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Western Press Review: The U.S., China And Europe Face Realities

  • Breffni O'Rourke

Prague, 27 October 1997 (RFE/RL) -- The visit of Chinese President Jiang Zemin to the United States is pre-occupying the international press. Commentators note that this is the first U.S.-China summit since the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre in Beijing, and thus takes on much significance.

WASHINGTON POST: There is no shortage of sources of friction

An editorial says that "Mr Jiang and President Clinton meet at a time when there is no shortage of sources of friction between the world's lone superpower and its most rapidly emerging potential rival. China's relatively closed markets contribute to a growing U.S. trade deficit, likely to hit 50,000 million dollars this year -- second only to the U.S. deficit with Japan.

The editorial goes on: "China continues to arouse suspicions with its supplying of missiles, chemicals and other weapon components to what the United States reasonably considers rogue regimes. It's episodic bullying of Taiwan, its continuing brutalization of Tibet and its uncertain intentions towards Hong Kong all command attention... Mr Jiang's regime continues to stifle religious and political freedom. And there is a long-term question of whether the emerging Chinese superpower, led as ever by a Communist dictatorship, is gathering strength in order to challenge both America's standing in Asia and the world and the democratic values Americans associate with their world leadership.

"It's quite a list. But President Clinton, after a journey of many way stations, has formulated a policy that argues for continued engagement despite these tensions. It's a policy that acknowledges the long-term risks, but also argues that China could evolve differently - as a cooperative superpower with a gradually liberalizing political system. The choice is China's, Mr Clinton argues, but the United States should do what it can to encourage a favorable outcome".

DAILY TELEGRAPH: The relationship between Washington and Beijing will remain volatile

An editorial today says that Jiang is trying to present a softer image of himself and his regime. It speculates on what advice his political advisers may have given him as he embarks on his U.S. trip: "...that the rape of Tibet is in fact the extension of civilization to a benighted land; that political prisoners should be regarded as criminal offenders against the community; perhaps even confusing signals emanating from various 'spin doctors' (eds: that means advisers) over whether China will rule out entering Taiwan during the course of this session of the National People's Congress.

The editorial goes on: "The relationship between Washington and Beijing will remain volatile. China's resurgent nationalism and economic strength will profoundly alter the global balance of power over the next generation. In coping with China, America and its NATO allies should take heart from the signal victory that they have won over communism in East Europe. The tide of human affairs is flowing towards greater liberalization and even China will not remain impervious to its pull."

NEW YORK TIMES: China's role in the world, even as it grows economically, seems likely to be circumscribed by its the country's uncertainty about itself.

A news analysis yesterday by Seth Faison says "China exports so much to the United States that at times it can be hard to find a pair of shoes, a toy or an electrical appliance in an American department store that does not say 'Made in China'. Yet China-made, most of the time, does not really mean Chinese. The goods that China ships out by the boatload do not look or feel Chinese. Unlike Italian fashion, French wine or American movies, most Chinese exports have nothing to do with Chinese culture. They are simply low-cost things that, as far as a buyer is concerned, could as easily have come from Madagascar.

The analysis continues: "As its exports suggest, China cuts a strangely tentative global profile for what is arguably the world's oldest civilization and unarguably its biggest emerging power. This is reflected in its leader, President Jiang Zemin, who arrived in the United States on Sunday for a week-long visit, and is much more about China.

"Take culture. China's historical contributions to the world are there all right, beginning with ancient innovations like paper and gunpowder. But the highly visible, truly Chinese cultural exports of today are essentially limited to drawing-room chinoiserie and takeout cuisine.

Faison says that "As he tours the United States this week, Jiang no doubt would like to appear to be the head of a dynamic nation poised to lead the world in the next century. But China's role in the world, even as it grows economically, seems likely to be circumscribed by its the country's uncertainty about itself.

BALTIMORE SUN: This is billed as a summit of reconciliation.

