Helms Calls Permanent Trade Status for China "Ill-Advised"
05 September 2000

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Jesse Helms (Republican of North Carolina) called the pending bill to grant permanent Normal Trade Relations (PNTR) status to China "the most ill-advised piece of legislation to come to the Senate floor in my twenty-eight years as a senator."

In remarks on the Senate floor September 5, Helms said: "America's principal national interest, vis-a-vis mainland China, is to seek to democratize China, hoping that China will conduct its foreign relations in a civilized fashion, and stop behaving in a rogue fashion, as the Chinese Communists have done for the past fifty years."

"The fact is," Helms continued, "the United States has had normal trade relations with Communist China for the past 20 years. Yet Communist China's behavior has not improved one iota -- it has worsened dramatically ... during those two decades of normal trade."

Following is the text of Helms' press release containing those remarks:

WASHINGTON D.C. -- Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Jesse Helms delivered the following statement on the Senate floor today:

"Mr. President, the pending bill, H.R. 4444 (which proposes to give Permanent Most Favored Nation trading status to Communist China) is perhaps the most ill-advised piece of legislation to come to the Senate floor in my twenty-eight years as a senator.

"As the Senate considers this issue, the ultimate question is an ominous one: Will granting Permanent Most Favor Favored Nation status to Communist China advance the foreign policy interests of the United States?

"My genuine conclusion is that by doing so, the United States Senate will be making a mockery of common sense.

"Now, there's no question that giving Permanent Most Favored Nation trade status to China may advance the business interests of various sectors of the U.S. corporate community. But the Senate, amidst all the high pressure tactics, must not confuse business interests with the national interest of the American people.

"America's principal national interest, vis-a-vis mainland China, is to seek to democratize China, hoping that China will conduct its foreign relations in a civilized fashion, and stop behaving in a rogue fashion, as the Chinese Communists have done for the past fifty years.

"We must dare to ponder the most realistic of questions -- for example: Will granting Permanent Most Favored Nation trade status to Communist China persuade its rulers to retreat from their threats to invade Taiwan if Taiwan does not negotiate reunification with the Communist mainland?

"Will China all of a sudden cease its relentless military buildup in the Taiwan Strait?

"Will China halt its brazen land grabs in the Spratly Islands?

"Will China stop its reckless proliferation of weapons among its fellow criminal regimes around the world?

"Any Senator answering any such questions in the affirmative should wait around until the Sugar Plum Fairy dances down Lollipop Lane. The fact is, the United States has had normal trade relations with Communist China for the past 20 years. Yet Communist China's behavior has not improved one iota -- it has worsened dramatically on every one of these fronts during those two decades of normal trade.

"Communist China has become more, not less, threatening to Taiwan during the past 20 years. Twenty years ago Communist China was not making incursions across the maritime boundaries of The Philippines - today it is arrogantly doing so.

"Two reports delivered to Congress by the CIA this year make crystal clear that China's weapons proliferation continues apace - flatly contradicting testimony by the Clinton State Department in 1999 before the Foreign Relations Committee.

"Let's examine further this exotic pig in a poke.

"As everyone knows -- with the possible exception of anybody on a trip to the moon for the past few years, Communist China dramatically lowered its threshold for using military force against Taiwan in its notorious White Paper this past February. For years, China has assured that it would invade Taiwan only if Taiwan declared independence. That was preposterous on its face -- but now, China says it will invade Taiwan if Taiwan merely delays reunification talks with China for too long.

"That's not progress to me. Mr. President; it is instead clearly dangerous regression in China's policy toward Taiwan. And guess what? It happened just three weeks before the President sent this legislation to Capitol Hill.

"Angry threats against Taiwan have become more frequent and increasingly venomous, both in the Chinese press and from the mouths of Chinese leaders. Recent headlines in Chinese newspapers have talked of smashing Taiwan and drowning Taiwan in a sea of fire. In a March 28 article in the South China Morning Post, Chinese President Jiang Zemin was quoted as saying "If we were to take military action, it should be sooner rather than later."

"The Chinese have also directed those threats at us. China has repeatedly threatened to use nuclear weapons against American cities if the U.S. comes to Taiwan's defense. As recently as April 11, an article appeared in another Hong Kong paper, entitled: "Nuclear War Will Certainly Break Out If The United States Gets Involved."

"If that attitude is the fruit of normal trade relations with China, then by all means, Mr. President, it is indeed bitter fruit.

