China rebukes Clinton policy

CHINA yesterday rebuked suggestions that the United States administration of President-elect Mr Bill Clinton would work to change the mainland from a communist regime into a democracy.

The Secretary of State-designate, Mr Warren Christopher, said on Wednesday the new administration would ''seek to facilitate a peaceful evolution of China from communism to democracy'' so that the country would rid itself of abuses in the human rights and other arenas.

But a spokesman for China's Foreign Ministry said yesterday the US should mind its own business.

''US affairs should be dealt with by the American people, China's affairs should be dealt with by the Chinese people, this is only natural,'' Mr Wu Jianmin said.

Mr Wu said China was willing to ''improve and further develop its relations with the US on the basis of the three Sino-US joint communiques.'' He stressed, however, that the three joint communiques ''contained very important principles on non-mutual interference in each other's internal affairs and mutual respect''.

On a related issue, Mr Wu said that while the question of US sales of 150 F-16 jet fighters to Taiwan had not yet been resolved, China was willing to discuss the problem with the new administration.

Chinese Foreign Ministry sources said the Beijing government considers Mr Christopher as ''relatively harmless'', someone it can do business with and someone who does not hold any particularly strong anti-China views.

''Of course, we would prefer to still be dealing with the Bush administration but Mr Christopher seems to be a very reasonable man,'' a ministry official said privately.

''He is certainly more acceptable to China than someone like [former Congressman] Mr Steven Solarz,'' he added.

Meanwhile, Western diplomats said Mr Wu, who had apparently based his remarks on press reports of Mr Christopher's statements at a Senate confirmation hearing, might have missed the veteran diplomat's flexible approach to the issue of granting Most Favoured Nation (MFN) trading status to Beijing.

Mr Christopher told the Senators, Washington should not depend only on imposing trade conditions to force a change in China's international behaviour.

''I don't think we need to think that MFN is our only tool. We ought to try to deal with creative diplomacy,'' he said.

''We have other diplomatic leverage I think we ought to try to use,'' he added.

Diplomatic analysts said his comments indicated that Mr Clinton was undecided on slapping human rights and other conditions on the June renewal of China's MFN status.

Mr Christopher's position also clashes with that of Democrat leaders in Congress who suggested last week that they will again push for conditions on the renewal of China's MFN benefits.

However, Mr Christopher made clear that the US ''simply cannot ignore'' Chinese human rights abuses, weapons proliferation and unfair trade but he avoided being more specific on how the incoming Clinton administration will press China on these issues.

He stressed that the US should not just use the yearly June renewal of MFN as the only leverage to shape China policy.