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Jiang's and Hu's China

Page history last edited by Bob Andrian 7 years, 1 month ago

Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao: China and the United States -- 1989-Present


Tiananmen and the Impact on Sino-American Relations


As the 1980s progressed, the People's Republic of China began to move quickly into the arena of global trade and diplomacy. The Chinese successfully negotiated the release of Hong Kong from the British (to take place in 1997 in one of Jiang Zemin's first triumphant acts as the successor to Deng Xiaoping), allowed the People's Liberation Army (PLA) to sell weapons abroad and keep the profits, supplied arms to both Iran and Iraq during that brutal war, sent ballistic missiles to Saudi Arabia, and even entered discussions to provide Syria with missiles with chemical warheads. 


But there was also trouble with China's economic growth in the late 80s. Corruption was rampant especially within the Chinese Communist Party. In the special economic zones (SEZ's) that Deng had set up along the southeast coast of China, getting ahead was much less about merit and much more about about having "connections" or guanxi. Young, increasingly well-educated Chinese, were growing disillusioned about the possibility of ever getting lucrative jobs. Little oil had been discovered off shore (a reality that continues to play out today as China searches the world for oil), Sino-American joint ventures were struggling (e.g. American Motors and Beijing Jeep), and Chinese imports continued to outpace exports.


By early 1989 one could assert that China-U.S. relations were quite healthy in terms of trade and other exchanges. The U.S. was even providing arms to the PRC. By June 5, the day after the Tiananmen Tragedy in Beijing, relations appeared to be at their nadir. Deng Xiaoping the reformer, TIME's Man of the Year only three years ago, had become in the eyes of many in the world Deng the despot crushing human rights. Pressure for sanctions to force Beijing to move towards democracy or risk becoming a pariah in the global community of nations was immediate. Those foreign policy wonks who were more inclined to base policy-making on American national interest rather than morality, believed that continuing to engage China would be the best and most realistic approach to bringing about political liberalization in that country as well continue to put pressure on the Soviet Union.


President George H.W. Bush (a former ambassador to China in the 70s) chose to combine both idealism and realism in the American response to China's crackdown in Tiananmen Square.


we could not look the other way when it came to human rights or political reforms, but we could make plain our views in terms of encouraging their strides of progress (which were many since the death of Mao) rather than unleashing an endless barrage of criticism. ... The question for me was how to condemn what we saw as wrong and react appropriately while also remain engaged with China, even if the relationship must now be "on hold." (Kissinger, 415)



Like many other nations (Japan, the European community, and the G7 Economic Summit (France, Italy, Germany, UK, U.S., Japan, Canada ), the U.S. applied economic, military and diplomatic sanctions on China. Combatively, Deng responded to the G7, "Not even seventy nations can daunt us, let alone seven!" (Qian Qichen, Ten Episodes in China's Diplomacy, 134) Bilateral high-level visits were suspended, arms exported for military or commercial purposes stopped, and new loans halted. At the same time, in a personal letter to Deng Xiaoping, after articulating his respect for Chinese history and culture, the President reminded the Chinese leader of America's commitment to the nation's founding values and inalienable rights. Bush wanted to push Deng to offer some indication that the Chinese government would deal with any future protests nonviolently. Deng's response reveals how much he and the Party hardliners believed that Tiananmen was both an internal matter and a challenge to the political stability of China. U.S. sanctions were not going to help matters.


This was an earthshaking event and it is very unfortunate that the United States is too deeply involved in it. ... We have been feeling since the outset of these events more than two months ago that the various aspects of US foreign policy have actually cornered China. That's the feeling of us here ... because the aim of the counterrevolutionary rebellion [the official government appellation of the Tiananmen protests] was to overthrow the People's Republic of China and our socialist system. If they should succeed in obtaining the aim the world would be a different one. To be frank, this could even lead to war. (Ibid, 419)


A stable China would mean a stable world order and thus challenges to the Party's leadership would lead to chaos, even civil war. Moreover an understanding of China's history was needed to understand its national interest. It did not need instruction from outsiders. 


Since 1840 the chinese people have been subjected to foreign bullying. ... In 1949 Mao said, "the Chinese people have stood up." By standing up he meant the Chinese people were going to enjoy equality with other nations. We don't like to hear that others ask us what to do. But Americans tend to like to ask others to do this or that. The Chinese people do not want to yield to the instructions of others. (Ibid, 424.)


The U.S. countered that progress in universal human rights in China would allow for mutual national interest. Principles and power and profits and protection and prestige could come together for both countries. In late 1989, not surprisingly, relations had deteriorated. The case of the Chinese astrophysicist Fang Lizhi would not help matters.




