|CAPITALISTS AT THE GATES|
March 26, 1997
Vice President Al Gore has wrapped up his visit to the People's Republic of China. He called on Chinese leaders to allow more U.S. access to the huge Chinese market. Following a background report by Charles Krause, Jim Lehrer leads a discussion with Kenneth Lieberthal, professor of political science at the University of Michigan, and Jim Mann, columnist for The Los Angeles Times.
JIM LEHRER: Now, two views of the Gore trip. Professor Lieberthal, what do you think the Vice President means when he says it would be serious, indeed, if these charges of--charges that China attempted to influence the U.S. elections were true?
KENNETH LIEBERTHAL, University of Michigan: Well, clearly, if those charges prove to be true, then the Vice President is going to have to deal with the domestic political situation that will really hamper Sino-U.S. relations. There are investigations going on up on the Hill. If those investigations uncover criminal behavior by the Chinese, I think that this White House is going to have a difficult time getting way out in front on China policy, trying to advance the relationship in a serious fashion this year.
JIM LEHRER: So as a practical matter, Jim Mann, would that just end the current Clinton policy of engaging the Chinese?
JIM MANN, Los Angeles Times: That's--only the Clinton people can decide whether they're going to end the policy of engagement. I think it would affect--it would tremendously damage efforts by the Clinton administration to get China into the World Trade Organization to grant permanent Most Favored Nation status for China. Those are two of the lynchpins of their policy of engagement. And I don't--I don't think that they're going to be able to persuade Capitol Hill to approve those.
JIM LEHRER: If these charges turn out to be--
JIM MANN: Correct.
JIM LEHRER: --turn out to be true. All right. The other--let's take some of the major elements of this trip in addition to this, as Charles Krause said. The trade thing, Prof. Lieberthal, and the access to Chinese markets, do you think that the Vice President made some progress there?
KENNETH LIEBERTHAL: By all accounts he did. Certainly his rhetoric after the meeting suggested he was very encouraged by what he heard in China. I think the key here, though, is focusing on WTO entry.
JIM LEHRER: World Trade Organization.
KENNETH LIEBERTHAL: World Trade Organization. Right.
JIM LEHRER: Right.
KENNETH LIEBERTHAL: We're in a very active negotiation with the Chinese over the conditions of their entry. And we've taken a pretty tough line on their having to meet real commercial requirements. I believe the Vice President felt encouraged by what he heard in China. If they meet the requirements that we've laid out, we will get very substantially greater access to their markets as a consequence.
JIM LEHRER: Yeah. Jim Mann, how would you describe what the problem is, I mean, what the access problems are in general terms right now?
JIM MANN: The problems in access to China's market are that American companies usually have to do business with Chinese through Chinese state trading agencies. They can't simply go into the China market and sell on their own. Secondly, China has a whole series of non-tariff barriers, as they're called, to doing business in China. There are all sorts of regulations to prevent companies from simply going in and setting up shop there.
JIM LEHRER: Now, so how do you interpret what the Vice President said about that today?
JIM MANN: Well, he seems to think that China is prepared to grant greater access to its market. American trade negotiators have been working on this as well. We will see. There seems to be a deadline of the fall when President Jiang Zemin may be coming to Washington. We're hoping to get a trade agreement by that time. I think what they're--the biggest question mark is whether they're going to get public and congressional support to do this.
JIM LEHRER: For them to come into the World Trade Organization?
JIM MANN: Right. To finish this whole package.
JIM LEHRER: And if they don't come into the World Trade--would you agree with Professor Lieberthal, that if the World Trade Organization thing doesn't come off, there isn't going to be access, any special new access to the Chinese market by United States companies?
JIM MANN: That's right. There are two points to make here. One is the requirement to use state trading companies to access the Chinese market will be removed as part of the condition of their entering WTO. That's illustrative of the kind of changes that will take place. Secondly, if we negotiate an agreement with China and then that agreement proves politically not sustainable up on Capitol Hill, it will be enormously damaging to our relationship with China. The Chinese simply won't trust either our goodwill or our ability to sustain a serious relationship. So this is really high stakes business.
JIM LEHRER: Yeah. And speaking of high stakes business, Jim Mann, you mentioned the trip that's supposed to happen this fall, the President of China coming here. Is that kind of debate for both of these issues, the fund-raising problem, as well as the trade problem, that if those things turn out sour, there isn't going to be any trip here in the fall?
JIM MANN: There's a third element we haven't mentioned.
JIM LEHRER: All right.
JIM MANN: And that's Hong Kong.
JIM LEHRER: Sure.
JIM MANN: China will retake--will regain sovereignty over Hong Kong in July. And that--and for there to be a summit administration officials have suggested that that needs to go well. So there are several--several things that need to happen before a summit can take place. But it's clear that this Gore trip was designed to pave the way for a summit.
JIM LEHRER: And prepared to say okay, fellows, you want a summit, here's what these three areas and maybe some more, there's got to be some movement, is that how you read it?
JIM MANN: Yeah. I don't know what was said in private. I have to assume--I certainly hope that there was more said in private by Vice President Gore than in public. The administration seems to be buying into this same old idea that all diplomacy should be--particularly with China--should be behind closed doors; that China can't be criticized very much in public. Now, if this produces results, fine. I think the emphasis should be on the results. In the past, the--moving all diplomacy into closed-door diplomacy has sometimes meant the concerns like human rights are dropped.
