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---"Focused Coverage Informed Perspectives"---Wed, Oct 29, 1997 edition Summit Coverage:
Jiang and Clinton have an unprecedented open and frank discussion in front of reporters
Also in this edition . . .
1: informal gathering of leaders shows hospitality and opens doors for wider cooperation
2: Gov. Allen cancels meeting with Jiang, but his message is clear
3: no breakthrough on Taiwan question, but Beijing hopes for change in Spring
4: US recognizes flourishing democracy in Taiwan, sees framework for prosperity between all sides
5: Jiang's son helps bridge 2 nations
6: the list of reporters just keep on growing! Media's main interest: HUMAN side of the story!
7: anti-nuclear and pro-independence groups join hands to protest summit
8: candidates register in style for elections
9: Turkey a strong market for Taiwan's wares
10: Queen presses button, opens Taiwan-invested company
11: Taiwan ranks 4th for social stability
12: Chinese delegation leaves Rangoon
Tuesday: informal gathering of leaders shows hospitality and opens doors for wider cooperation
( Clinton, Jiang Agree to Create D.C.-Beijing Hotline ) The summit began last night with an informal gathering in Clinton's home. For the first 15 minutes Clinton took Jiang on a tour of the second floor in the White House residential quarters. Jiang was shown the original print of the Gettysburg Address, an integral piece of the US Constitution, and Jiang recited its famous words. Then the two sat down with key aids and reportedly spoke in a forthright and open manner about the issues concerning each country. Of course we only hear the US side (and only in bits and pieces), but officials say the discussion touched on concerns about human rights, Tibet and Taiwan. It was also decided a direct 'hotline' between the White House and Zhongnanhai would be needed.
The administration also announced that a number of agreements had been reached:
- one agreement would encourage "the sale of US technology to address China's gaping energy needs without worsening its severe environmental problems. It is intended to help China safely meet its energy demands and to give U.S. companies an edge against Japanese and other competitors vying for a share of the huge Chinese power-generation market," reports the New York Times
- Three US religious leaders would meet with officials in Beijing to address their concerns over religious liberties and free speech, as well as human rights. The three leaders, according to Secretary of State Albright, are: Rev. Don Argue, president of the National Association of Evangelicals; Archbishop Theodore E. McCarrick of the Newark, N.J., Catholic Archdiocese, and Rabbi Arthur Schneier, president of the Appeal of Conscience Foundation.
- Today President Clinton said, after two and half hours of talks with Jiang his administration would certify China as not transferring nuclear technology to other nations, including Iran and Pakistan. The move opens China to a host of technology transfers and will bring lucrative deals to for US companies.
Albright made the point that while the administration was addressing concerns on human rights, the American public should understand that Sino-US relations cannot be held hostage to nay one issue and that a multi-faceted and broad relationship was imperative. Outside, protestors took up their positions.
Meanwhile . . . ( CNN - Jiang's visit draws protests - Oct. 29, 1997 ) As CNN reports, the protests reached a new high today when Jiang arrived for the formal ceremony welcoming him to the White House. "Jiang's visit has brought together a diverse collection of groups --ranging from anti-abortion activists to environmentalists to movie stars. All of them advocate freedom for the Chinese people and others under Beijing's control," CNN explains. "Groups participating in the rally include the Sierra Club, the Committee to Protect Journalists, the National Consumers League, the Child Labor Coalition, and Friends of the Earth." Among the protestors were those calling for mainland China to recognize Taiwan's sovereignty.
On Capital Hill, Sen. Jesse Helms, R-N.C., convened hearings yesterday to hear from a group of Chinese dissidents calling on Jiang to release political prisoners. As the New York Times reports, Helms will still attend tonight's dinner. "I'm not going to thumb my nose at the guy, nor am I going to embrace him," Helms said. "I want him to understand that the American people are concerned about the dismal human-rights record of the People's Republic of China." And the Times reports, ten members of Congress signed 'adoption' papers for Chinese and Tibetan prisoners held in China. . . .
