JWR Roger SimonMona CharenLinda Chavez
Paul Greenberg Larry ElderJonathan S. Tobin
Thomas SowellWilliam PfaffRobert Scheer
Don FederCal Thomas
Political Cartoons
Left, Right & Center

Jewish World Review / June 23, 1998 / 29 Sivan, 5758

Linda Chavez

Linda Chavez Blinded by the red,
or is it the green?

AS PRESIDENT CLINTON wings his way toward China this week, he might consider popping a Chinese video into the Air Force One VCR.

A fan of Chinese movies myself, I suggest he watch Red Firecracker, Green Firecracker, a love story about a poor, young worker who falls in love with a wealthy and haughty beauty, and endures all manner of danger to win her favor.

At the high point of the film, the hero performs an exquisite feat of daring, dancing before the woman wrapped in crackling firecrackers, risking life and limb to impress her. It's a good metaphor for Bill Clinton's upcoming minuet with China's leaders. Unfortunately, Clinton has cast America in the role of desperate suitor, exposing the United States to dangers it should avoid.

China has hardly behaved like a suitable object of American affection lately. Since Clinton became president, China has been caught selling the technology that enabled Pakistan to build nuclear bombs, perhaps the very ones Pakistan recently tested, not to mention peddling missile parts to terrorist nations like Iran and North Korea.

Chinese Communist officials have tried to influence the outcome of U.S. elections, including the president's own re-election, by funneling money into Democratic campaign coffers in violation of U.S. law. Chinese companies have ruthlessly pirated American compact discs and laser disks, cheating U.S. companies and performers out of millions of dollars.

Chinese officials have continued to suppress human rights among Chinese citizens, including persecuting Christians in China and Buddhists in Tibet. And China has belligerently menaced the Taiwanese, with whom the United States maintains security agreements, by firing test missiles across the straits that separate the mainland from the islands.

Yet despite such repeated hostile acts, Clinton pursues China like a love-struck swain. It wasn't always so. When Clinton ran for president in 1992, he promised "an America that will never coddle tyrants, from Baghdad to Beijing." Attacking former President Bush for his China policy, candidate Clinton implied he'd make big changes.

Six years later, Clinton now wants American-Chinese "engagement" -- the new buzz-word the administration has adopted to defend its own obvious dictator-coddling. Whenever anyone questions his policy reversal, Clinton warns of the dangers of isolating China, as if the only two choices were to embrace China or shun her.

In fact, the United States would be far better off treating China as a powerful adversary, with whom we can do business so long as the terms benefit us. U.S. relations with the Soviet Union during the Reagan years are a good model. We sold American goods to Russia during the Cold War, but we did not transfer technology that could have threatened our own security. Nor would we ever have allowed cheap Soviet goods (had they existed) to flood our markets, creating the kind of huge trade imbalances we now maintain with China.

We also tied trade with the Soviets to their human-rights policies, something we have yet to do with China. The result was a foreign policy that put U.S. interests and values first, where they belong.

China clearly has more to gain from the relationship than the United States does, which is why China should be willing to make concessions, not the other way around. While the United States needn't go out of its way to antagonize China, there's no reason to kowtow either. For all the talk of China as the new economic leader of Asia, the economy may be in far more precarious position than the Clinton administration acknowledges. China is riddled with bad debt -- the very problem that set off the current Asian economic crisis -- with an estimated 25 percent to 30 percent of all bank loans likely never to be repaid.

Unemployment is rising, reaching 30 percent in the industrial northeast and causing dangerous unrest. Skyscrapers look impressive from the outside but are empty. And none of the problems China faces is likely to get better so long as the country is ruled by autocrats, who may have abandoned communist economic theories, substituting corruption and greed, but have kept their authoritarian instincts.

Bill Clinton should forget having the United States play the suitor and let his Chinese hosts do the wooing on this trip. If there are to be any risks in this relationship, let China wear the firecrackers, not the United States.


6/23/98: Blinded by the red, or is it the green?
6/17/98: Flotsam in the wake of romance
6/10/98: We have a ways to go in the bilingual war
6/3/98: Tyson's triumph over tragedy
5/28/98: Why Univision's Perenchio is out to hurt his fellow Hispanics
5/20/98: Sometimes Buba actually tells the truth ... as he sees it
5/12/98: Chill-out on the chihuahua and ... Seinfeld
5/8/98: The revolution is just about over
4/28/98: Let's face it: both parties are full of hypocrites
4/21/98: Legislating equality
4/14/98: One down, many to go
4/7/98: Mexican mayhem?
3/31/98: Of death and details
3/25/98: Americans are unaware of NATO expansion
3/18/98: Intellectual-ghettoes in the name of diversity
3/11/98: Be careful what you wish for ...
3/4/98: The Press' Learning-disability
2/25/98: 50 States Are Enough!
2/18/98: Casey at the Mat
2/11/98: The legal profession's Final Solution
2/4/98: Faith and the movies
1/28/98: Clinton, Lewinsky, and Politics Vs. Principle
1/21/98: Movement on the Abortion Front
1/14/98: Clones, Courts, and Contradictions
1/7/98: Child custody or child endangerment?
12/31/97: Jerry Seinfeld, All-American
12/24/97: Affirmative alternatives: New initiatives for equal opportunity are out there
12/17/97: Opening a window of opportunity (a way out of bilingual education for California's Hispanic kids)

©1998, Creators Syndicate, Inc.