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US must be tough on China

I'm on an Asian kick this week that endless flaming on Cambodia and heaping bowls of wonton soup can't satisfy. And as much as I tire of writing about everyone's favorite decrepit communist puss-heads, I feel I must share with you my latest feelings on. . . .

The wise old leaders of the People's Republic of China.

In case you were wondering, the Chinese government is still up to its old tricks -- the one-party government still hassles reformers, taunts Tibetans and sells nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles to anyone who can pay in cash. As always, President George Bush insists that the United States must stay friendly to this belligerent superpower: Just last week, Secretary of State James A. Baker III visited China in the hopes that it can somehow be transformed through kind words and deeds.

Sino-American relations are personal for Bush. An ambassador to the PRC in the 1970s, he claims to possess a special relationship with and understanding of the present Chinese leadership. If China starts to stray despite US efforts, though, Bush will look stupid. It is because of this fear that China still holds on to US most-favored nation trade status, despite its human rights abuses, corrupt trade practices and all-around nastiness. Damn the New World Order, Bush's policy echoes, we like stodgy Marxist student-beaters.

Newspapers, it seems, are starting to fall in line with the president's view. I don't know why.

An editorial in a national daily pointed to China's help in fostering political reform in Cambodia as a reason for continuing close ties. This view is moronic. The Chinese are eager for reform in Cambodia because they hate the Vietnamese, who are now in control. Four years ago, during a conference in Washington, the Chinese ambassador to the United States told this to me himself. They support the UN peace plan because it will remove the Vietnamese from the country and help plant their cronies, the Khmer Rouge, in power.

The Chinese don't care about US diplomacy. They just want to win. Uncomfortable with the notion of catering to foreign barbarians, the leaders of the Middle Kingdom trade anti-missile guns, favoritism and kind words from the United States, and then sell missiles to Syria and nuclear reactors to North Korea without flinching. The Chinese government has acted this way throughout the 20 years during which it has has relations with the United States.

Close ties between America and China were fostered in the 1970s to counter the Soviet threat. Times have changed, though, and Bush should bring his thinking into the 1990s. He should use the Soviets as a counterweight against the PRC.

The Chinese seem to already think we are doing this. Their government has been circulating a memo among its ranks asserting that the Central Intelligence Agency is involved in a campaign of "peaceful evolution." Bush, they believe, is only being nice to China so he can infect it with human rights and democracy.

True or not, such "infection" isn't a bad idea. The Chinese are going to think we are even if we don't, and effecting change in China is definitely among US policy goals.

So I like peace and freedom and democracy -- I'm sorry.

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Matthew H. Hersch, a sophomore in the Department of Physics, is an opinion editor of The Tech.