"May you live in interesting times"--with this tongue-in-cheek reference to an old Chinese curse, Council President Donald M. Anderson opened the Council's annual Forecast meeting on January 28. Around 150 representatives from 92 member companies convened in Washington, DC, to discuss how the recent Communist Party Congress in China and the presidential election in the United States would affect business prospects in 1993. While participants were cautioned that politics within China and relations between the two countries were far from stable, the outlook for most industries was decidedly upbeat.
THE MOOD IN WASHINGTON...
The potential for volatile partisan politics, coupled with the public's negative perceptions of China, could spell trouble for US-China relations during the Clinton presidency, warned Michael Barone, senior writer of U.S. News & World Report and co-author of The Almanac of American Politics. Barone, the morning's first speaker, characterized the current time as a period of great oscillation in voter expectations, which could lead politicians in both parties to exploit issues for short-term gains without regard for long-term consequences.
Nevertheless, Barone said, Congress--including the Republican minority leadership --seems inclined to let the Administration take the lead on China policy. And neither Clinton nor Secretary of State Warren Christopher appears eager for a rupture in US-China relations. Barone claimed that most of the American public--including the government and the media--remains unaware of the economic changes that have taken place in China since Tiananmen, and said US business could play an important role in bringing such (positive) information to their attention.
Following Barone's speech, Forecast participants heard China Analyst Christopher Clarke of the Department of State's Bureau of Intelligence and Research discuss the political climate in Beijing. While Clarke believed that the 14th Party Congress last fall was an impressive victory for Deng Xiaoping, whose imprint was clearly visible in all personnel appointment and policy pronouncements, Clarke noted that the Congress failed to put forward a clear successor--or to establish a succession process--for the post-Deng era.
One of the most striking aspects of the Congress, according to Clarke, was the clear fall in stature of both President Yang Shangkun--who many observers thought would temporarily succeed Deng after the patriarch's death--and his half-brother Yang Baibing, who was removed from the Central Military Commission and is now reportedly under house arrest. The downfall of the Yangs supposedly stems from suspicions that the brothers had too much influence over the military, and many of their supporters have recently been purged from the armed forces. Though Yang Raibing appears to have been the primary target of the shakedown, Yang Shangkun was damaged by the ouster of his brother and may no longer be able to play …