A solution to the Chinese apology quandary

Wednesday, April 18, 2001 at 12:00am

I'm only disappointed that our servicemen are on their way home before the administration could implement the truly perfect solution. This one should be filed away for future reference.

As you are probably aware, Chinese President Jiang Zemin was demanding a fulsome apology from the United States for not stopping a Chinese plane from ramming an American plane.

Things were tense. As a China "specialist" who was quoted in The New York Times explained, Jiang had no choice but to take a hard line because he has "very diverse constituencies, and they all have to brought on board, both in the bureaucracy and in the public."

Or he could just shoot them.

By contrast, an American president really does have to respond to constituencies. By and large, Americans take a dim view of eating dogs, shooting students, and subjecting American servicemen to communist show trials until the American president agrees to hop on one foot dressed like a chicken. President Bush is hemmed in by peculiar American attitudes that demand proper treatment of American men and women, rather than execution in Tiananmen Square.

On one hand, it is totally humiliating for an American president to have to apologize to a 3-foot-tall dictator for his plane crashing into our plane. But on the other hand, short of all-out thermonuclear war, there was no other choice if we can't bear the idea of Americans being treated like the Chinese government treats its own people.

So this was my idea: Have President Clinton apologize. He'd get all weepy, bite his lower lip, ramble on and on and on

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