SINCE the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989, relations between
the United States and China have not been warm. But in recent
weeks, they have become downright frosty as Beijing relentlessly
pushed its bid for the 2000 Summer Olympics, and the West continued
to criticize Chinese human rights and arms-proliferation policies.
With the International Olympic Committee (IOC) set to pick its
2000 site on Sept. 23, Chinese officials are complaining bitterly
about what they see as moralistic meddling with their long-held
Olympic dream. "China fully shares the lofty ideals of the Olympic
movement. A few blame us out of political motives. It's not fair,"
said Beijing government spokesman Wu Zhongyuan on Sept. 20.
The US, for its part, remains particularly worried about China
and weapons. US intelligence reports now hold that China is
preparing for an underground nuclear test at its Lop Nor
bomb-development site. Quiet diplomatic requests that China remain
part of the world's de facto testing moratorium have been rebuffed
- so President Clinton himself is now openly protesting the
"Every other nuclear power has forsworn the use of testing,"
he said last weekend.
If China does go ahead with its test, the Clinton administration
would be presented with a difficult political problem that
officials thought they had avoided. Pro-nuclear-testing factions in
the Pentagon and State Department would have a stronger hand,
particularly if a Chinese nuclear explosion causes France or Russia
to break ranks and also resume testing.
The decision to stop tests, after all, was a hard one for the
US. The pro-testing side argues that such hands-on use is necessary
to ensure the continued safety of the arsenal. Anti-testing
advocates, strongly represented among Democrats in Congress, say
safety can be ensured through non-nuclear tests - and that a
testing moratorium gives the US more moral authority to urge
nuclear nonproliferation on the rest of the world.
The diplomatic problem is that, at this point, there is little
the US can do. The State Department has been quietly lobbying the
Chinese on the issue for months; public pressure could well be
"The louder you argue against that, the more likely they will
go ahead," says Chong Pin Lin, a China scholar at the American
Enterprise Institute in Washington.
Meanwhile, the upcoming Olympic vote appears to have put the
Chinese on edge. Beijing has thrown immense resources into its
drive to be an Olympic host, undoubtedly seeing the Summer Games as
an opportunity for positive images to replace the negative ones of