Clinton’s Mistakes Regarding China
Part 2 U.S Mistakes Regarding Japan


Part 2

As President Roosevelt once bashed Japan and supported China, America in the 1980s and 90s leaned toward “anti-Japan, pro-China” stances. One could say that this tendency allowed China to grow into its current vicious form. Through explanations and some interviews, we will focus on the Clinton administration’s “anti-Japan, pro China” tendencies, which were particularly astonishing.


Point 1: Deep-rooted Racial Prejudice Against Japan

The Japanese and Americans maintained friendly relations post-WW2。

However, the U.S. has often shown wariness toward Japan in its diplomacy. One of the most symbolic events was President Nixon’s visit to China in 1972. Prior to his visit, Kissinger, the Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs, met secretly with China’s Premier, Zhou Enlai, where he said that his goal for the Japan-US alliance was to prevent any Japanese movement toward militarism.

He even said that China’s international perception was closest to that of the U.S. This distorted point of view led to the Japan bashing that followed. In the 1980s, when Japan started to overtake the U.S. in the automobile, semiconductor, and finance sectors, it came under severe criticism.

The U.S. made Japan’s trade surplus the object of attack and put the Japanese government and companies under substantial pressure, criticizing Japan as being a closed, unfair, and nasty country. The U.S. government threatened to raise tariffs on Japanese exports to the country, pressing Japan to move forward with structural reforms of its economy.

In military affairs, the U.S. discouraged Japan from producing fighter jets domestically, and instead forced Japan into unfavorable joint development projects with the U.S.

Above all, the Clinton administration showed the most remarkable “anti-Japan, pro-China” tendencies. After becoming president in January of 1993, Clinton assigned a person who was critical of Japan to a key position in charge of economic negotiations, who pressed the Japanese to open their markets. He undoubtedly intended to contain Japan, which was the second-largest economy at the time.

Around the same period, movements to bash Japan over historical issues started to intensify in the U.S. as Iris Chang published “The Rape of Nanking: The Forgotten Holocaust of World WarⅡ” in 1997 and Hollywood released the movie “Pearl Harbor” in 2001. “The Nanking Massacre” and the “Pearl Harbor Attack” have often been used to bash Japan. Bashing Japan over historical issues was not unrelated to the Clinton administration’s intentions.


Points 2: The U.S. Could Not Resist China’s Economic Attractiveness

How did the U.S. allow China to grow into the country that it is today?

Clinton set aside the issues of human rights abuses and China’s military buildup, and drew closer to China seeking economic benefits, which led to China becoming arrogant.

When Clinton won the presidential election in 1992, his campaign used the slogan, “It’s the economy, stupid!” So, it was no wonder that an administration, which put that much emphasis on the economy, wanted to gain access to the Chinese market with a population of over 10 billion.

The Clinton administration wanted to have good relations with China after putting emphasis on the economy.

In fact, before becoming the president, Clinton criticized President Bush’s lenient attitude in his foreign policy regarding China because after the Tiananmen Square incident, the American public opinion came to see the suppression of the human rights in China as a serious problem.

However, after Clinton assumed the presidency, he immediately changed his attitude. He decided to grant China the most-favored nation (MFN) status (Note 1) on the condition that China improved its human rights situation with an eye to increasing trade with China. And the following year, he removed the condition for “an improvement in the human rights situation”.

The economic attractiveness of the Chinese market blind Clinton.

When he met with the Chinese President, Jiang Zemin, in October of 1997, he described the U.S.-China relationship as a constructive strategic partnership for the first time, adding momentum to bilateral cooperation. Furthermore, he decided to support China in becoming a member of the WTO and making China’s MFN status permanent.

He adopt a lenient attitude towards China since American business circles aggressively worked on the government to expand business in China. Take for example Goldman Sachs, the U.S. security firm. It was around this time that an economist from the company coined the term “BRICs” (Note 2), and tried to encourage investment in China.

Some people have pointed out that the Clinton administration had a cozy relationship with the Chinese Communist Party. In fact, U.S. media at that time reported suspicions that the government had received considerable political donations and bribes from Chinese firms.

