Deng's successors see U.S.-China relations differently
Leaders wary of West
February 22, 1997
Web posted at: 10:40 a.m. EST (1540 GMT)
In this story:
From Correspondent Andrea Koppel
BEIJING (CNN) -- A major difference between deceased Chinese
paramount leader Deng Xiaoping and his successors comes down
to their dealings with the West.
It took two old revolutionaries -- Mao Zedong and Deng
Xiaoping -- to improve relations between the United States
and China. In 1979, after decades of tension, Deng Xiaoping
visited the United States to celebrate the normalization of
In contrast, Chinese President Jiang Zemin has never been to
Washington and has encouraged the normalization of relations
with China's former enemy -- Russia.
"A good majority of Chinese leadership today were trained in
the Soviet Union in the 1950s," China analyst David Shambaugh
"They are fluent Russian speakers. They have a perspective on
Russia that the previous generation, Mao and even Deng
Xiaoping, did not have. Mao and Deng were much more
suspicious of Russia. This generation is suspicious of the
Analysts point to the events that led to the June 1989
military crackdown on students demonstrating for democracy in
Tiananmen Square as having a major influence on Deng's
successors. Jiang came to power following the massacre, and
it was during this time that U.S.-China relations took a turn
for the worse.
In the years since, as Deng's health declined, consistent
U.S. criticism of China's record on human rights, its trade
practices and weapons sales have only increased the
perception, particularly among China's top military brass,
that the United States is out to contain China.
And because Jiang's future survival is dependent on the
support of the military, he has tailored his policies to
reflect an emphasis on nationalism and protecting Chinese
"With Deng not around, the military probably has more of an
impact when it speaks than it would have had when Deng was
around," analyst Doug Paal says.
"When it comes to sensitive issues like Taiwan or the South
China Sea or other territorial disputes, you'll hear more
from the military on those."
A case in point is the Taiwan crisis last March. Analysts
say one reason China staged several rounds of military
maneuvers and missile tests off the coast of Taiwan was that
the hard-line military insisted on it.
The last thing Jiang could afford was to appear to be letting
Taiwan, which China considers a renegade province, slip away.
In effect, China's foreign policy had entered a post-Deng era
long before he died. For that reason, there shouldn't be a
dramatic difference in China's immediate future dealings with
the rest of the world.
The trend seems to be headed toward more nationalism,
strengthened ties with Asian neighbors and wariness toward
the West -- particularly the United States.
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