There was a lot of speculation a few months ago about the evident reluctance of President Jiang Zemin of China to confirm that he would be stepping down at the end of his statutory term of office this year; rumours circulated that he wanted to continue as President in order to complete his economic reforms before he departed. It seems that the truth was much simpler. Mr Jiang had a long–standing October engagement in his diary for a meeting with President Bush in the United States and a visit to the US Presidential ranch in Texas – and he wanted to be President of China, not former–President, when he made the trip.

The ranch bit and the barbecue must be important to Jiang Zemin because these two presidents have already met twice elsewhere in the last twelve months. A third meeting is quite extraordinary when it is remembered that Mr Bush described China as a “strategic competitor” soon after taking office and that his earliest international crisis was the Chinese attack on a US spy plane.

The two nations seem to have reached an accommodation for the moment; a new generation is taking over soon in Beijing and Washington will be anxious to see what attitude it takes to US's support for the pro–independence government in Taiwan.

China has played a neutral role over the Iraq resolution in the UN Security Council but will expect some return for this consideration, later if not sooner.



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