Our Neighbors, the Chinese
Jude Wanniski
April 26, 2001


Memo To: Rep. Henry Hyde [R-IL],
Chairman, House International Affairs Comm.
From: Jude Wanniski
Re: A “Pro-China Coalition”

Two weeks ago, Henry, on April 10, I wrote a memo here chiding you for saying on one of the talk shows that “China is our adversary.” That makes it sound as if we were at war, I noted, and I was pleased that you mentioned the criticism you got for using the term and said you now would refer to China as our “competitor.” That’s a step in the right direction. What I’d really like to see is a condition where we think of China as a “neighbor.” Not necessarily a terrific neighbor, one we socialize with on weekends. But at least a neighbor who will take constructive criticism from us if we think his dog is barking too loudly and should be kept indoors, if necessary -- which means we will accept criticism from him, if our dog is barking. I noticed in Bob Novak’s column last week that China’s new U.S. Ambassador Yang Jiechi had spoken glowingly about the PRC being our “strategic partner,” but long before we get there, I think we should think each of being good neighbors. I have friends in the Chinese government that I’ve gotten to know over the years, and I think that’s basically how they would like the relationship to be considered.

This is why they are so upset about the airplane incident. Lu Shumin, who is Director-General of the Department of North American and Oceanian Affairs of the Foreign Ministry, is just such an old friend. Mr. Lu currently is directing the negotiations with our State Department team over the status of the airplane, attempting to work out modalities with us so there need be no repeat of this kind of incident. What he tells me is that the “air space” we say is international, giving us the absolute right to send our spy planes into it, is actually part of an “Exclusive Economic Zone” that belongs to China, according to a UN convention. Ordinary commercial or civilian planes are permitted to fly through this space as a convenience, but he says the convention gives China the right to insist that military spy planes are not subject to such convenience. I’ve never read about this in our newspapers, Henry, but you might want to look into it. It makes all the difference in the world, I think. If we are to consider ourselves “friendly neighbors” of China, we should not be so obtrusive. Even if we suspect something funny is going on there, before we peek in their windows, we might knock on their front door and inquire: “Can you please tell us what is going on here? We are getting nervous.” We do have programs where our military hobnobs with their military. If asked politely, China might well invite us in for a look-see.

There is plenty of room for neighborliness. The NYTimes Tuesday had an incredible piece out of Taiwan, about how ordinary people there are not worried about a military threat from the mainland, but worry because Taiwan capital is fleeing the island and investing in the mainland. When I was in Taipei in 1986, I told many of the political and business leaders there that because the mainland is labor rich and capital poor and the island is labor poor and capital rich, there was a perfect fit. They are like opposite poles of a magnet, drawing together. There are now more than 100,000 Taiwan enterprises setting up shops and factories on the mainland. Our anti-China coalition is getting frantic, worried that soon it will be too late to stir up a war with the People’s Republic of China over Taiwan. They have done everything they can to give the tiny independence movement on Taiwan the hope that we will liberate them. Forget it. China is not only becoming more capitalist every day. It is becoming more democratic. Republicans should be celebrating the process instead of picking fights. Next thing you know, the Vatican will work out a deal with Beijing and the “Catholic issue” will disappear.

Here is the note I got from Lu Shumin. I don’t stand behind it in any way. I’m not engaged in any “negotiations.” But the statement does cover ground I’d not seen before. I have sent other ideas to their Foreign Ministry, including one that they release the American pilots before the Easter weekend, or they would be considered “hostages,” by me as well as by most other Americans. With so much bipartisan saber-rattling in Washington, I thought it would be helpful to offer some friendly, neighborly advice :

By e-mail from Beijing, April 24:

Dear Jude:

Appreciate your thoughtfulness and the valuable thoughts. Following is a summary of the negotiation in which you will be able to see your No. 1 idea being applied in the process. This summary was in the Chinese press.

Sino-US negotiation on the Air-collision Incident (20/04/2001)

“In accordance with relevant understandings between the two sides, China and the United States held talks on April 18 and April 19 in Beijing on the April 1 incident in which a U.S. reconnaissance plane rammed into and destroyed a Chinese fighter jet, and other related issues.

“During the talks, Mr. Lu Shumin, head of the Chinese delegation and Director-General of the Department of North American and Oceanian Affairs of the Foreign Ministry, pointed out that on April 1 the U.S. reconnaissance plane bumped into and destroyed a Chinese military aircraft, causing the death of the Chinese pilot Wang Wei, in airspace near China's island province of Hainan. Later the U.S. plane intruded into China's territorial airspace and landed at a Chinese military airport without permission. This was a serious incident in violation of international law and Chinese sovereignty. The basic cause of the incident is that the United States, disregarding solemn representations by the Chinese side on many occasions, has for many years frequently conducted reconnaissance flights in the airspace close to Chinese coastal areas. The U.S. should bear full responsibility for the incident. The Chinese side demands that the United States make explanations to the Chinese Government and people, stop reconnaissance flights in the airspace close to Chinese coastal areas and take effective measures to prevent the recurrence of similar incidents.

