position was laid out unequivocally for me by Assistant Foreign
Minister Guofeng Sheng, the highest official made available to
me on my first visit to China in 12 years: "China has no
intention to restrict or limit United States influence. We do
not have the capability. Nor would we have such need [to attain
that capability]." He added: "We are not a threat to
in Sino-American relations is no mere paranoia among hard-line
congressmen in Washington. Chinese officials and U.S. diplomats
admit that the love affair with America by ordinary Chinese ended
more than a decade ago, replaced by a worrisome anti-Americanism.
The United States is not much better loved in Beijing than it
is in Paris.
On the surface
it is difficult to see militarism here. The dusty old city I encountered
for the first time in 1978 is now a glittering giant of 11 million
dedicated to commerce. Patriotic posters have been replaced by
corporate ads. Once omnipresent soldiers of the People's Liberation
Army, nowhere to be seen, are either demobilized or back in barracks.
Foreign Minister Sheng expressed exasperation at anybody imagining
that the Chinese military could crowd U.S. forces out of Asia.
"We are not that strong. There is not a military buildup,"
he told me, because Chinese spending is at only one-eighth of
the U.S. level.
regime wants to reassure Washington, giving Donald Rumsfeld remarkable
access here last week even though the secretary of Defense had
been demonized in the Chinese press as instigator of the Iraq
intervention. Sources close to Communist leaders say they are
not really that concerned with nuclear weapons in North Korean
hands but are aggressively engaging in the six-power process to
please the Americans.
cited by Sheng and other Chinese officials most dangerous to Sino-American
amity is the Taiwan question. But sources say the regime actually
is not eager to incorporate Taiwan now so long as it does not
move to independence. With the Kuomintang party apparently poised
to regain power in Taiwan, the independence threat would be gone
was spawned in the streets in the early '90s when the U.S. Congress
opposed the 2000 Olympics for Beijing. The bombing of the Chinese
embassy in Belgrade during the Kosovo War was not regarded as
an accident by either the people or the authorities and is still
talked about here. Displeasure with Iraq followed these special
streets, however, is one prominent Chinese businessman who feels
he was treated unfairly by U.S. politicians: Chengyu Fu, chairman
of the China National Offshore Oil Corp. (CNOOC). A little over
70 percent of CNOOC is owned by the state (the rest by private
investors). But Fu told me the Communist regime had nothing to
do with his decision to buy California-based Unocal oil company
or his decision to back off when a firestorm developed in Congress.
gleaming Beijing office building, Fu said he thought the Unocal
deal would not only have benefited his shareholders but also fit
the U.S. ideal of unimpeded investment across national borders.
Instead, China was accused of trying to corner the international
oil market. "We thought we were doing a good thing,"
Fu told me. "I was naive. But this is the world we live in."
said, is a good global citizen. When Hurricane Katrina hit the
Gulf Coast, the company's employees voluntarily contributed $100,000
for relief of the victims, which was matched by the company for
a total $200,000 contribution. That unpublicized charity, he said,
reflects a China that members of Congress don't know about. "China
has changed," he said. "Even the Communist Party has
changed. But the world does not know it."