Clinton warns against isolating China
April 7, 1999
WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, April 7) -- With ties between the U.S. and China strained and Chinese Premier Zhu Rongji in the United States for a nine-day visit, President Bill Clinton Wednesday defended his administration's policy toward Beijing and cautioned against a "campaign-driven cold war" that would lead to "tragic consequences."
The Clinton Administration's China policy has been under growing attack recently. But while the president acknowledged problems with the world's most populous nation, Clinton stressed the benefits of engagement over containment.
"There is one thing that we will not do," Clinton said in a speech to members of the United States Institute for Peace, the diplomatic corps and business leaders. "We will not change our policy in a way that isolates China from global forces that have begun to empower the Chinese people to change their society and build a better future."
Clinton's speech set the stage for his meeting with Zhu, scheduled for Thursday morning in Washington. The Chinese premier arrived in Los Angeles Tuesday, the first stop on his six-city U.S. tour.
Already-tense U.S.-Sino relations have soured even more recently with new allegations against China of spying and influence-peddling, coupled with the longtime differences over trade and human rights.
At the top of the Chinese wish list is an agreement to allow Beijing to join the World Trade Organization (WTO). U.S. and Chinese trade negotiators have been working furiously to try to strike a deal that could be announced during Zhu's visit to Washington.
Clinton said such a move would be in America's interests: "Getting this done and getting it done right is profoundly in our national interest. It is not a favor to China. It is the best way to level the playing field."
"China already has broad access to our markets," Clinton said. "If China accepts the responsibilities that come with WTO membership, that will give us broad access to China's markets while accelerating its internal reforms and propelling it toward acceptance of the rule of law. The bottom line is this: if China is willing to play by the global rules of trade, it would be an inexplicable mistake for the United States to say 'No.'"
The trade deficit is only one of the thorny agenda items facing Clinton and Zhu. The premier arrived on the heels of new revelations that Democratic fund-raiser Johnny Chung received $300,000 at the direction of China's chief of military intelligence -- funds intended as donations to the Clinton-Gore 1996 campaign fund. Chinese authorities deny the report.
There are also allegations that China stole U.S. nuclear secrets from the Los Alamos National Laboratory, and that U.S. satellite companies transferred sensitive missile technology to China.
And the sensitive subject of human rights has become even more so with recent crackdowns on dissent within China.
The Chinese, in turn, are upset by the NATO airstrikes in the Balkans, and Zhu told a Canadian newspaper last week that violations of Yugoslavia's national sovereignty could lead to a world war. The Chinese also resent a U.S. initiative to provide a missile-defense shield for Japan and Taiwan.
But Clinton said these differences should not change U.S. policy toward China: "As the next presidential election approaches, we cannot allow a healthy argument to lead us toward a campaign-driven cold war with China, for that would have tragic consequences."
Instead, Americans must be realistic in its dealings with Beijing, and remember that Chinese officials are equally wary of the United States, the president warned.
"We should not look at China through rose colored glasses, nor should we look through a glass darkly to see an image that distorts China's strength and ignores its complexities. We need to see China clearly, its progress and its problems, its system and its strains, its policies and its perceptions of us, of itself, of the world," Clinton said.
At a banquet in Los Angeles Tuesday night, Zhu assured the mostly Chinese-American audience that the trade deficit, human rights violations and other controversial issues won't strain U.S.-China relations.
"All the questions and problems between China and the United States ... are no more than an episode in the longer history of the friendly relations and the cooperation between China and the United States," he said.
While in the United States Zhu also will visit Denver, Chicago, New York and Boston.
Wednesday, April 7, 1999
Transcript: Clinton outlines China policy
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