The semi-communist rulers of China like the number 4. There was the Gang of Four. There were the Four Modernizations (agriculture, industry, technology and national defense). And now, I dare say, we have the Four Slaps: four dramatic demonstrations of Chinese contempt for expressed American interests and for the Clinton administration's ability to do anything to defend them.
(1) Proliferation. The Clinton administration makes clear to China that it strongly objects to the export of nuclear and other mass destruction military technology. What does China do? Last month, reports the CIA, China secretly sent 5,000 ring magnets to Pakistan for nuclear bomb-making and sent poison gas factories to Iran.
(2) Human rights. Clinton comes into office chiding George Bush for "coddling dictators." In March 1994, Secretary of State Warren Christopher goes to China wagging his finger about human rights. The Chinese place more than a dozen dissidents under house arrest while Christopher is there, then declare that human rights in China are none of his business. Christopher slinks away.
(3) Trade. The administration signs agreements under which China pledges to halt its massive pirating of American software and other intellectual property. China flouts the agreements. Two years later the piracy thrives.
(4) Taiwan. For two weeks, China has conducted the most threatening military demonstration against Taiwan in 40 years: firing M-9 surface-to-surface missiles within miles of the island, holding huge live-fire war games with practice invasions, closing shipping in the Taiwan Strait.
Slap four is the logical outcome of the first three, each of which was met with a supine American response, some sputtering expression of concern backed by nothing. On nuclear proliferation, for example, Clinton suspended granting new loan guarantees for U.S. businesses in China - itself a risible sanction - for all of one month!
"Our policy is one of engagement, not containment," says Winston Lord, assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs. It is neither. It is encouragement.
Two issues are at stake here. The first is the fate of Taiwan and its democracy. Taiwan is our eighth largest trading partner. And with its presidential …