Commentary Type

Case 89-2


US v. China (1989- : Tiananmen Square Massacre, Human Rights)


December 1986

Students begin pro-democracy protests, which spread from provinces to Beijing. (Facts on File 955-56)

January 1987

Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping denounces protests; Hu Yaobang, regarded as Deng's likely successor, champion of political, economic reform, accepts responsibility for protests, is replaced as General Secretary of Communist Party by Zhao Ziyang. Deng also criticizes leading intellectuals, including astrophysicist Fang Lizhi, who is stripped of university vice presidency, denounced for his espousal of complete "Westernization" of China, support for student unrest. (Facts on File 9-10; New York Times, 25 February 1987, A10)

April 1989

Death of Hu Yaobang sparks new pro-democracy protests; 10,000 students rally in Tiananmen Square in Beijing, 1,000 in Shanghai on 16 April. Following week, about 100,000 demonstrate for political reforms in Tiananmen Square. On 24 April, students begin boycotting classes in Beijing. Supported by almost 500,000 onlookers, more than 100,000 people march through Beijing on 27 April for over 12 hours in largest demonstration since death of Zhou Enlai in April 1976. (Facts on File 298)

May 15-18, 1989

Visit by Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev to China, in first Sino-Soviet summit in 30 years, is upstaged by more than 1 million demonstrators in Tiananmen Square. Protesters call for democratic reforms, resignation of Deng and other leaders. (Facts on File 353)

May 20, 1989

Premier Li Peng declares martial law, orders protestors to clear Tiananmen Square, but protestors ignore order. More than 1 million people show their support for demonstrators by erecting roadblocks, barricades to deter military intervention. (Facts on File 369)

May 25, 1989

Li Peng stations 200,000 troops in outskirts of Beijing; appears to have won power struggle with Zhao Ziyang, who opposed decision to involve army. (Facts on File 369; 396)

May 29, 1989

Protestors construct 33-foot-tall statue resembling Statue of Liberty, name it "Goddess of Democracy." (Facts on File 396)

June 3-5, 1989

Army disperses protestors, killing hundreds, perhaps thousands of people in Tiananmen Square. Clashes between army units in Beijing fuel speculation of leadership rift. Fang Lizhi takes refuge in US embassy. (New York Times, 4 June 1989, A1; 6 June 1989, A1; Washington Post, 4 June 1989, A1; Banks, Day, Mueller 166)

June 5, 1989

President George Bush suspends all arms sales to, military contacts with China. Action reportedly affects $600 million in government-to-government contracts, perhaps another $100 million in commercial sales, including more than 300 items on munitions control list, three communications satellites, navigational equipment on Boeing 757-200 jets. In addition, Bush offers to extend visas of Chinese students in US, orders review of existing bilateral arrangements. (Washington Post, 6 June 1989, A18; 2 July 1989, A1; Business Week, 19 June 1989, 29)

June 6, 1989

House, Senate pass concurrent resolution urging president to condition applications for Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) and Export-Import Bank (Eximbank) loans, relaxation of export controls, on improvement in "deteriorating condition" of human rights in China; president is also urged to consult with Western allies on "whether multilateral sanctions are necessary to demonstrate abhorrence of the repressive actions" of Chinese authorities. (International Trade Reporter, 14 June 1989, 776)

June 9, 1989

Bush administration reaffirms decision taken 31 May to extend waiver of Jackson-Vanik amendment, which allows China to continue to receive most-favored-nation (MFN) tariff treatment. In Beijing speech, Deng congratulates army for suppressing "counterrevolutionary rebellion" led by "a rebellious clique and a large quantity of the dregs of society...that wanted to overthrow our state and the party." (New York Times, 30 June 1989, A6; International Trade Reporter, 14 June 1989, 776)

June 20, 1989

Seeking to deter Congress from pushing for harsher sanctions, Bush suspends all high-level government exchanges with China, including planned July visit by Commerce Secretary Robert A. Mosbacher, announces intention to seek delays in new loans for China from international financial institutions. Japan suspends negotiations with China on a five-year, 810-billion-yen aid program ($5.5 billion at current exchange rate) due to begin in April 1990. (New York Times, 21 June 1989, A1; Financial Times , 21 June 1989, 1)

June 21, 1989

Despite appeals for clemency by Western governments, Chinese authorities execute three men for setting fire to a train during demonstrations in Shanghai earlier in month. Xinhua, official Chinese news agency, confirms next day that 27 people have been executed for crimes related to protests. (Washington Post, 22 June 1989, A1; New York Times, 22 June 1989, A1; Financial Times, 23 June 1989, 4)

June 23, 1989

Representative Tom Lantos (D-CA) introduces bill to remove China's MFN trade status. (New York Times, 23 June 1989, A5)

June 24, 1989

China's communist party purges Zhao Ziyang for his support of student protests. Jiang Zemin, proponent of Deng's policy of economic but not political reform, replaces Zhao as general secretary. Actions culminate week in which top editors of People's Daily are replaced by hardliners, arrest warrants issued for influential writers, scholars, economists. (Washington Post, 26 June 1989, A1)

June 26, 1989

World Bank announces that it will defer consideration of about $780 million in new loans to China, but will continue to disburse funds under existing commitments. (Financial Times, 27 June 1989, 1)

June 27, 1989

European leaders condemn Chinese repression, suspend high-level contacts, postpone new economic cooperation projects, ban arms sales and military cooperation, postpone examination of new requests for credit insurance as well as loans from World Bank. (Financial Times, 28 June 1989, 2; Washington Post, 28 June 1989, A18)

June 29, 1989

House votes 418 to 0 in favor of amendment to foreign aid bill that codifies Bush's earlier sanctions, suspends new investment guarantees and previously authorized funds for US trade development, bans exports of crime-control and "gray-area" nuclear equipment, calls for negotiations in COCOM (Consultative Group and Coordinating Committee for Multilateral Export Controls) to suspend recent reforms of technology transfer rules for China. President is authorized to lift sanctions if China makes progress on political reforms, or if he deems it in national interest to do so. (Washington Post, 30 June 1989, A1; New York Times, 30 June 1989, A1; Wall Street Journal, 30 June 1989, A14)

Early July 1989

National Security Adviser Brent Scowcroft and Deputy Secretary of State Lawrence S. Eagleburger secretly visit Beijing "to personally underscore US shock and concern about the violence in Tiananmen Square," and because "President felt this face-to-face mission...was necessary to show the sense of purpose and direction of the U.S. government." Trip is not revealed publicly until 18 December 1989. (New York Times, 19 December 1989, A1)

July 5, 1989

GATT (General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade) announces that meetings to negotiate China's reentry are being postponed indefinitely because "in the present circumstances the working party was unlikely to be able to make any progress." (Financial Times, 6 July 1989, 6)

July 7, 1989

US amends sanctions to allow sale of three Boeing jets previously banned because of their Honeywell navigation systems, shipment of a fourth plane scheduled for June delivery. In addition, Honeywell is allowed to repair defective systems on similar planes already bought by China. US officials argue that "the decision is in keeping with the President's intent not to disrupt nonmilitary commercial trade," reflects effort to encourage China to show leniency for pro-democracy protestors. However, crackdown on pro-democracy movement continues; about 10,000 "hooligans" and "counterrevolutionaries" reportedly have been arrested since June uprising. (New York Times, 8 July 1989, A1; Washington Post, 8 July 1989, A1; 10 July 1989, A17)

July 13, 1989

William F. Ryan, acting Eximbank chairman, testifies that "[n]ew applications for medium and long-term financing support [for China] will not receive final consideration unless it is clear that the U.S. supplier will lose the business in the absence of an Exim financing offer." (US House of Representatives 2)

July 14, 1989

Senate, by 81-to-10 margin, approves amendment incorporating China sanctions approved earlier by House, as well as calling for postponement of Eximbank loans, opposition to loans to China by international financial institutions, review of all bilateral trade agreements, including whether to continue MFN status. (Washington Post, 15 July 1989, A1)

July 15, 1989

Leaders of Group of Seven (G-7) major industrial countries, meeting at economic summit in Paris, announce that "to express our deep sense of condemnation" each has suspended high-level contacts, bilateral arms trade with China; in addition, they agree "that, in view of current economic uncertainties, the examination of new loans by the World Bank [should] be postponed." Actions are taken in hopes that China will "create conditions which will avoid their isolation and provide for a return to cooperation based upon the resumption of movement toward political and economic reform and openness." (New York Times, 16 July 1989, A17)

