Clinton Forced to Flip-Flop on China Policy

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WASHINGTON: President Clinton waved another white flag in front of national-security hawks Monday when he canceled the sale of satellite technology to China. Republicans have been up in arms over possible military use of that equipment. The about-face finally extricates Clinton from a years-old flap over Hughes Space and Communications and whether its technology sales were engaging China or arming it. But another of Clinton's foreign policy initiatives -- peace through commerce -- now lies in ruins.

Certainly the Commerce Department -- which wholeheartedly approved the sale in the first place before ties between the buyer and the Chinese military became impossible to ignore -- is in the doghouse. The State Department will now approve or reject such sensitive sales; Commerce's vote was taken away by Congress last year when the scandal was at its fever pitch. Abroad, even Clinton will be hard-pressed to explain to the prickly Chinese why they should still trust him when the U.S. government obviously doesn't return the sentiment. Indeed, with China suffering internal unrest amid high unemployment and an economic slowdown, look for Beijing to use the scuttled sale as an excuse to draw the curtains for a while.

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