China Beat Archive



Robert A. Kapp

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February 20, 2009 in The China Beat


Copyright February 20, 2009 Robert A. Kapp. Used by permission.


February, 2009: we are in the early days of a new Administration, and the Internet and print media bulge with messages of advice to the new President and the new Secretary of State about how to deal with China. Some of the missives are Olympian. Others are avuncular. They serve multiple purposes, and seek to reach multiple audiences.

Reading them, I was reminded of one of my own exercises of a similar nature, in the fall of the year 2000. Eight long years; so much has happened. Then, we were only a couple of months beyond the huge political battle over extending Permanent Normal Trade Relations to China – a Hill struggle brought the most strident arguments over China to the forefront of American attention.

Before that, in reverse chronological order, lay the Lee Wen Ho case; the Cox Commission and its allegations of Chinese nuclear theft; the Hughes-Loral furor over alleged transfer of military rocketry knowledge to China; Johnny Chung, John Huang, Charlie Trie and the scandal over “campaign finance.” Amid all that had come the Belgrade Embassy bombing and the siege of the Sasser embassy. Only a couple of years earlier had occurred the PRC missile tests off northern Taiwan and the sending of the Seventh Fleet to waters off Taiwan. Among the colorful Congressional comments along the way, in 1999, came the denunciation of the PRC leadership as a bunch of “child molesters.” One very well known Member of Congress, in a speech to members of his own party the same year, referred to the “big wet kissup” of the Clinton regime to Beijing as nothing short of “the full Lewinsky.”

Thus the immediate background to my open-letter message to our presidential candidates at the time, George W. Bush and Al Gore. China Beat readers can form their own judgments, eight-plus long years later, as to where the U.S. and China have been and where we have come, and whether this particular “advice” from a receding moment in time still burns, or whether it merely flickers feebly in the cooling embers of another era.