1989 - Tiananmen
Following the Chinese authorities' brutal suppression of demonstrators in June 1989, the United States and other governments enacted a number of measures to express their condemnation of China's blatant violation of basic human rights. In the period before the June 3-4, 1989 crackdown, a large and growing number of cultural exchange activities undertaken at all levels exposed the American and Chinese people to each other's cultural, artistic, and educational achievements. Numerous Chinese professional and official delegations visited the United States each month. Many of these exchanges continued after Tiananmen.
The United States suspended high-level official exchanges with China and weapons exports from the United States to China. The United States also imposed a number of economic sanctions. In the summer of 1990, at the G-7 Houston Summit, Western nations called for renewed political and economic reforms in China, particularly in the field of human rights.
Tiananmen disrupted the U.S.-China trade relationship, and U.S. investors' interest in China dropped dramatically. The U.S. Government also responded to the political repression by suspending certain trade and investment programs on June 5 and 20, 1989. Some sanctions were legislated; others were executive actions. Examples include:
- The U.S. Trade and Development Agency (TDA)--new activities in China were suspended from June 1989 until January 2001, when President Bill Clinton lifted this suspension.
- Overseas Private Insurance Corporation (OPIC)--new activities suspended since June 1989.
- Development Bank Lending/IMF Credits--the United States does not support development bank lending and will not support IMF credits to China except for projects that address basic human needs.
- Munitions List Exports--subject to certain exceptions, no licenses may be issued for the export of any defense article on the U.S. Munitions List. This restriction may be waived upon a presidential national interest determination.
- Arms Imports--import of defense articles from China was banned after the imposition of the ban on arms exports to China. The import ban was subsequently waived by the Administration and re-imposed on May 26, 1994. It covers all items on the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives' Munitions Import List.
In 1996, the P.R.C. conducted military exercises in waters close to Taiwan in an apparent effort at intimidation, after Taiwan's former President, Lee Teng-huei, made a private visit to the United States. The United States dispatched two aircraft carrier battle groups to the region. Subsequently, tensions in the Taiwan Strait diminished, and relations between the United States and China improved, with increased high-level exchanges and progress on numerous bilateral issues, including human rights, nonproliferation, and trade. Chinese president Jiang Zemin visited the United States in the fall of 1997, the first state visit to the United States by a Chinese president since 1985. In connection with that visit, the two sides reached agreement on implementation of their 1985 agreement on peaceful nuclear cooperation. President Clinton visited China in June 1998. He traveled extensively in China, interacting directly with the Chinese people through live speeches, press conference, and a radio show, which allowed the President to convey first-hand to the Chinese people a sense of American ideals and values.
Relations between the United States and China were severely strained by the tragic accidental bombing of the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade in May 1999. By the end of 1999, relations began to gradually improve and in October 1999, the two sides reached agreement on humanitarian payments for families of those who died and those who were injured as well as payments for damages to respective diplomatic properties in Belgrade and China. Relations cooled again in April 2001, when a Chinese F-8 fighter collided with a U.S. EP-3 reconnaissance aircraft flying over international waters south of China. The EP-3 was able to make an emergency landing on China's Hainan Island despite extensive damage; the P.R.C. aircraft crashed with the loss of its pilot. Following extensive negotiations, the crew of the EP-3 was allowed to leave China 11 days later, but the U.S. aircraft was not permitted to depart for another 3 months.
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