Funding row taints Gore's visit to Asia

Almost certainly, China is the last place Vice-President Al Gore would like to be right now. But once made, diplomatic schedules are not easily unmade - and so it is that the man described as the ruthless "Solicitor- in-Chief" of Democratic campaign donations last year arrives tonight in the country that stands accused of trying to subvert United States politics in those same elections of 1996.

Mr Gore's trip to East Asia was to have been another building block for a White House run of his own in 2000, paving the way for an exchange of official visits between Presidents Bill Clinton and Jiang Zemin. It was intended as a step towards a new relationship between the world's most powerful country and its most populous, burnishing his own foreign policy credentials in the process.

Alas for such well-laid plans. Washington's vaunted strategy of "constructive engagement" with Peking lies half-crushed by the spreading campaign finance scandal here, of which China's alleged efforts to channel money to Democratic candidates in 1996 are the most serious single component.

In political Washington, "China" is probably the dirtiest word around. A host of issues, from human rights to Taiwan to trade, have been exacerbated by the row.

While the Chinese government itself adamantly denies any wrongdoing, even if Peking did allocate $2m (pounds 1.25m) for the purpose (as has been claimed), neither the FBI nor the Congressional committees probing the affair have produced evidence that donations were actually made. But Mr Gore's dilemma is none the less for that.

Normally, the signing of a huge commercial jet order is just the sort of occasion an ambitious politician like Mr Gore would never miss. This time, the Vice-President considered skipping the ceremony for a Chinese purchase of $1bn-worth of Boeing 777s, given the rampant anti-China mood in Washington. Now it seems he will attend, "if the deal is ready".

The fundraising row, the Vice-President declared as he left on Saturday for a first stop in Tokyo, "is not what this trip is about", and indeed considerations of diplomacy would argue for the topic to be avoided. But for his own credibility, he cannot be seen to softshuffle the issue - while Washington must be doubly wary of any concession that might be construed as having been bought by political donations from Peking.

Nowhere are strains greater than over trade. America's record $19bn merchandise deficit in January was in good measure due to a 40 per cent surge that month in imports from China, which is on the point of overtaking Japan as owner of the largest single trade surplus with the US.

Hitherto, the argument in Washington has mainly been over linking Peking's human rights performance with the annual extension of its most favoured nation trading status. But the ballooning deficit raises questions over Peking's still more cherished goal of entry into the Geneva-based World Trade Organisation.

Even before the latest trade figures, the anti-China lobby here had been trying to make US approval of China's admission into the WTO conditional on a vote in Congress. Now Mr Gore will carry the message that China must get rid of its tariff and non-tariff barriers to imports from the US and elsewhere if its goods are to enjoy the lower-tariff benefits of WTO membership. The trade imbalance was "unsustainable" for the long-term health of the US economy, said Nancy Pelosi, the California Congresswoman and one of China's harshest critics on Capitol Hill.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Massage Therapist / Sports Therapist / Physio / Osteopath

£12000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for o...

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager / Sales Executive - Contract Hire

£35000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This industry leader provides c...

Recruitment Genius: Project Coordinator

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Project Coordinator is requir...

Recruitment Genius: Area Sales Manager - Midlands

£20000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Day In a Page

John Palmer: 'Goldfinger' of British crime was murdered, say police

Murder of the Brink’s-MAT mastermind

'Goldfinger' of British crime's life ended in a blaze of bullets, say police
Forget little green men - aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert

Forget little green men

Leading evolutionary biologist says aliens will look like humans
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

An Algerian scientist struggles to adjust to her new life working in a Scottish kebab shop
Bodyworlds museum: Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy

Dying dream of Doctor Death

Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy
UK heatwave: Temperature reaches 39.8 degrees on Central Line - the sweatiest place in London

39.8 degrees recorded on Tube

There's hot (London) and too damn hot (the Underground). Simon Usborne braved the Central line to discover what its passengers suffer
Kitchens go hi-tech: From robot chefs to recipe-shopping apps, computerised cooking is coming

Computerised cooking is coming

From apps that automatically make shopping lists from your recipe books to smart ovens and robot chefs, Kevin Maney rounds up innovations to make your mouth water
Jessie Cave interview: The Harry Potter star has published a feminist collection of cartoons

Jessie Cave's feminist cartoons

The Harry Potter star tells Alice Jones how a one-night stand changed her life
Football Beyond Borders: Even the most distruptive pupils score at homework club

Education: Football Beyond Borders

Add football to an after-school homework club, and even the naughtiest boys can score
10 best barbecue books

Fire up the barbie: 10 best barbecue books

We've got Bibles to get you grilling and smoking like a true south American pro
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Junk balls and chop and slice are only way 5ft 1in Kurumi Nara can live with Petra Kvitova’s power

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

Junk balls and chop and slice are only way 5ft 1in Kurumi Nara can live with Petra Kvitova’s power
Ron Dennis exclusive: ‘This is one of the best McLaren teams ever – we are going to do it’

‘This is one of the best McLaren teams ever – we are going to do it’

Ron Dennis shrugs off a poor start to the season in an exclusive interview, and says the glory days will come back
Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

Making of a killer

What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most