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EU's Patten: China not threat, likely competitor
( 2001-05-24 18:38 ) (8 )

The West should be "tough in the nicest possible way" in handling China, but it is a mistake to treat the fast-rising power as a threat, European Union External Affairs Commissioner Chris Patten said on Thursday.

"I don't happen to believe that China is a strategic threat to the interests of Western societies. I think it's likely to be an important competitor in a very competitive world," Patten told reporters in an interview.

Patten, who in his previous job as Hong Kong governor, said the Chinese deserved respect but not special deference.

"A good relationship isn't about throwing away all your own interests or your own concerns just because the other side doesn't like them," he said.

"Some people have said that's not the right way of dealing with China. I think it's the right way of dealing with any country and I'm sure that Chinese negotiators think exactly the same when they're dealing with us," he said.


Patten's recommended approach looks similar to that of the US administration of new President George W. Bush.

Bush advisors say firmer policies on Taiwan and defence are needed to correct what they call predecessor Bill Clinton's failed policy of giving China special treatment.

Clinton touted China as a US "strategic partner", while Bush says it is best viewed as a "strategic competitor".

In past weeks, Bush has decided to sell Taiwan advanced arms, allowed Chen Shui-bian to meet US lawmakers in New York and held talks with Dalai Lama in the White House.

Patten, in Beijing for a meeting of European and Asian foreign ministers, did not comment directly on Bush policies, but said China should be handled with "clarity and consistency".

"We have done the Chinese a deep disservice by jumping from one extreme position to another," he said.

The EU had a keen interest in getting China into the World Trade Organisation (WTO) -- not least to remedy an almost 45 billion euro ($52.59 billion) trade deficit, Patten said.

"We don't seek to have a balanced trade with every country in the world, but in the case of China, there are tariff and non-tariff barriers which would disappear with accession to the WTO," he said.

And, in a comment on Beijing's bid to host the 2008 Games, Patten said politics should be kept separate from sport.

"It would be helpful all around, not least to China, if politicians could keep their nose out of the debate about whether or not the Olympics in 2008 should be held here," he said.



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