Zhu Comes In Peace

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WASHINGTON: Chinese premier Zhu Rongji wowed 'em in L.A., telling jokes, pressing flesh and even shedding sentimental tears when some Chinese-American kids performed dances from his homeland. But TIME Beijing bureau chief Jaime Florcruz says that while Zhu is in Washington, it's time for a straight face. "If this trip is to have any real impact on U.S.-China relations, he needs to pause between the witty comments and address the serious issues, of which there are plenty. Washington will be the place for that."

For the benefit of the folks back home, Zhu will have to make at least a toned-down protest of NATO's bombs, and for the benefit of Beijing's detractors in Washington -- GOP presidential hopeful Gary Bauer is planning a well-timed meeting with Chinese dissident Wei Jing Seng -- he'll have to make some convincing noises about human rights and nuclear secrets. But Zhu came to town to get China into the World Trade Organization, and judging by all the teleprompter space President Clinton devoted to his engage-Beijing policy on Wednesday, Zhu will get a very sympathetic ear at the White House. "With Congress out of town, they'll both try to sidestep the bad stuff," says Florcruz. "The WTO is one of the few issues that could produce good news for U.S.-China relations, and both leaders want good news very much." Look for at least a framework deal that could have Beijing in the trade club by fall.