( 'We don't like him much but he's not exactly menacing' ) The South China Morning Post says Jiang is a hit in Washington, but around the country most people are not paying attention. . .
Williamsburg: Gov. Allen cancels meeting with Jiang, but his message is clear
( Still Following Deng, Jiang Dons Colonial Tricorn ) We have an additional note on yesterday's visit to Colonial Williamsburg. Seth Faison, Beijing corresponded for the New York Times, reports that Governor George Allen bowed out of his meeting with the president on Tuesday, explaining he had obligations to his party's candidate on the campaign trail. Allen's wife read a letter to Jiang on her husband's behalf, and the meaning is clear: "May this treasured setting provide you with a greater understanding of, and appreciation for, the universal principles upon which America is built---freedom, liberty, and representative democracy." A spokesman for Allen later added, "Our priority in Virginia at this point is to insure that Gov. Allen is succeeded by someone who shares his principles and priorities. Clearly, there are things that have occurred in the past that are unfortunate, and I think if anything come out of this visit, we would hope that President Jiang would return to China with a greater understanding of the principles of freedom and liberty."
Taiwan: no breakthrough on Taiwan question, but Beijing hopes for change in Spring
( Hopes for breakthrough on Taiwan ) According to sources cited by the South China Morning Post, the summit has not yielded any breakthrough on the Taiwan question, but Jiang's government is prepared to take the issue one step at a time. Beijing is hoping by the time Bill Clinton arrives there next Spring the United States will be prepared to soften its stance on the issue, further isolating the loan island state. The article goes on to describe how Beijing's dollar diplomacy is quite contingent on the outcome of the summit and the tone of the relationship. Already Zeng Peiyan, whom Jiang Zemin dispatched on a buying spree prior to the summit, has pledged some $4.2 billion to US companies. And the figure might increase.
Taiwan: US recognizes flourishing democracy in Taiwan, sees framework for prosperity between all sides
( Jiang, Clinton hold summit ) The China Daily has a brief summary of the day's events, although the report was filed before the joint news conference. It is interesting to note that the report does not fully express the Clinton administration's position on Taiwan. According to the paper the issue was discussed as this:
On the Taiwan question, Jiang said the matter had always been a highly sensitive issue of vital importance. "The three Sino-US joint communiques must be strictly followed," he said.
Clinton promised the US Government will stick to the stand of "one China."
The United States "will not support 'Taiwan independence,' will not support Taiwan's bid to join the UN, nor will it support any attempt to create "two Chinas' or 'one China, one Taiwan'," he said.
In his opening statement at the press conference President Clinton said this about the Taiwan question:
"A key to Asia's stability is a peaceful and prosperous relationship between the People's Republic of China and Taiwan. I reiterated America's long-standing commitment to a One China Policy.
"It has allowed democracy to flourish in Taiwan and provides the framework in which all three relationships can prosper. Between the United States and the PRC, the United States and Taiwan, and Taiwan and the People's Republic of China.
"I told President Jiang that we hoped the People's Republic and Taiwan would resume a constructive cross-Strait dialogue and expand cross-Strait exchanges. Ultimately, the relationship between the PRC and Taiwan is for the Chinese themselves to determine, peacefully."
Taiwan leaders have predicted in past weeks that a breakthrough in chilly relations would be seen next Spring. It will be interesting to see how this pans out, and whether the US might have a 'quiet' role in encouraging both sides. Finally, we might pay close attention to Clinton's words here. They are measured and decidedly broad as they are also precise.
Jiang Mianheng Jiang's son helps bridge 2 nations'
(Jiang's son helps bridge 2 nations) Jiang will head to Drexel University tomorrow, the alma mater of his son Jiang Mianheng. We learn more about president's son from an article written by staff writer Rena Singer of the Philadelphia Inquirer.
In her article, which ran in the Sunday edition of the paper, Singer characterizes Mianheng as " . . . a symbol of China's growing openness and increased interest in the West --a symbol of his country's future and its troubles." Mianheng attended Drexel University from 1986 thru 1991, as a graduate student in electrical engineering.
