BEIJING — DURING a United States trade mission to China that has put dealmaking ahead of human rights, US Commerce Secretary Ronald Brown announced $5 billion in new business for US companies and said Chinese officials are ready to resume rights talks.
Reflecting the new US approach to China since President Clinton de-linked trade and rights issues in June, Mr. Brown has refrained from past public scoldings of the Chinese leadership despite a recent renewed crackdown on Chinese dissidents.
At a press conference held Aug. 30 before he departed Beijing for Shanghai, Brown and his delegation, which includes 24 top US company executives, said top leaders told him China would resume discussions on human rights when Chinese Foreign Minister Qian Qichen travels to the US for the United Nations General Assembly meeting in late September.
Talks broke down earlier this year during the tense run-up to Mr. Clinton's decision on renewing China's most-favored-nation status in the US market and a national crackdown on Chinese dissidents before the fifth anniversary of the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre.
Chinese officials chastised US Secretary of State Warren Christopher during an embarrassing visit to China in March, angry over the meeting of a top United States diplomat for human rights, John Shattuck, with prominent dissident Wei Jingsheng.
Mr. Wei, who was released last year after nearly 15 years in jail, and a number of other well-known political activists are once again under arrest.
Crackdown on dissidents
Before Brown's arrival, Wang Dan, a student leader in the 1989 pro-democracy demonstrations, was detained for 12 hours during a new round of police detentions and surveillance in the Chinese capital.
Human rights activists charge that Clinton's decision to abandon pressuring China on human rights through trade policy has opened the way for a tougher crackdown by Chinese authorities.
Saying he is ``exhilarated'' by the outcome of his trip, Brown insisted that the new deals signed since his Aug. 28 arrival in China and possible new talks on human rights ``speak volumes of the wisdom of the policy President Clinton has pursued.''
Brown carried a letter from Clinton to President Jiang Zemin, whom he met Aug. 30, ``emphasizing the importance of relations between the two countries,'' he said.
But in pushing for new business deals and greater access to the Chinese market, Brown confronted Chinese demands that the US ease its opposition to China's campaign to reenter the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade by the end of the year.
A plethora of contracts signed
During his week-long visit, which will also take him to the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou and then Hong Kong, Brown said he has signed $5 billion in new contracts, including deals for power, telecommunications, and computer equipment.
The commerce secretary also announced his delegation would be vying for more than $25 billion in infrastructure, aviation, auto assembly, and airport construction projects in China over the next few years.
``With almost a quarter of a trillion dollars in infrastructure projects in the pipeline, we intend to compete in this market, and we intend to win,'' the United States official said in a breakfast speech to the American Chamber of Commerce.
In a briefing for reporters, a senior US official who asked to remain anonymous pledged that the United States would be ``increasingly aggressive'' in matching concessionary financing to compete with Germany, France, and Japan in the booming Chinese market. In the past, the United States refrained from officially helping US companies win contracts.
The new deals signed include a $140- million contract, primarily financed with soft government loans, for Westinghouse Electric Corporation for two steam turbine generators and related equipment, a $20-million agreement for Pitney Bowes Inc. to provide equipment for modernizing and automating China's network of 55,000 post offices, and a $20-million deal for computer giant IBM Corporation to sell software and hardware for automated teller machines, electronic data information, and global information infrastructure.