By Selwyn Manning
The Chinese and United States ministers have been working to fast-track improved relations between the two countries parading a volley of statements designed to encourage their respective presidents to begin firm meaningful dialogue.
The forthcoming meeting between the Chinese and US presidents is of great significance for improving Sino-US relations, and may be the key to further US and Chinese assistance in resolving the East Timor/Indonesian crisis.
Chinese Foreign Minister Tang Jiaxuan said, after a meeting with US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, the summit will have important and far-reaching influence on the development of trans-century Sino-US relations.
Chinese President Jiang Zemin and his US counterpart Bill Clinton will meet on the sidelines the APEC leader’s summit meetings. The bi-lateral meeting will attract more attention on the world stage than perhaps than the APEC trade negotiations.
Tang today described his meeting with Albright as "candid, useful and significant."
The Chinese are placing much on the “momentum” of developing relations between the two countries. This momentum was stalled by the USA bombing of the Chinese Embassy in Yugoslavia. China is now keen for the USA to bow down and apologise for this error. Its foreign minister yesterday looked back to April’s visits by Chinese Premier Zhu Rongji to the United States, and said this was an important lead up to bilateral meetings between Chinese President Jiang Zemin and US President Bill Clinton in Auckland.
Two things could de-rail progress between the two superpowers. They are how responsive China is to US concerns about human rights abuses, and of course the great bungled US bombing of the embassy on May 8.
Foreign minister Tang yesterday stated the obvious commenting how the embassy bombing "has worsened Sino-US relations” and that the responsibility to refocus the relationship “lies entirely on the US side.”
Presently, Sino-US relations are in a crucial stage, with both challenges and opportunities. "We hope that the US will take concrete actions to eliminate obstacles to the restoration, improvement and development of Sino-US relations," Tang urged.
Sino-US relations can continue to improve if the US creates favourable conditions by taking concrete actions and steps, Tang stressed.
Meanwhile friction between China and Taiwan is the silent plague of APEC. Yesterday, APEC ministerial meeting chair, New Zealand foreign minister Don McKinnon, refused to allow questions from journalists on China’s position on Taiwan. Attempts at re-angling questions lead to an end to the press conference and an abrupt end to the first full panelled conference for APEC 1999.
The Taiwan issue, Tang said, is being pressed ahead by Lee Teng-hui, leader of the Taiwan authorities. His quest for "independence of Taiwan" relies on a "two states" theory.
Tang said such pressure threatens the stability of the Taiwan Straits, worsening and straining relations across the Straits and threatening the peace and stability of the Asia-Pacific region.
It was a heavy handed answer which was eye-balled by Chinese-Taipai from the opposite end of the conference stage.
Tang stressed China will never allow any attempt to split the motherland: "We demand that the US side stop making any statements and taking any acts that could encourage Lee's arrogance in selling his 'two states' theory.”
"The US must explicitly oppose Lee's statement and acts of splitting China, reduce and finally stop the sale of weapons to Taiwan, and not provide Taiwan with the Theatre Missile Defence system, relevant techniques, equipment and auxiliary systems," he added.
US secretary of state Madeleine Albright reiterated that the USA supports China’s “one nation policy”, and abide by the three Sino-US joint communiques, Both the Clinton administration and that of China are determined to improve relations, Ms Albright said. President Clinton expects, she said, to have friendly, frank and important talks with President Jiang.
It was clear the USA hopes for full restoration of diplomatic relations with China. It will push to put the embassy bombing fiasco well behind it as soon as possible.