Stage Set for Clinton-China One-on-One Leaders of a Superpower and a Rising Power Try to Steady Rocky Relations

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Secretary of State Warren Christopher's meetings in Beijing this week have laid the groundwork for a summit in Manila between the Chinese and American presidents that is expected to further a rapprochement between the world's present and potential superpowers.

Senior US and Chinese officials put a positive spin on talks, and each side predicted that the Nov. 24 meeting between President Jiang Zemin and President Clinton could help build a more stable and wide-ranging relationship.

Sino-US ties had sharply deteriorated for much of Mr. Clinton's first term, with Washington's angry accusations of Chinese human rights violations and Beijing's fury over seemingly growing support for Taiwan's independence dominating the entire relationship. Chinese officials, who routinely characterize the Taiwan question as the most important issue in bilateral ties, seem to hope that Clinton will have more flexibility in conducting foreign policy following his reelection. China, which views itself as a rising power on the international stage, has also lashed out at what it sees as US attempts to contain its growing influence in the world. Yet increasing calls of alarm that the disagreements could trigger a more long-lasting and dangerous conflict have apparently caused leaders on both sides of the Pacific to move to restore more cooperative US-China bonds. Washington plans to broaden its engagement with Beijing across a spectrum of issues, State Department spokesman Nicholas Burns said yesterday. Both Chinese and American officials cited progress in joint efforts to fight cross-border crime, peaceful nuclear cooperation, and some aspects of nonproliferation. The Chinese leadership, however, warned that continued American sales of sophisticated weapons to Taiwan like F-16 fighter jets jeopardized continued progress in Sino-US ties. "The question of Taiwan is the core issue in the Sino-US relationship," said Chinese Foreign Minister Qian Qichen. Mr. Qian, who is widely regarded as one of the most sophisticated and cosmopolitan figures in the Chinese leadership, added that failure to resolve the issue of the proliferation of American weaponry in Taiwan would disrupt overall bilateral ties. Beijing regards Taiwan as a renegade province whose continued separation from the mainland is fostered in part by US military support. …