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
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
From Mean Girls to Mamet: Lindsay Lohan
theatre
Sport
Nathaniel Clyne (No 2) drives home his side's second goal past Arsenal’s David Ospina at the Emirates
footballArsenal 1 Southampton 2: Arsène Wenger pays the price for picking reserve side in Capital One Cup
News
Mike Tyson has led an appalling and sad life, but are we not a country that gives second chances?
peopleFormer boxer 'watched over' crash victim until ambulance arrived
Arts and Entertainment
Geena Davis, founder and chair of the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media
tv
News
i100
Travel
travelGallery And yes, it is indoors
Arts and Entertainment
The Tiger Who Came To Tea
booksJudith Kerr on what inspired her latest animal intruder - 'The Crocodile Under the Bed'
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer
film
News
Alan Bennett criticised the lack of fairness in British society encapsulated by the private school system
peopleBut he does like Stewart Lee
Sport
John Terry, Frank Lampard
footballChelsea captain sends signed shirt to fan whose mum had died
News
people
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

Account Executive/Sales Consultant – Permanent – Hertfordshire - £16-£20k

£16500 - £20000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: We are currently r...

KS2 PPA Teacher needed (Mat Cover)- Worthing!

£100 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Crawley: KS2 PPA Teacher currently nee...

IT Systems Manager

£40000 - £45000 per annum + pension, healthcare,25 days: Ashdown Group: An est...

IT Application Support Engineer - Immediate Start

£28000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Software Application Support Analyst - Imm...

Day In a Page

Syria air strikes: ‘Peace President’ Obama had to take stronger action against Isis after beheadings

Robert Fisk on Syria air strikes

‘Peace President’ Obama had to take stronger action against Isis after beheadings
Will Lindsay Lohan's West End debut be a turnaround moment for her career?

Lindsay Lohan's West End debut

Will this be a turnaround moment for her career?
'The Crocodile Under the Bed': Judith Kerr's follow-up to 'The Tiger Who Came to Tea'

The follow-up to 'The Tiger Who Came to Tea'

Judith Kerr on what inspired her latest animal intruder - 'The Crocodile Under the Bed' - which has taken 46 years to get into print
BBC Television Centre: A nostalgic wander through the sets, studios and ghosts of programmes past

BBC Television Centre

A nostalgic wander through the sets, studios and ghosts of programmes past
Lonesome George: Custody battle in Galapagos over tortoise remains

My George!

Custody battle in Galapagos over tortoise remains
10 best rucksacks for backpackers

Pack up your troubles: 10 best rucksacks for backpackers

Off on an intrepid trip? Experts from student trip specialists Real Gap and Quest Overseas recommend luggage for travellers on the move
Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world