Criticism of Chinese rights muted by £2bn jet deal
PRESIDENT Jiang Zemin of China yesterday agreed a £2bn contract to buy 50 jet aircraft from Boeing the biggest commercial aircraft deal in history and one which emphasises the commercial aspect of his visit to the United States.
The 71-year-old Communist leader ended his official diplomatic programme at breakfast with congressional leaders, where he sat unmoved by protests over China's appalling human rights record.
Once that was over, however, he got down to the business of pocketing technology, which his country needs to buy and American makers are longing to sell.
The Chinese president will ring the opening bell of the New York Stock Exchange today, but no such symbolic endorsement of capitalism is needed to persuade US executives they can do business with the man from Beijing.
Their fervour for contracts is, say critics and supporters, the main force shaping US foreign policy toward the world's last great totalitarian regime.
Many worried members of Congress do not believe China's promises to stop helping Iran's nuclear programme.
But Mr Clinton's decision to accept Mr Jiang's word and allow US companies to sell civilian nuclear technology to Beijing delighted Westinghouse. The Pittsburgh manufacturer of nuclear reactors has yearned for a slice of China's £35bn nuclear power market.
Alexander Haig, George Shultz and Cyrus Vance, all former Secretaries of State, lobby for pro-China businesses. Disney, which wants to build a theme park in Shanghai, has hired Henry Kissinger to lobby in Washington and placate Beijing over Martin Scorsese's film Kundun, which offers an unvarnished view of Tibet's brutal subjugation by the People's Liberation Army.
Companies reject suggestions that they are doing China's bidding. A spokesman for Boeing, which lobbied for China to get permanent ``most favoured nation'' trading status, commented: ``It's true that those are also goals of the Chinese government ... but by no means are we acting on their behalf. We are agents of our own self-interest.''
The investments include a £700m General Motors car factory in Shanghai, Atlantic Richfield's £600m gas pipeline in the South China Sea, Motorola's £600m factories making silicon and semi-conductors, and the £300m which Coca-Cola has spent on 23 bottling plants around China.
America's trade deficit with China will top £26bn this year and Washington's policy is to narrow that gap with increased exports. (Daily Telegraph, London).