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Message to the House of Representatives Returning Without Approval the United States-China Act of 1991

March 02, 1992

To the House of Representatives:

I am returning herewith without my approval H.R. 2212, the "United States-China Act of 1991," which places additional conditions on renewal of China's most-favored-nation (MFN) trade status.

The sponsors of H.R. 2212 believe they can promote broad economic and foreign policy objectives in China by placing conditions on the renewal of China's MFN status. They expect that the Chinese will improve respect for human rights, cooperate in arms control, and drop barriers to trade, given a choice between losing MFN and addressing these concerns.

Let me state at the outset that my Administration shares the goals and objectives of H.R. 2212. Upholding the sanctity of human rights, controlling the spread of weapons of mass destruction, and free and fair trade are issues of vital concern. My objection lies strictly with the methods proposed to achieve these aims.

There is no doubt in my mind that if we present China's leaders with an ultimatum on MFN, the result will be weakened ties to the West and further repression. The end result will not be progress on human rights, arms control, or trade. Anyone familiar with recent Chinese history can attest that the most brutal and protracted periods of repression took place precisely when China turned inward, against the world.

Recent agreements by the Chinese to protect U.S. intellectual property rights, to abide by the Missile Technology Control Regime Guidelines, to accede to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty by April, and to discuss our human rights concerns -- after years of stonewalling -- are the clear achievements of my Administration's policy of comprehensive engagement.

We have the policy tools at hand to deal with our concerns effectively and with realistic chances for success. The Administration's comprehensive policy of engagement on several separate fronts invites China's leadership to act responsibly without leaving any doubts about the consequences of Chinese misdeeds. Our approach is one of targeting specific areas of concern with the appropriate policy instruments to produce the required results. H.R. 2212 would severely handicap U.S. business in China, penalizing American workers and eliminating jobs in this country. Conditional MFN status would severely damage the Western-oriented, modernizing elements in China, weaken Hong Kong, and strengthen opposition to democracy and economic reform.

We are making a difference in China by remaining engaged. Because the Congress has attached conditions to China's MFN renewal that will jeopardize this policy, I am returning H.R. 2212 to the House of Representatives without my approval. Such action is needed to protect the economic and foreign policy interests of the United States.

George Bush

The White House,

March 2, 1992.

George Bush, Message to the House of Representatives Returning Without Approval the United States-China Act of 1991 Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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