As Americans prepared to vote, former foreign minister Qian Qichen assailed what he called the "Bush doctrine" in the China Daily newspaper on Monday.

Qian is quoted as saying the Iraq war had ruined the global anti-terror coalition and blaming arrogance for problems dogging the United States worldwide.

 

He added that the US strategy of pre-emptive strikes would bring insecurity and ultimately the demise of the "American empire".

 

"After the article appeared, we maintained contact with the US side ... We have told the US side of the attitude of the Chinese side," foreign ministry spokeswoman Zhang Qiyue told a news conference on Tuesday.

 

"The Chinese government attaches great importance to Sino-US relations," Zhang said. "The Chinese government is willing to further strengthen relations with the United States."

 

Zhang and the Chinese Embassy in Washington said Qian had not been interviewed and had not written essays for the China Daily or other media.

The essay was published under Qian's name and identified him as a former vice prime minister and former foreign minister.

 

Asked if Qian's remarks reflected the view of the Chinese government, Zhang said: "Mr Qian Qichen is a very well-known diplomat. Now, he does not hold any government position."


Accredited diplomat
 

"After the article appeared, we maintained contact with the US side ... We have told the US side of the attitude of the Chinese side" 

Zhang Qiyue,
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman

Qian is credited with breaking China out of diplomatic isolation after the army crackdown on the 1989 Tiananmen Square pro-democracy protests in which hundreds were killed. He retired last year.

An editor at the China Daily said the newspaper translated Qian's commentary, which was first published in the Study Times, the newspaper of the Central Party School which trains Communist Party cadres.

 

Asked how the article came to be carried in the English-language China Daily, Zhang said: "The Chinese side will look into the situation.

"Magazines alone, China has more than 8,000. Newspapers, there are 2,000. Newspapers and magazines publish so many articles every day, I think it is impossible for the Chinese government or the Foreign Ministry spokesperson to know each article," Zhang said.

 

She declined to say if the issue had been resolved or whether it could potentially damage Sino-US relations.


Unthinkable
 

But in the face of complicated challenges and crises after the 11 September 2001 attacks on the United States, Zhang said a multilateral approach was needed and a new security outlook adopted, based on mutual interests and trust and equality.

 

China says a multilateral approach
with trust and equality is needed

Several US experts said it was unthinkable that Qian would write such a piece if it did not reflect official Chinese thinking.

 

Although some experts have said the Sino-US relationship is too important to be harmed by Qian's article, others say it could sour ties if Bush is re-elected.

 

The Bush administration has often boasted that US relations with Beijing are the best in a generation.

 

Experts said they believed China preferred the stability of a second Bush administration.

 

They said it was odd Beijing would become involved in a US election, and even odder for this to happen when the outcome is so close.