- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 3, 2005

The Financial Times reports China has hired the marquee lobbying firm of Patton Boggs, for a $22,000 monthly retainer, to help improve its image in the United States.

In the past, Patton Boggs has represented the nuclear proliferators of Pakistan and the jihad enablers of Saudi Arabia — excellent experience for working with Beijing.

“The Chinese are learning to walk the walk and talk the talk, and I don’t have a problem with it,” says Robert Kapp, former president of the U.S.-China Business Council. (Is there anything China could conceivably do that its cheering section in the business community would have a problem with?)

When it comes to walking the walk in a way that doesn’t resemble Frankenstein’s monster, Beijing has a huge problem. China rulers have never had to persuade anyone. A regime based on edicts is ill-equipped to court public opinion.

I’ll give China some free advice on improving its image Stateside.

• Stop threatening Taiwan, which is peaceful, democratic and unobtrusive. Beijing is brutish, belligerent and a royal pain. Guess who wins a beauty contest?

• Repeal the so-called Anti-Secession Law, which seeks to provide a legal pretext for the subjugating the island of 23 million. Threatening a people who pose no danger to the Mainland, because it’s obsessed with the conquest of what it calls a rebel province, isn’t a way for Beijing to endear itself to the American people, who naturally sympathize with the underdog.

• Along the same lines, China should stop obstructing Taiwan’s membership in the United Nations and World Health Organization. I mean, really, preventing the Taiwanese from getting international help during the 2003 SARS epidemic accomplished what, exactly? While we’re at it, China can de-commission the 600-plus missiles it has targeting the island.

• Stop threatening to turn our cities into radioactive rubble. Every few years, some People’s Liberation Army charm-school graduate talks casually about nuking America if we try to interfere with its Taiwan Anschluss. Two weeks ago, Maj. Gen. Zhu Chenghu warned if we are “determined to interfere” with it on Taiwan, “Americans will have to be prepared that hundreds… of cities will be destroyed by the Chinese.” Beijing can’t simultaneously court American opinion, while its generals speak of unleashing nuclear Armageddon.

• Scale back military expansion and arms acquisition. An arms race implies an enemy. When CIA Director Porter Goss testified before Congress in February, he warned that China’s go-go military expansion poses a threat not just to Taiwan, but to U.S. forces in the region.

China has the world’s third-largest military budget. The latest Pentagon assessment of Beijing’s warmaking capability, released last month, notes China is “quantitatively and qualitatively improving its strategic missile force.” (The better to nuke you with, my dear?)

A Chinese diplomat who defected to the West two months ago, says Chinese strategy can be summed up by one of Deng Xiaoping’s sayings — “Hide our capabilities; Bide our time.”

• Stop trying to suck up our energy resources: The attempted hostile takeover of Unocal (ninth-largest U.S. energy company) by the state-owned China National Offshore Oil Corp., now dropped, is unlikely to win friends and influence people.

Frank Gaffney of the Center for Security Policy predicts, “The in-your-face quality of this proposed purchase — whereby U.S.-owned energy assets, know-how, and technology would migrate to what is, at best, a competitor — is sure to produce widespread opposition across the country official Washington can’t ignore.”

When some in Congress took notice of the national security implications of the move, Beijing told our government to butt out — that Washington must not interfere with a “commercial transaction.” Call it commie chutzpah.

• Stop persecuting Chinese Christians. Denominations that aren’t puppets of China’s “patriotic association” of churches have been driven underground. Christian dissidents are regularly subjected to beatings, imprisonment and torture. In July, several evangelical pastors were tried in Beijing for operating an illegal home church.

For Wall Street, Chinese human-rights abuses may not be a factor. The American people aren’t as nonchalant.

Even a slick lobbying firm can go only so far in putting a pretty face on an ugly reality. Perhaps Patton Boggs could put its newest client together with a few of its old clients. Even advice from Saudi Wahhabists and the operators of Pakistani madrasses might improve China’s image.

Don Feder is a consultant and free-lance writer in Massachusetts.



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