May 10, 1999
Who is to blame for NATO's accidental bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade and what effect will the bombing affect U.S.-Sino relations? Margaret Warner discusses the bombing with a panel of intelligence and China experts.
MARGARET WARNER: Three more views on the fallout from the embassy bombing. James Woolsey was Director of Central Intelligence in the first two years of the Clinton administration. He is now a lawyer in Washington. Orville Schell, a China scholar and journalist, has written extensively on that country. He's coeditor of The China Reader, a compilation of Chinese documents dating from 1972. He's also dean of the Journalism School at the University of California at Berkeley. And Douglas Paal was senior director for Asian affairs at the National Security Council during the Bush administration. He is founder and president of the Asia Pacific Policy Center. Welcome, gentlemen.
|Interpreting China's statements.|
Woolsey, how do you interpret the ambassador's
reaction to Jim's question, particularly his statement that no one
who is serious can believe this explanation that this was an accident?
JAMES WOOLSEY: Well, this was a terrible and tragic mistake that the United States government made, but the Chinese ambassador and Chinese government are milking it for everything it's worth. They're trying to lay down a marker with respect to our not protecting Taiwan. They're trying to be aggressively offensive to take people's minds off their ethnic cleansing in Tibet. And that performance that we just saw to me that maybe we should calling him "Chi-Coms" again. I mean, this was right out of the Cultural Revolution - agitprop nonsense.
MARGARET WARNER: And as former director of the CIA, do you find the explanations that we heard so far about what happened, do you find them plausible? What would you add to what Secretary Cohen and John Barry added in the way of explanation?
JAMES WOOLSEY: The only thing I'd add is that I believe the initial mistake in identifying the building probably came from some combination of the CIA and this new mapping agency that was created in 1996, that took the CIA's former people that did imagery analysis and put them in this defense agency. I think the database confusion is more likely to be something inside the Defense Department. I understand that the Defense Intelligence Agency and the National Imagery and Mapping Agency, both Defense Department agencies, are sort of pointing the fingers at one another. But clearly, this map was not updated properly, and the databases were not updated properly.
This is our second big mistake with maps in the recent past. We saw the one on the lead-in in the news, the terrible event in Italy some months ago. It seems to me we ought to get a handle on the way we update our maps and databases. And that's not really a CIA job.
MARGARET WARNER: Doug Paal, your reaction to Jim's interview with Ambassador Li and what you heard.
DOUGLAS PAAL: I think the ambassador and his bosses in Beijing are trying to balance twin requirements. One the one hand, they want to contain the bilateral relationship. He may have seemed abusive of the hospitality with the responses he gave to Jim in the Q&A. He was trying to set a marker that's easily achievable. He was not putting impossible demands on us; he was saying get this investigation over, and we'll start to make up on this relationship. The leaders in Beijing have been confronted with a genuine debate in Beijing over whether the Kosovo action should be supported or criticized. This debate has been going on for a couple of months as the buildup occurred and now during the bombing.
In each case, where there has been a decision to be made, the Chinese have leaned Leaders Jiang Zemin and Zhu Rongji, especially, have leaned toward keeping the US relationship open. Then they came to the US -- Premier Zhu -- recently. And we had a World Trade Organization -proposal for membership, which the United States rejected. They've had a series of embarrassments over the last couple of months in handling the US, and they're trying to keep themselves from being swamped by the opposition in China who says get a tougher line on the US So, they're putting up a tough front now - I think -- to buy themselves some maneuvering room.
|Are the protests genuine?|
|MARGARET WARNER: Orville Schell, how do you explain also
now the reaction we're seeing in China? You heard Ambassador Li say this
public outpouring was completely genuine, did not need to be, as he said,
mobilized by the government.
ORVILLE SCHELL: Well, I think, indeed, the outpouring of sentiment is genuine. But I think it's also being allowed by the government. I think it would behoove all Americans to, indeed, express profound sense of regret at this really horrible tragedy. But what impresses me about what Ambassador Li said and, indeed, what I heard from several friends in Beijing last night was the unwillingness to believe that this could have been an accident. And I think what we see happening is that this act, this tragedy is evoking and exciting a long, historical sensitivity to the notion that the West has often been a predator in China, has often preyed upon China and aggressed on China. These are very, very deep-seated feelings. They are very dangerous feelings. And I think the government might want to be extremely careful about exciting them and riding them because ultimately they could be quite uncontrollable. We've seen this happen many times in Chinese history. And it's all very understandable. But it, unfortunately, is an extremely emotional reaction and may in the end, end up in a greater tragedy, which is the tragedy of a greatly debilitated Sino-American relationship. And, indeed, it could play into domestic Chinese politics in a way that the party and government would not be very happy to see.
