US-China Relations Get Rockier Beijing's Bid for 2000 Olympics Clashes with Concerns over Nuclear Tests, Human Rights

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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 preparations.

"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 counterproductive.

"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 Tiananmen. …

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