By all accounts the young Jiang lead a quiet and studious life, applying himself to his studies and wanting to remain out of the limelight of his father's rising political fortunes.
His advisors at Drexel, reports Singer, were themselves surprised by Mianheng, whom they expected to be a typical 'gaogan zidi---a "little prince," as people in China call the spoiled children of powerful leaders." Instead, Da Hsuan Fen g, a professor at Drexel, said "He is a very unusual gaogan zidi, He's humble and doesn't give the impression that he's gaogan."
Singer also describes his period at Drexel in 1989 when Tiananmen exploded. The younger Jiang was under pressure to speak out one way or another on the issue. Instead he applied himself more to his research . He declined repeated efforts from the police and FBI to station bodyguards .
During that tense period when Jiang's professors would pass him in Drexel's hallway and ask how he was, he'd joke: "I'm still alive."
Singer notes, many other leaders have sent their children to school in the United States and Europe. But as far Drexel University is concerned, Singer writes:
Drexel is particularly popular with Chinese students. This dates from the 1950s and '60s, Cold War years when Chinese emigres were suspected of being spies. Taking an independent stance, Drexel was one of the few American schools that would hire graduate students and professors from mainland China. It became well-known as a safe haven for Chinese scholars, and the school now employs 32 Chinese professors, many of whom still have connections in China.
Both Mianheng and his father are compared in similar light. People note their similar 'quirky' sense of humour, same black rimmed glasses, and their affinity for engineering and hard work. Like Jiang senior in his youth, Mianheng shows little of his political side. . .
Yet, it is clear Jiang the son has not only been a successful engineer. He has also continued fostering ties between the two countries: "As one of the architects of Shanghai's booming free-trade zone, the chairman of the Metallurgy Institute in the Chinese Academy of Sciences, chairman and CEO of Shanghai Alliance Investment Ltd., and chairman of Shanghai Simtech Industries Ltd., the younger Jiang, now, travels to the United States about twice a year to drum up trade with and investment in China."
News: the list of reporters just keep on growing! Media's main interest: HUMAN side of the story!
The following story was written by Professor Da-hsuan Feng. He teaches at Drexel University and has been an active participant in fostering greater ties between China and the people in his locale
With President Jiang's visit to Drexel University tomorrow, the tempo of news media hitting Drexel is increasing, and rapidly!
Although questions such as US - China relations in the 21st century is still lurking in the background of questions, nearly all are now interested in the college days of Professor Sun and President Jiang, and what it was like for the two of them as students in Jiaotong University.
There is simply enormous interest from the media to tell the human side of the President and Philadelphia is the only city of the 7 which he is visiting that has such a story. Indeed, two people in Philadelphia caught the interest of the media. One is Dr. Gu Yuxiu and the other is Professor Hun H. Sun at Drexel. Dr. Gu, at 96, is living in Philadelphia, received a PhD in EE in the 1920's. In 1946, he was Education Minister of Shanghai. However, because of his training from MIT, he was also appointed by Jiaotong University in Shanghai to be a visiting faculty of the University. That year in 1946, China just recovered from what is known as the bloody and brutal "Eight Years of War of Resistence" with the Japanese and things were slowly returning to "normal". During the war of resistance, Jiaotong University was divided into (at least) two groups, one in the interior of China and the other in its home of Shanghai.
Professor Sun belonged to the group in Shanghai and President Jiang belonged to the group in the interior. It was not until 1946 when the two groups were again amalgamated in Shanghai that Professor Sun and President Gu got to know each other. In EE, there were approximately 20 students from the Shanghai group and 40 from the interior group.
Now it should be remembered that at that time, Jiaotong University was regarded as the MIT of China, and electrical engineering was the "king" of all engineering fields. Only the very best students who came to Jiaotong, and Jiaotong's students were already some of the best in China, were admitted to electrical engineering program.