July 21, 1989

People's Daily editorial warns that Hong Kong will only remain capitalist after 1997 if its residents stop supporting pro-democracy movement. (Journal of Commerce, 24 July 1989, 4A)

August 17, 1989

Japan announces it will soon resume, on selective basis, existing economic aid projects frozen after 4 June crackdown. (New York Times, 18 August 1989, A9)

August 31, 1989

United Nations Commission on Human Rights approves resolution expressing concern about recent events in China, "their consequences in the field of human rights." (Washington Post, 1 September 1989, A21)

Mid-September 1989

US holds low-level talks in Washington with Chinese trade delegation on prospects for resumption of negotiations on GATT accession. (Washington Post, 6 September 1989, A11)

October 28, 1989

Former President Richard M. Nixon begins four-day visit to Beijing, reportedly carries message to senior Chinese leaders from President Bush. (Facts on File 845)

November 1989

China's Central Committee reportedly issues 39-point document calling for increased state planning, new restrictions on private enterprises. (Financial Times, 14 December 1989, 16)

November 19-20, 1989

House, Senate pass legislation sponsored by Representative Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) waiving requirement that Chinese students holding J-1 visas return home for two years upon completion of their studies in US. Chinese government threatens to cancel Fulbright scholarship program as well as other educational, cultural exchanges if bill becomes law. (Washington Post, 23 November 1989, A56; New York Times, 24 November 1989, A9)

November 30, 1989

President Bush vetoes Pelosi bill, promises to issue executive order to same effect. (New York Times, 1 December 1989, A24)

December 9-10, 1989

In surprise visit to Beijing, Scowcroft, Eagleburger meet with Deng Xiaoping, other Chinese leaders. Agenda reportedly covers bilateral differences over human rights, exports of Chinese M-9 missiles, Cambodia. (Washington Post, 11 December 1989, A1, A25; 12 December 1989, A1, A20; 8 February 1990, A17)

December 12, 1989

GATT working party on Chinese accession reconvenes in Geneva. (Reuters, 7 December 1989)

December 13, 1989

UK Export Credit Guarantee Department announces it will soon relax suspension of export credit guarantees for China. (Financial Times, 14 December 1989, 16)

December 15, 1989

China devalues its currency from 3.71 to 4.71 yuan to dollar, in attempt to reverse its increasing trade deficit; however, new official rate is still overvalued compared to black market rate (between 5 and 6 yuan per dollar). (New York Times, 16 December 1989, 39)

December 18-19, 1989

EC Council meeting in Strasbourg, France, agrees to lift ban on official export credit financing for China. Consortium of 67 Japanese banks announces plans to activate $2 billion line of credit originally arranged with China in 1979, renegotiated in 1985, but never drawn on. On 16 January 1990, Bank of China announces intent to borrow $500 million to be used only for export finance. (Wall Street Journal, 19 December 1989, A16; Financial Times, 11 January 1990, 4; 17 January 1990, 4)

December 19, 1989

Declaring it in US national interest, President Bush waives controls on export of three satellites to China, as well as restrictions on new Eximbank financing commitments. He emphasizes that Eximbank decision does not return its position in China to normal, but continues policy adopted in June of approving commitments "where project decisions are imminent." (Wall Street Journal, 20 December 1989, 16)

January 9, 1990

Bush administration announces that, except for earthquake reconstruction, other basic human needs, it will continue to oppose new World Bank loans for China because of unraveling of economic reforms as well as political, human rights considerations. (Washington Post, 10 January 1990, A12)

January 10, 1990

China lifts martial law. However, army units in Beijing reportedly are reassigned to police. (Washington Post, 11 January 1990, A1; New York Times, 15 February 1990, A3)

January 24-25, 1990

House, by vote of 390 to 25, overrides presidential veto of Pelosi bill, but Senate override vote fails 62 to 37. (Washington Post, 25 January 1990, A1; 26 January 1990, A1, A14)

February 2, 1990

Citing national security considerations, President Bush invokes Exon-Florio provision of 1988 trade act to order CATIC, Chinese state-owned corporation, to divest its recent acquisition of Mamco Manufacturing of Seattle, reportedly because of concern that Chinese firm could use Mamco to acquire sensitive jet fighter engine technology. US Eximbank approves $9.75 million loan to China National Offshore Oil Corporation after bank officials determine that purchase of US engineering services for gasfield project depends on such financing. (Washington Post, 3 February 1990, A1; New York Times, 6 February 1990, D1)

February 3, 1990

In annual report to be released 21 February, State Department charges China with pervasive, severe violations of human rights, citing inter alia massacre at Tiananmen Square, "still continuing" crackdown on dissidents. (New York Times, 4 February 1990, 26)

February 6, 1990

Italy resumes official export credit guarantees for three shipments to China worth about $40 million. China announces that its graduates will be required to work for five years, pass political litmus test before becoming eligible for overseas study. Cumulative effect of restrictions on foreign study issued since June "is to put study abroad out of reach for many Chinese who are not yet locked into the [political] system." (Financial Times, 7 February 1990, 6; Washington Post, 7 February 1990, A1)

February 8, 1990

US Eximbank approves $23 million financing package for Shanghai subway, again stating that "contracts won by American companies would have been jeopardized." World Bank approves $30 million loan for earthquake relief in China, but at US request defers vote on $60 million agricultural development loan. (Journal of Commerce, 9 February 1990, 4A; New York Times, 9 February 1990, A3)

February 16, 1990

Bush signs State Department authorization bill with congressional amendments codifying earlier sanctions against China. Sanctions include postponement of Eximbank financing, suspension of OPIC and Trade and Development Program projects, suspension of US government assistance under the Foreign Assistance Act, ban on export licenses for military items, ban on the export of certain satellites, ban on licenses to export certain nuclear material, technology or equipment, and ban on assistance under the Atomic Energy Act. Legislation provides for review of bilateral agreements, including MFN trade status, if situation in China worsens. Bush invokes national interest waiver to avoid imposing additional sanctions. (President's Export Council 1997, 16)

February 27, 1990

World Bank approves $60 million loan for agricultural development in China; US votes for loan because it deals with "basic human needs," notes that other loans to China will be judged on that criterion. (Washington Post, 28 February 1990, A4)

March 1990

President Bush admits that "there hasn't been much give" by Chinese leaders in loosening internal repression in response to administration overtures. China reportedly resumes missile sales to Middle Eastern nations to raise badly needed hard currency, despite assurances given Scowcroft in December. European diplomat in Beijing questions whether "the Chinese feel that the relationship with the U.S. is so bad that they can take the risk of selling these missiles." Six bills are introduced in Congress to suspend MFN treatment for China. Foreign Minister Qian Qichen warns that loss of MFN would cause "major retrogression" in bilateral relations. (New York Times, 11 March 1990, 1; 29 March 1990, A11; Washington Post, 29 March 1990, A1)

April 9, 1990

Japanese Finance Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto calls for resumption of five-year, 810-billion-yen development loan to China if it meets "a few conditions," including restoration of human rights. (Financial Times, 10 April 1990, 10; Journal of Commerce, 5 June 1990, 4A)

Early May 1990

China releases 211 prisoners arrested in previous year's protests. "[D]iplomats and Chinese intellectuals say the move seems aimed at improving China's image abroad and, in particular, derailing U.S. lawmakers' efforts to take away China's most-favored-nation trade status." The American Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong mounts campaign in opposition to MFN revocation, arguing that it could reduce by half their $8.5 billion in reexports of Chinese-made goods. The US-China Business Council also lobbies for renewal of China's MFN status. (Wall Street Journal, 11 May 1990, A10; Far Eastern Economic Review, 3 May 1990, 42)

May 24, 1990

Bush renews China's MFN status, arguing that "by maintaining our involvement with China we will continue to promote the reforms for which the victims of Tiananmen gave their lives." Bush also praises China's lifting of martial law in Tibet, restoration of US consular access in that region. Asia Watch report, however, says human rights abuses are continuing in Tibet, that martial law was lifted because "the level of repression is secure enough as to no longer require a conspicuous military role in suppressing dissent." (Washington Post, 25 May 1990, A1; 29 May 1990, A18)

May 29, 1990

Despite opposition from human rights groups, Chinese students abroad, World Bank approves $300 million loan for reforestation project in China, arguing that it serves "basic human needs" by providing "jobs, fuel and housing material for low-income farmers." At US insistence, Bank delays consideration of $150 million loan for transportation project. (Washington Post, 30 May 1990, A17; Financial Times, 30 May 1990, 20)

