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Case Studies in Sanctions and Terrorism: China

Case Studies in Sanctions and Terrorism

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Case 89-2
US v. China (1989- : Tiananmen Square Massacre, Human Rights)

| Chronology of Key Events | Goals of Sender Country | Response to Target Country |
Attitude of Other Countries | Legal Notes | Economic Impact | Assessment |
Author's Summary | Bibliography |

Goals of Sender Country

President George Bush
At a June 6 press conference: "The United States cannot condone the violent attacks and cannot ignore the consequences for our relationship with China." He calls for "a reasoned, careful action, that takes into account both our long-term interests and recognition of a complex internal situation in China ... that will encourage the further development and deepening of the positive elements of [the US-China] relationship and the process of democratization .... I don't want to see a total break in this relationship .... I want to see us stay involved and continue to work for restraint and for human rights and for democracy." (Washington Post, 6 June 1989, A18)

Secretary of State James A. Baker III
In speech before Asia Society in New York: "[W]e and the rest of the world must not let our revulsion at this repression blind us to the pressures for reform .... The hasty dismantling of a constructive US-Chinese relationship built up so carefully over two decades would serve neither our interests nor those of the Chinese people." (US Department of State, press release, 26 June 1989, 5)

National Security Adviser Brent Scowcroft
In Beijing toast on December 9, acknowledged that there were "profound areas of disagreement ... on the events at Tiananmen" but hoped that his trip would "bring new impetus and vigor into our bilateral relationship ... [and] reduce the negative influence of irritants in the relationship." (International Trade Reporter, 13 December 1989, 1616)

US Congress
Provision in House sanctions bill, passed June 29, conditions "resumption of normal diplomatic and military relations between the U.S. and the People's Republic of China...on the Chinese Government's halting of executions of pro-democracy movement supporters, releasing those imprisoned for their political beliefs and increasing respect for internationally recognized human rights." (New York Times, 30 June 1989, A7)

President Clinton
President Clinton announces he will de-link trade and human rights considerations for China, except under the strict terms of the Jackson-Vanik amendment to the 1974 trade act: "I believe … that we are far more likely to have human rights advanced when it is not under the cloud of the annual question of review of MFN." (International Trade Reporter, 1 June 1994, 845)

Unnamed George W. Bush administration official
“In its talks with Chinese officials, the Bush administration still focuses on a small number of prisoners, bringing up the same cases again and again and urging visiting congressmen and other officials to do so as well. ‘We're very interested in being consistent, and not having them hear different things,’ said one senior U.S. official.” (Washington Post, 18 October 2002, A20)

John Bolton, Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security
“While the issues of proliferation sanctions and the arms embargo on China are separate in one sense, they are linked by a common theme: the United States is willing to forego its short-term economic interests by limiting trade with China—mostly in closely prescribed areas—in order to promote other interests, whether it is our national security or our support for human rights…We believe that lifting the EU Arms Embargo at a time when China’s human rights record remains poor would send the wrong message. (Remarks Co-Sponsored by the Tokyo American Center and the Japan Institute for International Affairs Tokyo, Japan, February 7, 2005)

Response of Target Country

Front-page editorial in official People's Daily: "Some people in the American Congress who hate China and the socialist system ... just want to poke their noses into the internal affairs of China out of their anti-Communist class instinct, dishing up one sanction after another to put pressure on China, in a vain attempt to subjugate China." (New York Times, 7 July 1989, A3)

People's Daily editorial calls 1989 economic summit declaration "gross interference in China's internal affairs," argues that "with the interdependence of the global economy ever increasing, the nearsighted practice of keeping China away from the world community may not only undermine world peace and stability, but hurt the interests of Western countries as well." (Washington Post, 17 July 1989, A20)

China reopens high-level trade contacts with India for first time in three decades to help offset Western sanctions and in hopes of obtaining technology for use in agriculture, services, public administration. (Financial Times, 3 August 1989, 3)

Deng Xiaoping, after Scowcroft's visit: "... in spite of the disputes and the differences between us, after all, Sino-U.S. relations have to be improved. That is something that is necessary for world peace and stability." (Washington Post, 11 December 1989, A25)