“Mr. Lu pointed out that after the incident the Chinese side, taking into consideration the general interests of the China-US relations, has handled the incident in a calm and restrained manner in line with relevant provisions of international law and Chinese law. Out of humanitarian considerations, the Chinese side made proper arrangements for the 24 crew members of the U.S. plane and allowed officials from the U.S. embassy and consulates in China to meet with them many times. However, the U.S. side adopted a completely different attitude towards the incident. Especially after the Chinese side allowed the U.S. crew to leave China, some ranking U.S. officials, disregarding facts and confounding right and wrong, made a lot of highly irresponsible remarks on the incident, in an attempt to shift the responsibility onto the Chinese side. Some of them even threatened to link the incident with other issues involving China-U.S. relations. This is firmly opposed to and by no means acceptable by the Chinese side. The words and deeds of the U.S. side offer no help at all to find an appropriate resolution of the incident and will only further damage China-U.S. relations.

“Mr. Lu said that the Chinese people love peace, but China's sovereignty, territorial integrity and national dignity brook no infringement. China has always held that state-to-state relations should be based on the basic norms of international relations, including mutual respect for each other's sovereignty and territorial integrity, mutual non-aggression and non-interference in each other's internal affairs. China values China-U.S. relations and it has always committed itself to developing healthy and stable relations between the two countries. History shows that the development of friendly relations and cooperation between China and the U.S. is in the interests of the peoples of the two countries and is of vital significance to maintaining peace, stability and prosperity in the Asia-Pacific region and the world as a whole. Since the establishment of diplomatic ties between China and the United States, great progress has been made in a wide range of fields in terms of bilateral relations. Such a situation has not come by easily and it needs efforts from both sides to maintain it.

“The Chinese side hopes that a proper solution to the incident can be found. It does not want to see Sino-U.S. relations being further affected because the incident is allowed to drag on without a solution. But it is the U.S. side who holds the key as to whether this can be achieved. The U.S. side must fully understand the seriousness of this incident, take the solemn stand and demand of the Chinese side seriously, demonstrate sincerity, adopt a practical and constructive approach and respond positively to the request of the Chinese side, in the interest of finding a proper solution to the incident.

“Mr. Peter F. Verga, head of the U.S. delegation and Deputy Undersecretary of Defense, said the United States does not regard China as an enemy and it is also the desire of the U.S. side to develop constructive relations with China. The U.S. side hopes that a solution to the collision incident can be found as soon as possible. Mr. Verga claimed that the U.S. side is not responsible for the collision. He defended the U.S. for sending reconnaissance planes to the airspace over the waters close to China's coast on the excuse that the U.S. planes enjoy the freedom of overflight.

“Mr. Lu refuted such arguments, pointing out that the incident happened in the airspace over China's exclusive economic zone (EEZ). According to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, overflight over the EEZ of another nation should not violate the general rules of the international law such as the inviolable nature of national sovereignty and territorial integrity. Due respect should be given to the national sovereignty and territorial integrity of the nation concerned and the national security, peace and order of the said nation should not be jeopardized.

“The activities of the U.S. side in the airspace over the waters close to China's coast have seriously harmed China's national security and national defense interests and gone far beyond the limit of the freedom of overflight provided for in the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. These activities are abusing the freedom of overflight. The U.S. planes are not conducting ordinary flights in the airspace over the waters off China's coast, but are carrying out reconnaissance activities to collect intelligence about the Chinese side. Such military activities of the United States during peacetime threaten China's national security, peace and order, constitute a provocation against China's national sovereignty, and violate the basic norms of the international law on mutual respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity among nations.

“The Chinese side produced a lot of evidence during the negotiations, proving fully that it was the U.S. plane that rammed into and destroyed the Chinese aircraft and that it was the U.S. plane that caused the incident. Mr. Lu stressed that the U.S. side should bear full responsibility for the incident. The facts are clear and brook no denial. The Chinese Government and people demand that the U.S. side stop sending airplanes on reconnaissance missions in the airspace over the waters close to China's coast and hope the U.S. side will seriously treat China's solemn position and correct its erroneous behavior.

It is learned that the two sides have agreed to keep in contact on handling the incident and other related issues.”

All the best,

Lu Shumin

* * * * *

P.S. The new dust-up over the President’s remarks about using any means necessary to defend Taiwan against Chinese invasion is probably not as upsetting to Beijing as they are letting on. They know they are not going to invade, but they know factions in our government have been feeding the idea of “independence” for Taiwan. There, the President came down hard in reaffirming a “One China” policy. This had to be music to the political ears in Beijing and a setback to the small independence movement in Taipei.