In 1946, Gu was assigned to teach a course on "Heavyside functions for electrical engineering" at Jiaotong. Heavyside is the name of a famous mathematician who pioneered transformation theory. Since Gu had his "day job" during the week, he could only come to the university on each Saturday morning to deliver a 3 hour lecture on this material to a class of 60 EE students! Besides President Jiang, Professor Sun was also one of the 60. Just as their 58 classmates, Sun and Jiang had to go to class every Saturday morning to listen to Professor Gu's lecture. The students were all very impressed by the fact that not only they were taught by a specialist in Heavyside functions (a subject of great importance to electrical engineering), they were also taught by a very important government official at that time who would always arrive to class by car and with an entourage. Such technical and greatly interesting details about that period of Jiang's life was vividly accounted for by Professor Sun. This history is what the media is looking for now!
It is also very interesting that one of the reporters said that while there may be a number of people throughout the United States who now claim to have been with President Jiang as students, the only TRUE one, is Professor Sun. Indeed, I noticed that at each interview, Professor Sun discussed that period with great fondness, and deep emotions. Fifty one years have passed since they last saw each other (Jiang and Sun). The two obviously pursued very different careers. One is now the President of a large and economically powerful nation, and is leading that nation into the 21st century, and the other became a world renowned biomedical engineer. I am sure when the two of them meet in Philadelphia on October 30th, there will be true emotions flowing between the two. I cannot wait for that to happen!!
Protests: anti-nuclear and pro-independence groups join hands to protest summit
(source: China Post) Anti-nuclear and pro-Taiwan independence groups will stage demonstrations to protest today's meeting between US President Bill Clinton and Chinese President Jiang Zemin at the White House.
The Green Party, the Taiwan Independence Alliance and legislators from the opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) announced yesterday morning that they will gather at the 228 Memorial Park tonight for a demonstration and vigil.
The groups said they will urge the United States not to pursue business interests with China at the expense of Taiwan and not to bow to the lobbying efforts of US companies wanting to sell nuclear technology to China.
Meanwhile, a spokesman for a pro-independence group in the United States said it will mobilize overseas Chinese to parade around the White House and march to Capitol Hill today. He said the group will urge the United States to respect the rights of the Taiwan people to choose the course of their own future.
The organization will also join other groups in a demonstration in front of the Washington Monument today. In addition, Taiwanese groups in Philadelphia, New York, Boston and Los Angeles will be mobilized to stage protests when Jiang visits those cities.
SUMMIT COVERAGE: THE PRESS CONFERENCE
Press conference: Jiang and Clinton have an unprecedented open and frank discussion in front of reporters
( AllPolitics - Clinton Welcomes Jiang To White House - Oct. 29, 1997 ) Something rather amazing happened during the press conference today: a dialogue and debate of sorts took place, with the media prompting and the two heads of state elaborating. Each gave a short statement before opening the floor to questions, and Clinton re-iterated the main issues in Sino-US relations: cooperation on handling famine-stricken North Korea; increased cooperation on stemming the narcotics trade; transfer of nuclear technology; increased cooperation, political and business, in alleviating environmental problems in China; human rights; Tibet and Taiwan; and religious freedom. Below are some excerpts from the Question-and-Answer session. A full transcript of the press conference, including the two leaders' opening statements, can be found on AllPolitics - FDCH Transcript - Oct. 29, 1997. Readers are encouraged to take the time to read it, even if you watched it on TV.
QUESTION: Mr. President, a question actually for both presidents. The shooting in Tiananmen Square were a turning point in U.S.-Chinese relations and caused many Americans to view China as a repressive country that crushes human rights. President Jiang, do you have any regrets about Tiananmen? And President Clinton, are you prepared to lift any of the Tiananmen sanctions, and if not why not?
JIANG (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): The political disturbance that occurred at the time of spring and summer in 1989 seriously disrupted social stability and jeopardized state security.
Therefore, the Chinese government had to take necessary measures according to law to quickly resolve the matter to ensure that our country enjoys stability and that our reform and opening up proceeds smoothly.
The Communist Party of China and the Chinese government have long drawn the correct conclusion on this political disturbance, and facts have also proved that if a country with an over 1.2 billion population does not enjoy social and political stability it cannot possibly have the situation of reform and opening up that we are having today.
