National Public Radio Interviews UCLA Scholar on President Bush's Meeting with China's Premier
Richard Baum tells NPR's Day to Day show that trade and Taiwan head U.S. agenda with China, as China emerges as Asia's central power.
China has become "the largest beast on the block" in Asia, Richard Baum, professor of political science and director of the UCLA Center for Chinese Studies, told a radio audience December 9. Baum was interviewed by Alex Chadwick for National Public Radio's Day to Day show as President Bush met with China's Premier Wen Jiabao in Washington.
Commenting on the little known premier, Baum said that "Wen is among a group of relatively faceless bureaucrats who achieved some distinction administering the reform programs under, first, Deng Xiaoping and then Jiang Zemin. He was not a guy who stuck his neck out of the foxhole to attract fire. And in this way he's very much like the president, Hu Jintao. The two of them together make a rather nice team -- relatively uncharismatic but relatively competent people."
Taiwanese President Chen Shui-bian's threat to put a referendum on the ballot calling for explicit independence from China has been met with threats of military action by the Chinese. The Bush administration has called on Taiwan to retreat, and on the People's Republic to refrain from interfering on the island. Baum called President Chen's action "provocative," although "he backed down under American pressure and he now says that he will simply hold a referendum on the question of Chinese missiles opposing Taiwan. But in either case, the Chinese have reason to be squirming and nervous. Any change in the status quo as far as they are concerned is unacceptable." He added that the Chinese cannot be certain that the United States will not come to the defense of Taiwan if the mainland takes military action.
Alex Chadwick asked Richard Baum how the Chinese could be expected to respond to the Bush administration's announced plans to limit imports of some Chinese goods. Baum responded that "The notion that there are going to be new import quotas on Chinese brassieres and various cotton textiles and fibers is regarded by the Chinese as evidence of a double standard in American policy. We lecture them on openness and transparency and free trade, and then we turn around and we impose tariffs on steel and now on brassieres and other fabrics." He added that, despite pressure from conservatives for President Bush to press human rights issues, "these cannot be high on his agenda." The two most important issues "are maintaining peace in the Taiwan Straits and preventing a trade war with China. Anything else has to be second to those."
Has China Become the Dominant Power in Asia?
Chadwick suggested that China is "supplanting Japan in the eyes of many" and asked if the West has "recognized the extent of this change." Baum replied, "I think because China is an Asian country, its Asian neighbors are far more aware of its potential power than we are. It's the proverbial 800-pound gorilla. And in its neighborhood, it is the largest beast on the block. The Europeans, I think, are also coming to grips with it. The EU has engaged in a diplomatic effort with China that I think is perhaps more progressive and more clear-sighted than our own. We tend to still think of China in cold war terms, as an inefficient, ossified, Communist giant that really can't do anything right. That's not the case. And we need to wake up to the fact that China is going to be a peer competitor before too long. And we need to work toward a stable relationship with China."
To listen to the entire broadcast, go to the National Public Radio website: http://www.npr.org/rundowns/rundown.php?prgDate=09-Dec-2003&prgId=17
Published: Friday, December 12, 2003