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Clinton in China Friday, 3 July, 1998, 14:41 GMT 15:41 UK
Analysis: Did the trip succeed?
Mr Clinton and Mr Jiang on TV
By BBC Chinese Affairs Analyst James Miles:

President Clinton's nine-day visit to China has been one of the most controversial overseas tours of his presidency, and also the longest he has undertaken to a single country.

Both Chinese and American officials have expressed satisfaction with the visit, which was aimed at furthering what the two countries call a new strategic partnership between them. But there were some areas where the two sides would have liked to see greater progress.

Human rights success

Beijing appears to have been sensitive to the political risk Mr Clinton took in deciding to make the first visit to China by an American president since the crushing of the Tiananmen Square protests in 1989.

The Tiananmen Square massacre
The Tiananmen Square killings - the spectre haunting the president's visit
Its unusual decision to allow Mr Clinton's comments on Tiananmen and human rights issues to be broadcast live to the nation was probably aimed at creating an impression in America of a China moving towards greater openness and political relaxation.

This gesture provided Mr Clinton with useful ammunition against his critics at home who believed the president lacked commitment on the human rights issue and that whatever he had to say on the subject would have no impact in China. American officials clearly believe the live broadcasts were one of the major successes of the trip.

China also appears to have tried to avoid confrontation over its treatment of dissidents. It appeared at the start of the visit that the atmosphere might be soured by a dispute over the detention of dissidents in Xian, Mr Clinton's first stop. But the dissidents were quickly set free.

There were reports of other political activists being harassed by police during the trip, but the Chinese authorities appear to have been relatively restrained.

An attempt by a group of dissidents to register what they said would be the first opposition party in communist China's history on the day of Mr Clinton's arrival incurred no more than a warning - though the dissidents fear the authorities might respond more harshly after the president's departure.

Arms and economic issues unresolved

On other key issues, however, the signs were somewhat less positive. The two presidents agreed their countries should not aim nuclear missiles at each other. But this was a largely symbolic accord, given that such weapons could be retargeted within minutes.

clinton pensive
You can't always get what you want
More importantly, China failed to give a clear commitment to sign up to the Missile Technology Control Regime which America sees as an important safeguard against the spread of missile technology to what it sees as rogue regimes.

There was no agreement either on China's accession to the World Trade Organization or on the further opening up of China's markets to American goods and services. This is bad news for Mr Clinton, given the political pressures he is under at home as a result of the fast growing trade deficit in China's favour.

Taiwan pledge pleases China

The Chinese President, Jiang Zemin, will derive some satisfaction from Mr Clinton's pledge not to support the independence of Taiwan or any attempt by the island to gain international recognition. Beijing would have liked a written statement to that effect from the Americans. But with its strong historical ties to Taiwan, Washington appears unwilling to go that far.

Both leaders welcomed the opportunity to improve relations
American officials made it clear that despite Beijing's objections, arms sales to the island would continue. Both sides are hoping that the long-term benefits of Mr Clinton's trip will outweigh any immediate shortcomings. America hopes that top level dialogue with China's leaders will encourage Beijing to behave responsibly in resolving international security and economic crises.

The Chinese want to prevent ideological disputes from leading to a Cold War with a country they see as a vital economic partner. But deep misgivings in the two countries about each other's intentions are likely to plague relations for a long time to come.

BBC News
China analyst Graham Hutchins says the visit concentrated on "symbolism rather than substance".
BBC News
BBC China analyst James Miles looks back at President Clinton's trip
See also:

01 Jul 98 | Clinton in China
02 Jul 98 | Asia-Pacific
03 Jul 98 | Clinton in China
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