Last updated at: (Beijing Time) Tuesday, February 17, 2004

US presidential candidates play 'China cards'

Presidential election can be called the biggest event for America in 2004. In a chaotic uproar democrats brought home to Bush's story of "fleeing military service", while republicans tried every means possible to "blacken" John Kerry, the democratic front-runner by saying that the Massachusetts senator "received election campaign fund from China". As the election draws near, signs began to show that the democratic and republican parties would play their "China cards" once again.


Presidential election can be called the biggest event for America in 2004. In a chaotic uproar democrats brought home to Bush's story of "fleeing military service", while republicans tried every means possible to "blacken" John Kerry, the democratic front-runner by saying that the Massachusetts senator "received election campaign fund from China". As the election draws near, signs began to show that the democratic and republican parties would play their "China cards" once again.

Newsweek: Kerry accepted election fund from Chinese intelligence departments
John Kerry has been leading the democratic nomination campaign, with a support rate even higher than Bush. On February 9, US magazine Newsweek unexpectedly disclosed a would-be scandal that Kerry had been involved in 'receiving donations from a Chinese enterprise".

"In July 1996 the Massachusetts senator was locked in a tough re-election fight, so he was more than happy to help when he heard that a generous potential contributor wanted to visit his Capitol Hill office. The donor was Johnny Chung, a glad-handing Taiwanese-American entrepreneur. Chung brought along some friends, including a Hong Kong businesswoman named Liu Chaoying", Newsweek said.

"Told that Liu was interested in getting one of her companies listed on the U.S. Stock Exchange, Kerry's aides immediately faxed over a letter to the Securities and Exchange Commission. The next day, Liu and Chung were ushered into a private briefing with a senior SEC official. Within weeks, Chung returned the favor: On Sept. 9 he threw Kerry a fund-raiser at a Beverly Hills hotel, raking in $10,000 for the senator's re-election campaign", the magazine continued to say.

"Federal investigators later discovered that Liu was in fact a lieutenant colonel in China's People's Liberation Army and vice president of a Chinese-government-owned aerospace firm. And Chung, who visited the Clinton White House 49 times, went on to become a central figure in the foreign-money scandals of 1996. Chung eventually pleaded guilty to funneling $28,000 in illegal contributions to the campaigns of Bill Clinton and Kerry. According to bank records and Chung's congressional testimony, the contributions came out of $300,000 in overseas wire transfers sent on orders from the chief of Chinese military intelligence-and routed through a Hong Kong bank account controlled by Liu."

Kerry denied the report immediately, saying it's a rotten rumor already investigated long ago.

"One Country, Two Systems" incurred troubles
Since it's a decayed rumor why the US media dug it out again?

Then a radio debate among six democratic candidates on January 6 must be mentioned. When asked by the host how to view the "Taiwan referendum", Kerry answered without thinking that "America should adopt a hard line to Taiwan by saying America, although supporting democracy in Taiwan, will not allow the island to declare "independence" and by making it clear an "independent Taiwan" is unacceptable to America".

"In a word, will you side with Taiwan democratic people or will you side with Beijing?" the host asked. Kerry answered that "America consistently adheres to the 'One China' policy, whether a democratic president or a republican president. I think this is a correct policy". He continued that the Taiwan issue should be solved by a way similar to that America adopted towards Hong Kong and Macao, and the country should keep on pushing "One Country, Two Systems" in the future.

Kerry's remark practically shocked all present, especially attracted the attention of the extreme right-wing forces. The US media summed up Kerry's performance as a senator during 22 years, and found that He always insists on the "One China" policy. Although most analysts believed Kerry's words are in line with the country's stance, which features a "vague strategies" policy and tries to keep a balance over the Taiwan Straits. His "One Country, Two Systems" is quite likely a slip of tongue under the circumstances, and therefore should not be taken seriously. Even so right-wing forces remained unpleased, as a result somebody offered the scandal as a heavily destructive weapon to Newsweek.

More China-related topics involved
On top of "political donations", as a matter of fact, there are many other China-related topics involved in the election campaign; they focus on the following three aspects:

*RMB revaluation and the imbalance between US-China trade

Since America has long suffered a huge trade deficit towards China, as well as the country's high unemployment rate, Bush's political foes not only targeted at RMB as a scapegoat, but directed their attack at the government's China policy. They accused the Bush administration of turning a blind eye to the "unfair trade" with China so as to win cooperation from Beijing in the North Korea nuclear talks in return.

*China's human rights

China's human rights situation is an unavoidable topic in American presidential campaigns in recent years. Everyone who wants to become president promises strong measures to be taken for improving China's human rights conditions. Lately many officials in the Bush administration stood out to criticize China's human rights conditions. A senior American official even said on February 11 the country was considering putting forward again a bill concerning China's human rights at the Geneva convention of the UN Commission on Human Rights this year.

*Taiwan policy

The stability on both sides of the Taiwan Straits directly concerns with US immediate interests, especially when the island's "president" Chen Shui-bian is preparing for a "referendum" next month. Bush's hard-line stance against "Taiwan independence" a few days ago has caused resentment from "pro-Taiwan" forces. Now Kerry even spoke about "One Country, Two Systems". The Taiwan policy of candidates will remain a point of contention.

Why candidates drag China into their campaign?
Attacks, rumors and scandals against the rival party during American presidential campaigns are nothing new. These are internal affairs of the country but why the candidates always drag China into their debates? In more than a decade never an election passed without mentioning China, and the targets for attack never went beyond "human rights record", "trade deficit", "Taiwan issue", "aerospace technology" and so on.

The first reason is China serves too ready a topic. In past presidential elections American politicians used to gain points by attacking China or the current president's "pro-China" policy. Analysts point out: this is because many issues concerning US-China relations bear no direct interests upon America, such as the Taiwan issue and China's human rights. Over these questions you can attack and promise freely, so, why not?

The second is in America one can easily get support by simply attacking China. In the past, due to different social systems, whoever attacked China won voters' support. In recent years positive media reports are increasing yet so are the "demonized" ones. Particularly due to the slack economy, the public wants to seek for a "scapegoat". Besides, most Americans know little about China, and let politicians and media brag and do what they like to about the country.

Third, politicians' words during election campaigns don't mean the change of America's China policy. In 1992, Clinton criticized George Bush's China policy as "too soft", but once in office he developed a "constructive strategic partnership facing the 21st century". In 2000, Bush criticized Clinton's China policy and positioned China as a "competitive strategic viral", but the fact is he visited China twice during his terms of office. Facts show every American president, before coming into power, always attacked China in the capacity of a "challenger", but improved relations with China once in office, until the next election.

Fourth, fortunately, the election this year involved less about China by now. Because on the one hand Americans today know more about China and on the other, conditions of China have much improved as compared with that ten years ago, or even three years ago. China's fast economic development does bring benefits to America, making US political figures more cool-minded and reasonable over their China policy.

The China-US relations may be less influenced by this year's presidential campaign if the US government could control negative sentiments in the people and prevent them from being used by certain politicians as many analysts believe, but variables can never be ruled out. At the preliminary stage activities are mainly conducted within the democratic and republic parties, with the struggle between the two major parties intensified more "China topics" are likely to break out. There are always people who turn to lies and rumors when coming to their wits' ends. In a word, China is so easily involved in the US presidential election.

By People's Daily Online

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