June 25, 1990

China allows dissident Fang Lizhi, his wife to emigrate to UK, citing signs of repentance by couple, Fang's reported health problems. Move is thought aimed at influencing discussions on easing sanctions against China at upcoming G-7 economic summit in Houston. (Washington Post, 26 June 1990, A1; The Economist, 30 June 1990, 33-34)

July 7-11, 1990

Just before opening of economic summit, Bush meets with Japanese Prime Minister Toshiki Kaifu, says he will not oppose Japanese plans to gradually resume "humanitarian" lending to China. At summit meeting, Japan also pushes for easing of other sanctions, but with French President François Mitterrand, Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney opposed, G-7 leaders agree only to "explore" resuming World Bank lending for other than "humanitarian" purposes. Following Kaifu's public statement that suspended five-year loan program will go forward after summit, Chairman of Federation of Bankers' Association of Japan Taizo Hashida says Japanese commercial banks will look "positively" on resumption of lending to China. It is expected that 120 billion yen in project loans will be approved by March 1991. (Washington Post, 8 July 1990, A1; 11 July 1990, A4; New York Times, 11 July 1990, A5, 19 July 1990, A12; Financial Times, 11 July 1990, 21; Wall Street Journal, 12 July 1990, A8)

October 18-19, 1990

US House of Representatives votes 247-174 to deny China MFN status, not enough to overrule an expected presidential veto. The US Senate misses deadline for voting against MFN status. (Asia Society 1991, 177)

October 22, 1990

EC votes to lift economic sanctions imposed against China following Tiananmen Square massacre. Restrictions on arms sales and military cooperation remain in place and the EC Council of Ministers pledges to remain "vigilant" over China's human rights record. (Financial Times, 23 October 90, 22)

November 2, 1990

Japan resumes its development loan program to China of up to $283 million. (Asia Society 1991, 178)

November 29, 1990

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) approves a $50 million agricultural loan for China, effectively lifts its ban on loans to China imposed after the Tiananmen massacre. (Asia Society 1991, 178)

December 4, 1990

The World Bank ends its freeze on loans to China and approves a development loan of $114.5 million. (Asia Society 1991, 179)

May 18, 1991

China sends a government purchasing delegation to the United States to boost Chinese imports of American goods. (Asia Society 1991, 185)

May 27, 1991

President Bush announces new curbs on high-technology exports to China because of Beijing missile sales, but advocates unconditional renewal of MFN status for China. (Reuters, 27 May 1991; Washington Post, 11 June 1991, A14) (See also Case 91-2 US v. China [1991- : Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction])

July 10, 1991

The US House of Representatives votes 313 to 112 to renew China's MFN status, but imposes stiff conditions on further renewal if the human rights situation there does not improve. The US Senate votes 55 to 44 to extend MFN status for one year but also link further renewal to progress in human rights and weapons proliferation. (Asia Society 1992, 149, 150; Washington Post, 24 July 1991, A1)

November 16, 1991

US Secretary of State Baker makes a trip to Beijing, reinitiating formal high-level contacts with the Chinese government. (Washington Post, 17 November 1991, A33)

March 1992

President Bush vetoes Senate and House legislation introduced in 1991 that requires China to improve human rights policies and curb exports of nuclear and missile technology in order to qualify for MFN treatment. The House of Representatives votes 357 to 61 to override President Bush's veto of conditional MFN renewal legislation, but the US Senate falls six votes short of the needed two thirds majority. (Asia Society 1992, 161, 162)

June 29, 1992

China places a $1 billion order for 40 McDonnell-Douglas jets. (Asia Society 1992, 167)

August 7, 1992

The United States and China sign an agreement prohibiting exports to the United States of Chinese goods produced by prison laborers. (Toronto Star, 9 August 1992, A4)

August 10, 1992

The US House of Representatives approves a bill allowing the 80,000 Chinese students who were in the United States at the time of the 1989 Tiananmen protests to apply for permanent residency status. (Asia Society 1994, 196)

December 22, 1992

The United States releases four arms shipments blocked since the June 1989 sanctions. The materials include torpedoes, radar and equipment for F-8 Fighter aircraft. State Department Spokesman Richard Boucher declares, "We now believe that continuing to hold aging items after a three and a half year suspension hinders rather than helps US efforts to promote cooperative behavior in a range of areas." (Daily Telegraph, 24 December 1992, 11; International Trade Reporter, 6 January 1993,5)

April 1993

A Chinese trade delegation purchases $800 million in aircraft and $160 million in automobiles from Boeing, GM, Chrysler, and Ford in an effort to sway the new administration of President Bill Clinton on the issue of China's MFN status. (International Trade Reporter, 5 May 1993, 724)

April 22, 1993

Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell (D-ME) and Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) introduce legislation that would revoke MFN treatment for Chinese government-owned businesses, which account for less than 10% of China's exports to the US. (Inside U.S. Trade, 23 April 1993, 22; Miami Herald, 9 May 1994,1K)

May-July 1993

President Clinton renews China's MFN status, but specifies two conditions that China must meet to retain MFN status--free emigration, as required by Jackson-Vanik, and compliance with the 1992 bilateral agreement on exports of products made with prison labor. He also lists five other areas that will be considered when MFN must be renewed again in 1994: adherence to the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights; release of political prisoners; humane treatment of prisoners; protection of Tibet's religious and cultural heritage; and allowance for international radio and TV broadcasts into China. President Clinton's decision is backed by the House of Representatives, voting 318 to 105 to maintain China's MFN status. (International Trade Reporter, 1 September 1993, 1444; Asia Society 1994, 209)

November 1, 1993

The United States sends high-level officials to Beijing to renew contacts with the Chinese army that were severed after the Tiananmen square massacre. However, the Clinton administration says that it will continue a ban on new weapons sales and manufacturing licenses for military goods. (Washington Post, 1 November 1993, 1A)

November 1993

Just before the first APEC summit meeting in Seattle, China announces that it will allow International Red Cross inspectors into several prisons. (International Trade Reporter, 17 November 1993, 1941)

January 11, 1994

US Department of State human rights report concludes that China has failed to make significant progress in curbing widespread abuses. (New York Times, 12 January 1994, A1)

January 17, 1994

During trip to China, Treasury Secretary Lloyd Bentsen seeks to downplay the links between China's trade status and non-economic issues such as human rights. Beijing agrees that US customs officials will be able to inspect five prisons alleged to be producing goods for exports in violation of US law and the US-China bilateral agreement signed in August 1992. (Washington Post, 6 January 1994, D1; Washington Post, 21 January 1994, A25)

January 1994

The Chinese government releases a prominent Tibetan political prisoner and begins talks with the Red Cross about the organization of regular visits to prisons. (Washington Post, 21 January 1994, A25)

March 4, 1994

Shortly after meeting with Assistant Secretary of State for Human Rights John Shattuck and a week before US Secretary of State Christopher arrives in Beijing, Wei Jingsheng, China's most prominent political dissident, is arrested. (The New York Times, 5 March 1994, A1)

March 13, 1994

Chinese Foreign Minister Qian Qichen rebuffs demands by Secretary of State Christopher to protect human rights in China. Christopher and other senior US officials harshly criticize Chinese intransigence. (Washington Post, 13 March 1994, A1)

March 17, 1994

Secretary of State Christopher says that China has made progress on only two of the seven conditions specified by President Clinton for renewing China's MFN - emigration and exports made with prison labor. Christopher cites continued jamming of "Voice of America" broadcasts, detention of political prisoners, as examples of areas in which China has fallen short. (Washington Post, 8 March 1994, A4)

March 29, 1994

Assistant Secretary of State Winston Lord expresses support, in principle, for a plan introduced by Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) that would impose limited sanctions on state-owned firms in lieu of revoking MFN. China warns that relations could be "seriously affected" by the imposition of sanctions on state-owned firms. (International Trade Reporter, 30 March 1994, 494; 6 April 1994, 538)

April 1994

China signs an agreement with the US Customs Service to help identify export goods produced using prison labor. Customs officials had earlier complained that it was impossible to enforce a ban on imports of prison-produced goods without Chinese cooperation. (The New York Times, 18 May 1994, A8)

April 11-21, 1994

A Chinese delegation visits the United States to lobby business to oppose the revocation of China's MFN status. Trade Minister Wu Yi stresses the investment opportunities that exist in China, but warns that China is "not so frightened of revocation of MFN." (Journal of Commerce, 21 April 1994, 3A)

