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Chinese Profiting From U.S. Greed

William Safire New York Times

The 4,000 “tai zi dang” - “princelings,” the corrupt capitalist offspring of China’s aging communist rulers - were gratified last February when one of their notorious members bought his way into a “coffee” chat with the president of the United States.

Wang Jun’s triumph, arranged by the Democratic National Committee through a Clinton friend, Charles Yah Lin Trie, was made possible by a lapse of security among money-hungry Clintonites who soon received $690,000 from the princeling’s sponsors.

The FBI suspects Wang of trying to run 2,000 AK-47 automatic weapons into the hands of street gangs in the United States; Wang is known to be a middleman in purchases of missiles by the Chinese army from Russia.

That this rich thug was able to buy a handshake with the president of the United States and then could use that demonstration of access in impressing other princelings is symbolic of the new attitude toward the United States of a dangerous new class in China.

One part of that attitude is contempt for U.S. greed; the princelings are convinced our politicians and business leaders will do anything, or put up with anything the Chinese do, for a buck.

The other part of the attitude is rooted in a need for self-protection from ordinary Chinese not born to power, a problem the princelings handle by transferring that resentment to the United States as the people’s enemy.

These “fixerpreneurs” are the Chinese wave of the future. They are coming into power in the army, in the Forbidden City, in state-subsidized industries, in the favored banks taking over Hong Kong’s prizes. They need an international enemy, the imagined threat of a superpower seeking the dreaded “hegemony” - and we are it.

At the same time, because they need our market, our capital and our trade secrets for their speededup development, the princelings are working on two tracks.

Internally, the United States is depicted as the horrible “hegemonist,” the seducer of Taiwan, the container of Chinese offshore expansion and the subverter of order with our prattle about human rights. But externally, the United States is to be wooed with mutual visits of leaders, all culminating this summer in a summit welcoming China into the World Trade Organization.

Smart and subtle. It means that the post-Tiananmen debate in the United States about our China policy is outdated. In that old debate, the human rights crowd argued that trade sanctions and incentives could improve Chinese behavior; on the other hand, the business-first crowd argued that Chinese freedom would come in the wake of economic progress.

That debate ended when the Asian connection persuaded Bill Clinton to open the floodgates of China trade. Beijing’s leaders and their princelings, unrestrained, jailed all dissidents. Although it turned out the human rights crowd was right about the foolishness of rewarding Chinese repression, who cares now? Engagement is a done deal.

Now we will have a new debate.

On one side are the Clintonites, writers with a stake in official Chinese favor and business seekers of cheap labor. They still hope that prosperity will lead - someday - to democracy. And they set up a straw-man argument that we have no right to “humiliate” China with our pious bias about freedom or to “isolate” a billion industrious people.

On the other side are veteran China watchers who have become new China hands who hold that China’s princelings and their gerontocratic parents are bent on keeping centralized power, that fear of an outside hegemonist is necessary to their propaganda and that by mindlessly fueling China’s economic expansion, the United States is helping build up an anti-democratic superpower rival that will dominate Japan and all its Pacific neighbors.

Kissingerians and other longtime China-openers are torn by this new “Realpolitik.” They read articles by Robert Kagan in The Weekly Standard, brace themselves for a new book titled “The Coming Conflict With China” by Richard Bernstein and Ross H. Munro and wonder: Are these new China hands the realists?

A decade from now, will the United States’ smug supporters of China’s dominance be reviled as naive fellow travelers who neglected our strategic interests while betraying our principles?

First, let’s find out all about Wang Jun’s road to the White House.

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