Kosovo Talks Take a Slow Boat to China

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Moscow's got its pound of flesh; now it's Beijing's turn. With peace in Kosovo dependent on a unanimous United Nations Security Council resolution, China has an opportunity to use its veto power as a bargaining chip to pursue its own agenda. European peace broker Martti Ahtisaari spent six hours in talks with President Jiang Zemin Tuesday, after which Beijing continued to insist that NATO halt its bombing campaign before a Security Council resolution can be approved. If China uses its veto power at the Security Council, the whole process could grind to a halt, since NATO insists it won't stop bombing until the Yugoslav army withdraws from Kosovo, while Belgrade refuses to withdraw until a peackeeping force is mandated by the Security Council.

Russia has used that situation to squeeze concessions out of NATO and burnish its standing as an international player — and, in the process, its credit rating with the International Monetary Fund. China, too, has a few axes to grind. "Beijing doesn't care much about Kosovo per se," says TIME correspondent William Dowell. "But it's an important bargaining chip for them, which is why they allowed the furious protests over the embassy bombing. The key issue for them remains gaining entry in the World Trade Organization." On that score — and in the knowledge that Washington also wants China in the WTO — Beijing Monday used official media reports citing widespread opposition to WTO membership in Communist Party ranks to warn the U.S. not to impose too tough a set of conditions on China's entry. In other words, rather than send Martti Ahtisaari to Beijing to sell the Kosovo peace deal, Washington may want to consider sending over Larry Summers.