What was the trigger that persuaded the Chinese government to
release the US crew on board that US spy plane. Was it George W. Bush,
who according to the spin that's being put out, was closely involved in
negotiations behind-the-scenes? Or was it K-mart, which delivered a
timely threat to buy its goods elsewhere if the Chinese didn't 'release
our boys?' This intervention by a corporation is an important reminder
to the Bush administration of the power of corporate America. As the
President continues to push a more aggressive stance toward China, the
obvious beneficiary is the defense lobby, in the form of arms to Taiwan.
And the obvious loser is consumer and business trade. With American
companies like GM, IBM and Mastercard investing billions in developing
an infrastructure in China, the threat to trade relations promised by
Vice-Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing is as serious for trade as it is for
the potential resumption of an arms race. The impact on the public
affairs business in China will also be uncomfortable and unprofitable.
For agencies like APCO, Hill & Knowlton and Burson-Marsteller, it must
be a worrying time.