(Note 1) In commerce and navigation treaties, countries, for which other countries grant the MFN status, are allowed all trade benefits and concessions.
(Note 2) BRICs is an acronym that stands for the four major emerging national economies: Brazil, Russia, India, and China. An economist from Goldman Sachs, Jim O’neil, used the term for the first time in his report compiled for investors in November of 2001, and it spread throughout the world.


Points 3: The Mistaken Illusion that China Would Change As Its Economy Grew

The Clinton administration turned a blind eye to the human rights violations in China since they had a rose-colored illusion that the Chinese political system would change if its economy grew.

But looking at China’s current situation, the political systems and human rights records haven’t changed very much.

Clinton was looking at China the wrong way. Furthermore, China’s military expansion should have never been allowed. The Clinton administration already knew about China’s ballooning military spending and its maritime advancement into the South China Sea, which are now drawing international attention. Still, it did nothing when China doubled its military expenditures within five years and started its construction activities on the Mischief reef in the Spratly Islands.

When China conducted missile tests over the Taiwan Strait in 1996, Clinton deployed two aircraft carriers there and showed his determination to defend Taiwan. But his true intention might have been to avoid criticism from the Republican Party. Since he was facing a presidential election, maybe he did not want to be condemned for being soft on China.

It was the Clinton administration’s consistent policy not to oppose China’s military expansionism. In 1999, a Republican Representative, Christopher Cox, and other committee members released a report in which they revealed the fact that China had stolen America’s state-of-the-art military technology. It was a serious national crisis for the U.S., yet the Clinton administration kept silent.

When Clinton visited China in the summer of 1998, he stayed there for 9 days, and did not stop by Japan, a key ally of the U.S., which stirred up criticism even in Japan that the U.S. was “Japan passing”.

It is reminiscent of Roosevelt’s Japan bashing and support for China.


The History of the U.S. Making China Grow into a Big Communist Country


Before and during the War

Franklin Roosevelt’s Presidency (1933.3.4 ~ 1945.4.12)

1933 Nov. The establishment of diplomatic ties between the U.S. and the Soviet Union
1938 Dec. Offering loans worth $25 million to Chiang Kai-shek’s Chinese Nationalist Party
1941 Jun. The application of the Lend-Lease Act to provide the Soviets with weapons worth $11.3 billion
Jul. The freezing of Japanese assets in the U.S.
Aug. A total ban on oil exports to Japan
Nov. The presenting of an ultimatum called the “Hull Note” to Japan
Dec. Japan’s declaration of war against the U.S. and Britain
1942 Feb. The signing of Executive Order 9066 to exclude enemy aliens, which sent Japanese Americans to concentration camps
Jun. The approval of the Manhattan Project, which started the development of atomic weapons
1945 Feb. The conference held between the Americans, the British, and the Soviets in Yalta under Soviet rule


Harry Truman’s Presidency (1945. 4.12 ~ 1953. 1.20)

1945 Aug. The atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the end of war


After the war

1948 Sep. 9th The establishment of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea)
1949 Oct. 1st The establishment of the People’s Republic of China
1950 Jun. 25th The outbreak of the Korean War
1972 Feb. 21st President Nixon’s sudden visit to China
1979 Jan. 1st The normalization of diplomatic relations between the U.S. and China (during Jimmy Carter’s Presidency)
1988 The enforcement of the Super 301 Article
Threatening to raise tariffs and pressing Japan to open its markets
(Ronald Regan’s Presidency)
1989 Jun.4th The Tiananmen Square Incident (George. H.W. Bush’s Presidency)
1991 Dec.25th The collapse of the Soviet Union (George. H. W. Bush’s Presidency)
1993 Mar. The application of the Basel Capital Accord (BIS) to Japanese banks, which dealt a devastating blow to the Japanese financial system
(Bill Clinton’s Presidency)
2010 China’s GDP became the world’s second largest (Barack Obama’s Presidency)

Clinton’s Mistakes Regarding China
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