Fang was an ardent proponent of free speech, press and assembly and his advocacy cost him his position as president of the Chinese University of Science and Technology. He was unhappy both with China's violations of human rights and the world's seeming indifference to those abuses. During the Tiananmen crackdown, Fang and wife managed to take refuge in the American embassy. To the Chinese, Fang was a wanted criminal; to the Americans he was "a living symbol of the conflict with China over human rights." (Ibid, 429) Deng feared that if Fang were allowed to leave the embassy he would flee the country and agitate for the overthrow of the Party outside of China. Such fears were certainly not unfounded. The Berlin Wall had fallen and in short order so would Soviet communism in eastern Europe, not to mention Russia itself.


The diplomatic impasse would not be concluded until June of 1990. China had proposed a "package deal" whereby Fang and his wife would be allowed to leave China for the United States, and the U.S. in turn would announce that sanctions on China would be ended soon. The Americans preferred that these two issues be treated separately.


The incident should be viewed in larger contexts. The U.S. was beginning to insist that the China make progress on human rights before it be granted "Most Favored Nation" status (which would allow China to benefit from low tariffs on Chinese exports). And, with communist governments collapsing in eastern Europe, many in the U.S. imagined that the CCP was in a precarious position and could be next. After all, only Cuba, Vietnam and North Korea remained as the last outposts of a a discredited ideology.


Moreover, many Chinese had fled to safer havens to begin to agitate for political reform. The Dalai Lama had just been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize and was opining about more Tibetan autonomy. Thus to an extent, Deng and his comrades did have the sense of China's being encircled once again. It was time to be patient, keep a low profile, and "hide our capacities."


The end of the Cold War meant that the tri-polar realpolitik among the U.S., USSR and China no longer had validity. There was no need, for example, for the U.S. to have a "China card" in the deck any more. The fall of communism in Russia, led by Gorbachev's twin policies of glasnost (openness or political democracy) followed by perestroika (restructuring or economic reform), allowed the U.S. to grow bolder as the only remaining superpower in the world. As Francis Fukuyama later argued, the "end of history" was upon the world. Democracy had reigned supreme, and as a political and economic ideology, it needed to be spread to those nations who had not yet benefitted from its practices. (American neo-conservatives heartily agreed, with costly results.)


Needless to say, the Chinese leadership did not agree with Fukuyama's "romantic" assessment, despite the fall of the Soviet Union and the Communist bloc. The continued existence of "authoritarian resilience"---CCP driven capitalist growth along with a most adaptive and opportunistic Party organization, which continues to this day---served to question whether "democratization was always an essential partner to market driven growth and national development." Indeed in reflecting about the underlying lessons to be drawn from examining modern Chinese history, Orville Schell and John DeLury note that


China's modern thinkers and leaders, smarting from the precipitous decline and foreign incursion, had their own more immediate and urgent goal, namely, the restoration of national wealth, power and greatness. ... Nationalism, it turned out, was fed by stronger and more inexhaustible tributaries of sentiment than was constitutionalism and democracy, and they bubbled up from deep wellsprings of emotions generated by China's painful historical experience. (Wealth and Power, 395-96) 



Deng Xiaoping was all about implementing socialist democracy in an economic sense and not a pluralistic one. There would be no Chinese Gorbachev. Deng wanted China to emulate the development of the "Four Little Dragons" in Asia: Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan, and South Korea. Deng's successor, Jiang Zemin, a technocrat, was like-minded. He also understood China was part of a global system, where in Chinese eyes China and the U.S. should be viewed as equals; indeed all countries should be seen as equals in a world where the balance of power among nations was rooted in a doctrine of state sovereignty. Such sovereignty could take precedence over universal norms. Accordingly the Chinese saw the American insistence on a universal conception of human rights (one did exist in the form of a United Nations declaration from 1948) applied to China as unacceptable. 


The Chinese did develop the habit, however, of releasing dissidents from prison to coincide with high-level visits of Western foreign dignitaries or whenever it might enhance their global, public image. Thus, in 1993, just prior to the announcement of which city would win the 2000 summer Olympics bid, China let free their most prominent democracy advocate, Wei Jinsheng, who had been jailed for 14 years for threatening the stability of the state. After China very narrowly lost the privilege of hosting the Olympic games to Sydney, Wei was arrested again after publishing an essay that appeared as an op-ed piece in the New York Times, entitled "The Wolf and the Lamb." In the essay based on the Aesop fable, Wei argued that whatever reasoning the American "lamb" used to justify its innocence (its own and that of Chinese dissidents), the Chinese "wolf" knew exactly what it was doing in "depriving the people of their freedom" (eating the lamb). So, "after the wolf accuses the lamb of fouling his drinking water, the lamb protests: 'I could not have fouled your water because I live downstream from you.' The wolf eats the lamb anyway." (Spence, 713)

Wei Jinsheng



Wei was rearrested and finally deported from China in 1997 after Deng Xiaoping's death.


