Albright's traditional lecture on human rights was met with derision rather than the customary politeness. Economic reform in China has sent unemployment skyrocketing, and the consequent social unrest has Beijing reluctant to ease political control. Washington's moves to curb technology transfer and declining investment in China by U.S. firms in the wake of the Asian crisis has reduced Washington's leverage. With the U.S. concerned at the size of its trade deficit with China and Beijing feeling pressure on its exports from the Asian contagion, don't expect the atmosphere to warm up even when the talk turns to trade.
Beijing may not give a damn what we think. That much is clear from the arrest of a Chinese businessman shopping for missile components in California last week; and from the reception given Madeleine Albright when she arrived in Beijing Monday: A roundup of dissidents ahead of her arrival was followed by China's foreign minister warning the U.S. to keep out of Beijing's domestic affairs. Mounting U.S. reluctance to share militarily useful technology with China has infuriated Beijing, and the arrest of Yao Yi in a California sting operation will likely exacerbate tensions -- he had reportedly been trying to buy gyroscopes used in missile guidance system, ostensibly for use in a railway project.