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Senator Lugar Cautious on US-China Ties

THE United States and China ``can't have normal relations under current circumstances'' of repression by China's government, says Sen. Richard Lugar, who was chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee when the Republicans controlled the Senate. Normal relations would include trade, aid in agricultural projects, tourism, and student exchange programs, the Indiana Republican says. ``I don't see that as possible at all'' under the existing Chinese leadership,'' he says.

Furthermore, the relationship between the two governments ``is going to deteriorate badly, rapidly'' if China decides to make the presence of two prominent Chinese dissidents in the US Embassy in Beijing ``the focal point of the relationship'' between the two nations, Senator Lugar told reporters at a Monitor breakfast meeting.

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Early this week China's official press increased its criticism of the US for providing refuge in the embassy to Fang Lizhi and his wife, Li Shuxian. China's government also issued a warrant for Mr. Fang's arrest.

Lugar recommends that the US ``examine everything we're exporting to China,'' to see whether there that is of anything of strategic value that ought to be restricted. At the same time, the senator says, it would be largely irrelevant if Congress were to put sweeping restrictions on US-China trade.

``As a practical matter, business in China now is pretty well dead,'' Lugar says. United States businessmen have left and are unlikely to seek to reenter the Chinese market under present conditions, he says.

Yet at some point the US ``may have to do more'' to protest the heavy-handed Chinese government crushing of the student-led protests, Lugar says.

The Bush administration and Congress are very nearly on the same wavelength in considering how to respond to the current situation in China, the Senator adds.

Their primary difference, he indicates, is that the administration does not wish all its options curtailed prematurely.

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