On the other hand, China's commitment to the independence of each nation in the world meant that it did not support Iraq's invasion of Kuwait in 1990. China's foreign minister, Qian Qichen, labelled Saddam Hussein an "adventurer," and was not swayed when he tried to convince Qian that Kuwait had always been part of Iraq just as Hong Kong had been part of China. Although the Chinese did not vote in favor the UN Resolution to use "all necessary means" to restore Kuwait's sovereignty as a nation, they did not vote against it either. China's abstention was a clear indication of its tacit acquiescence of the United States efforts in the region. The U.S. needed China's cooperation and received it.


The Bill Clinton-Jiang Zemin Years


During the Clinton Administration, relations between the U.S. and China improved overall, but were often sidetracked by polemical rhetoric on both sides. The "most-favored-nation" trading status for China, the American moral support for the Dalai Lama, another crisis in the Taiwan Strait, allegations that China was violating international agreements by selling nuclear technology to Pakistan and Iran, Chinese indignity at losing out on the 2000 Olympics bid, and U.S. support for prominent Chinese dissidents all were issues of contention.


After the Gulf War, China complained of growing U.S. hegemony and stressed the need for the PLA to modernize more rapidly in the event of a possible confrontation.  In response to U.S. positions, the Chinese "shadowed American warships in the Yellow Sea region with nuclear-powered submarines, persecuted ... Chinese Christians, re-arrested and resentenced many of the 1989 dissidents, ... [and] purchased large quantities of Russian fighters and transport planes ..." (Spence, 718)


But, as Jonathan Spence notes, the 90s brought on a sense of rising expectations for the Chinese as well as a growing awareness of the Party's past hyprocrisy. New films, for example, looked at the bitter suffering of the past under Communist Party rule. Chinese rock and rap music burst onto the scene with biting satire. 


A wry joke circulating in China [captured the mood]: after shouting in the streets that Premier Li Peng was a "melonhead," a Chinese man was arrested and sentenced to twenty years in prison. The sentence was arrived at by combining two separate charges: one of five years for the expression of counterrevolutionary sentiments, and one of fifteen years for revealing state secrets. (Ibid.)


When Bill Clinton took office in 1992, he took issue with how his predecessor had "coddled" China when it came to human rights. In a speech to the United Nations in 1993, he emphasized the importance of spreading market-based, "thriving" democracies around the world. China saw Clinton's human rights push as interference in its internal affairs, not unlike what had occurred during the century of humiliation. The Chinese view of the world, based on demographic realities---the population of China was more than the population of the U.S. and the Soviet Union, Europe and Japan combined---was multi-polar not unipolar. In considering the areas of the U.S.-China relationship that needed to be improved (human rights, weapons technology transfer, and trade), the Chinese premier Li Peng had stated,


we can talk about human rights. But because of major differences between us, I doubt major progress is possible. The concept of human rights involves traditions and moral and philosophial values. These are different in China than in the West. We believe that the Chinese people should have more democratic rights and play a more important role in domestic politics. But this should be done in a way acceptable to the Chinese people. (Kissinger, 464)


The legacy of Tiananmen pushed Clinton in 1993 to give China one year to fix their human rights situation or else lose their "most-favored-nation" status. In addition, discussions to allow China into the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trades (the future World Trade Organization or WTO) stalled; and many Congressmen spoke out against China's attempt to receive the Olympic bid, which the Chinese lost by vote. China was especially put off by the linkage of MFN to their human rights record and let the U.S. know in no uncertain terms that China's human rights policy was none of the Americans' business, and that furthermore, the U.S. had human rights problems of its own to deal with.


As the decade wore on, Clinton, not entirely wedded to idealism in his conception of foreign policy, softened and abandoned preconditions for renewing MFN for China (Congress did not.) On their part, the Chinese realized they needed continuing U.S. support for their economic reforms and membership in the WTO. So talks resumed, tensions thawed somewhat, and though threats did not entirely disappear, they were merged with a degree of cooperation. President Jiang Zemin visited Washington in 1997, and Clinton went to Beijing the following year. And of course, the Taiwan question resurfaced.


