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... But Chinese Unlikely to Concede on Rights (cf: Baker to Test Bush's China Policy...)

CHINA is unlikely to make any major concessions to the United States on human rights in response to the visit of Secretary of State James Baker III beginning Friday, Chinese analysts say.Mr. Baker is expected to press Beijing hard to act on Washington's three chief concerns: human rights violations, nuclear arms proliferation, and unfair Chinese trade practices that will contribute to a US trade deficit with China of nearly $12 billion this year. The Bush administration views a positive gesture from Beijing as vital to help justify its widely criticized policy of "engagement" with China. Baker is the highest level US official to travel to China since Beijing crushed the Tiananmen Square protest movement in June 1989, killing hundreds of unarmed citizens. Although Chinese leaders are heralding the Nov. 15-17 visit as a "major event," Chinese analysts hold out little hope that it will improve US-China relations. "We are paying a lot of attention to the Baker visit, but without many expectations," says an analyst on US affairs at the Chinese Academy of Social Science (CASS), China's leading government think tank. "The main problem is human rights," said the analyst, requesting anonymity. "But generally, it is impossible at the present time" for China to make any major concession on human rights. Outwardly, China has expressed a willingness to discuss human rights and other problems with Baker in an effort to "enhance mutual understanding," according to Foreign Ministry spokesman Wu Jianmin. This willingness is founded on pragmatism: China wants to increase its high-level contacts with the US and other Western nations to expand its access to investment, technology, and export markets. But inwardly, the hard-line regime harbors deep suspicions of the US, which Beijing has portrayed in press reports and in internal documents as a hostile nation intent on subverting communist governments. Since the US victory in the Gulf war and the collapse of communism in the Soviet Union, Chinese leaders have grown worried that a new American "hegemonism" will threaten their rule, Chinese sources say. "The Soviet Union is finished as a world power. Now only China can contend with the United States," says a Chinese party source. Beijing has warned in the state-run media and internal documents that a strengthened America has intensified a long-term campaign to undermine communism in China through "peaceful evolution," or spreading capitalism and liberal ideas. Some internal documents have attacked President Bush by name as a dangerous and deceptive man set on destroying the Marxist regime, a Chinese official says privately. Last week, an article in the Communist Party mouthpiece People's Daily attacked the US and other Western countries for using the issue of human rights to "impose their political will ... and plot in favor of peaceful evolution." Such suspicions could compel Chinese leaders to rebuff Baker's calls for human rights improvements - as they have many similar US statements in the past - by denouncing them as "interference in China's internal affairs." The US State Department acknowledged recently that China has failed to take "substantive action" on a list of 800 Chinese political and religious prisoners that Washington submitted to Beijing last spring. Chinese leaders say their chief concern is simply to provide food, clothing, and shelter for China's 1.1 billion people.

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