nuclear activities. All parties’ inability to find an acceptable compromise on this issue caused both the first and round of talks to break down in disagreement. During this round of talks, the diplomats are focusing their attention on clarifying each party’s concerns and agreeing to a framework for regular meetings.

Significantly, the negotiators made progress on the possibility of South Korea, China, and Russia providing aid before the nuclear program was verifiably dismantled. The United States representative James Kelly stated that although the United States would not oppose this initiative, neither would it provide aid until the program was verifiably dismantled. The initiative nearly succeeded, but the negotiators could not get past the issue of North Korea’s possible uranium enrichment program.

The United States claims that North Korea has a uranium enrichment program and wants both the plutonium and uranium programs on the agenda. North Korea however maintains that it only has a plutonium based program. The United States has stated that it has “solid intelligence” on the program, but declined to share stating that the “[intelligence] work is far from finished”.

The talks concluded on Saturday February 28, after one final plenary session. The Chinese Foreign Minister, Li Zhaoxing, closed the session saying that all sides had agreed to work for a settlement. “Differences, even serious differences, still exist. The road is long and bumpy, but China is on the side of peace”. All six parties pledged to continue working towards a compromise to be discussed at a third meeting no later than the second quarter of 2004.



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Chinese Culture on Trial in Memphis

Five years ago Jack and Casey He (pronounced HUH) gave temporary custody of their first daughter, Anna Mae He, to Jerry and Louise Baker. At that time however, no one explained to Mr. and Mrs. He that “temporary” meant they had to get the consent of both foster parents and a judge before they could regain custody of the child. No one advised them advised them to seek legal counsel.

The issue is increasingly being seen as a conflict between American and Chinese culture. “What kind of quality of life is the child going to have in China?” asked Larry Parish, a lawyer for the Bakers. “Common sense dictates that to take a child out of an environment where she’s firmly attached and settled is the ultimate question.”

Many Asian Americans, however, question Mr. Parish’s definition of “common sense”. Although the case has not been given much attention outside of Tennessee, the Chinese press has been following the issue closely. Every day the court room is filled with Chinese Americans wearing yellow ribbons and holding signs saying “Reunite the Family”.

When Mr. and Mrs. He found themselves in serious financial trouble in 1998, a friend suggested they contact Mid-Southern Christian Services, a private adoption agency in Memphis. Agency employees testified that the He’s sought someone to provide temporary care for their daughter while they put their finances in order. The legal documents they signed described the arrangement as temporary.

It appears extremely likely that the Bakers, who have four children of their own, intended to keep Anna Mae all along. Their foster parent application stated their desire to adopt a child and raise him or her in a Christian home. In her journal Mrs. Baker noted, “We would like to get visits [between parents and child] down to every other week. We feel like they would wean away, but the last two visits we could see that Casey is wanting to come more.”

Mrs. Baker has also stated, “To me, if Casey truly loved her daughter she would leave her with us.” She added that life in China, where female bodies are sometimes deemed inferior to males, would be a hardship. Mr. He responded that Anna Mae will benefit from a loving extended family in China. “If we do not have a reunification, I’m afraid our daughter will grow up thinking we abandoned her. I think that is worse than anything else.” A court order has prevented Jack and Casey He from seeing their daughter since 2002.



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Would a Stronger Yuan Help the U.S. Economy?

Last week Treasury Secretary John W. Snow sent a delegation to Beijing to argue that China’s undervalued currency was threatening American jobs and contributing to an American trade defecit. The United States has been trying to persuade China to revalue its currency for months, yet no one is sure what effect such a revaluation would have on the global economy.

According to Barry P. Bosworth, an economist with the Brookings Institution, a stronger yuan would reduce the price of imported goods in China, cool Chinese inflation, and eventually restore the currency’s competitive edge. Robert I. McKinnon, a Stanford economist, argues that the trade imbalance is the logical result when a country with a high savings rate (China) trades with a country that habitually spends beyond its means (United States).

China maintains the fixed value of its currency by purchasing huge amounts of U.S. dollars. If China allowed the yuan to float on the market, the rest of East Asia will likely follow suit and the U.S. Treasury would lose hundreds of billions of dollars.



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