May 17, 1994

Apparently in an effort to meet the criteria set in 1993 for renewing China's MFN status, China agrees to a visit by US technicians to discuss its jamming of "Voice of America" broadcasts. (The New York Times, 18 May 1994, A1)

May 18, 1994

Chinese officials tell high-level American envoy, Ambassador Michael Armacost, that they are willing to make some concessions on human rights in the interest of maintaining smooth relations with the United States, but would resist large-scale political reforms. (The New York Times, 19 May 1994, A1)

May 23, 1994

Human Rights Watch/Asia presents evidence that confirms continued use of political prisoners in export industries, one of Clinton's mandatory conditions for MFN renewal. Meanwhile, Secretary of State Christopher informs President Clinton that China has complied with the two mandatory human rights conditions needed for MFN renewal-- improved emigration and respect of the 1992 agreement on prison labor. However, no significant improvement has been made in the five other areas- adherence to the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights; release of political prisoners; humane treatment of prisoners; protection of Tibet's religious and cultural heritage; and allowance for international radio and TV broadcasts into China. To address these remaining human rights concerns, Christopher proposes targeted sanctions, such as the revocation of MFN status for goods produced by the Chinese People's Liberation Army. (Washington Post, 24 May 1994, A1)

May-August 1994

In May, President Clinton announces the renewal of China's MFN status and adds that future renewal decisions will be made independently of human rights issues. However, Clinton issues a ban on the import of Chinese-made weapons and ammunition, and reiterates his support for continuing sanctions imposed in the wake of the Tiananmen incident. Clinton's decision is sharply criticized by Congressional leaders of his own party. Nevertheless, the House of Representatives approves MFN status for China by 280-152 in August. (International Trade Reporter, 1 June 1994, 845; International Trade Reporter, 31 August 1994, 1351; Associated Press, 9 August 1994)

End August 1994

During US Secretary of Commerce Ron Brown's trade mission to China, Beijing announces it is ready to reopen bilateral talks on human rights. Brown declares commercial engagement has a greater impact on human rights than the threat of MFN removal. (Wall Street Journal, 31 August 1994, A3; International Trade Reporter, 31 August 1994, 1351)

November 22, 1995

Wei Jingsheng, who was arrested in March 1994, is charged with attempting to overthrow the government. The announcement is made just after Chinese President Ziang Zemin meets President Clinton in New York and German Chancelor Helmut Kohl visits Beijing. (Washington Post, 22 November 1995, A1)

June 27, 1996

The House rejects by 286 to 141 a resolution that would have revoked China's MFN status, and approves by an overwhelming margin a non-binding resolution criticizing Chinese human rights abuses, nuclear and chemical weapons proliferation, illegal weapons trading, military intimidation of Taiwan and trade violations. The resolution calls on four House committees to hold hearings on these issues and to report on the findings, if appropriate, no later than 30 September 1996. (Inside U.S. Trade, 28 June 1996, 1)

16 October 1996

The US government permits fugitive human rights activist Wang Xizhe to enter the United States. (International Herald Tribune, 17 October 1996, 1)

Early October 1996

Beijing sentences Liu Xiabo, a literary critic and Tiananmen Square veteran, to three years of hard labor for a petition criticizing President Jiang. (New York Times, 31 October 1996, A28)

October 30, 1996

China sentences dissident Wang Dan to 11 years in jail on subversion charges. (Wall Street Journal, 31 October 1996, A18)

November 22, 1996

Clinton administration launches internal review to determine whether the Tiananmen sanctions should be lifted or relaxed to ease the burden on US exporters. Sanctions still in place include a ban on US government assistance, TDA and OPIC programs, arms exports and imports, satellites and dual use exports, and nuclear cooperation, as well as US opposition to development bank or IMF lending to China. (Inside US Trade, 22 November 1996; communication by US Department of State)

February 28, 1997

EU and US agree to co-sponsor a UN resolution criticizing China for its human rights record if it does not meet agreed conditions, including release of political prisoners, ratification of two human rights covenants, and resumption of talks with the Red Cross on prison visits before the March 10-April 18 meeting of the UN Commission on Human Rights in Geneva. (Inside US Trade, 28 February 1997, 13)

March 1, 1997

China reaches an agreement with the International Committee of the Red Cross to reopen negotiations on Red Cross visits to prisons. (New York Times Abstracts, 2 March 1997, 16)

April 8, 1997

After convincing France, Germany and Spain to withhold their support for a UN resolution, China warns Denmark that its sponsorship of a resolution criticizing Chinese human rights would cause significant damage to their bilateral relations. (New York Times, 8 April 1997, A7)

June 11, 1997

The Freedom from Religious Persecution Act, HR 1685, sponsored by Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA), is introduced in the Congress. Countries where religious persecution is found to exist could be subject to a variety of sanctions. In a provision aimed directly at China but later dropped, the US would be required to consider a country's record on religious persecution as a significant factor when voting on membership to the World Trade Organization. Senator Arlen Specter (D-PA) introduces a similar piece of legislation in the Senate. (Journal of Commerce, 11 June 1997, 2A; 143 Congressional Record, H 5129; Wall Street Journal, 7 July 1997, A20)

July 14, 1997

Seeking an end to the western embargo on arms sales to China, Beijing announces that it will open its defense equipment sector to foreign suppliers. (Financial Times, 14 July 1997, 1)

November 16, 1997

China releases and expels to the United States its most prominent dissident, Wei Jingsheng, who has spent the past 18 years in jail. Wei travels to the US and meets with President Clinton. (New York Times, 17 November 1997, A1)

18 January 1998

US Secretary of Defense William Cohen visits a top secret air defense base installation outside Beijing and signs a bilateral agreement with Beijing on prevention of accidents between warships. (Washington Post, 19 January 1998, A19)

End January 1998

In its annual report on human rights, the US Department of State calls China more tolerant of dissent. (International Herald Tribune, 31 January-1 February 1998, 5)

February 18, 1998

In a continuation of President Bush's policy of waiving Tianamen sanctions banning the export of satellites to China, President Clinton signs a waiver to allow Loral to use a Chinese rocket to launch one of its satellites. This decision comes in spite of an on-going investigation of Loral and Hughes Electronic for their possible illegal transfer of missile expertise to China. The transfer of information occurred during an independent review conducted by the two US companies, in which they investigated a 1996 explosion of a Chinese rocket in which a satellite was lost. (New York Times, 4 April 1998, 1; 1 June 1998, A13)

March 12, 1998

The US Senate approves 95 to 5 a resolution urging President Clinton to condemn serious human rights abuses in China in the upcoming UN Human Rights Commission meeting in Geneva. A few hours later, the Chinese government announces that it will sign the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. (New York Times, 13 March 1998, A2)

March 14, 1998

Citing Wei Jingsheng's release and Beijing's intention to sign the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the Clinton administration decides to end its campaign in favor of a UN resolution censuring China on human rights. (Washington Post, 14 March 1998, A1)

Early April 1998

Chinese dissident Xu Shuiliang arrives in the United States. As part of an agreement by the US to drop sponsorship of a UN resolution condemning China's human rights policies, Beijing frees prominent dissident Wang Dan and sends him into exile. Human rights groups welcome these moves but underline the fact that there are still over 2,000 political prisoners in China. (New York Times, 2 April 1998, 1; Washington Post, 2 April 1998, A34; 4 April 1998, A3; 23 April 1998, A30)

April 24, 1998

The Clinton administration announces it is considering partial lifting of Tiananmen sanctions if Beijing makes additional concessions on human rights, trade and the export of dangerous technologies before President Clinton's trip to Beijing in June. (Inside US Trade, 24 April 1998, 1; New York Times, 22 April 1998, A10)

May 9, 1998

Beijing frees elderly Catholic bishop Zeng Jingmu before the end of his three year sentence. The release is seen as a further signal of improving relations between China and the United States. (Washington Post, 10 May 1998, A24)

June 23, 1998

The Chinese government calls on President Clinton to lift remaining Tiananmen sanctions during the upcoming US-China summit. (Financial Times, 23 June 1998, 5)

June 25, 1998

President Clinton, the first American president to visit China in nine years, starts his 5-day trip to China with an official reception on Tiananmen Square. Zhao Ziyang, ousted secretary general of the party who condemned the Tiananmen repression, urges the party's central committee to take the occasion of President Clinton's trip to review Beijing's response to the policy to the Tiananmen Square demonstrations. (New York Times, 25 June 1998, A1)

