- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 23, 2002

President Jiang Zemin, in his 13 years as China's leader, has done more than any of his predecessors to stabilize relations with the United States.
Since the mid-1990s, that effort is based in part on "a decision by China to avoid confrontation with the United States," said Richard Solomon, who heads the U.S. Institute of Peace, a Washington policy think tank.
Yet, at a time when Mr. Jiang, who is also general secretary of the Chinese Communist Party, is expected to yield most if not all of his powers to a new generation of leaders, China watchers are questioning the purpose of his sixth and most likely final visit to the United States as leader of the world's most populous nation.
He arrived in Chicago yesterday and was scheduled to join President Bush at his Crawford, Texas, ranch Friday for a barbecue.
Mr. Jiang is unlikely to agree to new approaches to such longtime disputes as Taiwan, human rights or Chinese sales of sensitive military technology to U.S. adversaries.
He also confronts a strategic doctrine made public this month by the Bush administration, which proclaims political freedom as the paramount goal of the United States in its relations with the rest of the world and lauds democratic Taiwan. It places China in an awkward position, especially with U.S. foreign policy under Mr. Bush increasingly defined in terms of good versus evil.
"For years, Beijing has glowered suspiciously at Washington's putative strategy of promoting a 'peaceful evolution' of China to a democracy from a totalitarian dictatorship," said John Tkacik, research fellow for China and Taiwan at the Heritage Foundation.
The new strategic doctrine welcomes the emergence of a strong, peaceful and prosperous China but says "the democratic development of China is crucial to that future."
The strategy paper also recognizes "profound disagreements" between Washington and Beijing: "Our commitment to the self-defense of Taiwan under the Taiwan Relations Act is one. Human rights is another."
Still, the Bush national security doctrine makes it clear that relations with China have "fundamentally changed" since September 11.
Mr. Solomon, a former assistant secretary of State for East Asia, sees hope for cooperation.
"Since the 1990s, China for sundry reasons has sought to avoid confrontation with the United States," he said in a telephone interview.
"But the world post September 11 is not exactly the kind of multipolar world they had in mind. Russia and India both started drawing closer to the United States," he said. "This imbalance may make a further improvement in relations possible."
After September 11, Mr. Jiang threw the weight of China behind the U.S.-led war on terrorism and the United States responded by declaring the Muslim Uighur uprising in China's Xinjiang region as a terrorist movement.
After Friday's barbecue, Mr. Jiang will depart for Mexico City to attend the annual Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum.
During next month's 16th Communist Party Congress, Mr. Jiang is expected to surrender his post as leader of the party. His term as president expires in the spring.

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