November 29, 1996 in City

Human Rights Lost In China Trade

A.M. Rosenthal New York Times
 

With determined concentration, President Clinton has worked a historic change in American foreign policy. Foreign policy amounts to a nation’s political, moral and military stance in the world, its role and values. For America, the change will affect all these, and for ill.

Clinton has made trade the foundation of his foreign policy, far surpassing other traditional American goals and values, like democracy and human rights, and often overriding security interests.

Central to this change is China, with whose president he has decided to exchange state visits, to further his suddenly proclaimed “partnership” between the world’s largest democracy and its largest tyranny. The message he sent to all who hoped the United States would help them attain some relief from political oppression and religious persecution is: Don’t.

That’s easily grasped, everywhere. Today China and occupied Tibet. Tomorrow Cuba, Burma, Indonesia, Africa, the Mideast - who can know this inconstant heart?

Clinton worked long to achieve the turnaround. Diligently he broke his promises of help to China’s victims and instead tied his administration to the overarching trade value. Consistently, he and the people with the stomach to carry out his policy underrated Chinese violations of agreements against sales of missiles or nuclear-warfare material.

And in tireless duplicity, they told America the issue was whether to “isolate” China. False: Human rights supporters cheered when Nixon-Kissinger “opened” China. They wanted it opened not for the weird so-called realpolitik of building Chinese power, but precisely to bring China’s people out of the isolation of despotism.

Once, conservatives could be expected to oppose strengthening Communist power. No longer; as the left abandoned anti-communism, the right has abandoned human rights. On this - nothing to choose, between Bob Dole and Bill Clinton.

Once liberals opposed dictatorships that conservatives found congenial. No longer; Democrats grub money from the Indonesian dictatorship and rationalize the Chinese.

Sen. Sam Nunn, D-Ga., says China did not make much progress in our definition of human rights, but made a lot in a “broader” definition - economic betterment.

This is the classic rationalization by dictators and for dictators. Now it allocates different human values to Asians. It says that America was able to rise economically from its revolution while expanding freedoms, but Asians are not.

Also corruptive of democratic values is the position that the business of the world is now business, so if the right to talk without risk of arrest and torture has any lingering interest, let American businesses in China handle it.

It was never the business of business to take over from the American people and government the responsibility for human rights or even workers’ rights. That protected America from the corporate government so dear to totalitarians.

At home, the rights to collective bargaining, Social Security and defined working conditions were not granted by business but came through the appropriate mixture of public opinion, legislation and business needs. Abroad, that mix created embargoes against South Africa and Cuba, and refusal to obey rules of the Arab boycott of Israel.

In China, U.S. businesses grow in numbers but not in inclination to walk up to one of Clinton’s Chinese partners for a stern chat about the Chinese gulag. The idea that U.S. business would do that now because its own government was abdicating on human rights may ease the conscience but is self-deceiving.

Clinton did not even get a decent bid for his change of policy. Economically China promised him only huge American trade deficits. Now China blackmails U.S. companies with demands for technology that would put more Americans out of work. The Clintonians failed with limp attempts to persuade China not to keep selling missile and nuclear technology to terrorist nations.

So, we must understand. Those human rights promises he made in the 1992 campaign - he never intended to keep them. So be it. The human rights cause had been sold out before Clinton came cozily along. It rose, and will again. xxxx

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