JIM LEHRER: Yeah. Do you have a problem about the closed door way of diplomacy with China, Professor Lieberthal?
KENNETH LIEBERTHAL: Well, actually I don't. I think that doing everything in public which inevitably requires essentially humiliating or criticizing the Chinese publicly is not a terribly effective way to get things done with them as a whole. Some things have to be done publicly but you have to have the private part of the relationship in order to build the kind of trust that can move it forward. So I think, you know, you can always quibble about the balance, but just standing off and criticizing from abroad and expecting to make progress is not going to produce the kind of results you want.
JIM LEHRER: How do you feel about the--the summit trip being used as bait for getting some other things done?
KENNETH LIEBERTHAL: I think summits always are in a sense used as bait. You want--
JIM LEHRER: There must be another word. Come up with a diplomatic word for me.
JIM MANN: Incentive.
JIM LEHRER: Incentive. Incentive. Jim Mann says incentive.
KENNETH LIEBERTHAL: I was about to try to move to that.
JIM LEHRER: Okay.
KENNETH LIEBERTHAL: Summits are a good opportunity to say that by Date X we have to have some deliverables here, and we're going to be looking at the following issues to have a comfort level that lets us move ahead.
JIM LEHRER: Do you agree with Jim Mann that Hong Kong in July, the turnover there has got to go well if there's going to be a meeting here in the fall as well?
KENNETH LIEBERTHAL: I think it cannot go disastrously. It has to go reasonably well. If it doesn't go reasonably well, it'll be politically almost impossible to welcome Jiang Zemin to Washington sometime this fall.
JIM LEHRER: Yeah. I'm now going to ask Jim Mann a question while you put that thing back in your ear, okay? All right. The human rights thing, how did you feel about that and what the Vice President said publicly, what has supposedly been done? He also said, which was not on this clip that we ran, that he said the U.S. voices on human rights are not being muted, he said the answers, the responses that he received this time were a little less muted than he had heard from these same leaders in the past. In other words, what's your reaction?
JIM MANN: That's a pretty low standard. He was raked over the coals by Li Peng the last time--the premier of China the last time he raised these issues in Copenhagen. I was surprised that there are several things that he didn't say. It seemed to be a fairly gentle treatment. He never, as far as I know, at least in public didn't raise the issue of Hong Kong. He didn't stop in Hong Kong on this trip, something that I might have thought he would do.
JIM LEHRER: And that--we ought to explain the reason that's tied into the--the human rights, Hong Kong has a human rights element to it because the fear is--
JIM MANN: The fear is that despite the guarantees in the 1984 agreement, that China would respect Hong Kong's way of life for the next 50 years, the fear is the people in Hong Kong will have no more civil liberties than do people in China.
JIM LEHRER: Yes, go ahead.
KENNETH LIEBERTHAL: If I can comment briefly, I was just out in Hong Kong. I think the people in Hong Kong see this issue very differently from the way Jim Mann just expressed it and the way it's expressed often in the United States. They think China has absolutely every incentive to make this work. Their fear is not that China is going to come in there and impose a Chinese system; they aren't. The question is whether China knows enough about Hong Kong and understands it enough to manage the issue well. And on that there are real concerns. So the issue here is not really Chinese malice or desire to subvert Hong Kong. It's Chinese desire to make Hong Kong a success but maybe not having the skills to do it as well as we would like.
JIM LEHRER: Yes.
JIM MANN: You can call it malice or not. Maybe it's inadvertent. But if China doesn't know and doesn't understand what a free press is, then the result is going to be the same, with or without malice.
JIM LEHRER: All right. Finally and generally, do you think the Gore trip was worthy and, and worthwhile, and good for the United States, Jim Mann?
JIM MANN: I think I should say first that I don't know what it takes--it sometimes takes weeks or months to see the results. But from what I've seen so far, it looks like a return to the old style of diplomacy with China, a return to the 70's, 80's, where China is treated with a certain mystique and uniqueness that other countries don't get. And--
JIM LEHRER: Different standards?
JIM MANN: Yeah, exactly.
JIM LEHRER: Kenneth Lieberthal?
KENNETH LIEBERTHAL: I would have to disagree with that. I think it reflects a return to normalcy in our relationship with China. Where our leaders are able to talk with their leaders, we're able to discuss issues that divide us, as well as common interests, review this overall strategic situation, try to move a difficult relationship forward. That's not special treatment. That's the way one conducts diplomacy with anyone that wants to have a reasonably decent relationship with.
JIM LEHRER: Do you think the relationship is better off for Vice President Gore having gone?
KENNETH LIEBERTHAL: Yes, I do, in that his going is part of a process of normalizing Sino-U.S. relations. That doesn't mean caving into China. It just means dealing with them in an effective fashion. So, yes, I think it was necessary. And from what I know about it to this point, I think it was reasonably successful.
JIM LEHRER: The jury's still out from your point of view, Jim Mann?
JIM MANN: Yeah. Mr. Lieberthal can say we treat China as we would another country. You compare this to the sorts of business that were made with us to Moscow. President Reagan met with dissidents in Moscow. Vice President Nixon had a kitchen debate. You don't see the same style here.
JIM LEHRER: All right. Well, thank you both very much.