By Kathryn Clark
As Congress gears up for its annual spring debate on renewing China's trading status with the United States, experts on China will gather for a one-day symposium on U.S.-China relations at KU.
The April 8 coference, titled "Terms of Engagement: Most Favored Nations Trading Status for China," will be the first program offered by KU's new Robert J. Dole Institute for Public Service and Public Policy. The event is free to the public.
China is the fastest-growing market in the world for U.S. exports. In 1996, Kansas exported more than $127 million in goods and services to China and Hong Kong.
"U.S.-China relations are at a crossroads. The Most Favored Nations issue is a key flash point in that relationship," said Burdett A. Loomis, acting director of the Dole Institute. "The symposium will offer a forum for lively discussion and debate of the complex issues surrounding this country's relationship with China."
Some of the leading U.S. experts and opinion makers on China, including Richard Bernstein, New York Times writer and co-author of the new book The Coming Conflict with China, will participate in the KU symposium.
The event will be divided into an afternoon session from 2:30 to 5 p.m. in Alderson Auditorium, Kansas Union, and an evening session from 8 to 9:30 p.m. in the Kansas Union ballroom.
During the afternoon session, KU and Washington experts will explore recent and dramatic changes in China that may affect Congress' debate over China's trade status with the United States and will discuss human rights violations in China and other key bilateral issues.
U.S. Rep. Vince Snowbarger, R-Kan., will introduce speakers for the evening session.
The 8 p.m. session will feature Bernstein and Christopher Syzmanski, president of the Artley Group Ltd., a Washington, D.C.-based international trade and investment consulting firm. The two will present opposing views on the Clinton administration's policy of "constructive engagement" of China, which seeks to keep open all possible avenues of communication while avoiding undue emphasis on any single issue, such as trade or human rights. Until recently, Syzmanski was a member of the State Department's U.S. Senior Foreign Service. He was instrumental in the Clinton administration's successful effort to sustain Most Favored Nations trading status for China last year.
Bernstein is a book critic for the New York Times. In 1980, he opened Time magazine's first news bureau in China.
Besides Bernstein, other participants in the afternoon session include Robert Sutter, a specialist in Asian and Pacific affairs and U.S. foreign policy with the Library of Congress' Congressional Research Service; Clifford Edmunds, a senior China analyst at the Foreign Broadcast Information Agency; and Terry Weidner, associate director of KU's Office of International Programs, who teaches courses on Chinese politics and business at KU.
Most Favored Nations Trading status does not mean preferential treatment for China. It is the normal trading relationship that the United States extends to all but a few countries.
U.S. human rights groups and some labor and religious groups believe the United States should use trading status as a bargaining tool to pressure China on human rights, trade and other issues.
"Most Favored Nations trading status benefits the U.S. economy. But more compellingly, it's the best way to strengthen human rights and democracy in China," Weidner said. "It guarantees that China will remain open to the kind of outside influences that have dramatically eroded the power of the Communist party during the current period of reform."
The creation of the Robert J. Dole Institute for Public Service and Public Policy, named for longtime Kansas Sen. Bob Dole, was announced in April 1997.
Fund raising is under way to construct a free-standing building near the Lied Center on KU's west campus.
Sponsors of the symposium are, at KU, Robert J. Dole Institute for Public Service and Public Policy, Office of International Programs, Center for East Asian Studies and Division of Continuing Education and, in Kansas City, Mo., the International Relations Council and Business Executives for National Security.