China Regime Fumbles Over Copyright Talks

A RECENTLY declassified CIA study of the negotiating behavior of the Chinese by Richard Solomon, a former national security official, portrays them as operating forcefully with a sense of superiority, manipulating feelings of goodwill, guilt, or dependence to achieve their goals. Calling someone ``friend'' is intended to produce a sense of obligation. And nowhere were the Chinese more successful than with President Richard M. Nixon and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. Once, during a Nixon-Mao Tse-tung meeting, Kissinger was recorded as saying, jokingly one hopes, ``After a dinner of Peking duck, I'll sign anything.''

This time, it is evident from the invitation to resume talks on copyright royalties that the self-confident Chinese regime has fumbled badly. It apparently concluded from its success in facing down the Clinton administration last year on the issue of preferential trade treatment vs. human rights that the Chinese market was too vital for America to risk, and China could once again defeat the ``paper tiger.'' The Beijing regime apparently failed to realize that, to America, human rights may be dispensable, but not intellectual property.

This is not, however, the end, but only the beginning of the problems that will be posed for the world by this economic colossus whose political regime may be on the brink of a succession crisis. China today is, in a way, like the Soviet Union in 1953 when Stalin lay dying and his successors squared off for a power struggle combined with an ideological struggle that would go on for a decade. One weapon in that struggle was blaming rivals for ``mistakes.''

Stalin's hand-picked successor, Premier Georgi Malenkov, was accused of mistakes and within months was deposed by Nikita Khrushchev. President Jiang Zemin may be Deng Xiaoping's chosen successor, but now he faces the charge that he has stumbled in his miscalculation of America.

Behind him in the wings stand the hard-line Premier Li Peng, the mastermind of the massacre in Tiananmen Square, and Vice Premier Zhu Rongji, the economic reformer. And perhaps others.

Secretary of State Warren Christopher says that we are going through a rough period with China as its leadership evolves. And things may get a lot rougher still before it finishes evolving. In a totalitarian society without an orderly election system, succession comes about by conspiracy. The Opinion/Essay Page welcomes manuscripts. Authors of articles we accept will be notified by telephone. Authors of articles not accepted will be notified by postcard. Send manuscripts by mail to Opinions/Essays, One Norway Street, Boston, MA 02115, by fax to 617 -450-2317, or by Internet E-mail to OPED@RACHEL.CSPS.COM.

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