Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

For Clinton, Chinese Spoil APEC Party

Boris Yeltsin did not miss much by not getting invited to Seattle for the first Asia-Pacific summit. In fact, all he really missed was the dispiriting sight of China's President Jiang Zemin behaving just like the old Bolsheviks used to do.

He also missed a very Clintonian session. The president, like so many of his generation, has a touchy-feely approach to life. He hugs his male friends, believes that casual and laid-back chat sessions can be more fruitful than formal diplomatic exchanges, and thinks everybody gets along better when they take their ties off.

Clinton took the other Asian leaders to an Indian longhouse on a quiet island out in Seattle's vast bay for a relaxed day of informal talks which the White House characterized as a "bonding session".

Amid Salish Indian totem poles, and carved bears whose anatomical precision had been discreetly screened by newly planted bushes, Clinton had prepared a photo opportunity to ram home the new Asia-Pacific concord.

However, while all the other leaders in the Indian longhouse fell in with Clinton's request for a free flowing, unscripted discussion, the Chinese president read a statement that could have been taken verbatim from Soviet pronouncements at the height of the Cold War.

"Only when all countries abide by the principles of mutual respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity, mutual non-aggression, non-interference in each other's internal affairs, equality and mutual benefit and peaceful coexistence, can a new type of international relations be established and can world peace and development be ensured", Zemin read aloud.

For those of us who recall how the Soviets used to speak, nostalgia came flooding back. It could have been Brezhnev or Chernenko speaking, and in a way, it was. If the United States is ever to be matched by another military and economic superpower, it begins to look as though it will be China.

The Chinese had cause to be most pleased with the Seattle summit, the event which symbolized that four years after the Tiananmen square massacre, China's diplomatic isolation is over. They made no concessions in return with Zemin refusing to give an inch on human rights or Tibet.

History was not made at the Seattle summit; the region's leaders merely publicly recognized the fundamental shift of United States trade from the Atlantic to the Pacific. The United States now takes 65 percent of its imports from APEC countries, and sends 58 percent of U. S. exports to them.

America's European allies are getting increasingly nervous about this, particularly since part of Clinton's agenda at the Seattle summit was to increase the pressure on the European community to make concessions at the GATT world trade talks by brandishing the prospect of a Europe isolated by the new Asian-American trade alliance.

But European fears of exclusion would be premature. Japan, Hong Kong and South Korea were all insistent that global free trade was their objective, rather than any Asian-Pacific system. Even Clinton said that the new Asia-Pacific forum should be seen "not as a trade block, but a building block to global free trade". and the Chinese, with their recycled Kremlin-speak, insisted at Seattle that politics bad no place in matters of trade. A pity to have to say it, but from China's performance at Seattle, the new world order is beginning to look grimly like the old one.