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The Continuing U. S. Debate Over China Policy

Post Series: 2002: Volume 1, Number 4
  • 1.The Continuing U. S. Debate Over China Policy
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The Continuing U. S. Debate Over China PolicyOn 15 July 2002 the U.S.-China Security Review Commission submitted to the U.S. Congress its first Report under legislation of October 2000. The commission was made up of twelve “commissioners,” three each appointed by Senate minority leader Tom Dashle, Senate majority leader Trent Lott, House of Representatives Democratic leader Richard Gephart, and Speaker of the House of Representatives Dennis Hastert. Congress established the Commission when it approved the Clinton Administration’s proposal to grant Permanent Normal Trade Relations to China. It’s charge was to regularly evaluate the Clinton administration’s assertion that the granting of PNTR to China was in accord with the “vital national security interests of the U.S.”

The report of the Security Review Commission offered very cautious endorsement of the U.S. economic relation with the PRC. China’s vast trade surplus with the United States is strengthening China both economically and militarily. The assumption upon which U.S. toleration of this surplus is based — that engagement “will lead to more social openness and even democracy “— is questionable. In fact, the leaders of the PRC are “intractably antidemocratic ” and “hostile to the U.S. and its prominent role in Asia,” according to the report. The PRC exploits U.S. technology, and U.S. capital markets for military modernization purposes. In its letter of transmittal to Senator Robert Byrd and Speaker Dennis Hastert , the commission says that “that American policies must first be firmly grounded on a strong calculus of what will best enhance our national economic health and military security. Second, … we should continue to strongly advocate democratic values and principles … On both scores, we can and should do better.” One Commissioner, William Reinsch, President of the National Foreign Trade Council, dissented from the central conclusions of the Commission. “On the whole it fails to present a fair and objective analysis of the U.S.-China security relationship. Instead, by consistently seeing the glass as half empty rather than half full, the Report ignores progress made over the past twenty years, adds to the level of paranoia about China in this country, and contains recommendations that could make that paranoia a self-fulfilling prophecy.” The full text of the report is available at http://www.uscc.gov.

On 12 July 2002 the U.S. Department of Defense submitted to Congress its “Annual Report on the Military Power of the People’s Republic of China,” also pursuant to legislation passed in 2000. This report too offered an extremely guarded approach to U.S. relations with the PRC. China’s military capabilities are improving rapidly with imports of technology and complete weapons systems from Russia and various Western countries, including the United States. The doctrines, strategies, force structures, and particular weapons development programs all seem configured around the contingency of a war against Taiwan including a possible conflict with the United States arising out of a cross-Strait war. The text of this report is available at: http://www.defenselink.mil/news/Jul2002/d20020712china.pdf .

On 25 September and 9 October 2002, four non-governmental think tanks are holding hearings in Washington, D.C. in an effort to counter the skeptical perspective offered by the two July reports. The Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C. and the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations are sponsoring the 25 September session looking at “China in Transition: A Closer Look Behind the Scenes.” The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and the Asia/Pacific Research Center of Stanford University are cosponsoring the 9 October session focusing on “Taiwan and U.S. Policy: Toward Stability or Crisis?” Senator Joseph Biden, Jr., Chair of the Foreign Relations Committee of the U.S. Senate, is hosting the two sessions. While the sessions will be physically convened on Capitol Hill and hosted by Biden, they are not under the formal imprimatur of the Foreign Relations Committee. The Carter Center’s, and China Research Center Associate, Dr. Yawei Liu, testified at the 25 September session. Transcripts of the two sessions will reportedly be made available. The telephone number of the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations is 212-645-9677.

Congressional-Executive Commission on China Issues 1st Annual Report:

Established by Congress in October 2000 to monitor human rights and the development of rule of law in China, the Congressional-Executive Commission on China issued its first annual report in October 2002. The report strikes a balance between lauding China’s impressive progress over the past 20 years in respect for international human-rights standards and rule of law, and delineating areas in which China still has a very long way to go. The report makes 41 policy recommendations, including 13 “priority” ones, including greater religious tolerance and workers rights. The report calls for a “dual approach,” combining high-level governmental dialogue and advocacy, coupled with enhanced financial and technical support for efforts to build a system based on rule of law. Increased Congressional funding is recommended to support greater U.S. engagement with China on human rights and rule of law issues. The full text of the report is available at http://cecc.gov

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