"Lest anyone think that China is merely engaging in bluster, consider this: the year 2000 will mark the 11th straight year that China's military budget will increase by double digits. What is China doing with all that money?

"Well, one thing is a pair of Russian destroyers armed with the Sunburn missile, which skims the sea at Mach 25, has an effective range of 65 miles and can carry nuclear warheads. In answer to a question I asked at a Foreign Relations Committee hearing in February, the Secretary of State replied, and I quote: "The terminal flight path of the Sunburn makes it very difficult for any U.S. defense system, including Aegis, to track and shoot down the Sunburn."

"China began shopping for this missile just after we sent carriers near Taiwan in 1996; China has spent over $2 billion for two destroyers and at least thirty-two missiles.

"Mr. President, I doubt that the American people will be heartened to know that our $68 billion trade deficit with China helped pay for this latest Chinese threat to American sailors.

"And, this is just the tip of the iceberg. Other Chinese weapons purchases (that the American taxpayers are financing through our trade policies) include Russian advanced fighters, air-to-air missiles and submarines. Most, if not all of this weaponry is designed for a Taiwan scenario, helping to tip the balance of power in that region further and further away from democratic Taiwan and toward the Communists in Beijing.

"This is yet another product of our let's trade-at-any-cost policy with China.

"Mr. President, I earlier mentioned increased Chinese aggression in the Spratly Islands. We must bear in mind that, in 1995, China seized some small islands called Mischief Reef in the South China Sea. Mischief Reef is just 100 miles off the coast of the Philippines and over 1000 miles from the Chinese mainland. With this brazen land grab having gone unopposed, even verbally, by anyone other than our Philippine allies, China reached out again in late 1998.

"In October of that year, China began a crash construction project and by January of 1999, had replaced some ramshackle huts on Mischief Reef with permanent structures that have been frequented by Chinese warships and are deemed as dual-use capable by military experts.

"Twenty years of annual trade favors to China were not enough to ward off these blatant violations of international norms, but I, for one, await with baited breath the day when China withdraws from Mischief Reef because of pressure from the World Trade Organization.

"We can also see the absurdity of U.S. policy toward China by taking a look at China's proliferation record. In 1998, President Clinton certified that could be trusted with our nuclear materials, paving the way for the longstanding desire of some U.S. companies to export nuclear reactors to China. Then, in testimony before the Foreign Relations Committee in March 1999, Assistant Secretary of State Stanley Roth gave China a clean bill of health on proliferation, stating that China had actually become part of the solution to proliferation problems.

"It didn't take long for Assistant Secretary Roth's testimony to be exposed as -- let me find a gentle word -- "incomplete." In April 1999, the Washington Times reported that China was continuing its secret transfer of missile and weapons technology to the Middle East and South Asia. A follow-up story in July detailed China's continuing shipments of missile materials to North Korea. These press reports were verified twice this year by none other than the Central Intelligence Agency in its semi-annual proliferation reports to Congress.

"But I guess we are supposed to believe that more trade will solve that problem.

"In sum, Mr. President, Communist China's foreign policy behavior has become increasingly antithetical to U.S. national interests during the past 20 years of so-called "normal" trade relations. It is difficult to see how making the status quo permanent will cause any improvement.

"Of course, the direction of China's foreign policy will hinge largely on whether the Chinese government democratizes and begins to treat its own people better than under the existing Communist regime. But here again, the record of engagement (or shall I state it more clearly, appeasement) has yielded miserable results.

"In fact, China was somewhat more inclined toward reform fifteen years ago than it is today. In the mid-and-late-1980s, China's leadership at least expressed, some sympathy for reform, and for the students and others who were demanding it. But, these reformers were ousted, replaced by hardline Stalinists who massacred the students and began a decade long campaign of brutal repression. Senator Wellstone and I will have more to say about human rights in China at a later time, but I believe the U.S. State Department's 1999 Human Rights Report says it all:

The Chinese Government's poor human rights record deteriorated markedly throughout the past year, as the Government intensified efforts to suppress dissent.'

"Many supporters of this legislation, if not most, insist that the way to improve this miserable situation is to reward Communist China with Permanent Most Favored Nation trade status. Mr. President, I find absolutely no evidence whatsoever to support such an assertion.

Distributed by the Office of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State.

Home | Commentary | FAQ | Newsletter | Resources | Search

Fly our banners on your web site! 

Website Copyright 2000 Capitalism Magazine. All rights reserved. Quote taken from "The Shanghai Gesture" The Ayn Rand Letter (10 April 1972).