Magazine article Newsweek

Beijing's New Babysitter: The United States Has Put China on Notice. Washington Intends to Stand Guard over Hong Kong

Magazine article Newsweek

Beijing's New Babysitter: The United States Has Put China on Notice. Washington Intends to Stand Guard over Hong Kong

Article excerpt

THERE WERE TWO HANDOVERS in Hong Kong last week. Beijing took power over the British colony--and Washington took over as its chief protector. "You've got to keep watching," British Gov. Chris Patten told Secretary of State Madeleine Albright before tearfully taking his leave. "People expect it," said a senior State Department official, "because of our place in the world." With two dozen members of Congress helping create gridlock on the diplomatic circuit during the festivities, the occasion represented nothing less than "the handover of responsibility for Hong Kong's fate to the U.S.," declared Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman Jesse Helms.

In fact, Washington's interest goes well beyond geopolitics: 40,000 American expats in Hong Kong far outnumber their British counterparts, and U.S.-Hong Kong trade exceeds $24 billion a year. And Chinese pols, who have their own best interests in mind, have signaled that they get the message. "Chinese leaders have decided they want to work with us," said one senior administration official. President Jiang Zemin, in particular, has a big stake in improving the relationship. Still not fully in control of China in the wake of Deng Xiaoping's death in February, Jiang wants to burnish his leadership credentials by meeting other foreign leaders, especially Bill Clinton. China-U.S. summits are slated for October in Washington and early next year in Beijing. Jiang wants the full red-carpet treatment; in exchange, Albright's team wants progress on bilateral issues. The summits must be "concrete," she told Chinese Foreign Minister Qian Qichen hst week.

To lay the groundwork, Albright and Qian talked about everything from Korea to law enforcement to nonproliferation. …

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