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Western Press Review: East Meets West

  • Don Hill



Prague, 29 October 1997 (RFE/RL) -- From the perspective of centuries from now, the greatest news development of the 20th Century is unlikely to be the industrial revolution, the atomic bomb, world wars, or humans in space. The greatest news development may be the beginning of a rapprochement between separate civilizations -- East and West. Today, the attention of the Western press focuses on a piece of that development, the first visit to the United States by a mainland Chinese head of state since 1985.

LOST ANGELES TIMES: The Presidents have the opportunity to shape a more cooperative, constructive and consistent U.S.-Sino relationship

There is an optimistic slant on the visit in an editorial yesterday. The paper, serving the largest city on the U.S. West Coast, includes a large Chinese-American community in its circulation area. The editorial said: "(U.S. President Bill) Clinton and Chinese President Jiang Zemin have the opportunity to shape a more cooperative, constructive and consistent U.S.-Sino relationship in their talks in Washington this week."

It concluded: "Jiang, lacking the charisma of his predecessors, is using the U.S. visit, which will include a stop in Los Angeles this weekend, to polish his image at home, where he recently consolidated his power. There is pre-summit talk that Clinton and Jiang will announce an agreement for China to reduce its exports of nuclear weapons expertise in exchange for the U.S. sale of nuclear power plants to China. That would be a significant deal for both sides and would strengthen the relationship."

INTERNATIONAL HERALD TRIBUNE: The summit is more about beginning a process of high-level engagement

The director of the U.S.-based Sigur Center for Asian Studies, David Shambaugh, warns today in a commentary that one should adopt modest expectations for the meetings between Jiang and Clinton. Shambaugh writes: "What can be expected from the Chinese-American summit meeting (today)? The summit is unlikely to remove the many contentious issues that divide the two countries."

Shambaugh writes: "Even if the two leaders are unable to announce a package of noteworthy accomplishments, the meeting will have been worthwhile in terms of improving their direct communication and intensifying working-level cooperation." The writer says: "Major breakthroughs should not be expected. The summit is more about beginning a process of high-level engagement that, over time, can enhance cooperation and reduce confrontation."

TIMES: The Administration had pressed Beijing for freedom for China's dissidents

In a news analysis today by its Washington correspondent Tom Rhodes, who writes that human rights advocates shouldn't expect progress from this meeting. Rhodes writes: "Even as scores of Chinese dissidents and other activists poured into Washington to demand a tougher stance on human rights by Mr Clinton, the President's senior aides conceded that Mr Jiang was unlikely to make any visible steps towards defusing an issue that has clouded Sino-American relations since the Tiananmen Square pro-democracy uprising in 1989."

Rhodes says: "The Administration had pressed Beijing for freedom for China's two most prominent dissidents, Wei Jingsheng, the democracy advocate, and Wang Dan, the student leader. Having failed to secure their release before the meeting, Washington hopes to press for their liberty before Mr Clinton pays a return visit to Beijing next year."

WASHINGTON POST: President Clinton has an opportunity to require China to demonstrate its compliance with global nonproliferation norms

Three U.S. congressmen write in a commentary published today that President Clinton should demand from President Jiang concessions on the issue of nuclear nonproliferation. They are Representatives Edward J. Markey, a member, like Clinton, of the Democratic Party, and Benjamin A. Gilman and Christopher Cox, Republicans.

They write: "During Chinese President Jiang Zemin's visit this week, President Clinton is expected to activate a 1985 Nuclear Cooperation Agreement with China. American companies would then be authorized to start selling nuclear reactors and fuel to a country that has been identified by the CIA as 'a key supplier of most destructive arms technology' to rogue regimes such as Iran's. We believe that providing access to American technologies that could end up assisting Iran's nuclear weapons programs would constitute an intolerable risk to U.S. national security."

The writers conclude: "President Clinton has an opportunity, as well as an obligation, to require that the People's Republic of China demonstrate its compliance with global nonproliferation norms (as opposed to mere promises) by resisting pressure from the Chinese government (and the American nuclear industry). But if the president certifies China as a nonproliferator, despite the record we have outlined and without a demonstrated change of behavior on the part of Beijing, he will have eviscerated U.S. nonproliferation policy and compromised U.S. national security."

WASHINGTON POST: Both democracy and human rights are relative concepts and not absolute or universal.

"Let freedom ring in China," activist Xiao Qiang writes in a commentary also published today. Quiang is executive director of the New York-based organization Human Rights in China.

He writes: "In a recent interview, (Jiang) Zemin stated, 'The theory of relativity worked out by Mr Einstein for the natural sciences can, I believe, also be applied to politics. Both democracy and human rights are relative concepts and not absolute or universal.' "

Qiang, educated as an astrophysicist, says: "Apparently, Jiang knows as little about physics as he does about human rights. The basic rule underlying Einstein's famous theory is that the physical laws governing the universe are indeed universal even if they may appear otherwise from different perspectives. Like the laws of physics, the basic rights of every human being to life, liberty, freedom of thought and expression are also immutable and universal."

The writer concludes: "This week Jiang Zemin makes carefully orchestrated stops in Williamsburg, Boston, Washington and Philadelphia -- cities that symbolize the very values of democracy and individual rights that Americans hold so dear but that Jiang denies the people of his own country. In China today, "dissidents" who, like Patrick Henry, Paul Revere, William Penn and Thomas Jefferson, demand freedom of speech, freedom of the press and freedom of assembly -- values that are fundamental to the prosperity and stability of the United States of America -- are systematically silenced either through imprisonment or exile."

WALL STREET JOURNAL: Persecution of Christians is a central human rights issue

A commentary today by the president of the New York-based Freedom House, Adrian Karatnycky, urging that Jiang, Clinton, and human-rights activists take up the issue of the persecution of Christians. Karatnycky writes that Jiang is "the leader of a country that has long persecuted Christians." The writer says that Jiang's visit provides an opportunity to raise the issue of worldwide religious persecution.

Karatnycky writes: "During President Jiang's visit, America's many human-rights goals will be advanced best if conservatives and liberals can agree that persecution of Christians is a central human rights issue."
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