Chinese learn lesson of U.S. politics: Congress counts
April 2, 1997
Web posted at: 12:13 p.m. EST (1713 GMT)
From Beijing Bureau Chief Andrea Koppel
BEIJING (CNN) -- There was a time when the mere mention of
communist China among American politicians aroused a
veritable "great wall" of hostility. But times have changed
-- most recently, American politicians have been standing
atop the real Great Wall.
Since last November's U.S. election, at least 80 members of
Congress -- including House Speaker Newt Gingrich -- have
come to China, toured its Forbidden City and met with China's
leaders. A handful, like Rep. Al Hastings, D-Florida, have
even made the trip twice.
"China is a happening," Hastings said. "... And we need to be
a part of a happening. That's one of the reasons I'm here."
Another reason is Taiwanese President Lee Teng-hui's
unexpected visit to his U.S. alma mater, Cornell University, in June 1995. U.S.
President Clinton had assured the Chinese the visit wouldn't
happen, but at the last minute Congress went against the
wishes of the president and voted to grant Lee's visa.
"And suddenly, as nothing before had for the Chinese, this
indicated that the Congress really counts in American policy
process," said David Lampton of the National Council on
The lack of understanding was a natural one. China's
congress does not have the power to challenge the top
leadership, the country's leaders assumed incorrectly that
Clinton ought to have the final say in his country's foreign
And so, since June 1995, Beijing has been actively working to
woo Congress and build an effective lobby. There has been
apparent progress. Gingrich, during his recent visit, told
the Chinese that his delegation had come "to Beijing to seek
youhao hezuo guanxi -- friendly, cooperative
By day two of the stay, even the usually acerbic speaker
sounded more like a pitchman for China tours.
Unless you've been there, Gingrich said, "you cannot
appreciate the level of change under way in China." (164K/16 sec. AIFF or WAV sound)
That's precisely the message China's leaders hope the speaker
and others will spread when they return home.
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