Chasing the Dragon: Clinton's China Policy

By: A. Scott Piraino


Recently President Clinton signed the US China Relations Act of 2000. Rather than ushering in a new era, granting China permanent normal trade status simply ratifies the status quo. China will continue to profit from their exports without the yearly review of embarrassing issues like trade, human rights, or nuclear weapons proliferation. During the Rose Garden signing ceremony Clinton remarked, "In case you all have forgotten, this thing was hard to pass. This was a lot of trouble."

Clinton's trouble with China began before his re-election in 1996. To defeat the Republicans, the Democratic party needed a quick infusion of cash to pay for campaign ads. Clinton turned to his Chinese connection, old friends Johnny Chung, John Huang, and Charlie Trie. They headed a shadowy cast of characters that funneled millions of dollars into democratic campaign coffers.

Bill Clinton took contributions he knew came from China, and played another angle as well. US companies wanted to sell China military technology, but the sales were prohibited by law. Economic sanctions for the Tiananmen square massacre and restrictions on technology exports prevented these companies from selling China the armaments they wanted.

In return for campaign contributions, the President shifted regulation of technology exports from the State Department to the free-wheeling Commerce department. The administration also relaxed export controls and allowed corporations to decide if their technology transfers were legal or not. When easing restrictions wasn't enough, Clinton signed waivers that simply circumvented the law. The President's waivers allowed the export of machine tools, defense electronics, and even a communications system for the Chinese Air Force.

Bernard Schwartz and Michael Armstrong, the CEOs of Loral and Hughes, each donated over one million dollars to Clinton's re-election campaign. These companies had an interest in seeing China develop reliable missiles to loft their satellites into orbit. Clinton arranged direct talks between Bernard Schwartz and a Chinese general to improve China's rocket technology. Michael Armstrong was made head of the Export Advisory Council. Both companies were allowed to upgrade the launching and guidance of China's missiles.

Clinton even involved the Department of Energy, caretaker of our nuclear weapons, in his fundraising schemes. In 1994 and '95 then Energy Secretary Hazel O'Leary accompanied Johnny Chung, John Huang, Charlie Trie, and Bernard Schwartz on trade missions to China. Shortly afterward the DOE relaxed security at US weapons labs. Wen Ho Lee, an ethnic Chinese physicist assigned to Los Alamos, illegally transferred data on nuclear warheads to his private computer files.

In June of 1995, the CIA learned that China had stolen the crown jewels of our nuclear arsenal, including the neutron bomb and the W-88 miniaturized warhead. Later that year National Security Advisor Anthony Lake is briefed on the thefts. He is replaced on the Security Council by Sandy Berger, a former lobbyist for the Chinese government. In June of 1996, before Bill Clinton's re-election, the FBI opens a formal investigation into the theft of US nuclear weapon designs.

Proof of China's military intentions came in March of 1996, on the eve of Taiwan's first democratic elections. China used the threat of force to intimidate the island nation into electing a pro-Beijing candidate. Military maneuvers included bombing runs and launching ballistic missiles that impacted within twenty miles of Taiwan. When the US sent an aircraft carrier into the Taiwan Straits, a Chinese general threatened to "rain down nukes upon Los Angeles".

In 1997, news of the campaign finance scandal reached the press. Clinton claimed he was "appalled" to learn he had received illegal contributions from China. As the Justice Department began investigating, over one hundred suspects fled the country or refused to testify. Despite FBI recommendations and congressional protests, Janet Reno refused to appoint an independent counsel.

Then the press learned that China had stolen nuclear weapon designs from US research labs. The Clinton administration downplayed and even denied reports that any nuclear secrets were stolen, but this scandal was too big to ignore. Congress began a formal investigation by forming the Cox committee. The administration was forced to reveal the extent of China's nuclear espionage, but they insisted Clinton had no previous knowledge. Sandy Berger even swore under oath that the President was not told about nuclear thefts until 1998, three years after the fact.

The Cox Committee report was released early in 1999. It confirmed that China had stolen the neutron bomb design and the W-88 miniaturized warhead. The W-88 would allow China to field smaller, mobile missiles and carry multiple warheads on larger missiles. In addition, the Cox report proved that US companies illegally transferred "missile design information and know-how". Chief among the offenders were Loral And Hughes.

In the summer of 1999 the pro-independence leadership of Taiwan called for talks with China on a state-to-state basis. The enraged Chinese demanded Taiwan enter unification talks or face attack. A Communist Party approved newspaper published a plan to conquer Taiwan. It involved using neutron bombs against any Taiwanese resistance and a nuclear standoff with the US.

On October 1st 1999, the fiftieth anniversary of China's communist takeover, a new missile was paraded through the streets of Beijing. The DF-31 is a modern, mobile nuclear missile capable of hitting targets in the US. The rocket motor and guidance system were made possible by Loral and Hughes. The nuclear warhead is a copy of the W-88, stolen from the US.

As for Wen Ho Lee, he was a suspected Chinese spy for three years before being fired from his job at Los Alamos and arrested. Lee was charged with 59 counts of mishandling nuclear weapons data with intent to injure the United States. Rather than face a trail where nuclear secrets would be admitted as evidence, federal prosecutors accepted a plea bargain. Wen Ho Lee pleaded guilty to one count of mishandling nuclear weapons data and went home, after serving 278 days in jail.

After China's nuclear espionage, a campaign finance scandal, and two crises over Taiwan, Bill Clinton's China policy has been venal at best, treasonous at worst. He is responsible for China's rise as a militant, nuclear armed threat to the United States. China has grown from an agrarian backwater into the world's third largest economy on Clinton's watch. While or yearly trade deficits with China have risen to 70 billion dollars a year, they have been the world's fastest growing economy. China has become a colossus precisely because of our trade deficits.

With their new wealth, China has sought military parity with the United States. They have been aided by President Clinton and corporate America. US companies spent over 100 million dollars lobbying congress to pass the China Relations Act. Most of that money went to buy congressional votes with campaign donations.

A few American stockholders have profited immensely from modernizing China's armed forces. Still more US companies have built factories in China. These factories and plenty of cheap, docile labor earn huge profits for these investors. Protecting these profits is Clinton's China policy.