CLINTON: To answer your question, first, on the general point, I think it should be obvious to everyone that we have a very different view of the meaning of the events at Tiananmen Square. I believe that what happened and the aftermath and the continuing reluctance to tolerate political dissent has kept China from politically developing the level of support in the rest of the world that otherwise would have been developed. I also believe, as I said in my opening statement, that over the long run, the societies of the 21st century that will do best will be those that are drawing their stability from their differences; that out of this whole harmony of different views, there is a coherence of loyalty to the nation because everyone has their say.
It enables people to accept, for example, the results of the elections that they don't agree, and so we have a different view.
This -- the depth of the view in the United States, I think, is nowhere better exemplified than in the so-called Tiananmen sanctions. We are the only nation in the world, as far as I know, that still has sanctions on the books as a result of the events of eight years ago.
Now, you ask a specific question. Our agreement of nuclear proliferations issues allows me to lift the sanction on peaceful nuclear cooperation.
It is the right thing to do for America. This is a good agreement. It furthers our national security interests. China is to be complemented for participating in it, and the decision is the right one.
The other sanctions, which cover a range of issues from OPIC loans to crime-control equipment and many things in between, under our law had to be reviewed on a case-by-case basis. So as a result of our meeting today, the only Tiananmen Square sanction which is being lifted is the one on peaceful nuclear cooperation.
And it is a good thing for America and a good thing for China. And I applaud the Chinese side for the work they have done with us on this specific nuclear issue.
It's a substantial step forward for us.
JIANG (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): Our two countries have different geographical locations, and we are also thousands of miles apart geographically.
We also have different historic and cultural tradition, different level of economic development and different values. Therefore, I believe it is just natural for our two countries to hold different views on some issues.
Now people in the world are standing at a turn of the century when we're going to bring in the 21st century. And science and technology have developed significantly as compared with, for instance, the period when Newton lived.
And I also believe that the world we're living in is a rich and diverse one. And therefore, the concepts on democracy, on human rights and on freedoms are relative and specific ones. And they are to be determined by the specific national situation of different countries.
And I'm also strongly of the view that on such issues as the human rights issue discussions can be held on the basis of noninterference in the internal affairs of the country. And it goes without saying that as for the general rules universally abided by in the world, China also abides these rules.
My stay here in the United States is rather a brief one. There is the fact that since I came here I have been immersed in the atmosphere in friendship from the American people, and I was also accorded warm reception from President Clinton and Vice President Gore. However, sometimes noises came into my ears.
JIANG: If according to Chinese philosophy Confucius say (IN CHINESE)...
JIANG (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): When Confucius said, isn't it a pleasure to have friends coming from afar...
And naturally I am also aware that in the United States, different views can be expressed and this is a reflection of democracy.
And therefore I would like to quote a Chinese saying which goes, seeing it once is better than hearing about it 100 times. I've also got my real understanding about this during my current trip.
However, I don't believe this will have any negative impact on our effort to approach each other.
CLINTON: Let me -- I just have to say one other thing.
First of all, the United States recognizes that on so many issues, China is on the right side of history, and we welcome it. But on this issue, we believe the policy of the government is on the wrong side of history. There is, after all, now a universal declaration of human rights.
The second point I'd like to make is that I can only speak from our experience, and America has problems of its own which, I have frankly acknowledged. But in our country, I think it would amaze many of our Chinese guests to see some of the things that have been written and said about me, my family, our government, our policies. And yet after all this time, I'm still standing here, and our country is stronger than it was before those words were uttered six years ago.
Excuse me. Before those words began to be said six years ago.
They're still being said every day.
QUESTION: Mr. President, I have a question for both President Jiang and President Clinton. President Clinton, you stated your position with regard to Taiwan that this is a question for the Chinese people to resolve. But we all understand you have brokered peace in Bosnia, in the Middle East. Do you see any role for the United States to play in the securing of a permanent, peaceful environment in the Taiwan Straits? And for President Jiang, (IN CHINESE). I'll translate my question. My question to President Jiang is about the cross-strait dialogue. President Clinton said that he has urged the President Jiang to resume the interrupted dialogue. I wonder if President Jiang would respond positively and take some measures to resume the dialogue as soon as possible. Thank you.
