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20th June 1999

Global Change - The China Factor

By Mervyn de Silva

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Who said the Cold War was over? Wake up, Walter Lippman, the Clinton administration has accused China of stealing American nuclear technology. This grave charge has been made after the discovery of serious security lapses at US weapon laboratories and lax controls on export of American dual-use equipment exposed by the COX Committee.

But China has ignored the absurd allegations.

These failings are just the latest symptoms of the deep muddle that American-China policy is in. The White House wants cautiously to engage Beijing but is hampered as it approaches the election, by fears of a backlash from Congress and public opinion. This explains the debacle over China's trade concessions for membership of the world trade organisation, the US mishandling of its response to the bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade and why it has now fumbled the spying scandal, observed the London Times.

Mr. Clinton can tell himself his second four year term will close soon but what of his party, his party bosses and the aspirant candidates at the next election? Considering the scandals Clinton and the White House have had to face, he seems to have some moral and political obligations.

The major issue involves American policy in Asia and particularly Japan, China and India. And India means South Asia the Indo-Pakistani confrontation over Kashmir.

A few years back, American policy was affected by the harrowing conflict in Vietnam. Commentators were often tempted to speak of a "Vietnam Syndrome".

In a study published by the prestigious International Institute for Strategic Studies (I.I.S.S) on American Security Policy in Asia by Leslie Brown, a former Director at the Office of International Security Policy Bureau of Politico Military Affairs at the US State Dept., one can assume that the Sino-Soviet dispute is fundamentally irreconcilable - and there are many who believe it is then American objectives regarding China are largely met.

Dr. Brown underestimated Beijing's long term objectives vis-a-vis Taiwan, a province of China for centuries. Taiwan has never survived as a politically independent country nor was it recognized as an independent state by China. How so? The answer is obvious. The United States not only recognised Taiwan but guaranteed its illegal assistance with the permanent presence of the mighty American Navy in the straits. For China any Chinese leadership, communist or not, which compromises this question, will surely face a popular rebellion.

"If we can assume that the Sino-Soviet ideological conflict is fundamentally irreconcilable (and there are many who believe that is) then American objectives regarding China are largely met. But this is a large assumption. If it is wrong and if post-Mao and post-Brezhnev, result in broad common interests, an accommodation is likely.

Yes, such a perception did in fact lead to a Beijing-Moscow rapprochement. It is the self-confidence of this changing relationship that radically altered the global power structure. American pre- eminence cannot affect the consequences of this change. President Clinton did not decide to visit China before the Chinese leader made an official visit to the United Nations, New York and Washington and the United States. Chinese psychology and official behaviour patterns are firmly founded on Chinese religion and philosophy, communism notwithstanding.

As the only superpower in the world after the disintegration of the former Soviet Union, the United States posed itself as the winner of the cold war and has tried to establish a sole polarization under its leadership. However, this goes against the increasing multi- polarization.

This process of multi-polarisation is sponsored by China, Russia and France and favoured by Germany and Japan.

Hulftsdorp Hill

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