An editorial says "The first visit of China's leader to Washington in 12 years and a resumption of high-level diplomacy after China's domestic repressions eight years ago, President Jiang Zemin's week-long descent will take in shrines of democracy and bastions of capitalism as well as the White House. He will hear the protests of American and Chinese dissidents trailing him. The exercise offers him more benefits than President Clinton.

"China's leader will display himself as the heir of Mao Tse-tung as ratified by the recent 15th Communist Party congress. He is upholding the legacy of Deng Xiaoping in pressing economic reform while preventing political reform. This trip allows him to demonstrate his authority before the rest of the world, and before the 1.2 billion Chinese at home.

"This is billed as a summit of reconciliation. Indications are that China's leader wants to soothe the relationship, not ratchet up confrontation."

The editorial continues: "What President Clinton has to gain is less apparent. Accusations of coddling the butchers of Tiananmen Square, of selling out the Tibetans, of insufficiently protecting American interests in copyright protection and access to markets. He could win plaudits for dressing down his guest, without helping these causes.

"The reality is that China is the world's most populous country, most rapidly developing military power and most rapidly expanding economy. Its capacity for disturbing the peace is immense. It is importing military technology from Russia. It disputes claims to oil-laden seabeds with neighbors and claims Taiwan as integral to China. (The U.S. has never denied its claim to sovereignty over Taiwan or Tibet.) It shares an immense border with Russia, whose future attitude is problematic, and it is disquieted by North Korea.

These are reasons why Washington needs a mature working relationship and candid communication with Beijing. Not sentimental and not grandstanding."

WASHINGTON POST: Wang is one of China's most prominent independent thinkers

Returning to the theme of human rights, an analysis by Lena Sun says "A leading dissident who spent 14 years in Chinese prisons for challenging communist ideology has written to President Clinton asking him to pressure Chinese President Jiang Zemin on human rights. He has fired off thousands of e-mail messages to U.S. lawmakers urging them to question China's failure to uphold the rule of law. And he plans to demonstrate here Wednesday to seek the release of Chinese political prisoners, many of them his close friends.

Sun writes: "For one of the few times in his life, Wang Xizhe says he is not afraid he will be persecuted for this type of political activity. Now a visiting scholar at Harvard University, the 49-year-old Wang is one of China's most prominent independent thinkers. He is among a group of dissident scholars, labor organizers and other activists in exile in the United States who have joined in an unusual show of solidarity to protest Jiang's meeting with Clinton, the first U.S.-China summit since Chinese troops crushed the Tiananmen Square democracy movement eight years ago.

WALL STREET JOURNAL: Things seem to be back on track for Italy to qualify for membership of European economic and monetary union.

Another topic drawing attention in the press is the run-up to European Monetary Union, and its impact on various European Union members. An analysis today by Nicholas Brayin says "The Italian factor has worked again. A month ago, Italy's political crisis suddenly made a broadly-based Euro look much less likely than it had seemed in the summer. Now, with Prime Minister Romano Prodi apparently on the verge of an agreement with labor unions over ways of cutting Italy's pensions bill, things seem to be back on track for Italy to qualify for first-round membership of European economic and monetary union. The result: markets are once again looking for a timely start to EMU with as many as 11 participating countries".

WALL STREET JOURNAL: The UK Chancellor of the Exchequer ' s statement will mark a defining moment in Britain's relations with the rest of West Europe

In a separate analysis the same author Nicholas Bray writes on the subject of British membership of EMU: "When the UK Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown addresses parliament today, his expected statement on European economic and monetary union will mark a defining moment in Britain's relations with the rest of West Europe."

The analysis continues: "Not that anyone expects Mr Brown to sign Britain up for the Euro as of its launch date on January 1, 1999. Press reports over the weekend suggested that he might actually rule out any such move until the country's general election -- due by 2002 at the latest -- but also to make it clear that the government is prepared to join EMU if it's eventually deemed a success.

"Even that would come as a relief to many. After weeks of contradictory reports about the government's intentions, British business and labor leaders are hoping for a clear, unequivocal commitment to EMU membership in the medium term, as soon as structural and cyclical conditions in Britain's economy make it feasible".