Howard French of the New York Times just came out with a thoughtful and balanced piece on the progression of rights in China, entitled, Despite Flaws, Rights in China Have Expanded. The article tracks its title and it is well worth reading. Plus, I agree with it.
China still obviously has a ways to go, but I do not think it fair or realistic to expect China to instantly be where the United States and Denmark and Canada are today. China will not become “free” overnight, as that virtually never happens (I often cite post-Franco Spain as a rare exception). As I have said from this blog’s inception, I see China following in the path of South Korea and Japan, both of which have made amazing economic and political strides over the last 50 years, but not instantly. China does not deserve a free pass, but it does not deserve unmitigated opprobrium either.
The Washington Post interviewed John McCain on China in an article entitled McCain Urges Bush to Avoid Confrontations on China Trip. McCain has it right on how the United States should act towards China, both in the short term (at the Olympics) and in the long term:
In an interview with The Washington Post at his Arlington headquarters, the prospective Republican presidential nominee advocated a cautious course for Bush, despite U.S. unhappiness with the Chinese crackdown on T1b*t, complaints of harsh repression of domestic dissidents and strained relations stemming from last week’s breakdown of global trade talks in Geneva.
McCain, who harshly condemned Russian behavior in the same interview, said some of China’s actions are “also regrettable, but I don’t think China is regressing the way that Russia is. We have a greater opportunity to work in a cooperative way with China.”
Saying he does not contemplate “a return to the Cold War” or a military confrontation with either country, McCain said he hopes Bush will tell the Chinese leadership that “we understand, as the D*lai L*ma does, that T1b*t is part of China but we hope Tibetans are not repressed or oppressed.” McCain met recently with the D*lai L*ma in Colorado.
Bush has been under pressure from some Republicans and many Democrats to make public statements while in China aligning the United States with the cause of hum*n rights in both China and Tibet. He met with five Chinese dissidents in the White House last week, a step that Chinese authorities condemned, but he has resisted urgings that he boycott the opening ceremonies to show displeasure with the controversial actions of the government.
McCain applauded the president’s stance. “You don’t want to go over there and insult the Chinese,” he said. “It would not be good for our relations. I certainly don’t think the president would or should go over there and be confrontational. At the same time, I think the president can in a very diplomatic style make it clear what we stand for and believe in.”
What do you think?