When Secretary of Commerce William Daley brings 15 undecided
Congressmembers to Beijing this week, it will be his second trip to
China in a handful of days.
Yet Secretary Daley is just one of the president's men and women
who are trying to convince Congress to back permanent normal trade
relations, or PNTR, for China. The Clinton administration is trying
to separate trade from human rights and environmental issues.
In an interview over the weekend, Secretary Daley said: "We
believe that China's opening and its engagement with the rest of the
world will ultimately improve the human rights situation here....
The alternative of closing China off will hurt 1.25 billion Chinese
A month ago President Clinton geared up to press for normalized
trade relations with China in line with a bilateral pact signed last
year on Beijing's entry into the World Trade Organization. This is
expected to boost a quarter-century drive to integrate China into
world structures and thereby moderate the Communist Party's rule at
That process, which has moved in fits and starts since President
Nixon made his historic visit to China in 1972, has seen a
ballooning of freedoms for the average Chinese to start a private
company, travel or study abroad, and help build the foundations of a
"There has been a tremendous growth in individual freedoms for
most Chinese in the past 30 years," says Lois Wheeler Snow, who
first travelled to Beijing in 1970 with her husband, journalist
Edgar Snow. After Edgar Snow wrote the best-selling "Red Star Over
China" in 1936, he and his wife were treated as red royalty by
Mrs. Snow says that "During the Cultural Revolution [of 1966-
76], even your dress and hairstyle were dictated by the party....
All the billboards and banners were about Mao Zedong or the Great
Proletarian Cultural Revolution, while today the streets of Beijing
are filled with advertisements for Coke and Microsoft."
Chinese authorities recently prevented a meeting between Mrs.
Snow and a pro-democracy activist in Beijing. Last week Mrs. Snow
called on the United Nations Human Rights Commission to condemn
Beijing's rights violations. "There has been no growth in the right
to disagree with the government," she adds.
The US State Department, in its latest report on human rights in
China, said that Chinese "citizens lack both the freedom peacefully
to express opposition to the [Communist] Party-led political system
and the right to change their national leaders or form of