DESPITE Governor Chris Patten going to Washington personally to bat for China to be granted unconditional MFN status, Beijing's obvious displeasure at the terms imposed by US President Bill Clinton in granting it might well bring a wry smile to his face. For, ironically, the first items to be traded by China with the United States under the newly renewed MFN could be insults - aimed specifically at White House tenant Slick Willie, of course. So while quaint references such as ''strutting like a whore'', ''condemned for a thousand years'', ''a spoiled brat'' go screeching across the Pacific, Chris Patten can heave a sigh of relief. At least it gives him a temporary respite. Although, for sure, fresh barbs will be re-directed across the South China Sea and towards Government House before long. But for the moment, the least Patten can do is to call Bill and thank him for the favour.