China produces poetic reply to US spy charge

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The Independent Online
RARELY ARE emotions at the People's Daily stirred strongly enough to prompt the mouthpiece of the Chinese communist party to burst into poetry. But Peking's exasperation at the anti-China fever sweeping the United States amid allegations of nuclear spying brought forth both verse and a cartoon yesterday, deriding America for returning to McCarthyism.

The cartoon showed a fat frog down a pitch-black well, sitting on an Uncle Sam hat bearing the Chinese characters for "McCarthy". In China, to slam someone as a frog in a well is an insulting way of saying they have a narrow viewpoint and cannot see what is going on around them. The poem read in part: "The myth of `donorgate' has gone bankrupt, The strange case of `stealing secrets' erupts... Learning from McCarthy with one's heart and soul, Stirring up demons to make trouble while masquerading as a hero." (In 1997, China was accused of donating to US election campaigns.)

While the literary merit of the piece is debatable, the sentiment behind the outburst is clear. Peking has already lambasted the "hysteria" of what it sees as an anti-China "witchhunt" over allegations that a Taiwan- born American scientist working at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico leaked nuclear secrets to Peking.

Yesterday, the government-controlled Chinese-language press unleashed Peking's ire. The intellectual Guangming Daily called the allegations "no more than a cheap political trick played by the American military industrial bloc to increase the defence budget". The Pentagon wants funds for a theatre missile defence system in East Asia, which has enraged Peking because it might include Taiwan. The newspaper said next year's US presidential elections meant the Republican Party was hoping to win contributions from military industries. "China-US relations have become a sacrificial object in domestic American politics," it said.

The Xinhua news agency attacked US accusations that Chinese scientists were collecting information for Peking. "Some Americans slandered the normal academic exchanges and contact between China and the US and this revealed their ignorance and arrogance," it said.

This seems light years away from President Bill Clinton's successful visit to China last summer. Now, nuclear spying, human rights and an ever- increasing US trade deficit have combined to create the most difficult period for three years. The Prime Minister, Zhu Rongji, has said he expects a "hostile" reception when he visits the US next month, but that he will still make the trip so that the US could "vent its anger". Claims of nuclear spying were a "fallacy", he added.

Peking did, however, admit yesterday that the scientist in question, Wen Ho Lee, had attended two conferences in China in 1986 and 1988.

Mr Lee was fired from Los Alamos earlier this month after The New York Times reported intelligence investigations into whether China had obtained information about the W-88 miniaturised nuclear warhead.