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Jewish World Review April 20, 2001 / 27 Nissan 5761

Morton Kondracke

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Consumer Reports


Bush Won China Test, But Needs Shrewd Strategy


http://www.jewishworldreview.com -- THE UNITED STATES beat China hands down in the surveillance-plane episode, and the Bush administration should make sure the whole world knows it by putting out all the facts on the air collision over the South China Sea.

Assuming the evidence demonstrates that reckless flying by China's lost pilot was indeed responsible for the crash, full disclosure would constitute a de facto retraction of any hint of a U.S. apology for the incident.

In fact, the administration did not use the word "apologize," as demanded by China, in exchange for the return of the crew of the EP-3 surveillance plane that was damaged and forced to land on Hainan Island April 1.

China has characterized the United States' use of the words "very sorry" as the equivalent of an expression of responsibility for the incident, but that ploy should be exploded by a full rollout of the evidence.

Moreover, the Bush administration refused to accede to China's demand that it cancel future surveillance flights over the South China Sea. To the contrary, officials have asserted that the flights will continue.

So those who charge that we have been "humiliated" by the incident - starting with the editors of the conservative Weekly Standard - are simply wrong.

The Weekly Standard seems convinced that China and the United States are destined to be - in fact already are - strategic adversaries and likely 21st-century enemies.

That may happen, and factions of China's military certainly are planning on it. But U.S. strategy should be dedicated to simultaneously deterring Chinese aggressiveness and converting its political system to democracy.

It's a difficult task requiring shrewd strategy.

One key method of promoting democracy is to increase the budget of Radio Free Asia, which broadcasts to China much as Radio Free Europe did to Eastern Europe during the Cold War.

China is free enough that RFA currently answers 1,000 phone calls a month from Chinese listeners who often complain about their government and report local unrest. But it could field 70,000 calls a month if it had adequate resources, RFA officials say.

Last year Congress authorized a $99 million, two-year increase for broadcasting to China by RFA and the Voice of America, but ended up appropriating just $5 million more for the current fiscal year.

For 2002, RFA put in for a $6 million increase to improve its ability to penetrate Chinese jamming. The Bush budget provided only an additional $1 million, however. President Bush should revise his request or Congress should do it for him.

China experts are divided over whether the administration should try to prevent Beijing from being chosen to host the 2008 Olympic Games.

There's little question that the International Olympic Committee should refuse China's bid based on a dismal human rights record that includes torture of dissidents and religious persecution, but some experts think overt U.S. pressure might be counterproductive and play into the hands of the communist regime.

Congress undoubtedly will pass resolutions urging IOC rejection of China, but now that the spy-plane hostage drama is over, the administration may decide it's wise not to weigh in with the IOC, at least not publicly.

Two bigger decisions concern arms for Taiwan and renewal of normal trade relations with China. As some experts point out, China has made such an issue of selling the Aegis anti-missile system to Taiwan that the United States is free to make any weapons transfer short of that.

One possible formula would be to defer the Aegis sale, which would take eight years to complete, and instead offer up Kidd-class destroyers and Patriot 3 missiles, which may be more useful to Taiwan, anyway.

Depriving China of normal trade status would be a devastating blow to U.S.-China relations - a declaration that this country does not want China to grow and prosper.

Moreover, it would undermine the strategy of subverting the Chinese communist dictatorship by spreading capitalist and meritocratic values.

There is a risk that trade and capitalism will make China economically strong without converting it to democracy, hence creating a hostile superpower in Asia. But it's a risk the United States should take, while refusing to let China get away with any misbehavior in the human rights or strategic realms.

The Bush administration also has to figure out how to avoid encouraging China, Russia, North Korea, Iraq and Iran from forming an unholy strategic alliance against the United States.

So at the end of the first inning of Bush's high-stakes game with China, the score is United States 1, China 0. But this is looking like a game that will go into extra innings.



JWR contributor Morton Kondracke is executive editor of Roll Call, the newspaper of Capitol Hill. Send your comments by clicking here.

Up

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