Lee Teng-hui, Taiwan's first directly elected president



When Chiang Kai-shek's son, the President of Taiwan, died in 1988, Lee Teng-hui was the Vice President. In 1994 the Taiwanese constitution was amended to allow for the direct election of the President in the 1996 election. The American educated Lee (M.A. at Iowa State University and Ph.D. in economics from Cornell) wanted to visit the United States in 1995 and deliver an alumni reunion lecture at Cornell. China's foreign minister, Qian Qichen, had been promised by his counterpart, Warren Christopher, that no visa would be granted to Lee, but in an about face, (Clinton was under great pressure from Congress, not to mention Cornell), a visa was indeed granted, and the Chinese felt betrayed.


Worse, Lee, whom Kissinger describes as a Taiwanese person first and Chinese second, gave a speech, titled "Always in My Heart," that not so subtlety alluded to the benefits of Taiwan's independence from China. On his way back to Taiwan, Lee claimed he could buy back Taiwan's membership in the United Nations for $1 billion. In 1994 Taiwan had made a $4.5 million gift to Cornell in Lee's name. As Qian points out, "Taiwan spares no expense to invite American officials at all levels to visit; and it offers substantial funds to American think tanks, universities and research institutes to influence public opinion and decision-making."  (Qian, 245)





                                      http://www.cnn.com/WORLD/9603/china_taiwan/christopher_china/index.html          http://www.cnn.com/WORLD/9603/china_taiwan/christopher_china/index.html


In addition to recalling its ambassador and to suspending high-level visits and talks about various issues including nuclear non-proliferation, China sent missiles into the Taiwan strait and did so again just before Taiwan's presidential election in 1996. The U.S. sent its aircraft carriers to the Strait, but at the same time insisted it had not changed its one-China policy and told the Chinese to tone down the rhetoric. Favoring coexistence and renewed cooperation over combativeness, President Clinton reiterated the "Three Nos" position during his visit to China in 1998: NO support for Taiwan's independence, NO support for "two Chinas," and NO support for Taiwan's entry into any international organization of other states. 


A major confrontation between China and the U.S. broke out in 1999 during the Kosovo war when the U.S. bombed the Chinese embassy in Belgrade, killing three and wounding 21 Chinese. The attack fueled Chinese nationalism and violent demonstrations in many Chinese cities occurred. In Beijing a poll among university students revealed that 70% believed the bombing had been deliberate. A nationalistic poem was telling.


When we are wearing Pierre Cardin and Nike

When we are driving Cadillacs, Lincolns, and going to

     KFC and McDonald's

Do we have a clear conscience?


Can we still find glory by using foreign products?


(Westad, Restless Empire, 398) 



As the new millennium arrived, paradoxes could be found in the Sino-American relationship.


On the one hand, the two countries were growing ever more similar and contacts between them were more extensive that ever before. On the other Chinese nationalism was on the rise, with US policies as its particular target, while American concern about the nature of China's political system was increasing. With the Soviet Union gone, Chinese leaders felt that the West's suspicions about all forms of Communist rule had been automatically transferred to them, in spite of all they had done to conform to a Western-led international economy. On the American side, the CCP regime's human rights record and its policies in Tibet came to overshadow much of the epochal transformation that was happening in the Chinese economy. Within China the singular preoccupation with American technologies, style, music, and education continued to overwhelm all impulses that came from elsewhere, but on the international scene the two states increasingly saw each other as rivals. (Westad, 396) 



During the time of Jiang Zemin's leadership of the Party, (officially 1997-2005, but realistically 1992 onward), China continued its impressive economic growth and stability. It escaped the Asian financial crisis, and by the late 90s had two major nuclear power plants, $30 billion in U.S. foreign exchange reserves, and a minimum 7% GDP annual growth rate. By 2000, average income was three times the level in 1978, the U.S. trade deficit was $20 billion, Hong Kong had been returned to China as well as Macao, and the PLA was purchasing tanks and air defense missile systems from Russia. The following year would see China get the right to host the 2008 Olympics and become a WTO member (even as the government had to open up all of its foreign markets to foreign imports and capital). Growing economic interdependence with the U.S would continue as would Chinese investment in U.S. treasury bonds and Chinese goods exported to the United States. More and more Chinese businessmen and entrepreneurs were welcomed into the Communist Party.