June 25 - July 3, 1998

During a televised press conference in Beijing, President Clinton addresses the human rights issue by calling the Tiananmen crackdown "wrong" and urging dialogue on Tibet. Both countries agree to resume human-rights dialogue in the second half of 1998, sign $1.1 billion in business deals, and intensify consultations on regional and trade issues. However, no progress is made on lifting remaining Tiananmen sanctions or on China's WTO accession. (Wall Street Journal, 30 June 1998, A12)

July 1998

After President Clinton's visit, 15 democracy advocates are arrested; some receive substantial prison terms. US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright raises the issue with Foreign Minister Tang Jiaxuan at meeting of Asian foreign ministers in Philippines. (New York Times, 28 July 1998, A6)

October 5, 1998

China signs the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Chinese ambassador to the UN Qin Huasun says the treaty and others signed by China demonstrate "the firm resolve of China to promote and protect human rights." (Washington Post, 6 October 1998, A18)

October 20, 1998

China hosts human rights conference marking 50th anniversary of Universal Declaration of Human Rights. (New York Times, 20 October 1998, A4)

November- December 1998

Dissidents Xu Wenli, Qin Yongmin and Wang Youcai are arrested for trying to form a new political party called the China Democratic Party. Just three weeks after their arrest, Xu Wenli is tried and convicted of "subversion of state power" and receives a 13-year jail sentence; Qin Yongmin is convicted of subversion and sentenced to 12 years in prison; Wang Youcai is convicted of subversion and sentenced to 11 years in jail. US Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott criticizes the convictions, declaring that "This form of peaceful political expression deserves the protection of all governments." (New York Times, 22 December 1998, A1, A6; USIS, 22 December 1998)

December 27, 1998

Dissident Zhang Shanguang is convicted of leaking information about protests to Radio Free Asia and sentenced to 10 years in prison. (International Herald Tribune, 26-27 December 1998, 5; New York Times, 28 December 1998, A11)

December 29, 1998

New York-based dissidents Zhang Lin and Wei Quanbao, who snuck into China to help the Chinese Democracy Party, are arrested and charged with evading the border patrol and soliciting prostitutes. (New York Times, 30 December 1998, A5)

January 11, 1999

US and China resume a dialogue on human rights after a four-year hiatus. (Washington Post, 11 January 1999, A18; USIS, 11 January 1999)

February 26, 1999

In its annual human rights report, the State Department sharply criticizes the downturn in human rights in China in the second half of 1998. The State Department maintains among other criticisms that China uses torture, holds show trials, and holds thousands of political and religious prisoners. (Washington Post, 27 February 1999, A17; New York Times, 27 February 1999, A1)

Late February 1999

Senate and House vote unanimously to recommend censuring China at upcoming United Nations Human Rights Commission meeting in Geneva. (New York Times, 3 March 1999, A3; 21 March 1999, 5)

March 1-2, 1999

Secretary of State Albright uses trip to Beijing to call for the release of prisoners implicated in the Tiananmen Square demonstrations and for toleration towards the Chinese Democracy Party. The New China News Agency runs an article lambasting the United States for trying to be an international "human rights policeman." (Washington Post, 2 March 1999, A11, A14)

March 3, 1999

Twenty Chinese file a petition with the National People's Congress asking it to investigate the Tiananmen Square crackdown and pay compensation to injured demonstrators. (Washington Post, 4 March 1999, A15)

March 1999

Former Communist Central Committee member Bao Tong writes a letter to President Jiang Zemin, Prime Minister Zhu Rongji and the Politburo Standing Committee asking them to repudiate the crackdown in Tiananmen Square. (New York Times, 25 March 1999, A3)

March 26-28, 1999

Clinton Administration announces that in reaction to a deteriorating human rights climate in China, it will introduce a resolution condemning Chinese human rights violations at the annual meeting of the United Nations Human Rights Commission in Geneva. China denounces the action. (Washington Post, 27 March 1999, A7; Financial Times, 29 March 1999, 6)

April 8, 1999

Chinese Prime Minister Zhu Rongji arrives in United States to discuss China's entry to the World Trade Organization (WTO) with President Clinton as well as the situation on the Korean Peninsula, NATO air campaign in Yugoslavia, and human rights. Zhu's offer of unexpectedly generous terms to conclude a bilateral trade agreement and open the way for China's WTO accession is rebuffed by Clinton who is concerned about the political reaction domestically. (Washington Post, 9 April 1999, A26; New York Times, 9 April 1999, A12) (See Case 91-2 US v. China [1991-: Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction])

April 23, 1999

China succeeds in blocking discussion of US-sponsored resolution at the UN Human Rights Commission in Geneva condemning human rights abuses in China. (USIS, 23 April 1999; USIS, 23 April 1999)

April 25, 1999

Thousands of practitioners of Falun Gong, a spiritual movement in China, stage protest outside the leadership compound in Beijing demanding official recognition of their movement. This is the largest protest in Beijing since the 1989 democracy movement. (Wall Street Journal, 28 April 1999, A15; New York Times, 21 July 1999, A1, A16)

May 8, 1999

During air campaign in Yugoslavia, NATO bombs the Chinese embassy in Belgrade. Chinese officials report that two staff members were killed and more than 20 injured, call the strike "gross violation of China's sovereignty" and reject NATO's explanation that attack was a accident. Several days of officially sanctioned anti-American demonstrations and attacks against US diplomatic installations in China follow. (Washington Post, 8 May 1999, A1; 9 May 1999, A1; Financial Times, 8-9 May 1999, 1)

May 25, 1999

Commemorating 10th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square protests, US House of Representatives passes resolution condemning ongoing human rights abuses in China. The resolution calls on China to reevaluate the official verdict of the 1989 protest and launch an investigation into governmental abuses relating to Tiananmen. (USIS, 25 May 1999)

June 3-4, 1999

People's Daily calls on citizens to preserve "unity and stability" as 4 June anniversary approaches and calls the governments reaction to the 1989 demonstration "extremely timely and completely necessary". More than 70 dissidents have been detained in recent weeks. No demonstrations take place. (Washington Post, 3 June 1999, A28; New York Times, 5 June 1999, A3)

July 22, 1999

Following wave of detentions of Falun Gong members across China, government outlaws spiritual movement and calls for "a serious political struggle" against the group. The US Department of State criticizes the "heavy-handed tactics" used to prevent Chinese from carrying out rights protected under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights that China has signed, but not ratified. (Financial Times, 23 July 1999, 20; Washington Post, 24 July 1999, A16; New York Times, 17 November 1999, A15)

October 7, 1999

In its first annual report under the Religious Freedom Act of 1998, the State Department designates China as "severe violator" making China liable for US sanctions. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhang Qiyua objects to the "wanton interference in China's internal affairs under the pretext of religious freedom." (USIS, 6 October 1999; Reuters, 7 October 1999)

Fall 1999

Chinese National People's Congress passes new "anti-cult" law that opens the way for cult leaders to be charged for endangering national security. Four leaders of the Falun Gong are charged under the new law and sentenced to up to 12 years in prison. (Washington Post, 31 October 1999, A31; 13 November 1999, A25; New York Times, 31 October 1999, 9; 1 November 1999, A9)

November 10, 1999

Four founders of the outlawed China Democracy party are declared guilty of subversion and given prison sentences ranging up to 11 years. (New York Times, 10 November 1999, A7)

November 15, 1999

United States and China reach bilateral trade agreement on the terms of China's entry into the World Trade Organization (WTO). Under WTO rules, Congress must extend permanent normal trading relations status (PNTR) to China for the agreement to take full effect. (International Trade Reporter, 17 November 1999, 1852; Washington Post, 21 November 1999, A10)

November 17, 1999

Chinese government assures UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, who is visiting China, that "fundamental rights" of Falun Gong practitioners are being respected. Annan abstains from openly criticizing the government crackdown. (New York Times, 17 November 1999, A15)

December 23, 1999

US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright informs Congress that existing restrictions on exports to China of crime control and detection instruments and equipment meet the requirements of the Religious Freedom Act and no new sanctions will be imposed. (Reuters, 23 December 1999; Washington Post, 24 December 1999, A7)

January 11, 2000

Clinton administration announces that it will seek to censure China in the UN Human Rights Commission for its steadily deteriorating record on human rights, religious freedom and freedom of press. (Financial Times, 12 January 1999, 6; Washington Post, 12 January 1999, A14)

March 3, 2000

In Beijing, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson expresses deep concern over the deterioration of China's human rights practices. (New York Times, 3 March 2000, A11)

