The U.S. women's soccer team's victory Saturday over China--so justly celebrated in this country--was the kickoff of a terrible time so far for the folks in Beijing.

The Taiwanese then enraged the mainland by making noises that Taiwan was scrapping the "one-China" policy and that there were two Chinese states in a "special relationship."

The latest reversals appear against the backdrop of that awful accidental U.S. bombing of the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade, which the Chinese, having watched too many movies about brilliant American intelligence operatives, somehow continue to fantasize as deliberate.

All this friction does not bode well for retired Adm. Joseph W. Prueher, who used to run the U.S. Pacific Command and is the administration's pick to be ambassador to the Middle Kingdom. There's no ambassador now. Former senator James Sasser (D-Tenn.) recently moved out of the embassy after staying on far, far longer than he wanted to.

Problem is Prueher can't be nominated until the not-very-chipper Chinese, who weren't given an appropriate diplomatic heads-up on his selection, agree to receive him as ambassador.

Still, the Chicom Politburo, not renowned for graciousness, may nonetheless feel better today after Chinese officials meet with an interagency U.S. delegation headed by State Department legal adviser David Andrews and including Susan Shirk, deputy assistant secretary of state for East Asia. They're talking appropriate compensation--shorthand for serious bucks--for the bombing.

Might thaw things somewhat?

Sticking With Bradley

Neighborliness is thicker than . . . well, than something. Among a group of local Democrats hosting a July 22 fund-raiser for presidential candidate Bill Bradley is none other than investigator extraordinaire Terry Lenzner, former Watergate committee counsel and more recently doing a bit of gumshoeing for President Clinton's lawyers.

Lenzner has already contributed money to the Bradley campaign. And why is he not supporting Vice President Gore? Is it something Lenzner uncovered in the course of the investigations?

Apparently not. Former senator Bradley (D-N.J.) and Lenzner have been Cleveland Park neighbors for many years.

Precedent Clinton

The Clinton administration's drive to put more women and minorities on the federal bench flagged somewhat in the last two years, according to a study in the journal of the American Judicature Society, but Clinton's numbers are still higher than any previous administration.

The study, in the most recent issue of Judicature, also notes that Clinton's "appointees, in the aggregate, enjoy the highest ABA [American Bar Association] rating among the past four presidents."

The notoriously slow White House nomination process has speeded up markedly in recent years, the study said, in part due to the placement of former Senate aide Mark Childress as White House point man for nominations.

The study said the percentage of women and minorities has decreased from the record-setting 53 percent in the first term to about 40 percent in the first two years of the second term. But even that lower figure is precedent-setting, the study said.

And the perceived decline may be somewhat distorted, an administration official said, because a majority of recent confirmations, pending nominees and others "in the pipeline," are women and minorities.

In his first six years, Clinton named 70 women and 47 African Americans to district court seats. In his first six years, Clinton appointed 242 district judges, 37.5 percent of the 645 total seats. And he appointed 46, or 27.5 percent, of appellate judges.

The study notes that "the proportion of Republicans Clinton appointed during the first half of his second term was about triple that of the first term." That's only a jump from 3 percent to 8.9 percent, but it seems to indicate the Clintonites "felt obliged to accommodate some Republican senators, an inevitable bowing to . . . reality. . . ."

In the Intergovernment

Veteran Democratic operative Fred DuVal, now deputy director of the White House office of intergovernmental affairs--working with the nation's governors and other state officials--is moving on at the end of August, likely going private somewhere in the District. But it would not be shocking to see DuVal, a longtime Gore-ite, doing some work for the Gore campaign not too far down the line.

Mona Mohib, a former aide to Lynn Cutler, who is also White House deputy director of intergovernmental affairs, is now running the intergovernmental affairs office at the Department of Labor.

Don't Forget Special Exception for Xenon Fund

Who knew there could be lust in taxes? The House version of the pending tax bill has a section that would consolidate provisions governing the Hazardous Substance Superfund and the "Leaking Underground Storage Tank Trust Fund (the 'LUST Trust Fund')."

Going Private

Tom Jurkovich, a top aide to former Democratic Caucus head Vic Fazio (D-Calif.) and, more recently, deputy assistant secretary for intergovernmental affairs at the Commerce Department, is leaving to join Microsoft's government relations office here.