- The Washington Times - Friday, December 17, 1999

Rocky China relationsThe U.S. government has now agreed to pay China $28 million in compensation for the accidental bombing of China’s Embassy in Belgrade last summer, which destroyed the building, killed three people and injured 27. China, meanwhile, has agreed to pay this country $2.87 million for the damage “spontaneous” demonstrations of Chinese students caused to the U.S. Embassy in Beijing. President Clinton has apologized for the incident and so has the secretary of state. You might think that U.S. generosity would now place relations between the two countries on a firmer footing, but that is not a forgone conclusion by any means. Between China and the United states some major issues are looming.

One arises out of the unprecedented chaos of the World Trade Organization meeting in Seattle last month. Even though U.S. Trade Representative Charlene Barshefsky had struck a deal with Chinese Prime Minister Zhu Rongji on membership, it now is clear that labor and environmental issues will loom large when the administration brings the deal to Congress for approval, as indeed it did with the North American Free Trade Agreement. Only this time, the AFL-CIO will have even more clout, being key to Vice President Gore’s election campaign. The Chinese Embassy told The Washington Times officials there were concerned about President Clinton’s proposal that the WTO impose sanctions on countries that violate labor standards.

Congressional approval will also also hinge on a host of other issues, as Sen. Max Baucus, Democrat of Montana, told the Chinese premier this week. “Any action that China takes will be looked at through the prism of whether or not Congress approves the permanent NTR (normal trade relations),” he said. That means not just trade issues, like how much beef and wheat we can ship to the Chinese market; it most certainly also means human rights violations and relations with Taiwan.

The temperature of China-Taiwan relations has not been getting any warmer of late, another area of concern to American lawmakers. As recently reported by The Washington Times’ Bill Gertz, China is completing the installation of 100 missile batteries on the coast facing the Taiwan Strait, within easy reach of the Taiwanese capital. Needless to say, this move can only be seen as a threatening attempt to influence Taiwan’s behavior, and has to be taken extremely seriously. It causes serious problems for Taiwan as well as for the United States, which is pledged by the Taiwan Relations Act to assist in Taiwan’s defense. Liu Xiaoming, deputy chief of mission at the Chinese Embassy last week did not deny the existence of the missiles, but only told The Washington Times that he did not have “any special knowledge” of their existence. “We have many defense needs,” he said, “and as a sovereign country we have the right to deploy weapons on our own soil.” Mr. Liu also said that the Chinese have “a responsibility to defend ourselves against foreign intervention.” Guess who that would mean.

“Strategic partnership” is hardly what you would call this state of relations. No amount of American taxpayer dollars will be able to paste over that fact.

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