March 8, 2000

President Clinton sends legislation to Congress that would grants PNTR to China. House of Representatives schedules vote on China for the week of May 22. (USIS, 9 March 2000; New York Times, 20 April 2000, A10)

April 18, 2000

China succeeds in blocking consideration of US-sponsored resolution at the UN Human Rights Commission in Geneva censuring its human rights record. (Washington Post, 19 April 2000, A18)

25 April 2000

Nearly 100 members of Falun Gong are arrested for holding a demonstration at Tiananmen Square to mark the one-year anniversary of government’s first crackdown. (Washington Post, 26 April 2000, A28)

24 May 2000

House votes 237-197 for extending permanent normal trade relations to China. In compromise package, bill also includes provision to create a joint congressional and executive commission to monitor Chinese human rights and labor standards. China rejects the inclusion of a human rights commission and other provisions as interference in internal affairs. (Wall Street Journal, 25 May 2000, A6; Inside US Trade, 26 May 2000)

6 September 2000

In its second annual report on religious freedom, State Department declares that there has been a “marked deterioration” in religious freedom in China. (New York Times, 6 September 2000, A8)

19 September 2000

Senate approves permanent normal trade relations status for China by vote of 83 to 15 after several amendments on human rights, religious freedom and labor standards were rejected. In a compromise agreement, bill also creates Congressional-Executive Commission on China to monitor human rights and submit annual reports to President and Congress. Passage of NPTR ends annual reviews. (New York Times, 14 September 2000, A8; Washington Post, 20 September 2000, A1)

29 January 2001

Following President Clinton’s issuance of national interest waiver, US Trade and Development Agency (TDA) renews its operations in China which had been suspended since 1989. (CRS 2003, 4; International Trade Reporter, 26 September 2002, 1654)

26 February 2001

New Bush administration issues its first annual human rights report sharply criticizing China for worsening of human rights and intensified crackdowns on religious organizations and political opponents. Administration also announces plans to pursue a resolution condemning China at the UN Human Rights Commission in Geneva. (New York Times, 27 February 2001, A9)

28 February 2001

China ratifies International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights but states it may not adhere to provision that allows workers to form independent labor unions or strike. (Washington Post, 1 March 2001, A14; New York Times, 1 March 2001, A9)

18 April 2001

China uses “no action” motion to prevent US backed resolution to be considered at the UN Commission on Human Rights. (USIS, 18 April 2001; Washington Post, 19 April 2001, A15)

19 July 2001

House of Representatives rejects efforts by some members to suspend normal trade status for China because of its human rights record. Congressional approval of trade status is necessary because permanent NTR status is delayed until China officially joins the WTO. (Washington Post, 20 July 2001, A27)

11 December 2001

China officially becomes member of the World Trade Organization and receives permanent normal trade relations status from the United States. (CRS 2004, 30)

24 December 2002

Under US pressure, China releases Xu Wenli, co-founder of the China Democracy Party. Bush administration favors policy of intense pressure on individual cases involving human rights violations over more general approach of previous administrations. (CRS 2004, 12; 29)

12 April 2003

Bush administration decides not to sponsor resolution against China at the UN Human Rights Commission. (Washington Post, 12 April 2003, A29; CRS 2004, 29)

3 December 2003

Asian Wall Street Journal reports that European Union is considering lifting arms embargo imposed on China after the Tiananmen Square crackdown in 1989. (CRS 2004, 28)

4 March 2004

China releases one of its best-know political prisoners, Wang Youcai, a co-founder of the short-lived China Democracy Party. (CRS 2004, 27)

15 April 2004

UN Commission on Human Rights votes in favor of “take no action” resolution on a US-sponsored measure condemning China’s human rights record. (CRS 2004, 26)

8 October 2004

US warns EU countries that transfer of sensitive US defense technology could be restricted if EU members support French proposal to lift 15-year arms embargo imposed in reaction to 1989 Tiananmen Square events. (International Herald Tribune, 8 October 2004,3)

12 October 2004

EU foreign ministers decide to maintain the arms embargo on China for another year, but suggest that ban would be lifted the following year. (Financial Times, 12 October 2004, 6)

28 February 2005

State Department annual report on human rights devotes 153 pages to detailing Chinese cases of torture, executions without due legal process, extra-judicial killings and deaths in custody, political prisoners, using the "war on terror" as a pretext to persecute minorities seeking more rights, campaigns against religious groups, tight restrictions on freedom of speech, and shortfalls in labor and women's rights. (Financial Times, 1 March 2005, 4)

15 March 2005

EU delegation sent to Washington fails to persuade US officials of the case for lifting the EU arms embargo on China. “The two sides also disagreed over China's human rights record, with the EU pointing to a ‘lot of progress’ while US officials have spoken of ‘backsliding’”. (Financial Times, 16 March 2005, 2)

23 March 2005

More than 500 Chinese human rights and democracy activists send a letter to the EU, urging it not to lift the arms embargo on China. (Agence France Presse, 23 March 2005)

14 July 2005

US House of Representatives rejects the East Asia Security Act, which would have given the President the authority to sanction European companies that sell arms to China. Roll call vote counts had predicted that the legislation would pass, but US business groups lobbied against the bill and helped sway more than 100 votes. (Associated Press Newswires, 14 July 2005)

18–21 April 2006

Chinese President Hu Jintao visits the US, making stops in Seattle, Washington; Washington, DC; and New Haven, Connecticut. (Washington Post, 18 April 2006, A14; New York Times, 22 April 2006, 8)

22 April 2006

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso says that the EU arms sales embargo on China cannot be lifted without progress on human rights, democracy and the rule of law. (The Times, 22 April 2006, 58)

Goals of Sender Country

President George Bush
At a June 6 press conference: "The United States cannot condone the violent attacks and cannot ignore the consequences for our relationship with China." He calls for "a reasoned, careful action, that takes into account both our long-term interests and recognition of a complex internal situation in China ... that will encourage the further development and deepening of the positive elements of [the US-China] relationship and the process of democratization .... I don't want to see a total break in this relationship .... I want to see us stay involved and continue to work for restraint and for human rights and for democracy." (Washington Post, 6 June 1989, A18)

Secretary of State James A. Baker III
In speech before Asia Society in New York: "[W]e and the rest of the world must not let our revulsion at this repression blind us to the pressures for reform .... The hasty dismantling of a constructive US-Chinese relationship built up so carefully over two decades would serve neither our interests nor those of the Chinese people." (US Department of State, press release, 26 June 1989, 5)

National Security Adviser Brent Scowcroft
In Beijing toast on December 9, acknowledged that there were "profound areas of disagreement ... on the events at Tiananmen" but hoped that his trip would "bring new impetus and vigor into our bilateral relationship ... [and] reduce the negative influence of irritants in the relationship." (International Trade Reporter, 13 December 1989, 1616)

US Congress
Provision in House sanctions bill, passed June 29, conditions "resumption of normal diplomatic and military relations between the U.S. and the People's Republic of China...on the Chinese Government's halting of executions of pro-democracy movement supporters, releasing those imprisoned for their political beliefs and increasing respect for internationally recognized human rights." (New York Times, 30 June 1989, A7)

President Clinton
President Clinton announces he will de-link trade and human rights considerations for China, except under the strict terms of the Jackson-Vanik amendment to the 1974 trade act: "I believe … that we are far more likely to have human rights advanced when it is not under the cloud of the annual question of review of MFN." (International Trade Reporter, 1 June 1994, 845)

Unnamed George W. Bush administration official
“In its talks with Chinese officials, the Bush administration still focuses on a small number of prisoners, bringing up the same cases again and again and urging visiting congressmen and other officials to do so as well. ‘We're very interested in being consistent, and not having them hear different things,’ said one senior U.S. official.” (Washington Post, 18 October 2002, A20)

John Bolton, Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security
“While the issues of proliferation sanctions and the arms embargo on China are separate in one sense, they are linked by a common theme: the United States is willing to forego its short-term economic interests by limiting trade with China—mostly in closely prescribed areas—in order to promote other interests, whether it is our national security or our support for human rights…We believe that lifting the EU Arms Embargo at a time when China’s human rights record remains poor would send the wrong message. (Remarks Co-Sponsored by the Tokyo American Center and the Japan Institute for International Affairs Tokyo, Japan, February 7, 2005)

Response of Target Country

Front-page editorial in official People's Daily: "Some people in the American Congress who hate China and the socialist system ... just want to poke their noses into the internal affairs of China out of their anti-Communist class instinct, dishing up one sanction after another to put pressure on China, in a vain attempt to subjugate China." (New York Times, 7 July 1989, A3)

