Adviser promotes high-level contacts
Meetings next week between China's leaders and President Bill Clinton's top foreign policy aide could be the launching pad for summit meetings and a much closer bilateral relationship, the White House is hoping.
While contact between Mr Clinton and the Chinese leadership is politically off-limits until the November election, National Security Adviser Tony Lake is attempting to lay the groundwork for high-level contacts should the Democratic candidate be re-elected.
Beijing has signalled the importance of the forthcoming talks by granting Mr Lake time next Tuesday with President Jiang Zemin , in addition to talks with premier Li Peng , Foreign Minister Qian Qichen and Defence Minister General Chi Haotian .
While the full range of US-Sino concerns are to be tackled, including human rights, proliferation and trade, Washington's broader aim is to achieve progress on the initiative of regular summit meetings and more frequent Cabinet-level talks.
Of the meeting with Mr Jiang, White House spokesman David Johnson said: 'He's going to have a discussion there which centres on how to manage the overall relationship so the high-level visits we both desire become the proper way to reinforce and advance our overall interest.' He did not know whether specific dates would be set for the next presidential meeting.
While the meetings with Mr Li will be largely on economic issues, including the continued irritant of American blocking of China's World Trade Organisation admission, Mr Lake and Mr Qian are expected to address regional concerns, including the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, Indochina and the Hong Kong transition.
Beijing is also keen to hear a full description from Mr Lake of the intentions behind the recent extension of the US-Japanese security partnership.
Another unusual arrangement is a meeting in Shanghai scheduled between Mr Lake and Wang Daohan , chairman of the Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits.
Despite the array of VIPs laid on for the visitor, the White House is playing down expectations of progress in specific problem areas - notably human rights, which has dropped down Washington's agenda since the 1994 de-linking of the issue from Most Favoured Nation status.