THE PEOPLE'S REPUBLIC of China has now pronounced "unacceptable" the legislation in which the Congress sought to strengthen, beyond the administration's measure, the formal assurances the United States is offering Taiwan. Most of the congressional increments were a good idea; and it's not such a bad idea, either, that Peking has been afforded this occasion to deepen its political education.
The increments do not alter the basic framework of normalization, and this is to the good. But by tone as much as by word, they make explicit a certain caution about China's ultimate intentions and a considerable degree of sympathy for Taiwan. In other words, they make explicit what we take to be the feelings of most Americans. It must have come as something of a shock to the Chinese to didcover that the arrangements they had laboriously worked out with the executive branch were tampered with by the legislature. Welcome to America. "Normalization" means not merely regularizing official relations but opening up those relations to the normal buffeting of the American political process.
Although Peking is upset, it does not appear to be so upset that it will react rashly, least of all, say, by "denormalizing." Only a handful of those congressmen who supported the new language could have wished to provke that result. American diplomats are working overtime to limit the damage. But we think it can only strengthen Chinese-American relations for the long run for the two countries to learn that their political systems, and nost alone their diplomatic establishments, must meet and interact.
The Chinese are not shy about defining their own national interest. Americans should be no less forthcoming. This is by way of saying that Peking should consider the effect its invasion of Vietnam had on congressional consideration of the Taiwan legislation. The spectacle of China disregarding American urgings and sending troops across a border into a neighboring country surely helped spur Congress to strengthen the assurances being offered Taiwan. We would even go a step further and suggest that that spectacle served as a useful brake on any incipient Amercian tendency to regard normalization as a wholly unmixed blessing for the United States in its continuing attempt to "contain" Soviet power. Normalization is desirable, we believe, but like any other politica act, it carries limits and risks. It is better that Americans proceed with a knowledge of what the risks are.