“The administration continues to coddle China, despite its continuing crackdown on democratic reform, its brutal subjugation of Tibet, its irresponsible exports of nuclear and missile technology, its support for the homicidal Khmer Rouge in Cambodia, and its abusive trade practices. Such forbearance on our part might have made sense during the Cold War when China was the counterweight to Soviet power. It makes no sense to play the China card now when our opponents have thrown in their hand. … We have every right to condition our foreign aid and debt-relief policies on demonstrable progress toward democracy and market reforms, and in extreme cases, such as that of China, we should condition favorable trade terms on political liberalization and responsible international conduct.”

Who said that? Richard Gere? Rush Limbaugh? Rep. Nancy Pelosi? Michael Reagan?

No, folks. It was Bill Clinton in a campaign speech at George Washington University, Dec. 17, 1991.

But that was then — before John Huang, Charlie Trie, James Riady and Johnny Chung. This is now — after untold amounts of money have flowed mysteriously into the Democratic National Committee’s coffers from Asian banks.

Now that Bill Clinton is safely re-elected as president, he is making George Bush look like a Sino-phobe. He is giving away the store for nothing more than promises. Incredibly, China’s President Jiang Zemin, who signaled before he left Beijing for his current swing through the states that he might release a few dissidents from prison as a sign of goodwill, failed to do so because no one demanded it.

Instead, Clinton has been praising China’s abominable behavior every chance he gets. Over the weekend, he applauded Jiang’s efforts to stop drug smuggling. I don’t know how effective those efforts actually were, but I do know that China has used the very technology and training it received from the FBI and Drug Enforcement Administration to launder funds funneled into U.S. election campaigns and conceal their sources.

Clinton also lauded China’s efforts to protect the environment. This about a country that is forcibly relocating 200,000 people to build one of the largest dams the world has ever seen, flooding millions of acres and redirecting the flow of the country’s second-biggest river.

Clinton also sloughed off all suggestions that China needed to be confronted on human rights abuses — ranging from persecution of Buddhists and Christians to banning of political opposition and dissent to the sale of organs harvested from prisoners to forced abortion.

No doubt Clinton will trumpet “concessions” he has received from Jiang. The pride of their summit meeting in Washington will be an announcement that Clinton approved the sale of nuclear reactors to China in exchange for a promise by Jiang not to provide nuclear assistance to Iran and Pakistan.

A promise? And what happens if China breaks that promise as it has in the past? Do we send troops and construction crews into China to remove those nuclear power plants? It’s absurd. Jiang will say anything he needs to say to achieve his objectives. The only payoff is to American nuclear power companies, who, having been prevented from building any plants in the United States in recent years, are now buying their way into the lucrative Chinese market.

Clinton said back in 1991 that the only legitimate reason for “coddling” China was as a counterweight to the Soviet threat during the Cold War. I guess he acknowledges now — belatedly — that the Soviet Union did, indeed, represent, as President Ronald Reagan boldly proclaimed, an “evil empire.”

But Clinton and his friends were late to that realization, and they’re late to this party, too. Because, for the foreseeable future, China now represents by far the greatest external, military threat to the United States and it is every bit as evil as the old Soviet Union ever was.

If the investigators searching for how government policy was purchased by campaign contributions are serious, they need look no further than the Clinton administration’s relationship with China. Clinton is bought and paid for — and there’s no better illustration than the way he has sold his soul, along with the nation’s vital security interests, to Beijing for his own selfish political ambitions.

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