Peking Favors Bush Among U.S. Presidential Hopefuls
Chinese may soon be wearing “George Bush for President” buttons.
According to Chinese officials who have taken part in recent meetings to analyze the American political situation, the current assessment is that from China’s point of view, the best candidate for 1988 would be Vice President George Bush.
The judgment is based in part on China’s belief in the importance of personal contacts; Bush has worked in China and has come here on several official trips. But in addition, Chinese officials believe that on a number of issues important to China, particularly trade and Taiwan, Bush would be better for China than any Democrat or another Republican.
There was no indication from these officials that China will try to play any role in influencing the outcome of the American election. Rather, they indicated, China would like to be able to predict what will happen and how it will affect the People’s Republic.
Headed Liaison Office
In 1980, Chinese officials were taken by surprise by Ronald Reagan’s success. In his campaign, Reagan had suggested that he favored stronger ties with Taiwan.
Bush was head of the U.S. liaison office in Peking in 1974-75, before the United States and China resumed full diplomatic relations in 1979. He has visited here three times as an emissary for Reagan--first during the 1980 campaign and then in 1982 and 1985.
“It’s better to deal with the person you know than someone you don’t know,” a Chinese official said recently. Another said China believes that its positions are reasonable and that “all we have to do is be able to get in to see someone, to find someone who will listen.”
According to these officials, China fears that the Democratic Party is more susceptible to protectionist pressures than the Republicans.
China could be seriously affected by new U.S. restrictions on its exports, textiles in particular. In a letter to the Reagan Administration last week, Han Xu, the Chinese ambassador in Washington, expressed “great concern” about how U.S. trade laws will affect China.
Furthermore, Chinese officials say they are concerned by the sympathy voiced by leading Democratic lawmakers for the cause of democracy on Taiwan and for political groups opposing Taiwan’s ruling Nationalist Party. In May, Sens. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) and Claiborne Pell (D-R.I.) and Rep. Stephen J. Solarz (D-N.Y.) endorsed the formation of a new committee for the promotion of democracy on Taiwan.
Peking’s official position is that Taiwan is a province of China and that those who call for its independence, for free elections or for a democratic form of government there are interfering in China’s internal affairs. Taiwan’s Nationalist regime contends that it is the legitimate government of both Taiwan and the Chinese mainland.
China’s strategy for recovering Taiwan has been to try to deal with the Nationalists rather than with opposition political groups. The hope here has been that the United States might somehow help to persuade the Nationalists to enter into direct negotiations with Peking on reunification.
Since taking office, Reagan has abandoned his 1980 campaign pledge to establish an official U.S. liaison office on Taiwan. He made a much-publicized visit to China in 1984. Chinese officials believe that those Republican candidates opposing Bush in 1988 would have fewer ties to Peking and could be tempted to urge stronger support for Taiwan.
Hong Kong-Style Plan
In the past few years, Chinese officials have been trying to persuade Washington to give greater support to China’s overtures to Taiwan.
One suggestion is that the United States should endorse the concept of “one-country, two systems.” This is the approach used to settle the issue of how to return the British colony of Hong Kong to Chinese control in 1997. Under it, China would guarantee that Taiwan could keep its capitalist economy while coming under Chinese sovereignty.
Another suggestion has been that the United States should at least support China’s call for greater trade, postal deliveries and other contacts between the mainland and Taiwan.
The United States has rejected these overtures, saying that any settlement should be reached by Chinese and Nationalist officials free from U.S. involvement. However, Chinese officials continue to believe that the United States may eventually be persuaded to bring pressure on Taiwan.
Recently, officials in Peking have expressed considerable interest in a report in a Taiwan newspaper, China Times, which they believe indicates that some State Department officials favor new concessions to China concerning Taiwan.
In the report, a Taiwan correspondent in the United States said that some Reagan Administration officials who had worked with former Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger, including Richard Solomon, the assistant secretary of state for policy planning, and Winston Lord, the U.S. ambassador to China, favor new initiatives toward strategic cooperation between the United States and China.
The writer also said that these officials might favor the United States making new concessions regarding Taiwan in order to develop this strategic relationship.
Others involved in U.S. policy toward China, such as Gaston Sigur, assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, were described in the article as skeptical about the value of such concessions.
An official at the U.S. Embassy in Peking said this week that there are no serious divisions over U.S. policy to China.
“It’s an egregious exaggeration to say there’s a major split among the formulators (of China policy),” this official said. He said the newspaper article being studied by Chinese policy-makers “is not true on personnel grounds, and it’s not true on policy grounds.”