China Taps a Key Ally in US: Business
Jiang Zemin's visit this week includes Wall Street and firms seeking stable Sino-US ties.
BEIJING AND WASHINGTON
When China's leader Jiang Zemin rings the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange on Friday, unleashing a flurry on the trading floor, he'll also be advertising one of the more successful new tactics of Chinese diplomacy: competitive bidding.Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
For as Mr. Jiang urges President Clinton to lift sanctions imposed after the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown and start "a new stage" in US-China relations, he is fully aware that his closest allies are big American companies vying against other foreign firms for sales in China's growing market.
"China wants the remaining Tiananmen sanctions removed," says a senior US Embassy official in Beijing. "A number of American business interests are also pushing for the removal of sanctions," he adds.
Jiang is keenly aware of how politically potent China's leverage with American firms can be. In May 1994, after an unprecedented barrage of Chinese buying missions, billions of dollars worth of contracts, and heavy lobbying by US companies, Mr. Clinton agreed to drop any link between China's human rights violations and the granting of US most-favored-nation (MFN) trading status.
The wholesale policy reversal by Clinton, who as a presidential candidate referred to China's leaders as the "butchers of Beijing," marked an equally thorough diplomatic victory for Jiang: two years later, the Communist Party chief whom Clinton had cold-shouldered was invited for his current, red-carpet visit to the United States.
Today, emboldened by success, Jiang is again counting on US corporate backing as he pushes for bigger economic concessions from Washington. Specifically, Beijing is pressing the United States to:
* Grant China permanent MFN status, effectively ending the annual review process that has been accompanied each year by strong criticism of Chinese human rights abuses.
* Demand less stringent standards for China's accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO), allowing it more time to reduce tariffs and open its markets fully to foreign competition.
* End the 1989 US sanctions that freeze the activities of the US Export-Import Bank and Overseas Private Investment Corporation in China.
* Lift restrictions on the sale of US nuclear power equipment and technology to China.
To sweeten the atmosphere, Jiang only days ago dispatched a large buying mission to the US, led by Chinese vice trade minister Sun Zhenyu. Its shopping list included car parts, chemical fertilizers, grains, and planes. During his visit, Jiang is expected to announce a plan to purchase 30 Boeing jets worth an estimated $2 billion.
Jiang also hopes to shore up corporate support for China's position in meetings with scores of US executives in New York, Los Angeles, and other cities. He will visit firms including IBM, AT&T, Lucent Technologies, and Hughes Satellite. On Friday night, a key lobbying group for executives who do business with China, the US-China Business Council, will host a dinner for Jiang at New York's Waldorf-Astoria Hotel.