CLINTON: First of all, I think the most important thing the United States can do to facilitate a peaceful resolution of the differences is to adhere strictly to the one China policy we have agreed on to make it clear that within the context of that one China policy, as articulated in the communiques and our own laws, we will maintain friendly, open relations with the people of Taiwan and China, but that we understand that this issue has to be resolved and resolved peacefully.
And that if it is resolved in a satisfactory way consistent with statements made in the past, then Asia will be stronger and more stable and more prosperous. That is good for the United States. And our own relations with China will move on to another stage of success.
I think the more we can encourage that, the better off we are. But I think in the end, since so much investment and contact has gone on in the last few years between Taiwan and China, I think the Chinese people know how to resolve this when the time is right.
And we just have to keep saying we hope the time will be right as soon as possible. Sooner is better than later.
JIANG (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): To answer your question in rather brief terms, all in all our policy is one of peaceful reunification and one country, two systems.
As for more detailed elaboration on that, a few years ago, I made my eight-point proposal along that line.
And at the just-concluded 15th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party, I also delivered a report which gave a rather comprehensive elaboration on this. Therefore, I will not repeat them here.
Elections: candidates register in style for elections
(source: China Post) The six candidates vying for the post of Taipei County chief made their way to the Taipei County stadium in Panchiao yesterday morning to officially register for next month's election.
Although the registration period began three days ago, all six candidates opted to register yesterday because it was an auspicious date according to the Chinese lunar calendar.
The first to register was former New Party founding member Chou Chuan. Accompanied by her husband, the independent candidate's registration was more subdued than those to follow.
After Chou came the two leading candidates in the race--the DPP's Su Chen-chang and KMT's Shieh Shen-shan. Both were accompanied not only by their wives, but also hundreds of party members and supporters adorned in campaign colors and waving flags and banners.
Independent candidate Liao Hsueh-kuang was accompanied by a group of over fifty supporters, most of them elderly, who donned masks of the candidate and contributed to the noisy atmosphere by blowing whistles.
Not to be outdone by the preceding candidates, New Party candidate Yang Tai-shun rode onto the grounds on horseback flanked by a man dressed in traditional imperial garb and made up as Pao Kung, a legendary judge who fought against corruption and special privileges.
The final candidate to register yesterday was former KMT member Lin Chih-jia who arrived at the stadium in a coach, converted into a high-tech mobile campaign office, with his wife and three-year-old son.
The final day for candidates to register is Oct. 30. The election will take place on Nov.29.
High-tech: Turkey a strong market for Taiwan's wares
( source: The China News ) Total information technology (IT) sales in Turkey rose to $1.127 billion in 1996. This represents a 28 percent increase over 1995, according to computer publishing and research unit International Data Group (IDG) based in Boston. Turkey's information technology is mostly imported from Taiwan. The figure includes computer hardware, software and services. This report indicates that hardware sales in Turkey, including personal computers, large, medium and small system computers, jumped to $612 million in 1996, up 33 percent from the previous year.
The report also said that computer services and software in Turkey in 1996 generated a record turnover of US$515 million, up 23 percent from 1995. Turkey, with a consumer market of nearly 65 million people, has been Europe's fastest growing market for IT for the past two years. This is of great interest to Taiwan. One out of 60 young people in Turkey owns a PC. The most advanced market for PCs is Turkey as IDG reported.
Britain: Queen presses button, opens Taiwan-invested company
(source: China Post) Queen Elizabeth II of Britain on Monday pressed a button to open a Taiwan-invested computer peripheral production facility in Scotland.
The plant, with six production lines, was invested by Chunghwa Picture Tubes Ltd, a wholly owned subsidiary of Tatung Co., which was the first Taiwan business group to invest in Britain, starting in the 1980s. This was the first time that the British Queen has attended Taiwan-related business activists, marking a new milestone in substantive relations between Taiwan and Britain.
