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WASHINGTON, D.C.The bottom line in Bush's Asian jaunt is not terrorism but shifting trade patterns that are not panning out for the U.S. because Chinese-U.S. trade relations have turned sour.
When China joined the World Trade Organization last year, the U.S. hoped American agricultural exports would show a large increase. But according to Hsinhua, the official Chinese state news agency, they didn't, and this has compounded the growing U.S. trade deficit to China. Or that's the way the Chinese see it.
China thinks Bush overestimated the possibilities in free trade, and that he doesn't understand payoff happens over the long-term. Meanwhile, the Chinese have little intention of becoming dependent on the U.S. for supplies, so they're diversifying their markets. That's not likely to help the U.S.
As a gesture of cooperation, the Chinese are proposing to help the U.S. by increasing their purchases of manufactured goods, including high-tech items. "China could purchase more products made by the United States in the form of government procurement, such as aircraft and automobiles. In this way, China's trade surplus can be diminished, also easing U.S. concerns over the trade imbalance," Hsinhua said a few days ago.
But China's interest in purchasing goods, especially high-tech items, is seen here as just another maneuver to procure technology for its intelligence program. Already, its man-in-space project is being interpreted as a spy operation.
Despite these tensions, Bush's foray into the Pacific is a bit like an emperor visiting the further shores of his empire. Each colony wants a little something, be it a word of praise or a few Black Hawks.
Japan has been dependent on the U.S. since the end of the second world war for national security, and now with North Korea rattling its nukes, they are frightened and want to make sure the U.S. will be there for them if push comes to shove. The Bush policy toward Japan is tit for tat. Richard Armitage, Deputy Secretary of State, recently stated that Bush expects a generous donation for his Iraq war in return for protection. And the U.S. was pleased at the Japanese proposals of $5 billion in aid and loans. "I think it will contribute significantly to peace and stability in the region and the United States is very pleased," said Howard H. Baker Jr., U.S. ambassador to Japan.
Then there's the Philippines. On the surface President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo might appear to be a nuisance to the hard-line foreign policy advisers around Bush. In an interview with Arnaud de Borchgrave, the conservative journalist currently running UPI, Arroyo said, "If we are to win against terrorism and leftist agitators, President Bush has to win the war against poverty as well." She added, "Poverty breeds terrorism."
Arroyo and other top officials recently noted that al Qaeda operatives in the Philippines have dramatically declined, but the communist New People's Army remains active: They hit government forces 335 times in the first nine months of this year, killing 72 police and wounding 380. Arroyo has pledged her support to the war on terror and got some Black hawk and Huey choppers in return.
Indonesia is anxious to resume military aid, cut off in 1999 during the East Timor struggle for independence. The administration restored military training programs for Indonesia last year, and Bush said earlier this week, "I think we can go forward with a package of mil-to-mil cooperation," because Indonesia had helped out in the investigation of terrorists who killed two American teachers. Bush is slated to make a three-hour stop in Bali, where terrorist bombing killed 202 a year ago.
Research: Alicia Ng