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CALIFORNIA, Oct. 31, 2004 —Is a vote for George W. Bush a vote for Beijing? Certainly when it comes to USA-China relations the Bush family and its supporters have close connections to the Beijing government. According to Secretary of State Colin Powell (a personal friend of George Bush Senior) relations between the USA and China are the strongest they've been in a generation.

Under W cooperation with China's military has increased, the trade deficit with China has swelled to well over 100 billion dollars, and the USA has softened its criticism of human rights in China. And for nearly a year W and Colin Powell have issued the strongest statements ever made by an American government against Taiwan independence.

Manchurian Candidate 2004
"I'm the one who committed the state of Texas to defend Taiwan."
— George W. Bush

Yet when W became President in 2001 many Christian conservatives –the base of his political support– believed he would spur policies to oppose communist China and support Taiwan.

In 2000 W differentiated himself from the Clinton view of China as an important "strategic partner" in trade by referring to China as a "strategic competitor" overall. This slogan was no doubt coined by the "Vulcans," W's foreign policy advisors, people such as Condoleeza Rice, Paul Wolfowitz, and Richard Perle, all "neo-conservative" Republicans steeped in the traditions of the Cold War.

Neo-conservatives view current American policies on China as outdated and call for recognition of Taiwan. That's good news to evangelicals who see Taiwan as the vanguard in the American crusade to make a Christian China.

Many evangelicals believe that a confrontation with China, America's putative superpower rival, must occur as part of a final global test that will bring on the "end-times," the return of Jesus Christ.

The neo-conservatives also want confrontation in order to so disrupt China that it cannot become a "peer" rival of the USA and jeopardize American dominance of the world in the 21st Century.

During the first 100 days of the Bush administration it appeared that evangelicals and neo-cons had indeed usurped long-standing policies on China and that a conflict was a very real possibility.

In March 2001 Pentagon chief Donald Rumsfeld met privately with W and presented a new military strategy singling out China as America's principal adversary.

Less than two weeks later, on April 1, a USA Navy spy plane collided with a Chinese jet fighter off the coast of southern China. The spy plane made an emergency landing on the island of Hainan (China's "Hawaii") where the crew was held for 11 days.

The spy plane incident unleashed a torrent of anti-China bashing about America's new enemy. Capitalizing on the mood W said in a nationally broadcast television interview that the USA would do "whatever it takes" to defend Taiwan from Chinese aggression.

The remark was a significant departure from the "strategic ambiguity" that traditionally defines USA relations with Taiwan. The USA Congress followed with a hefty arms deal for Taiwan.

But the crisis with China quickly diffused and by summer criticism of Beijing was limited mostly to differences on human rights. After September 11 the focus was off China. To date, the arms package for Taiwan exists only on paper and a senior State Department official is under house arrest for passing documents to Taiwan agents.

According to James Mann, author of "Rise of the Vulcans: The History of Bush's War Cabinet," it was a deliberate tactic of the Bush administration to get China foreign policy issues out of the way early in the presidency.

During the tense periods of early 2001, the Bush administration's and Bush family's dealings with the Chinese were unusually close.

Before W was even inaugurated both the outgoing and incoming Chinese ambassadors visited George Bush Senior in Texas. Colin Powell's first meeting was with the current Chinese ambassador, Yang Jiechi, a Bush family friend.

A visit to China by W was announced by Beijing in March and the day after Rumsfeld revealed the Pentagon plan to confront China, a senior foreign minister (Qian Qichen) visited the White House.

Intriguingly, W's uncle Prescott Bush flew to China immediately after the spy plane collision and remained in China until after the crew was released. Prescott Bush claims his visit with the USA ambassador in Beijing was merely social.

And only days after the spy plane crew arrived safely on Guam, Vice President Dick Cheney spoke at Fudan University in Shanghai.

The Bush family's connections to China are well known. Prescott Bush founded the USA-China Chamber of Commerce and acted as its chairman until just recently. George Bush Senior travels regularly to China and entertains the top Chinese leaders in his home. W's brother Neil Bush and family cousin Elsie Walker are known to have business deals with Chinese companies.

Just this past week, Colin Powell met in Beijing with Chinese President Hu and other officials. It was Powell's fifth trip to Beijing since 2001. Dick Cheney and National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice make regular official visits to Beijing and Shanghai.

The close interaction between the Bush administration and China is in sharp contrast to the more hands-off policy under Clinton.

Yet the Republican party continues to play a "Taiwan Card" politically. At the Republican National Convention in New York City the Texas Republican Party approved a plank for the party platform that calls for the "recognition of Taiwan as a sovereign and independent country."

But there was no mention of Taiwan by W or any other convention speaker, including Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao whose family came from Taiwan.

In fact, the official word of the Bush administration is strongly against Taiwan. Last December, when he met with Chinese Premier (Prime Minister) Wen Jiabao, W said he opposed Taiwan President Chen Shui-bian's moves toward independence and reaffirmed America's commitment to Beijing.

And in Beijing last week Colin Powell said "we do not support independence. It would not serve the interests of the region." Further, he told a Hong Kong television reporter that the USA supported the reunification of Taiwan and China, the goal of the Beijing government.

Four days after W said the USA would defend Taiwan at all costs, he joked at the annual correspondent's dinner in Washington DC, "I'm the one who committed the state of Texas to defend Taiwan." His witticism begs the question: are the most vocal supporters of Taiwan in America really on the side of the Chinese communists?

© Ben Calmes for Sinomania!

Complete notes and sources for this report will be posted soon.

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