Academic journal article Asia - Pacific Issues

Dear President Clinton: Voices from Asia and the Pacific

Academic journal article Asia - Pacific Issues

Dear President Clinton: Voices from Asia and the Pacific

Article excerpt



C. L. Fang

America's relations with China today are strained. On 25 May you announced a one-year renewal of the provision that gives China most-favored-nation (MFN) treatment equal to that of other major nations trading with the United States. You attached no conditions this year but said you might impose conditions next year, depending on developments on human rights in China, the proliferation of weapons, and trade practices.

The Chinese government immediately lodged a protest with the U.S. government, as could have been expected. In the Chinese view, human rights and weapons proliferation have nothing to do with trade. As for trade balances, Chinese have been buying more U.S. goods.

Chinese maintain that MFN status should be reciprocal and not based on ideology and politics. Chinese officials have said they would not accept MFN status with strings attached. If China is deprived of equal access to the U.S. market, the Chinese would take similar steps, bringing huge losses to both countries as well as to Hong Kong and even to Taiwan. Losing a big market will not help the U.S. economy.

Your view on human rights is not easily accepted in Asia. On 2 April 1993 delegates from 49 Asian countries at the Asian and Pacific Human Rights Conference in Thailand adopted the "Bangkok Declaration," which criticizes Western countries for using human rights as a political weapon to browbeat other nations. You may disagree, but the declaration represents the voice of two-thirds of the world's population.

Chinese have been seeking to improve SinoU.S. relations. Premier Li Peng told the National People's Congress recently: "So long as the U.S. government observes the principles of the three Sino-U.S. communiqués, all obstacles can be brushed aside, and relations between the two countries can continue to improve and develop." Those communiqués, issued in 1972, 1979 and 1982, embody the principle of one China, the principle of peaceful coexistence and the principle of opposing any nation that seeks hegemony.

China's President and Communist Party General Secretary Jiang Zemin has suggested a fourphrase formula for improving Sino-U.S. relations: strengthening mutual trust; minimizing troubles; developing cooperation; no confrontation.

In the United States, however, a more positive China policy has yet to take shape. China-bashers are busy raising new demands every day. They accuse China of trampling human rights in Tibet and call for Tibet's independence. China says Tibet is part of China and that it has rid Tibet of serfdom under the former lama clergy who truly trampled human rights. China-bashers support those plotting for Taiwan independence and to block China's plan to reunify the island province with the mainland under the concept of "one country and two systems."

The China-bashers ignore the agreements made by China and Britain for governing Hong Kong after 1997 when Britain returns Hong Kong to China. They encourage the governor of Hong Kong, Chris Patten, to push unilateral "political reform," thus endangering a smooth transition. They drum up tension over China's Nansha [Spratly] Islands, even though China has said that it is for peaceful negotiations and joint exploration of the islands. They accuse China of military expansion, whereas China's military budget is only $7 billion-far less than that of Japan, South Korea, India or even Taiwan.

Mr. President, do not let these claims influence you in formulating a China policy. A China policy will lead nowhere if it is based on wild demands. A forward-looking China policy, however, would help to improve U.S.-China relations and create a favorable environment for Pacific Rim development.

C. L. Feng, a senior Chinese journalist, was a Visiting Fellow at the East-West Center in 1991.

Hong Kong

Terry Chong

Since your assumption of the American presidency, you and your senior aides on several occasions have spoken publicly on Hong Kong's future, and you took time to meet with Governor Chris Patten during his visit to Washington in May. …

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