- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 11, 2000

In a bit of Freudian repartee at the expense of Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, President Clinton recently told Russian President Vladimir Putin that "see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil" perfectly described "Madeleine's foreign policy." The fact is, of course, that the buck for defining and directing foreign policy stops with the commander in chief, not his underlings. No critic could have come up, however, with a more accurate characterization of the Clinton administration's modus operandi in international relations.

Nowhere is the phenomenon more clearly evident than with respect to China's ongoing role as the world's most aggressive proliferator of weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missile delivery systems. Scarcely a week goes by without some new revelation about the extent of the problem. For example, within the past fortnight, press reports have disclosed that U.S. intelligence believes, in the words of the New York Times, that "China has continued to aid Pakistan's effort to build long-range missiles that could carry nuclear weapons." The PRC is also judged to be training Libyan missile experts, as well as building a hypersonic wind tunnel in Libya to be utilized in Moammar Gadhafi's effort to develop long-range missiles. Others believed to be still benefitting from China's technical and/or materiel help in these areas include: North Korea, Iran, Syria and Sudan.

Unfortunately, the Clinton administration's response to such threatening behavior most of it in direct violation of one or more of China's formal international undertakings has largely been to see no evil, hear no evil and most especially speak no evil. It has done so rather than give offense to Beijing or trigger statutory requirements for retaliatory sanctions, including some called for under legislation sponsored by then-Sen. Al Gore Jr. In another of his memorable turns of phrase, President Clinton has called this practice "fudging" the facts.

The effect of such abject unwillingness on the part of the U.S. government to hold the Chinese accountable is increasingly palpable. Beijing has been emboldened by its perception the administration will go to any lengths to avoid giving offense to the Middle Kingdom. Should it somehow contemplate doing otherwise, moreover, China is confident that shortsighted American business interests will intercede to ensure that the PRC suffers no appreciable costs.

That card is now being played assiduously by the Chinese to thwart bipartisan legislation that would establish real penalties for PRC entities and persons engaged in proliferation activities. It is being offered by Sens. Fred Thompson, Tennessee Republican, and Robert Torricelli, New Jersey Democrat, with the cosponsorship of 15 of their colleagues, including Majority Leader Trent Lott and former presidential candidate John McCain.

Specifically, the Thompson-Torricelli bill would require comprehensive annual reports concerning Chinese proliferation activities and those involved in them. Those persons would be subjected to a variety of penalties, including: prohibition of access to U.S. arms sales, dual-use technologies, sales to the U.S. government of goods or services and assistance in the form of government loans, grants, credits or guarantees.

In addition, under the Thompson-Torricelli legislation, certain tiered penalties would be applied to the People's Republic of China itself. They are graduated and time-phased so as to create real disincentives to the Chinese to continue their proliferation activities.

Of these, arguably the most important and certainly the most innovative, are sanctions in each of the three tiers that would affect China's ability to garner billions in undisciplined and largely non-transparent funding from the U.S. capital markets. In the first tier of sanctions, Chinese nationals and state-owned enterprises would be barred from securing U.S. bank loans or floating bond offerings on the U.S. debt market.

If, after one year, the proliferation activities that prompted the first-tier sanctions have not been rectified, the president would have the option of denying access for all state-owned enterprises of the PRC to the U.S. capital markets. If after two years the problem has not been corrected, the president would be authorized to deny access to the U.S. capital markets for any company owned or controlled by Chinese nationals.

The salience and leverage afforded by these sorts of actions was illuminated last month in the course of a fascinating symposium sponsored by the Center for Security Policy's William J. Casey Institute. Organizations spanning the political spectrum from Friends of the Earth and the AFL-CIO to the conservative U.S. Business and Industrial Council spoke about their highly successful joint efforts this spring to stymie efforts by China's largest state-owned energy company, China National Petroleum Co. (CNPC) and its wholly owned subsidiary, PetroChina, aimed at garnering $10 billion in an Initial Public Offering on the New York Stock Exchange.

The Casey Symposium heard forceful warnings from, among others, Mr. Thompson and his colleague, Sen. Sam Brownback Kansas Republican, to the effect that in the absence, at a minimum, of far greater disclosure and transparency on the part of Chinese and other foreign entities coming to the U.S. market, American investors could unwittingly wind up underwriting odious activities like CNPC's support for the government of Sudan. It also was observed that if, pursuant to the Thompson-Torricelli legislation, the U.S. government were to deny access to its capital markets to such Chinese bad actors, it can do so without the sort of adverse impact on American jobs, exports and people-to-people contacts that are routinely cited by interested parties (like agribusinesses, aerospace companies and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce) in their opposition to trade sanctions legislation.

Far from welcoming an approach that would give the president a vast new array of options options that he can waive on national security grounds if he deems it appropriate to do so the Clinton-Gore administration and the rest of the China Lobby are vehemently opposing the Thompson-Torricelli bill. They prefer to see no evil and pretend their preferred policies of appeasement of China are translating into reduced proliferation.

The fact of the matter is the greatest threat the United States is likely to face in the years immediately ahead arises from China and its clients and their deadly trade in weapons of mass destruction and long-range delivery systems. Sens. Thompson and Torricelli are to be commended for their courage and creativity in devising mechanisms for imposing real costs, at last, on the PRC for its proliferation behavior in a way that can entail minimal costs for American trade and other interests.

Frank J. Gaffney Jr. is president of the Center for Security Policy and a columnist for The Washington Times.

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