A missing compass in China connection
By James Hackett
Washington, August 17, 2000
As President Clinton was partying with the Hollywood elite at Barbra Streisand's Malibu estate, the president of Taiwan sat in a hotel room a few miles away, treated like a thief in the night. Chen Shui-bian, the opposition leader chosen president of Taiwan in free and democratic elections in March, arrived in Los Angeles on Sunday on his first U.S. visit since his historic election. It was an overnight stop on the way to Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic and Africa, where he is making official visits.
But those small countries show more courage in standing up to Chinese communist pressure than the world's only superpower. The State Department, which often accommodates tyrants and dictators, told Taiwan that Mr. Chen could transit the United States only if he had no official meetings, public appearances or meetings with the press. The ban apparently also applied to meeting members of Congress.
Rep. Sam Gejdenson of Connecticut, ranking Democrat on the House International Relations Committee, invited Mr. Chen to meet congressmen from both parties in a private home in Santa Monica, but Taiwan was pressured not to accept. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, California Republican, did manage to see Mr. Chen by going to his hotel for a brief personal meeting. Earlier, Rep. Rohrabacher wrote to the State Department to protest "the discourteous and disgraceful quarantine of Taiwan's democratically elected president" to "appease the Chinese communist regime."
Whenever someone from Taiwan is treated with common courtesy, the rulers in Beijing throw a tantrum, which the Clinton administration wanted to avoid, especially during the Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles. China has been unusually quiet as it awaits final action by Congress on the bill granting it permanent normal trade relations, but Beijing did state its opposition to Mr. Chen's stopping, even briefly, on U.S. soil.
Ever eager to kowtow to communists, the Clinton administration not only restricted what Mr. Chen could do and whom he could see, it also trampled on freedom of the press. Unable to control the press in this country, the administration instead pressured Taiwan to keep Mr. Chen under wraps. There were no profiles in courage as the administration bowed to Beijing's demands.
Meanwhile, the news from China shows no sign of moderation. The official Xinhua news agency said last week that provinces and cities were creating "internet police" to monitor China's fast-growing computer networks. With 17 million Internet users now in China, the government is blocking Web sites of Western media, human-rights groups, Tibetan exiles and other independent sources of information.
A new class of criminal known as a "Web dissident" is being arrested for putting on the Internet information not approved by the government. Reuters reports from Beijing that a man named Huang Qi is in prison for distributing information on human rights, corruption of government officials and the Tiananmen Square massacre. Other Internet criminals are charged with criticizing the government or distributing information about the Falun Gong spiritual movement.
Meanwhile, the new strategic alliance between Moscow and Beijing is being cemented at the highest levels. The Chinese press reports that on July 26 President Jiang Zemin spoke on the hot line for 70 minutes with Russian President Vladimir Putin and "reached a common understanding" on matters of international and regional security.
Mr. Jiang told Mr. Putin he had set up a "defense team" headed by Defense Minister Chi Haotian to implement their agreement on military and defense cooperation, which will include joint military exercises, increased military exchanges and the training of hundreds of Chinese officers in Russia. It also will include, the Chinese press reported, the development of a new generation of military aircraft, surface-to-surface, surface-to-air and air-to-air missiles, and laser, neutron and other high-tech weapons.
The report said the first step will be China's purchase from Russia of $15 billion worth of modern weaponry, to include co-production of 200 advanced SU-27 fighter planes and delivery by the end of this year of the first 30 of an undisclosed number of SU-30 fighter aircraft. These long-range attack planes will be a direct threat to Taiwan and U.S. forces in the Western Pacific.
The contrast between the Clinton administration's cooperation with the militant communists in Beijing and its disgraceful treatment of the president of democratic Taiwan could not be more stark. The restoration of a moral compass in U.S. foreign policy should be a priority issue in the fall campaign.
James T. Hackett is a contributing writer to The Washington Times based in San Diego.