People's Daily editorial calls 1989 economic summit declaration "gross interference in China's internal affairs," argues that "with the interdependence of the global economy ever increasing, the nearsighted practice of keeping China away from the world community may not only undermine world peace and stability, but hurt the interests of Western countries as well." (Washington Post, 17 July 1989, A20)

China reopens high-level trade contacts with India for first time in three decades to help offset Western sanctions and in hopes of obtaining technology for use in agriculture, services, public administration. (Financial Times, 3 August 1989, 3)

Deng Xiaoping, after Scowcroft's visit: "... in spite of the disputes and the differences between us, after all, Sino-U.S. relations have to be improved. That is something that is necessary for world peace and stability." (Washington Post, 11 December 1989, A25)

President Jiang Zemin
"I believe that the world we're living in is a rich and diverse one. And therefore, the concepts on democracy, on human rights and on freedoms are relative and specific ones. And they are to be determined by the specific national situation of different countries. And I'm also strongly of the view that on such issues as the human rights issue discussions can be held on the basis of noninterference in the internal affairs of the country." (Washington Post, 30 October 1997, A16)

Chinese Foreign Minister Liu Jianchao
“The arms embargo against China is political discrimination, which is not in line with today's reality.” (Washington Post, 23 March 2005, A10)

Attitude of Other Countries

Immediately after June massacre, Japan freezes economic, cultural missions to China as well as discussions of five-year aid program due to start in April 1990. Senior officials sidestep talk of sanctions, noting that "we would like to respond by condemning China. But because of our special relationship, the fact that we are blamed for so much, we just cannot risk becoming another scapegoat." (New York Times, 7 June 1989, A10)

Senior officials urge cautious response to Chinese developments to avoid isolating China, stirring its "xenophobic" tendencies. Senior foreign ministry official adds, "Sanctions by definition mean punishment. But even if you want to punish the Chinese, you don't get the results which you wish. We don't think sanctions are an appropriate response for the Western democracies to make." (New York Times, 22 June 1989, A1)

Tadashi Ikeda, deputy director general in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs: "... the exercise of military force against Chinese students and ordinary citizens cannot be condoned from a human rights position." He adds that "because of these new circumstances, Japan's relationship with China is constrained for the time being, "although he expresses hope that China does not "walk down the path of isolation." (Journal of Commerce, 19 July 1989, 13A)

European Community
Declaration of EC Council, June 27, 1989: "The European Council...strongly condemns the brutal repression taking place in China. It expresses its dismay at the pursuit of executions in spite of all the appeals of the international community. It solemnly requests the Chinese authorities to stop the executions and to put an end to the repressive actions against those who legitimately claim their democratic rights." EC agrees to ban arms sales, postpone new official export finance, economic development projects. (Financial Times, 28 June 1989, A2)

United Kingdom
Expressing "revulsion and outrage" at events in China, Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher bans arms sales to China, postpones number of governmental exchanges, but cautions that EC sanctions could have negative implications for Hong Kong. (Washington Post, 7 June 1989, A16; Financial Times, 23 June 1989, 4)

Other EC countries
Germany suspends provisions of export credit guarantees for China, freezes about DM 500 million in bilateral development aid. Italy, Belgium suspend grants, loans. (Financial Times, 30 June 1989, 6; Congressional Research Service [CRS] 1989, 4)

On June 30, 1989, Canada withdraws indefinitely its participation in Three Gorges hydroelectric project, cancels three other development projects worth C$11 million over five years, freezes four projects worth C$53.8 million. (International Trade Reporter, 5 July 1989, 858)

On July 13, Australia suspends all ministerial contacts with China, bars new financing of development projects, noting that "[i]t is imperative that Australia responds strongly to, and signals its abhorrence of, the human rights violations which have occurred." (Journal of Commerce, 14 July 1989, 4A)

Legal Notes

Foreign Relations Act for 1990-91 (codifying Tiananmen sanctions) This Act prohibits OPIC financial support, US government under the Foreign Assistance Act, the issuance of licenses of certain defense articles and crime control and detection equipment, the export of certain satellites, the issuance of licenses for export of certain nuclear material, technology or equipment, and assistance under the Atomic Energy Act. The prohibitions will be lifted when the president: (1)certifies that China has provided certain anti-proliferation assurances and made certain political reform, (2)makes a report regarding China's progress in human rights and political reform. The president is also given the authority to terminate the sanctions if it was determined to be in the national interest.

Under Section 901, this Act also states that the President should urge the Export-Import Bank to postpone approval of loans and guarantees for China, and that US executive directors of international financial institutions should likewise oppose the extension of credit to China. The Act finally states that the president should review trade agreements with respect to satellites and the use of atomic energy if systematic repression in China deepens. (President's Export Council 1997,16; CRS 1996, 21).

Economic Impact

Observed Economic Statistics

As of end of June 1989, World Bank has $4.7 billion in loans to China in pipeline, of which $2.9 billion has yet to be disbursed. International Development Agency (Bank's soft-loan window) has $3 billion in commitments to China, of which $1.5 billion has not yet been disbursed. China also has $336 million in loans pending from Asian Development Bank. (Financial Times, 30 June 1989, 6; Wall Street Journal, 21 June 1989, A2)

In fiscal year 1988, China is largest beneficiary of Eximbank financing, receiving five loans worth $190 million. At end of FY 1988, Eximbank has $277 million in credits outstanding to China, as well as four preliminary commitments totaling $115 million for which funds have been approved if US firms win contracts. In addition, decisions are pending on preliminary commitments for $395 million in loans to China. (Financial Times, 30 June 1989, 6; Journal of Commerce, 7 February 1990, 2A; 9 February 1990, 4A; CRS 1989, 18, 27)

In fiscal year 1988, US Trade and Development Program supported 29 projects in China with total value of $6.7 million. (CRS 1989, 19)

Of $600 million in US arms sales to China in 1989, about $502 million is for project, still in developmental phase, to modernize F-8 fighter planes. China continues to pay for project under US Foreign Military Sales program after sanctions are imposed. However, on 15 May 1990, China cancels deal, citing projected cost overruns. Other major arms purchases include $28.5 million for technology, assistance to build artillery ammunition plant (already shipped); $62.5 million for four artillery-locating radar sets (two already shipped, two due in 1990); $8.2 million contract for torpedoes, ready for shipment. (New York Times, 6 June 1989, A1; Washington Post, 28 August 1989, A16; 12 December 1989, A20; 16 May 1990, A14)

In 1988, US approves $85 million in commercial arms sales to China. Average commercial arms deliveries to China in 1986-88 are $40 million. Defense Department estimates that about $130 million in commercial military sales are scheduled for delivery in fiscal 1989-90, that conclusion of $110 million in new Foreign Military Sales agreements could be at risk for fiscal 1989-90. (New York Times, 6 June 1989, A1; CRS, 1989, 20-21)

Cumulative value of French, British, West German, Italian arms deliveries to China in 1983-87 is $400 million. Other major arms exporters to China in recent years have been USSR, Israel. (Arms Control and Disarmament Agency 112)

China's debt more than doubles from just above $20 billion in 1986 to $46.9 billion in 1989; debt is owed about equally to commercial banks, international institutions, foreign governments. (Journal of Commerce, 21 June 1989, 7A)

World Bank estimates that foreign investment applications in China declined by 75 percent after June 1989, that access to medium, long-term borrowing on world markets has been "essentially closed off." (Washington Post, 29 June 1990, A1)

According to Minister of Foreign Economic Relations and Trade Zheng Tuobing in October 1989, about $10 billion in loans to China have been suspended since 4 June, no new official borrowing is under negotiation. (Financial Times, 27 October 1989, 26)

After June 4 repression, China has difficulty borrowing in foreign markets. In Japan, where Chinese state companies have floated ¥410 billion in yen-denominated bonds, Japanese firms refrain from making markets in Chinese bonds until political situation clarifies. (Wall Street Journal, 22 June 1989, A11)

Chinese borrowers face higher margins on international loans, with interest costs ranging from 1/2 to 3/4 percentage point above London interbank offer rate (LIBOR) compared with 1/8 to 1/4 percentage point earlier in year. (Far Eastern Economic Review, 2 November 1989, 48)

In January 1990, China says it will draw on extant $2 billion credit line from Japanese bank consortium to borrow $500 million, with repayment over 10 years in two tranches: at LIBOR plus 1/4 percent for first six years, and LIBOR plus 3/8 percent for last four years. (Financial Times, 17 January 1990, 4; 31 January 1990, 5)

China's Ministry of Foreign Economic Relations and Trade says sanctions "caused foreign loan agreements to drop by 51 percent to $4.8 billion." (New York Times, 23 January 1990, D8)

Chinese trade deficit rises to $6.6 billion in 1989 from $3.1 billion in 1988. In first quarter of 1990, however, China posts $1.6 billion trade surplus as imports drop 20.2 percent, exports rise 13.4 percent from same period in 1989. (Financial Times, 12 April 1990, 4)

Ministry of Foreign Economic Relations and Trade reports that value of China's high-technology imports dropped to $2.9 billion, or by 18 percent, in 1989. (New York Times, 23 January 1990, D8)

In 1988, tourism brings in $2.2 billion in hard currency, or about 2 to 3 percent of total foreign-exchange income; reduced tourism due to pro-democracy unrest, martial law could lead to loss of about $1 billion in 1989. (Wall Street Journal, 31 July 1989, A1)

China: Net official development assistance (millions of dollars)
Other bilaterala
a. From OECD and Arab countries.
Source: OECD, Geographical Distribution of Financial Flows to Aid Recipients, various issues.

