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Promoting US-China ties - The Daily

M V Kamath ()
July 7, 1998

Title: Promoting US-China ties
Author: M V Kamath
Publication: The Daily
Date: July 7, 1998

What is the matter with President Bill Clinton that he should so
abjectly consent to eat out of Chinese hands and accept any
humiliation imposed upon him? First, the Chinese insisted that on
his visit to Beijing, Clinton should not make at stop-over in any
other country. This obviously referred to Japan. It is like India
stipulating that if Clinton wishes to come to India he should not
make a stop over in Pakistan! But in this particular case Clinton
has capitulated. He has been received at Tienanmen Square, the
very place in 1989 where some agitating students were killed, no
doubt to show. Americans, not to say the whole world, that the
Chinese couldn care less for their opinion.

The watchword in the White House clearly is appeasement. The
United States all these years has looked the other way while
American firms quietly gave nuclear technology to China which in
turn, in turn, passed much of it to Pakistan. Some of Clinton's
critics are not amused. A.M. Rosenthal, a former editor of the
New York Times recently wrote a strong piece condemning not only
Clinton himself, but the American intellectuals supporting him.
eneath the scandals about the Clinton Administration's betrayal
of democracy in China, its abandonment of Human Rights was an
international priority, its strengthening of Chinese missile
forces with American money and engineering, its acceptance of
campaign funds from Beijing and its carefully blind eye towards
the Chinese sales of nuclear technology that suddenly bring the
threat of war in Asia - beneath all that is the fact that he got
all the help he needed from America's own political, economic and
intellectual leadership, wrote Rosenthal.

Rosenthal called it ppeasement=94, attributed it partly to
Chinese funding of Clinton's campaigning and said that mericans
have the responsibility to remember that even more hurtful to
their country than dirty money, are dirty policies. But Clinton
has shown that he couldn care less.

In fact, what is China's hold on the United States? During
Nixon's time, the United States wanted China's support against
the Soviets and to get into China's good books, Washington did
not mind using the good offices of Pakistan. Now the Soviet Union
is no more. The communist monolith lies shattered. What the
United States now wants is business, if not for anything else, to
compensate for the $50 billion trade surplus that China has by
now amassed, American business circles are hoping to get a
Chinese contract to build 40 nuclear power plants in the course
of the next two decades for some $60 billion. American financial
mouths are already beginning to water.

In order to get those - and other - orders, Washington is showing
itself ready to swallow its pride and its shame and has begun to
build up an image of China that is kind and benevolent -- and
rich, even if facts prove otherwise. It has become accepted
wisdom that China is an economic power in the making and will
become the world's largest economy by the year 2001. Businessmen
are painting at the potential of a market of 1.2 billion

At one point the World Bank had calculated that just about 7 per
cent of the Chinese population was below the poverty line. This
has since been corrected and the latest calculation is that the
proportion of the Chinese population living in poverty is closer
to a third or over 35 per cent. In its issue of October 12, 1996
the London Economist suggested that the date when China becomes
the world's largest economy will have to be put off by at least
another twenty years.

What had happened was that just after private farming was allowed
in China in the early 1980s there was a spurt in prosperity with
farmers vying with each other to produce more for private profit.
But after the first flush of change, things began to slow down.
Because of liberalisation under chairman Deng, a lot of non-
resident Chinese began to invest along the Chinese coast, but
again, the prosperity was noted only on these districts. The gap
between the booming eastern cities and the poorer inland areas

Observers saw only the prosperity. They turned a blind eye to the
dire poverty inland. In 1992, Lawrence Summers, who was the Chief
Economist at the World Bank was arguing that the size of the
Chinese economy had already become reater than that of Germany
and Japan with the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per person based
on the PPP (Purchasing Power Parity) being around $2,500. This
has now been down-sized to $1,800. These figures are, of course,
based on such figures as the Chinese government feels free to
provide. Their accuracy are debatable. But there is none so blind
as those who do not want to see.

The point is that Clinton only wants to believe in Chinese
prosperity, not in its poverty and he has the backing of
businessmen, industrialists and powerful pro-China lobby that has
been substantially financed by Chinese money cleverly funnelled
through innocuous non-resident Chinese into Democratic Party
coffers. What American financiers and industrialist like most
about China is that it is a Communist government which runs a
command economy. There is no such thing as democracy in China.

There are no independent voices to question decisions taken by
state leaders unlike as in India. So, while Americans may pay lip
service to Indian democracy they are more comfortable with
Chinese communism. That is the bare truth. And the fact that as
many as 350 million Chinese live below the poverty line does not
faze them. Their eyes are set on the 650 million who are better

What the Americans are looking for are pliant people willing and
ready to take quick decisions. They understand the Chinese as
they understand the Pakistanis who are accustomed to take orders
in contrast to the Indian with their reputation of talking twenty
to a dozen, wishing to strike a hard bargain. In their anxiety to
make quick money, the Americans are willing to walk that extra
mile with the Chinese in the hope of striking some rich deals.
That will explain Clinton's efforts to please the Chinese and to
offer them even a stake in peace in South Asia where they are not

What the Americans are now setting out to do is what the British,
in their heydey did and the Chinese are smart enough to cash in
on American greed. This is not to Japan's liking. Japan was
America's poodle after the end of the second world war. Now
America's roving eye has shifted to fresh Chinese fields and
pastures. Exactly how long this will last only the good lord

By its actions the United States has shown that it has no
permanent friends, only permanent interests and if these interest
are well-served, the United States will forget all about
democracy, Human Rights and Non-Proliferation. After petting
Japan for fifty years, it is now China's turn to be petted. The
Chinese leaders are no fools: they know how to make hay while the
sun shines.

(The author is a former editor of The Illustrated Weekly of

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