Democrats in US Congress means headache for China


Sun, Nov 12, 2006 - Page 4

From military strategy and human rights to labor standards and trade, China is expected to come under tighter scrutiny by the upcoming Democratic-controlled US Congress.

Democratic lawmakers have complained that the dependence of the Republican administration of US President George W. Bush on Beijing to contain North Korea's nuclear ambitions has led to compromises on the critical human rights and trade fronts.

Evaluating the Republican Party's loss of control of the House of Representatives and Senate in last Tuesday's legislative elections, Robert Hathaway of the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars said the Democrats were likely to pressure the Bush administration to be "more confrontational" with China.

"And I think that's where we are likely to see the biggest difference as a result of the elections in terms of Asia," he said.

As Democrats demand that the president pay more attention to such issues, China will become an even more critical topic in the run-up to the 2008 US presidential election, said John Tkacik, a former China expert at the US State Department.

The Republicans will enter the new Congress in January without their highly respected chairman of the House of Representatives subcommittee on Asia and Pacific affairs, Jim Leach -- considered by Tkacik as a "very pro-China voice," -- who was defeated in the polls.

The incoming House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, and the anticipated new chairman of the House international relations committee, Tom Lantos, have been vocal critics of China's human rights record. Human rights are said to have worsened in China under the Republican watch.

"Overall, the human rights situation in China under the Republican administration has deteriorated," said T. Kumar, the Asia-Pacific advocacy director for Amnesty International USA.