According to the South China Morning Post of Hong Kong Monday, the “minimum requirements” of even moderates in the Chinese Politburo are that Washington issue a full apology for the bombing of the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade, pay adequate compensation, and allow China a bigger role in resolving the Kosovo conflict. But hard-liners, who include generals of the People’s Liberation Army, are calling for an overall scaling down of U.S.-China relations unless NATO agrees to stop its offensive against Yugoslavia, the paper said. In a report from Beijing on emergency weekend meetings of senior Chinese cadres, the paper noted that the PLA’s Deputy Chief of Staff Gen. Xiong Guangkai insisted that the embassy strike had been a deliberate attempt by the United States to trample on Chinese sovereignty. Noting that the Chinese government has reserved the right to take “further action,” the generals said “they would do their best if that ‘action’ contained a military component.” Quoting “a Beijing source,” the paper said, “government-organized protests would continue at least through this week.” It also predicted that Foreign Trade Minister Shi Guangsheng and Prime Minister Zhu Rongji will now reverse some of the concessions they granted to U.S. trade negotiators.
According to a report from Beijing Sunday in the Straits Times of Singapore, China’s Liberation Army Daily, the mouthpiece of the PLA, had been much impressed by America’s bombing methods in Yugoslavia before the embassy strike. Only last week, it urged China to change its defense strategy so as to master U.S. precision-bombing techniques. In an article published last week, the Liberation Army Daily said, “We have to use the Kosovo crisis to raise the alarm, and work towards high-technology warfare, create new warfare techniques and training methods.” The newspaper said Beijing has not done enough research on long-distance precision missile strikes. The Balkan crisis will accelerate China’s military modernization drive, it said. The Straits Times said that, because of the Kosovo conflict and the United States’ promise of a new theatre-missile defense system for Taiwan, the PLA is expected to intensify the development of intermediate or long-range missiles and military communications technology.
In an editorial Monday, China Daily expressed its “stalwart moral support for the protests that are blazing across the country against the US-directed NATO atrocity.” Insisting that the attack on the embassy was deliberate, the editorial said it was “too smart to be explained as a ‘mistake in target identification’ or a technical error.” It asked, “Then what is the reason that can convincingly explain Nato’s provocation? … Is it because of our country’s persistent opposition to their barbarity?” In its editorial Monday, the South China Morning Post deplored the “blind arrogance” of NATO in believing it can drive a man like President Slobodan Milosevic to capitulate through airstrikes alone, and it said that the orchestrated protests in China are “understandable.” But it also said that claims that the bombing was no accident are “simply ludicrous,” since “Nato stood only to lose by its action.” Calling on the United States and NATO to “undertake a damage-limitation exercise in earnest,” it said the most important thing is for the United States to make “a proper and public apology. Not words of sadness, but a formal expression of apology.”
The papers in European NATO countries generally agreed that the bombing of the Chinese Embassy was the worst thing that could have happened. They widely credited it with having destroyed all hope for the peace principles agreed in to Germany last week between the G-8 countries and Russia. There was bitter mockery, too, of reports that the CIA was using old maps of Belgrade from a time before the embassy was built. The Times of London published a headline Monday reading “CIA planners failed to check phone book” and a map with an arrow pointing at the Russian Embassy and the words “Note to CIA: 32 Deligradska Ulica, Belgrade 11000.” Having been the most hawkish in Europe throughout the war, the British press has started to show small signs of defeatism. On Sunday, for example, the liberal Observer, which previously supported the bombing as a prelude to a successful ground campaign, called Sunday for it to be scaled down, deciding that a land war is no longer a practical possibility. “Without it, compromise may allow us to achieve most of what we want,” it concluded hopefully.
But the Sunday Times urged “escalating NATO’s attacks to maximum pitch, redoubling its efforts to avoid civilian targets, pushing ahead with plans for the use of land forces, and keeping the diplomatic pressure on Milosevic to agree to terms.” It even said that “the fact that the embassy bombing has focused the attention of the UN Security Council may be no bad thing.” The Sunday Telegraph also urged NATO to intensify the war effort, saying that “the problem with NATO’s conduct of the war is not that it is employing too much force. It is that NATO has not used enough force to persuade the Serbs to behave in accordance with the minimum of humanity.” Accusing NATO’s political leaders of pusillanimity, it said: “NATO’s equation seems to be simple: half a million Kosovars are not worth one NATO pilot.”
The Daily Telegraph Monday took the same line, criticizing President Clinton for his “studied ambivalence” during his visit to Europe and saying that it “suggests that he is still looking for a settlement on the basis of bombing alone.” Describing the attack on the Chinese Embassy as “a crass mistake,” the Telegraph said it made Clinton’s aim harder to achieve than before, with the result that “the air campaign will be prolonged as Kosovo is emptied of ethnic Albanians and the support of Western public opinion for Alliance action wanes. In such a quandary does the fear of taking casualties land you.” Unlike the Telegraph and the Times, which seem to have given up hope of a land invasion, the liberal Guardian said Monday that the Chinese reaction to the embassy bombing showed that “American interests are intimately bound up with the speedy resolution of the Kosovo crisis.” “Speed cannot now mean more bombs,” it said. “Speedy resolution could denote … greater willingness by the Americans to act on the ground.”
In Paris, Le Monde warned in an editorial Sunday that because of China’s attitude a U.N. force in Kosovo might no longer even have a NATO “core” if the Russian and Ukrainian presences in it were too strong. Deploring this prospect, it said the essential aim of getting the Kosovo refugees back to their homes could only be achieved if the Kosovars have confidence in the force. “Its composition mustn’t seem to them like a compromise favorable to Belgrade,” Le Monde said, for “if the hundreds of thousands of Kosovars chased from their land cannot return there freely to reconstruct their future, the allied forces will have lost the war.”
In Spain, El Mundo Sunday described NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana and allied commander Gen. Wesley Clark as “total incompetents.” And it said that the heads of government who appointed them “have taken on a grave responsibility by making themselves accomplices of their imbecilic ‘smart bombs,’ thus delegitimizing the noble aims with which this intervention was undertaken.” In La Repubblica of Rome Sunday, the paper’s founding editor, Eugenio Scalfari, wrote, “We wanted an ‘intelligent’ military intervention, but we have had the stupidest intervention imaginable,” and he proposed that NATO should definitively stop describing its war aims as “humanitarian” so as to protect itself from ridicule. Scalfari described Clinton and British Prime Minister Tony Blair as “unconscious extremists” who were militating against peace as effectively as the extremists of Israel and Al Fatah. “The latter are clear-headed, the former probably unaware, which is almost worse.”