Queen Elizabeth said in her brief address that she was delighted to see the opening of the new plant, saying it indicates that Britain is an ideal investment destination in Europe for Taiwan investors.
The Chunghwa Picture Tubes plant is expected to help revitalize the British economy, the queen said, adding she is convinced that the new jobs and opportunities offered by the facility will give Scottish residents more confidence in their future. Chunghwa unveiled its US$2.07 billion (1.26 billion British pounds) investment plan in late 1995 and construction began in 1996. The first-phase construction was completed earlier this year. The plant will manufacture computer monitors and cathode ray tubes. Initially, the facility will be able to produce 7.2 million units annually, with capacity increasing to 10 million units when construction is completed.
Survey: Taiwan ranks 4th for social stability
(source: China Post) Taiwan has been rated the fourth-most socially stable country in a survey of 12 Asian nations conducted by the Hong Kong-based Political and Economic Risk Consultancy (PERC). The PERC survey of social unrest in Asia found Singapore to be regarded as the most stable country in Asia, with a rating of less than one on a scale through 10. Japan was second, with a level marginally above one, followed by Hong Kong at 2.7. Taiwan ranked fourth with at the 3.5 level, compared to last year's 4.5. Following Taiwan in descending order were Thailand, Malaysia, the Philippines, China, Vietnam, India, South Korea and Indonesia.
Burma: Chinese delegation leaves Rangoon
( Vice-Premier's visit promotes economic ties with Rangoon ) Vice-Premier Wu Bangguo and his delegation of 41 departed Rangoon today after a three day visit to the troubled nation. China has been promoting trade with its neighbour bordering on Yunnan Province, and according to the latest figures cross-border trade has hit a record last year of US$650 million (HK$5 billion), reports the South China Morning Post. Beijing has been developing a multi-faceted relationship with Rangoon, promoting Chinese business there and floating soft loans to the military junta. Beijing also gains influence by permitting the Sacred Tooth Pagoda to travel south once a year for a circular tour of key cities in Burma, where people and leaders alike pay public obeisance to their faith and, for the leaders, shore up their political merit.
Sino-Burmese relations have not been in the fore-front of news lately, but we might note that Beijing changed its ambassador a number of weeks ago. What this might mean for the maintenance of relations with Rangoon, we do not know. The former ambassador was fluent in Burmese and the customs of the land.
At the urging of Asean and possibly the United States it would appear the ruling junta (the SLORC) is inching toward a dialogue with the opposition party, the National League for Democracy (NLD) headed by Aung San Suu Kyi. She recently travelled outside of Rangoon to a nearby township to rally support among the party's youth, and such movements demonstrate that something is afoot for a woman once effectively restricted to her home on University Avenue. The nexus between local and international politics is not easily delineated in this land, but the economic and political influence of Beijing is not to be discounted. We know from our own analysis of the state-run media in Rangoon, the 'New Light of Myanmar,' that the rhetoric espoused by the junta matches almost word for word that spoken by Beijing on human rights and democracy. We wonder how much stomach Beijing actually has for Rangoon's unseemly policies and abhorrent actions, but allies they are. Yunnan Province prefigures greatly in the calculus of Sino-Burmese relations.
But any Burma watcher would know that narcotics and AIDS are important aspects in the economy there, especially in the Shan State and Upper Burma where Rangoon maintains nominal control through proxies of local strongmen and sizeable minority governments, like the Katchin or others. Opium and heroin, clean and dirty needles alike, are traded along the border and into China. The infection rate is high. The old trade routes from such places as Ruili to Canton are used. Beijing does not care much for this and has been more vigilant in patrolling the area, as drug addiction increases across the nation.
Today in Washington Presidents Clinton and Jiang announced new cooperation on stemming the narcotics tide. DEA agents will be stationed in Beijing, and we would wager that they will make many trips south to the Burmese border, Chengdu and other points along the way. It also makes us wonder how much leverage Beijing exactly has over Rangoon, and whether or not for substantive changes in its politics Rangoon would need a gentle nudging from a 'friendly' China disappointed by the vigorous drug trade. But that's a question, not a statement of fact.