According to the World Bank, China would lose $7 billion to $15 billion annually in sales to the US market if MFN were revoked. (Financial Times, 10 November 1993, 4)

Without MFN, import duties would rise ninefold on average, according to an analysis by the US-China Business Council of the top 25 items purchased from China. With MFN the average tariff is 5 percent, without it is 45 percent. (Journal of Commerce, 20 May 1996, 2C)

The US embassy in Beijing reports that the lack of TDA and OPIC financing has put US companies at a distinct disadvantage compared to foreign competitors. (Inside US Trade, 19 August 1994, 16)

"In the aftermath of Tiananmen, new contracted US investment in 1990 was $537 million, 44 percent lower than in the previous year. Since 1990, however, foreign direct investment (FDI) rebounded strongly. From 1991 to 1995, the US supplied approximately 7.6 percent of the actual FDI to China. In 1995, over $3 billion in total were invested. The United States is the third largest overall single supplier of FDI to China." (US Department of State, Background Notes-China, 1997)

China: US and total foreign direct investment,a 1990–2004 (millions of dollars)
US FDI inflow
Total FDI inflow
Source: US Department of Commerce, Bureau of Economic Analysis, Balance of Payments and Direct Investment Position Data, accessed 15 June 2006; UNCTAD, World Investment Report 2005.

a. US flows reported by US sources. Total flows are Chinese statistics, which do not conform to international IMF and OECD standards. China’s Ministry of Commerce reports much higher US flows, about 10 percent of total FDI. See OECD, China: Progress and Reform Challenges, OECD Investment Policy Reviews, 2003; and UNCTAD, World Investment Report 2005 for discussion of discrepancies.

China: US Export-Import Bank loans
(millions of dollars)

Source: Export-Import Bank, Annual Report, various issues.

Calculated Economic Impact (Annual Cost to Target country)

Suspension of EC, US official and commercial arms sales; welfare loss estimated at 30 percent pre-sanctions level.
(1989- )

$48 million

Suspension of $780 million in World Bank loans; annual welfare loss estimated at 25 percent of face value of loans (1989-1990).

$195 million

Postponement for average of six months of official export credits, other official finance by US, Japan, Canada, EC; welfare loss estimated at 10 percent of face value of reduced transfers due to sanctions (calculated as 50 percent of 1988 value of gross bilateral disbursements, on grounds that some assistance started trickling back within six months, some projects were canceled for purely business reasons).

$79 million


$322 million

Relative Magnitudes

Gross indicators of Chinese economy


GDP (1989)

$492.6 billion

Population (1989)

1,139 million

Annual effect of sanctions on gross indicators


Percentage of GDP


Per capita


Chinese trade with the US as a percentage of total trade


Exports (1989)


Imports (1989)


Ratio of US GDP (1989: $5,438 billion) to Chinese GDP


Source: IMF, International Financial Statistics Yearbook, 1997; International Trade Statistics Yearbook, 1997


Henry Kissinger
"... China remains too important for America's national security to risk the relationship on the emotions of the moment .... Sooner or later, the punitive sanctions will fail, if only because the Chinese government cannot undo its past actions, and geopolitical realities will dictate a rapprochement between the United States and China." (Washington Post, 1 August 1989, A21)

Charles Krauthammer
"Deng has made it clear that politics takes precedence over economics. He knew full well what repression would cost in terms of economic development. For the sake of power, the ultimate Marxist-Leninist value, he decided to pay it." (Washington Post, 23 June 1989, A27)

A. Doak Barnett
"The resolution of the present conflict within the Chinese leadership will ultimately be determined by forces within China, not by what any outside power does .... Nevertheless, the signal that this action represents is worth sending, to both hardliners and moderates in China." (Washington Post, 5 July 1989, A16)

Nicholas R. Lardy, Brookings Institution
"The remaining [Tiananmen] sanctions … substantially disadvantage US firms vis-à-vis their European and Japanese competitors without imposing significant penalty on China. In short, economic sanctions provide the United States with virtually no leverage since there are alternative sources of supply for all major products American companies sell or might sell to China." (National Bureau of Asian Research 1997, 19)

Robert S. Ross
"The threat of ending China's MFN status to change its human rights practices has failed because Chinese leaders understood that Washington lacked the will to endure the costs of imposing sanctions .... During both [the Bush and Clinton] administrations, despite considerable U.S. bluster and threats, China paid no economic price for its intransigence—Washington neither affected Chinese policy nor did it follow through on its threat to impose sanctions. Ultimately, President Clinton's May 1994 decision to delink trade from human rights acknowledged policy failure." (Ross 13)

Author's Summary

Overall assessment  
Policy result, scaled from 1 (failed) to 4 (success) 1
Sanctions contribution, scaled from 1 (negative) to 4 (significant) 2
Success score (policy result times sanctions contribution) scaled from 1 (outright failure) to 16 (significant success) 2
Political and economic variables  
Companion policies J (covert), Q (quasi-military), R (regular military)
International cooperation with sender, scaled from 1 (none) to 4 (significant) 2
International assistance to target: A (if present)
Cooperating international organization EC/EU
Sanction period (years) 17+
Economic health and political stability of target, scaled from 1 (distressed) to 3 (strong) 3
Presanction relations between sender and target, scaled from 1 (antagonistic) to 3 (cordial) 2
Type of sanction X (export), M (import), F (financial) X,F
Cost to sender, scaled from 1 (net gain) to 4 (major loss) 2


Economic sanctions have prompted China to release a few individual dissidents and intermittently relax repressive policies. China's leadership, however, maintains the position that threats to the regime must be quelled.


Asia Society.China Council. China Briefing. Boulder,Colorado: Westview Press, various years.

National Bureau of Asian Research. 1997. Promoting US Interests in China: alternatives to the annual MFN review. Vol 8,no.4(July).

Arms Control and Disarmament Agency. 1989. World Military Expenditures and Arms Transfers 1988. Washington.

Congressional Research Service, Library of Congress. 1989. "China Sanctions: Some Possible Effects." CRS Report for Congress no. 89-424E, 24 July 1989. Washington.

Congressional Research Service, Library of Congress. 1996. "China: U.S. Economic Sanctions." CRS Report for Congress no. 96-272F, updated 1 October 1997. Washington.

Congressional Research Report, Library of Congress. 2002. “China-U.S. Relations.” CRS Report to Congress, no. IB9801, updated 17 May 2002. Washington.

Congressional Research Report, Library of Congress. 2003. “China” Economic Sanctions.” CRS Report to Congress, no. RL31910, updated 5 May 2003. Washington.

Congressional Research Report, Library of Congress. 2004. “China-U.S. Relations: Current Issues for the 108th Congress” CRS Report to Congress no. RL31815, updated 20 May 2004. Washington.

Facts on File, 1986, 1987, and 1989.

Ross, Robert S. 1998. China. In Economic Sanctions and American Diplomacy, ed. Richard N., Haass. New York: Council on Foreign Relations.

US Congress. US-China Economic and Security Review Commission. Testimony of Francis C. Record during China’s Military Modernization and US Export Controls. 109th Congress, 2nd session, 16–17 March 2006.

US House of Representatives. Committee on Foreign Affairs, Subcommittees on Asian and Pacific Affairs, Human Rights and International Organizations, and International Economic Policy and Trade. 1989. Statement by William F. Ryan. 101 Cong., 1 sess., 13 July.

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