Significantly Jiang understood that a stable international order depended on Chinese-American cooperation even when it came to Taiwan and even with such ideological differences. In a meeting with the America-China Society in the spring of 2001, Jiang stated,


Simply put, the West is best advised to set aside its past attitude toward communist countries, and we should stop talking about communism in naive or simplistic ways. Deng famously said in his 1992 trip to the South [southern China] that socialism will take generations, scores of generations. I am an engineer. I calculated that there have been 78 generations from Confucius until now. ... On your point about value systems, East and West must improve mutual understanding. Perhaps I am being a bit naive. (Ibid, 485.)


Kissinger, who was at the meeting, posed the key questions afterwards, 


Was China a partner or an adversary [or both]? Was the future cooperation or confrontation? Was the American mission the spread of democracy to China, or cooperation with China to bring about a peaceful world? Or was it possible to do both? (Ibid, 486)


"9/11" brought China's sympathy and support in many ways including intelligence to help root out terrorism even as China and the U.S. did not necessarily agree on how to combat that monumental security threat. China did not support the Iraq War but essentially stood on the sidelines. On the long-standing issue of Taiwan, President Bush agreed with the Chinese policy that for the first time emphasized peaceful reunification with Taiwan and the implementation of a "one country--two systems" political and economic model like that of Hong Kong. On the other hand, China believed it must be wary as long as the United States continued to supply arms to Taiwan.


With the emergence of President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiaobo in 2005, China's foreign policy had reached a new level. What had begun with Mao's unwavering ideology of continuous revolution, which had yielded a combative coexistence mentality, and then had moved to Deng's pragmatism, and then to Jiang's cooperative coexistence, had now morphed into a policy conducted on the basis of actual power. China was no longer in the shadow of the United States, but an equal power. As Foreign Minister Qian asserted in late 2002,


... I believe that, as long as our overall national strength continues to grow, Sino-American relations will change in our favor. Furthermore, there will be a multipolar world structure and democratic international relations. All countries should handle their internal affairs independently, and their international affairs should be settled through consultations. Of course, some Americans disagree. They put forward a theory of the "clash of civilizations", imagining various confrontations between China and the United States. But they are not the mainstream and are opposed by insightful Americans. The U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell once said that they were not afraid of a modernized China, and called for more military exchanges between the two countries. (Qian, 321) 


Premier Wen Jiaobo and President Hu Jintao 



In a speech entitled "Build Towards a Harmonious World of Lasting Peace and Common Prosperity" at the U.N. in September, 2005, Hu reaffirmed the concept of China as a responsible stakeholder in world affairs.


China will, as always, abide by the purposes and principles of the U.N. charter, actively participate in international affairs and fulfill its international obligations, and work with other countries in building towards a new international political and economic order that is fair and rational. The Chinese nation loves peace. China's development, instead of hurting or threatening anyone, can only serve peace, stability, and common prosperity in the world. (Kissinger, 500) 


Harmony at home and abroad, assistance to the developing world, access to raw materials, and good relations with the United States were stated Chinese goals. Even having the world understand more about Chinese culture was part of foreign policy. In the last six years, China has established Confucius Institutes in various places around the world and the United States. At home there has been a Confucian revival of sorts, though how much Confucian thought will provide some ideological glue for the Chinese is uncertain.


And yet differences will remain between China and the United States. In the economic sphere, it may very well make sense from the American perspective that the Chinese should consume more and export less. The issue is purely an economic one. By the same token, the loss of American jobs is tied to the supposed manipulation of the Chinese currency. But the Chinese see these issues in terms of threats to the political and social order. Reduced exports and the sudden emergence of bankrupt companies, potentially followed by political and social unrest due to the revaluation of the renminbi, are what the Chinese are trying to avoid.


In terms nuclear of non-proliferation as it concerns North Korea, the Chinese are worried both about the possibility of the state collapsing, which could ultimately lead to border issues, and other nations in the region desiring to acquire nuclear weapons if the North Koreans continue to develop them.


Given the financial meltdowns in the United States and Europe in the last few years, the questioning of the merits of unbridled, unregulated American capitalism, the burdens of two American wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the immense success of the Beijing Olympics in terms of projecting China's prestige, one might argue that we have been seeing the reemergence of "Zhongguoism" and the termination once and for all of the legacy of the Opium War. Kissinger points to the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics, which made Chinese civilization "the focus of awe and admiration."



In the final part of his superb book, On China, Henry Kissinger considers whether China will view the United States as an adversary or as a global partner, whether China's goal is to displace the U.S. as the number one power in the world economically and militarily or to seek common goals of cooperation with the United States that will make China's rise a peaceful one. What form(s)---economic, cultural, military---will China's emerging "Zhongguoism" take on in the 21st century in both a regional and global context? 


China as a World Power: Internal Discourse

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