Jewish World Review April 20, 2001 / 27 Nissan 5761
Bush Won China Test, But Needs
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
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
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
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
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
JWR contributor Morton Kondracke is executive editor of Roll Call, the newspaper of Capitol Hill. Send your comments by clicking here.
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