Strained Dealings with China

By Meyer, Cord | The Washington Times (Washington, DC), May 31, 1996 | Go to article overview

Strained Dealings with China


Meyer, Cord, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)


There is no doubt that the one-party communist government in Beijing that rules over the more than 1.2 billion people of China presents a confusing and contradictory picture to American government officials who seek to understand and deal with it. There is evidence of some realization by the Chinese rulers that they face such enormous problems in attempting to clothe and feed their expanding population that they desperately need the cooperation of the United States and the outside world. At the same time, there are signs of an arrogant, radical nationalism that assumes China can safely go its own way.

China's approaching environmental disaster was dramatized by a story in the New York Times by Patrick Tyler, which described how more than 100 large Chinese cities have acute water supply problems. Only six cities can meet safe drinking water standards, and even in Beijing, farmers in the agricultural belt outside the city have been cut off from traditional water services. Already, there is an estimated floating population of more than 100 million unemployed in the Chinese countryside with no clear picture of how the number can be reduced. Moreover, the growth of towns and highways has steadily reduced the land available for agriculture.

In a country facing such severe environmental problems, one would expect to find more concentration on such issues but instead the Pentagon has revealed that China has been playing dangerous games in seeking to obtain SS-18 nuclear missile technology under the pretense of using Russian boosters to develop a space launch program. American officials acted in time to caution prospective sellers and buyers that such transactions would violate their obligation to limit nuclear proliferation and to control missile technology.

In another recent case that raises serious questions about who is in charge in the Chinese government, American law enforcement authorities charge that Chinese state-owned munitions factories had smuggled 2,000 AK-47 automatic rifles into the United States for sale. The indictments in San Francisco blamed the scheme on senior officials of the China North Industries Group under the control of senior Chinese political officials. The press spokesman for the Republican majority on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee said the arrests provided "one more piece of evidence that China cannot be cajoled into behaving like a member of the community of civilized nations. …

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