- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 15, 2001

Critics of President Bush must have been surprised by Chinese President Jiang Zemin's recent outreach to the U.S. leader. In an interview with the New York Times published Friday, Mr. Jiang said that, based on his single telephone conversation with Mr. Bush last month, he found "from his voice I could feel that he was a president I could do business with." This accommodating, personal comment is significant coming from the Chinese president, particularly given the many doomsday predictions on the future of U.S.-China relations in wake of the April plane collision.
"Both sides share a positive desire for a good relationship," said Mr. Jiang, adding, "We should try our best to find the common ground between us." And Mr. Jiang similarly downplayed the potential for contentious disagreement, stating that "For two such big countries, it would be strange if they had no disagreements at all."
Interestingly, Mr. Jiang's comments seem to mirror the increasingly amiable dialogue between Mr. Bush and Mr. Putin. This may not be a coincidence, since Russian foreign policy reverberates in China. During his European tour in June, Mr. Bush said of Mr. Putin: "I looked the man in the eye. I found him to be very straightforward and trustworthy … I was able to get a sense of his soul." Mr. Putin in turn said he forged a "very high level of trust with Mr. Bush." And this reparte was of course followed by a strategic agreements forged in July in Genoa that linked Russia's flexiblity on a U.S. missile defense to joint dismantling of nuclear missiles.
This new cooperation between Russia and the United States puts a damper on the growing Russian-China alliance, which was engineered as a counterweight to U.S. geopolitical power. So the bonhomie between Mr. Putin and Mr. Bush left China in the lurch, from Beijing's perspective, and probably prompted Mr. Jiang to reach out to Mr. Bush, said Minxin Pei, a China expert with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. "I think that could be a source of motivation," Mr. Minxin said of the Bush-Putin relationship. "Bush and Putin have met twice and appear to have hit it off quite nicely."
But regardless of Mr. Jiang's motivations for the diplomatic overture, the gesture is another foreign-policy victory for Mr. Bush. Mr. Jiang's comments are a clear indication that relations between the United States and China are on sound footing, even though the White House has demonstrated relative firmness in its handling of the plane collision and on its protective policy towards Taiwan. And in the long run, diplomacy that is based on fair but cautious engagement will yield sustainable progress. U.S. foreign policy based on appeasement and bribes, on the other hand, is fruitful only in the short term, if at all.

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