Premier's Visit Vital to China but Tensions Make U.S. Trip Political Risk
BEIJING -- Outrage among Chinese over NATO bombing in Yugoslavia, U.S. condemnation of China's human rights abuses, accusations in Congress of concerted Chinese espionage and possible mobs of American protesters -- all these could not keep Premier Zhu Rongji from visiting the United States.
Zhu will dine at the White House and court the political and business elite across six U.S. cities. All the while he will try to revive the amicability that Presidents Clinton and Jiang Zemin shared nine months ago in Beijing.
Zhu's determination to brave Chinese resentment and American anger during a nine-day tour, which starts Tuesday, proves the importance Beijing gives to smooth relations with Washington. For China, the relationship with the United States has become indispensable.
Whether to woo the foreign investment needed to keep a slowing economy from sputtering into social unrest or prod Taiwan into reuniting with Beijing -- goals vital and cherished -- Chinese leaders see the road ahead passing through Washington.
Jiang and Zhu "have put Chinese-U.S. relations as the basic cornerstone of our whole diplomacy," said Jin Canrong, an America watcher at the government-backed Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. "In their inner minds, they want to keep the relationship stable."
Stability in a relationship characterized by love-hate swings was a key intent of the summitry Presidents Clinton and Jiang launched 18 months ago. But the glue did not hold and volatility has returned since late last year.
A Communist Party-ordered crackdown on Chinese trying to form a democratic party, Pentagon reports of a missile buildup against Taiwan and a special bipartisan commission's findings of a 20-year Chinese spying campaign have cemented anti-China sentiment in Congress.
A `HIGH-RISK' VISIT
"The political atmosphere in Washington is poisoned," said Yan Xuetong, a U. …