- The Washington Times - Monday, February 19, 2001

Notwithstanding the controversy over the Rich pardon, the most significant Clinton-era problems are the ones that affect U.S. national interests. Consider the case of China, where President Bush has been at pains to distinguish his foreign policy from that of Mr. Clinton. The president has instructed his economic advisers, stewarded by top adviser Lawrence Lindsey, to coordinate U.S. policy with National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice. In so doing, Mr. Bush is ensuring that U.S. economic interests don't undermine U.S. national security priorities. Although this directive will make for some contests of wills, Mr. Bush clearly trusts in the maturity of his advisers to coordinate policy.

Recent reports in The Washington Times highlight just how urgent is a break from the past. According to U.S. intelligence officials, the Pentagon recently monitored a Chinese military exercise that simulated, among other maneuvers, a sea-borne blockade against Taiwan, The Washington Times reported Jan. 19. What was most disconcerting is that during the exercise, mock U.S. aircraft carriers did absolutely nothing to respond to the blockade, demonstrating the alarming probability that the Chinese don't expect the U.S. military to defend Taiwan in the event such a blockade was executed in reality, reported Bill Gertz and Rowan Scarborough.

The military exercise came seven months after Adm. Dennis Blair, the Pacific commander, met privately with top Chinese generals in Beijing, informing them that the United States is prepared to defend Taiwan in the event of a Chinese attack. According to one official, the Chinese generals' response was to dismiss the statement as "a laughable bluster." Quite a legacy Mr. Clinton has left.

Bill Gertz also reported earlier this month that, according to U.S. intelligence officials, the FBI has identified more than 3,000 Chinese government-linked businesses operating in the United States. The FBI's "counterspies" claim that at least 300 of those Chinese entities not only fund Beijing's military, but are used to provide cover for intelligence officers or intelligence-gathering activities and acquire technology that could have military applications. This news is particularly damning for the Clinton administration, since it refused to comply with a 1999 law passed by Congress which required the White House to identify the businesses in the United States affiliated with Beijing. The administration claimed China had ordered its military in July 1998 to divest all businesses ranging from hotels to transnational corporations.

Mr. Clinton probably did more than subvert security considerations for U.S. economic interests. It is entirely likely Mr. Clinton undermined strategic considerations for his self-serving, campaign-related priorities. And as the weakness of U.S. leadership becomes increasingly clear, Mr. Clinton's old spin machine will surely look all the dearer to him.

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