President Jiang Zemin
"I believe that the world we're living in is a rich and diverse one. And therefore, the concepts on democracy, on human rights and on freedoms are relative and specific ones. And they are to be determined by the specific national situation of different countries. And I'm also strongly of the view that on such issues as the human rights issue discussions can be held on the basis of noninterference in the internal affairs of the country." (Washington Post, 30 October 1997, A16)

Chinese Foreign Minister Liu Jianchao
“The arms embargo against China is political discrimination, which is not in line with today's reality.” (Washington Post, 23 March 2005, A10)

Attitude of Other Countries

Immediately after June massacre, Japan freezes economic, cultural missions to China as well as discussions of five-year aid program due to start in April 1990. Senior officials sidestep talk of sanctions, noting that "we would like to respond by condemning China. But because of our special relationship, the fact that we are blamed for so much, we just cannot risk becoming another scapegoat." (New York Times, 7 June 1989, A10)

Senior officials urge cautious response to Chinese developments to avoid isolating China, stirring its "xenophobic" tendencies. Senior foreign ministry official adds, "Sanctions by definition mean punishment. But even if you want to punish the Chinese, you don't get the results which you wish. We don't think sanctions are an appropriate response for the Western democracies to make." (New York Times, 22 June 1989, A1)

Tadashi Ikeda, deputy director general in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs: "... the exercise of military force against Chinese students and ordinary citizens cannot be condoned from a human rights position." He adds that "because of these new circumstances, Japan's relationship with China is constrained for the time being, "although he expresses hope that China does not "walk down the path of isolation." (Journal of Commerce, 19 July 1989, 13A)

European Community
Declaration of EC Council, June 27, 1989: "The European Council...strongly condemns the brutal repression taking place in China. It expresses its dismay at the pursuit of executions in spite of all the appeals of the international community. It solemnly requests the Chinese authorities to stop the executions and to put an end to the repressive actions against those who legitimately claim their democratic rights." EC agrees to ban arms sales, postpone new official export finance, economic development projects. (Financial Times, 28 June 1989, A2)

United Kingdom
Expressing "revulsion and outrage" at events in China, Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher bans arms sales to China, postpones number of governmental exchanges, but cautions that EC sanctions could have negative implications for Hong Kong. (Washington Post, 7 June 1989, A16; Financial Times, 23 June 1989, 4)

Other EC countries
Germany suspends provisions of export credit guarantees for China, freezes about DM 500 million in bilateral development aid. Italy, Belgium suspend grants, loans. (Financial Times, 30 June 1989, 6; Congressional Research Service [CRS] 1989, 4)

On June 30, 1989, Canada withdraws indefinitely its participation in Three Gorges hydroelectric project, cancels three other development projects worth C$11 million over five years, freezes four projects worth C$53.8 million. (International Trade Reporter, 5 July 1989, 858)

On July 13, Australia suspends all ministerial contacts with China, bars new financing of development projects, noting that "[i]t is imperative that Australia responds strongly to, and signals its abhorrence of, the human rights violations which have occurred." (Journal of Commerce, 14 July 1989, 4A)

Legal Notes

Foreign Relations Act for 1990-91 (codifying Tiananmen sanctions) This Act prohibits OPIC financial support, US government under the Foreign Assistance Act, the issuance of licenses of certain defense articles and crime control and detection equipment, the export of certain satellites, the issuance of licenses for export of certain nuclear material, technology or equipment, and assistance under the Atomic Energy Act. The prohibitions will be lifted when the president: (1)certifies that China has provided certain anti-proliferation assurances and made certain political reform, (2)makes a report regarding China's progress in human rights and political reform. The president is also given the authority to terminate the sanctions if it was determined to be in the national interest.

Under Section 901, this Act also states that the President should urge the Export-Import Bank to postpone approval of loans and guarantees for China, and that US executive directors of international financial institutions should likewise oppose the extension of credit to China. The Act finally states that the president should review trade agreements with respect to satellites and the use of atomic energy if systematic repression in China deepens. (President's Export Council 1997,16; CRS 1996, 21)

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