INSIDE THE BELTWAY: China’s new status cost taxpayers a bundle in PR efforts. But who got their money’s worth?

Here we are, barely two weeks after the ’historic’ vote by the House of Representatives on the change of policy toward China - called by one pundit ’the most important vote the members will cast in their careers.’ And as of today, everybody’s pretty much forgotten about it already.

Here we are, barely two weeks after the ’historic’ vote by the House of Representatives on the change of policy toward China - called by one pundit ’the most important vote the members will cast in their careers.’ And as of today, everybody’s pretty much forgotten about it already.

Here we are, barely two weeks after the ’historic’ vote by the

House of Representatives on the change of policy toward China - called

by one pundit ’the most important vote the members will cast in their

careers.’ And as of today, everybody’s pretty much forgotten about it

already.



I’m referring, of course, to the great victory for free trade, the

’Permanent Normal Trade Relations’ with China.



The hype, the excessive PR on both sides, the ’Clinton legacy,’ the

’defeat for the narrow self-interest of Big Labor and the victory for

reason and vision’ in bringing China into the civilized world through

trade, all that gaudy language is now consigned, in Lenin’s words, to

the dustbin of history (or, in more common American parlance, the bottom

of the birdcage).



The money spent on this issue - lobbying, PR, advertising, uncountable

taxpayer dollars by the administration, huge sums in time and money by

labor groups - was prodigious. It was as though the participants

themselves had come to believe their own press releases, their own sound

bites, their own advertising by groups with made-up names, all appealing

to one patriotic motive or another.



Otherwise sane people found themselves spouting apocalyptic rhetoric

about freedom and the rule of law. Once again, we were reminded of

Sen.



Dale Bumpers’ opening in his speech to the Senate impeachment trial in

defense of President Clinton:’Whenever anyone says, ’this isn’t just

about money,’ it’s about money.’



This one was about money - billions of potential consumers against

millions of potentially lost jobs. And yet, when it came time to vote,

it was two lesser-known congressmen who carried the day. For weeks,

Democrat Sander Levin of Michigan and Republican Douglas Bereuter of

Nebraska worked on an amendment to create a commission to monitor

Chinese human rights and trade excesses. The administration and the GOP

leadership worked hard to keep it out of the legislation for fear of

offending the Chinese, but eventually it brought with it the votes of

maybe 50 members, without which the measure would have been

defeated.



In the end, all we did was change an annual review of Chinese

performance to a daily one. Maybe the law says ’permanent,’ but that

only lasts until a real threat to Taiwan or the open use of slave labor

occurs. And count on the Levin-Bereuter observers to be highly visible -

and vocal.



That’s why, two days after the great ’victory,’ the Chinese were

complaining and Senator Lott was nervously eyeing a Senate-House

conference to get rid of the human rights commission. Read the small

print



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