Albright presses China on rights issue
Washington Times Albright presses China on rights issue
5am -- March 2, 1999 Ben Barber
By Ben Barber
THE WASHINGTON TIMES
hina and the United States fenced over human rights during a visit by Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright to Beijing as both countries sought to keep the dispute from souring cooperation on trade, Taiwan, nuclear and missile proliferation, and the Asian economic crisis.
At a news conference yesterday ending her three-day visit, Mrs. Albright said she urged Chinese officials to release political dissidents and ratify human rights covenants, arguing that a freer society is a more stable one.
"It's very important for there to be a change in atmosphere and an end to the crackdown," Mrs. Albright said. "There has to be a release of people."
Mrs. Albright also defended a State Department report that condemned the crackdown on leaders of a banned democratic party and irked China's leadership.
"The United States will never apologize for speaking or publishing the truth," Mrs. Albright said of the report. She said she told Chinese officials, "Societies are more, not less, likely to be stable when citizens have an outlet to express their political views."
However, she said Washington was committed to developing a "strategic partnership" with China. She said U.S. Trade Representative Charlene Barshefsky was coming to China this week with a new proposal for China to join the World Trade Organization.
Joining the WTO would give China low-tariff access to export markets and protect it from sanctions. Last year, the U.S. trade deficit with China hit a record $57 billion.
The United States has increasingly found it difficult to deal with China as it emerged over the past 15 years as one of the world's biggest economies -- growing at 10 percent a year.
Mrs. Albright met separately yesterday with Prime Minister Zhu Rongji, Foreign Minister Tang Jiaxuan, and Vice Prime Minister Qian Qichen. Her spokesman, James P. Rubin, said discussions were "forceful, tough, and there wasn't a lot of agreement."
Mrs. Albright "made clear that the crackdowns, the arrests ... have caused substantial and intense reaction in the United States, and that she is deeply disturbed by these detentions, trials, punishment for these peaceful political activities," he said.
Mrs. Albright's visit comes during a crackdown on dissent that has provoked anti-Chinese sentiment in Congress, which last week approved a unanimous Senate resolution condemning China.
American critics of China's human rights policies are allied with critics of China's forced abortion and sterilization, its nuclear and missile technology sales to rogue states, its construction on disputed South China Sea islands, its threats to take over Taiwan, and its trade policies.
This anti-China coalition is proving a potent roadblock to U.S.-China relations, which both Mrs. Albright and Mr. Tang seemed determined to surmount.
"I arrive here committed to finding ways to move ahead on the many core issues in our relationship," Mrs. Albright said at a news conference with Mr. Tang.
The United States needs Chinese cooperation in four-way peace talks on Korea; curbing missile sales to Iran, Pakistan and North Korea; curbing illegal immigration; not devaluing its currency; and not vetoing -- as it did last week over Macedonia -- U.N. Security Council peacekeeping operations.
Mr. Tang agreed with Mrs. Albright that U.S.-Chinese interests go far beyond disputes over human rights and "should be handled appropriately ... [without] interference in each other's internal affairs."
"A handful of anti-China elements within the United States are going all out to interfere with and obstruct the normal development of China-U.S. relations," said Mr. Tang.
Mrs. Albright said that she "deplored" the recent human rights crackdown but said "we have a multifaceted relationship with China. And we determined some time ago that it was not a good idea to link human rights and trade."
Her talks with Mr. Zhu focused on the possibility of reaching a World Trade Organization agreement with China in time for the premier's visit to Washington in April.
Former National Intelligence Council (NIC) East Asia officer Robert Suettinger, currently with the Brookings Institution, said Asia's economic crisis had dampened China's stunning economic growth, helping to create massive unemployment and social instability.
"It's conceivable that an economic downturn could lead to militant nationalism to distract from domestic troubles," Mr. Suettinger said. In his position at the NIC, part of the CIA, he supervised long-term analyses of China's future that included scenarios of a U.S.-China war.
"The Chinese have stoked up nationalism from time to time," he noted, especially over Taiwan.
The United States is in a jam there because if it acts to defend Taiwan -- as it did by sending aircraft carriers in 1996 during Chinese missile firings near the island -- it only increases Chinese nationalism, said Mr. Suettinger, who previously served in the National Security Council as director of Asian affairs from 1994 to 1997.
Human rights is another issue where U.S. efforts to back dissidents have backfired with a series of arrests since President Clinton's visit to China last June.
China recently arrested China Democracy Party (CDP) and Chinese Human Rights Watch members Xiao Shichang and Chen Zhonghe, who were organizing an aborted democracy forum in Wuhan that was to convene from yesterday to tomorrow.
Instead, the CDP held a secret meeting of about 10 or more activists in a tea shop in Hangzhou, capital city of Zhejiang province, Sunday, said Shengde Lian, executive director of the Free China Movement in Washington.
Albright presses China on rights issue
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