MARGARET WARNER: Doug Paal that gets to the question again that Jim asked the ambassador several times, why would the Chinese either government or people, think that the United States would ever do this intentionally?
DOUGLAS PAAL: Well, they've seen a pattern. This is a Chinese point of view, not mine.
MARGARET WARNER: Yes.
DOUGLAS PAAL: But they've seen a pattern recently of an expansion of NATO's areas of operation into areas of sensitivity to China, like human rights and humanitarian issues within borders, not across borders. They've also seen in the last two weeks, an expansion in the U.S.-Japan alliance. They with their concerns that have percolated through our relationship for the last decade are -- see an American effort to detain China, to deny them their greatness, which they think they've earned through economic reform and other kinds of sacrifice. And when they see something as direct as three targeted bombs hit their embassy in Belgrade, their first instinct is to think this is part of the grander conspiracy.
|A boon for China's hard-liners?|
MARGARET WARNER: Jim Woolsey, why would it be in the Chinese government's sort of national interest or interest right now to at least encourage these demonstration, to permit them, to by some accounts, fan them, enable them?
JAMES WOOLSEY: Well, I think they may feel they don't have a great deal to lose now. I think President Clinton made a big mistake in not recognizing the substantial concessions that Zhu Rongji made on the World Trade Organization in negotiations when he was here, and by not going along with that, even after those substantial concessions, he weakened the position of those in China who would like to work with us. And now in the present circumstances the things that we do just because we're Americans, stand up for human rights and the like, do cause trouble for the Chinese government because the Chinese government is terrible on human rights issues. And I think they're laying down this marker particularly with regard to Taiwan. I think they want to let us know that this province of Serbia into which we are intruding ourselves by way of trying to protect the human rights of the Kosovars is not some analogy in the future they would like to see for our helping protect Taiwan. President Clinton also backed off the "fourth no" sometime back -- some months ago, he did not recognize that there should be no force used in the Taiwan Straits, as previous presidents have. And I think that may have also encouraged the Chinese government a little bit on pressing on these issues.
MARGARET WARNER: Orville Schell, you spoke earlier about the risks of what's happening now. Get more specific. Do you think that on the ground here, this situation could spin out of control, or do you think that the Chinese government has control and could turn this off and on as it wishes?
ORVILLE SCHELL: Well, I think there are two risks. One is the risk to be Sino-U.S. relations. And I think the consequences may be quite profound. I think it will influence the tourist industry. I think American businessmen who are already somewhat loathe to invest in China now - right in the middle or towards the end of the Asian meltdown may be even more chilled by the prospect of moving into China. But, in regard to China itself, I think the problem is that demonstrations that are fed in China by true sentiment, which this certainly was, sometimes are hard to control. In fact, this is the first case that I can think of in 20 or 30 years that there has been a government agreed-to mass demonstration. And one could imagine that if demonstrations such as this did begin to get out of control so the government really did want to control it, they would suddenly seem to be on the wrong side, in other words, against the people on the side of the bombing, on the side of the foreigners. And this would be a very awkward situation.
So one never can quite tell how events in China will go and often we're surprised. But one could imagine that this sentiment, which is very deep and runs historically back a long way, this sort of anti-foreign bias could easily well up in a way that would be very inchoate, very hard to control, and could gather to it all sorts of other grievances. And dare I say the anniversary of the June 4th demonstrations and massacre is almost upon us.
MARGARET WARNER: Do you see it that way, Doug Paal -- this could get out of control from the Chinese government's perspective?
DOUGLAS PAAL: I do. I think the government is well aware that in the last century prior to the establishment of the People's Republic of China -- every government that fell, fell in large part because it didn't react strongly enough to a sense of injury by foreigners. So they know they have to go through at least some psychodrama publicly. But they could trigger these forces, and they themselves could fall to the same fate that previous governments had fallen to. And so they've got to play this out. Now, we have lots of indications from the streets of Beijing that I've been picking up through the Internet and other sources, that the Chinese anticipate that the protests should wind down tomorrow, and then by tomorrow night, our time, when the bodies are returned to the airport from Belgrade, there will be a ceremony. And I think they can wrap this up. If the demonstrations continue after that, I think then we'll know whether they're starting to lose control or not.
MARGARET WARNER: Briefly, a prognosis from you Jim Woolsey.
JAMES WOOLSEY: The Chinese government helped get this started by busing people in and getting these demonstrations started. I think they're very close to having pushed it far enough that some of these consequences may occur. But the responsibility ultimately, except for our terrible mistake, lies - I think -- on the Chinese government for having done what it's done.
MARGARET WARNER: All right. Well, thank you, Jim Woolsey, Doug Paal, and Orville Schell. Thank you all very much.