Full-Court Press to End Annual Review on China ; More High-Level Trips to Beijing Attempt to Secure Congressional Votes for Normal Trade Relations

By Kevin Platt, writer of The Christian Science Monitor | The Christian Science Monitor, April 11, 2000 | Go to article overview

Full-Court Press to End Annual Review on China ; More High-Level Trips to Beijing Attempt to Secure Congressional Votes for Normal Trade Relations


Kevin Platt, writer of The Christian Science Monitor, The Christian Science Monitor


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 people."

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 home.

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 civil society.

"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 Beijing's leaders.

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 government. …

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