Bejing Exploited Divisions To Have Trade Barriers Removed

Prominent Chinese dissident tells the story how the Communist China was able to get an access to the US and global market with the most-favoured-nation status.

In 1994, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) detained me. It was 18-month illegal detention called residential surveillance. During that detention period, a representative of the CCP came to negotiate with me. He mentioned that the main profit of the CCP comes from foreign trade, at about 30 per cent, of which 70 per cent was from the United States. Without these profits, China's economy would collapse.

When later I was in the United States, I made an appointment to meet with the Secretary of State Warren Christopher. An American politician who was a relatively tough with the Communist regime. Our meeting would lead to further economic sanctions. The Communist regime was very concerned about these issues at that time.

By 1997, Jiang Zemin and President Bill Clinton had exchanged visits, which meant that the political sanctions against the CCP were almost lifted, under the condition that I, together with Mr. Wang-Dan, would be freed. Otherwise, Mr. Clinton could not easily explain the rapprochement to the people in the United States. After the political sanctions were lifted, the United States was immediately considering lifting the economic sanctions.

When I met President Clinton on December 8, 1997, there was an episode. I was persuading Clinton to use the annual review of Most Favoured Nation treatment to put pressure on the CCP and improve human rights in China. At the time, National Security Adviser Sandy Berger intervened. We can't give up all business to Europeans, he stated. The two of us clashed, and Mr. Clinton came forward to stop our argument.

After the meeting, a Congressman drove me to a private party. Those present were executives or presidents of major companies, and some even spoke Chinese. During the party, everyone said a lot of clichés that praised my bravery. After the meal, they finally got to the point at the coffee time. They hoped that I would cooperate with them, and even said that afterward, my work would get huge donations from them, even reaching hundreds of millions of dollars.

What cooperation? I asked. They said that trade with China had encountered great obstacles, and they hoped I would cooperate with them to end economic sanctions against China. I immediately objected and quarreled fiercely with them. I was convinced the leniency towards the Chinese Communist Party would be a betrayal of American democracy and freedom. 

At that moment, a woman refuted me fiercely and said: the USA could not return to the McCarthy era. I retorted to her angrily, saying: During the McCarthy era, some American intellectuals were indeed treated unfairly, but at the same time, the Communist regime massacred millions of Chinese. Was McCarthy’s anti-communism aimed to prevent Communism a mistake? Our conversation ended without a happy end. Even at that time, I felt that the American business community was the most powerful force in pushing for the lifting of economic sanctions against China.

 Maybe they knew that it was impossible to get my cooperation, and they needed to do more preparation and lobbying.

Two years later, in 1999, when I returned to the United States from Taiwan, Nancy Pelosi approached me and said: Someone proposed to give a permanent Most Favoured Nation status to China. I immediately decided to cooperate with Congressional members from both parties to oppose this proposal. But because Pelosi’s first press conference was at the time when we were at the United Nations in Geneva with head on fighting against the Communist regime, I was not able to participate.

When I returned from Geneva, I realised the situation was worse than I thought. Many heavyweight members of both parties and some Congressional committees strongly supported granting China permanent MFN status. This group included the most powerful Finance Committee. Its chairwoman said at a hearing: the Hong Kong Democratic Party Chair Martin Lee lobbied in Washington DC to promote permanent the most-favoured-nation status to China, and China's democratic movement leaders also support it. At that time, a reporter asked who was the leader of the democracy movement in China. Madame chair did not answer. That reporter asked Congresswoman three times and said: Wei Jingsheng, the leader of the Chinese democratic movement, and is right here. You can ask him to speak, he said. But she changed the subject without response.

At that time, this issue was hot in the media, and everyone understood that the most-favoured-nation status was as a weapon against the CCP. Withdraw this weapon, all statements and resolutions against the CCP would become toothless things. At that time, public opinion surveys in the United States showed that about 70 per cent of the Americans opposed giving the CCP permanent MFN status. The first reason was that it was not conducive to improving human rights in China, and the second was that the import of cheap goods would generate a high unemployment rate in the USA.

Many American politicians have paid a heavy price for the defence of human rights in China and the interests of American workers but the behaviour of our Chinese friends was disappointing. In particular, facing tremendous pressure from the CCP, Hong Kong and Taiwan friends have come forward to untie the trouble knot for the CCP strengthening this enemy. This is incredibly stupid.

After the CCP successfully won the permanent MFN, many Congressmen told me that they didn't want to care about Chinese affairs anymore. We fought for you all paying the price, but your behaviour was so bad that we don't want to hear the word China anymore.

Wei Jingsheng is a former political prisoner of the Communist China regime who was sentenced to prison unjustly for his pro-democracy advocacy for 18 years. Chinese Communist Party profited from his slave labour for which he was never compensated. He was deported to the United States on 16 November 1997, on medical parole. In n 1996, Wei Jingsheng was awarded prestigious the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought. He is a winner of human rights and democracy the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award in 1996, the National Endowment for Democracy Award in 1997, and the Olof Palme Memorial Prize in 1994.

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