Separating the Spies From the Sprockets

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Eight thousand miles from Tiananmen Square, Congress is contending with another of Beijing's anniversaries: the annual renewal of "normal trade relations" (formerly known as Most Favored Nation status) between China and the U.S. Always an occasion for a few hours of Beijing-bashing by Congressional hawks, this year's renewal is on thinner ice than it has been in two decades. Add up the nuclear spying, the looming trade deficit, the embassy bombing and the Tiananmen anniversary (and the fact that not a whole lot has changed politically since), and Congress is in for some long and angry speeches when the measure hits the floor this week. But once again, it may be mostly talk.

"From the Cox report to the campaign finance scandals, the permanent trade normalization that Clinton and business leaders still want -- China's membership in the World Trade Organization -- doesn't seem likely to get through Congress this year," says TIME Washington correspondent Adam Zagorin. "But this annual version, at least, looks achievable." That's because despite the yearly hue and cry, business leaders, to a man, favor freer trade with China. And when Big Business lobbies, Republicans listen. Right now, creating a permanent economic bond through WTO membership may be too much for the GOP's neo-isolationists to stomach, but re-upping the existing one-year deal would be an encouraging sign that Congress may someday be ready to wall off America's recent embarrassments from its future interests.