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Jewish World Review / June 17,1998 / 23 Sivan, 5758

Cal Thomas

Cal Thomas The President's rocky road to China

CHINA'S COMMUNIST LEADERS have President Clinton just where they want him -- coming to Tiananmen Square in the anniversary month of the slaughter of pro-democracy demonstrators and believing that what he does will have a positive impact on China's actions. American foreign policy and prestige are in a sorry state.

Defending his decision to sign waivers so that China could acquire U.S. missile technology, the president said he was just doing what presidents Reagan and Bush did. But the standard is what candidate Bill Clinton promised during the 1992 campaign. Clinton and then-Sen. Al Gore were harsh critics of President Bush, whom they accused of "coddling" the Chinese. On March 9, 1992, Clinton said: "I do not believe we should extend most-favored-nation status to China unless they make significant progress in human rights, arms proliferation and fair trade."

In all three areas, China's "progress" has been nonexistent. The head of a "planned birth" office in China's Fujian province told a House hearing last week she ordered thousands of forced abortions and sterilizations on unwilling women, some nine months pregnant, even destroying the homes of women who refused to comply. Human rights in China are not getting better. They're getting worse -- in part because of President Clinton's failure to make them a chief concern due to his shameless pursuit of reelection money, much of it allegedly coming from Chinese and American sources determined to pursue business as usual with the Beijing regime.

The U.S.-China trade imbalance continues to significantly favor China. President Clinton de-linked trade and human rights, even though he and Gore wrote in the 1992 book Putting People First: "We should not reward China with improved trade status when it has continued to trade goods made by prison labor and has failed to make significant progress on human rights since the Tiananmen massacre."

Clinton told the Los Angeles World Affairs Council in 1992: "We will link China's trading privileges to its human rights record and its conduct of trade of weapons sales." That promise was broken a mere 15 months later.

In October, 1992, Al Gore criticized President Bush for being "an incurable patsy for those dictators he sets out to coddle." Bush had defended the sale of missile technology to the Chinese because it produced $300 million in business for American firms. Gore called that approval "a true outrage" and "another effort to curry favor with the hard-liners in Beijing, and an insult to the memory of those who died for democracy in Tiananmen Square." Gore sponsored legislation to prohibit the launching of U.S.-manufactured satellites on Chinese rockets unless the president declares it to be in the national interest, which Bush had declared it was. Clinton's decision to do likewise apparently fits the same pattern, but it also fits a familiar Clinton pattern of claiming the high ground of principle, only to allow its erosion by pragmatism in his pursuit of campaign funds from every possible source.

China's sale of missile technology to Pakistan -- which has led to a sharp escalation of nuclear saber-rattling between Pakistan and India -- brought a mild slap on the Chinese wrist. As a result of this administration's unprincipled behavior, the Chinese regard Americans as paper tigers. Our Asian friends see us as increasingly untrustworthy.

The Chinese Communist government will be a growing problem for the United States in the new century. The Clinton administration's legacy may be that it restarted the Cold War just to perpetuate itself in office. The president says he doesn't believe the dictators will turn away from economic growth and opportunity. How naive. It sounds like Jimmy Carter saying he couldn't believe that Leonid Brezhnev would lie to him and invade Afghanistan.

The President thinks he can fool China the same way he fools a majority of Americans. But the Chinese are tough cookies who have correctly read Bill Clinton's fortune. They have enough information about trade and trade-offs to cause him serious political damage. He will do what they expect him to do and no more.

6/15/98: Let the children go
6/9/98: Oregon: the new killing fields
6/5/98: Speaking plainly: the cover-up continues
6/2/98: Barry Goldwater: in our hearts
5/28/98:The Speaker's insightful remarks
5/26/98: As bad as it gets
5/25/98:Union dues and don'ts
5/21/98: Connecting those Chinese campaign contribution dots
5/19/98: Clinton on the couch
5/13/98: John Ashcroft: another Jimmy Carter?
5/8/98: Terms of dismemberment
5/5/98: Clinton's tangled Webb
4/30/98: Return of the Jedi
4/28/98: Desparately seeking Susan
4/23/98: RICO's threat to free-speech and expression
4/21/98: Educating children v. preserving an institution
4/19/98: Analyzing the birth of a possible new nation
4/14/98: What's fair about our tax system?
4/10/98: CBS: 'Touched by a perv'
4/8/98: Judge Wright's wrong reasoning on sexual harassment
4/2/98: How about helping American cities before African?
3/31/98:Revenge of the children
3/29/98: The Clinton strategy: delay, deceive, deny, and destroy
3/26/98: Moralist Gary Hart
3/23/98: CNN's century of (liberal) women
3/17/98: Dandy Dan
3/15/98: An imposed 'settlement' settles nothing
3/13/98: David Brock's Turnabout

©1998, Los Angeles Times Syndicate, Inc.