Senate Democrats


Washington, DCSenate Democratic Leader Harry Reid today sent the following letter to President Bush, urging him to use the upcoming visit of Chinese President Hu Jintao to change the course of the Administration’s China policy to protect America’s security, economic, and human rights interests

The text of the letter is below.

April 17, 2006

The President

The White House

Washington, DC

Dear Mr. President:

More than five years into your presidency, your Administration regrettably still has no coherent strategy for managing this nation’s relationship with China – a relationship of great and growing significance. Chinese President Hu Jintao’s official visit to Washington this week provides you an opportunity to demonstrate to the Congress and the American people that your Administration has a China policy that actually advances the security, economic and human rights interests of the United States and our allies.

On the security front, it is essential that President Hu’s visit produce real and lasting progress on ending the nuclear weapons ambitions of Iran and North Korea and reducing tensions with Taiwan. China’s apparent opposition to U.N. Security Council action against Iran raises serious concerns and highlights the need for sustained Presidential leadership on your part to break this dangerous impasse. Similarly, your Administration’s decision to rely on China to exert influence over North Korea’s nuclear weapons ambitions through the six-party talks has not yielded satisfactory results. In fact, public estimates suggest that North Korea has likely quadrupled its nuclear weapons material stockpile over the last several years. You must use President Hu’s official visit to effectively address the flaws in your Administration’s North Korea policy. Finally, it is imperative that you impress upon President Hu the importance of diffusing tensions and enhancing stability in the Taiwan Straits by avoiding further provocations with Taiwan, and committing to a peaceful resolution on the question of Taiwan’s status.

Unfortunately, your Administration’s record of protecting our economic and trade interests in our dealings with China has been badly mishandled. Whether the issue is China’s unfair manipulation of its currency, China’s rampant intellectual property piracy, China’s massive state subsidies, China’s lack of compliance with its WTO obligations, or enforcement of U.S. fair trade laws, your Administration’s lack of real action has conveyed to Chinese leaders that rhetoric is more important than substance. Despite occasional tough words and saber-rattling, your Administration has stood by as China dictated the course of our trade and economic relationship. It is time for a new policy direction. You must use this visit to make clear to President Hu that your Administration will no longer accept “get tough” rhetoric and occasional press release progress instead of strict compliance by China with global rules. You should make clear that your Administration will aggressively use all existing sources of leverage, while supporting enactment of new sources of leverage, until China fully and consistently complies with the rules.

Finally, your Administration also has a poor record on the issue of progress in human rights, democracy promotion and religious freedom in China. Despite the lofty rhetoric on democracy and human rights in your second inaugural speech, virtually all credible analysts, including the U.S. State Department, agree that the human rights situation in China has become worse in recent years as your Administration has apparently downgraded the importance of human rights in our policy toward China. I share in the goals you enunciated in your inauguration speech, but think it is time to restore the priority of these goals in U.S. policy towards China. I urge you to use President Hu’s visit to elevate the dialogue on human rights similar to what we do in the commercial sphere through the Joint Committee on Commerce and Trade. In particular, the dialogue should include regular principals’ meetings with Secretary Rice and Minister Zhaoxing and more frequent lower-level meetings to address specific issues and cases, such as the alarming crackdown on political expression through the Internet.

I look forward to working with you to ensure that the U.S. develops a coherent and comprehensive policy towards China and to guarantee that the relationship is productive for both countries and the world.


Harry Reid

Democratic Leader