May 15, 1999
Dear Mr. Churchward:
Unfortunately my schedule does not permit me to be with you today. The agenda for your discussion on China is timely and should prove lively.
In the wake of the tragic bombing accident involving the Chinese embassy in Belgrade it appears the government of the People's Republic of China encouraged the extreme and violent demonstrations and attacks on the U.S. Embassy in Beijing which made our Ambassador and other embassy staff defacto hostages. For several days the government's propaganda through state controlled media outlets denied the Chinese people the knowledge that President Clinton had apologized and instead implied that the bombing was intentional. For some time prior to this the same propaganda apparatus painted the United States involvement in Yugoslavia as evil and imperialistic and kept from the population any knowledge about the atrocities being committed by the Serbs on the Kosovars. For whatever reason it appears that propaganda is being used inside the PRC to inflame the general population against the United States.
This comes within a very short period of time after the Chinese offered incredibly good trade concessions to the United States in an effort to secure support for membership in the World Trade Organization (WTO) which were rejected by the Clinton Administration. These concessions had been widely criticized inside China as being too generous. The rejection put certain government leaders in a very volatile position vis-a-vis the hard liners inside China and could have been a significant factor in the government's response to the Embassy bombing. Many think that had the United States accepted the WTO deal the Chinese government would have moved ahead with privatization of many state owned industries which the hard liners also oppose.
All of this is illustrative of the extremely complex and difficult relationship between the United States and China since President Nixon opened the doors after years of Chinese isolation. There is no doubt that China has moved significantly in recent years towards a market oriented economy. At the same time there is no doubt that a very strong dictatorship still runs China and that individual freedoms as we understand them do not exist and human rights violations are common. Recent espionage and technology transfer issues highlight the ambitions of the Chinese government and military to rival the United States in future years as a world power.
It strikes me that we must not close the doors on China, but we must recognize the nature of the PRC government we are dealing with and guard United States interests diligently in contacts with this government. The hope is that through trade and more open relations with the PRC the infant Chinese market system will grow and democratization will eventually take hold. It is unclear whether forces within China adverse to U.S. interests will extinguish this hope.
In this context the Splendid China theme park in Central Florida represents a microcosm of this struggle. It is my understanding that it is essentially a state owned enterprise - one of the type that might have well been privatized in conjunction with the government's recent WTO proposal. Although I have no personal knowledge, it appears that certain exhibits in this park are misleading and perhaps designed for propaganda. In this context I certainly welcome the light that your meeting and efforts may shed on both the Splendid China park and the U.S./ Chinese relations generally.
Again, I regret that previous commitments preclude my joining you today.
Member of Congress