Beijing Turns a Deaf Ear Toward Foreign Censure

BEIJING is allowing its relations with Western democracies to near the breaking point as it vehemently rejects all foreign censure of the massacre of pro-democracy activists, analysts say. Despite the uproar abroad, Beijing has staged a zealous, nationwide hunt for leaders of the protesters and snubbed criticism of its repression as unjustified meddling in its internal affairs.

The diplomatic feud and the recent political turmoil within China have provoked fears of regional instability among East Asian nations.

Western countries thus must either back up their condemnations of the massacre with concrete reprisals and risk rupturing ties with China or appear to tolerate Beijing's effort to bury the antidemocracy pogrom in a massive propaganda blitz.

After the Army gunned down hundreds and perhaps thousands of unarmed demonstrators, Britain, the United States, Japan, Australia, West Germany, and Italy withheld concrete reprisals.

The implication was that they believed a restrained response would guarantee their future influence on China and encourage moderation on the part of China's leadership.

But now, analysts say, Beijing could force the hand of many democracies as it ignores their protests and presses on with an intense roundup of pro-democracy activists.

Recently Beijing has hauled in more than 1,000 political fugitives while continuing to deny that troops killed anyone in Tiananmen Square despite photographs, videotapes, and eyewitness accounts to the contrary.

Like many Western leaders, President Bush ``wants to register clear objections. But he's unprepared to take steps that would exact a cost on the Chinese people,'' says Jonathan Pollack, director of the political science department at the RAND Corporation in Santa Monica, Ca.

The dilemma suggests that Western democracies were deluded in their dealings with Beijing, erroneously seeing it as tolerant toward liberal ideals, analysts say.

``A lot of people, citizens around the world, will look at China with a lot fewer illusions and this must be reflected in government policy,'' says Dr. Pollack, a China specialist.

The massacre also showed that Western democracies cannot expect that their extensive ties with a communist regime will necessarily soften its totalitarian nature, the analysts say.

The military offensive showed that ``when push comes to shove, [senior leader Deng Xiaoping] was willing to throw out'' all the business, trade, scientific, and official ties nurtured since China ended its self-imposed isolation a decade ago, Pollack says.

DESPITE tensions between China and the West, Beijing is too dependent on Western technology and investment to turn completely toward Moscow and other socialist countries in the East Bloc, the diplomats and analysts say.

The diplomatic dilemma is particularly acute for the US, which would lose much in a break of relations with China. In the past 10 years of normalized relations, the US has forged a range of contacts with China unrivaled by other Western democracies, diplomats and analysts say.

China has publicly condemned US concern over its human-rights record as unwarranted interference, and has lashed out at the decision of the US Embassy to provide sanctuary to leading dissident Fang Lizhi.

Beijing last week expelled a journalist from the US-funded Voice of America and another American reporter for allegedly aiding pro-democracy activists or provoking their demonstrations.

Washington is considering a range of measures to signal its displeasure with Beijing, from withdrawing the office of the World Bank to strengthening controls on the sale of high-tech to postponing high-level meetings, diplomats say. So far, Washington has severed military ties with China. France, meanwhile, has frozen its relations with Beijing, and Canada has recalled its ambassador.

``France and Canada have the luxury of more dramatic actions because they don't have as complex a range of relations with China as the United States does,'' says Kenneth Lieberthal, professor of political science at the University of Michigan.

``The repercussions would be great if US-China relations unravelled,'' says Dr. Lieberthal, noting that such a falling out would particularly shake East Asia.

Officials in Japan and Singapore have voiced concern that strained relations between China and democratic nations and political instability within China could trigger discord in East Asia. Uncertainty or tumult in Asia's largest and most populous country has often helped provoke conflict between states in the region.

Although not as intimately tied to China as the United States, Britain has been directly jarred by the massacre.

Residents of the British colony of Hong Kong have called for protections against a similar crackdown and other abuses after China regains sovereignty in 1997.

While strongly condemning China for the blitz on Beijing residents, London has ruled out a renegotiation of a 1984 agreement on the transfer of control over the colony.

It has also refused to grant British citizenship to Hong Kong residents, calling such a measure politically unfeasible.

The crackdown will discourage international aid and investment in China and damage the reputation and effectiveness of its diplomats in international forums, as well as in bilateral relations, the analysts say.

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