I wrote this as a reply to an email I received telling the story of a woman
who had recently been tortured in China together with her son for being a
Date: Tue, 26 Nov 2002 20:41:55 -0600
From: Jesus Ortega
To: Tim Kramer
Subject: Re: things still are pretty bad in China...
On Tue, Nov 26, 2002 at 04:04:48PM -0600, Tim Kramer wrote:
> Many on both the left AND right want to portray China as progressively
> more tolerant. Unfortunately, as this article shows, China is still a police
> state: things still are pretty bad in China.
Well, not that I think China will be becoming a democracy any time soon, but
I'm afraid I don't see any other alternative policy either. As this very
same article says (towards the bottom), the President has emphasized the
issue of religious freedom and there is some slow progress being made.
It's always a tough issue when it comes to deciding what policies one should
have towards dictatorial countries, but I always try to view it from the
perspective of the one who is in power (Bush in this case), and not from the
one who is in the opposition and can afford being pure and inmaculate. In
other words, those who are in power cannot make decisions based on what they
would like the world to be, but rather based on what the world actually is.
Do I think George W. Bush much rather have a democracy in China? Sure. I
would also say the same of Bill Clinton, Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter too.
I am sure. However, the fact is that there is a ruthless dictatorship still
in power in China, and we need to make our policies from that basis.
Once we know this, we should answer the next question: is it possible to
completely break our relationships with China? Even better, if we do so,
will we accomplish anything at all? Let's take it even one step further:
do we know if we will accomplish anything at all even if a vast group of
nations were willing to set up an embargo to China? I seriously doubt the
answer to any of these questions can be a resounding "yes".
Needless to say, a clear military confrontation with China is not even a
consideration at all unless we are attacked. The cost would be way too
So? What is left? Well, precisely what all administrations have done
for decades now. The US policies on China have remained quite stable for
decades. Sure, there have been changes in the small details but the
overall approach has remained the same ever since Nixon decided to start
diplomatic relations with them back in the 1970s. We should not enter
coalitions with the Chinese authorities. We should not alow them in our
most cherished international organizations (the organizations that entail
the highest degrees of cooperation) such as NATO, the IMF, etc. At the
same time, we should take advantage of the existing diplomatic relations
to ease the situation of those who are politically persecuted in the
country, provide humanitarian help to them, etc.
I'm sorry I may sound too pessimistic or "realistic" (in terms of the school
of international relations), but I simply cannot see any other policy that
makes sense. Of course, if one is just commenting on the events without
having the responsibility of making policies... well, then it is much
easier to be ethically pure. Is all this hard to maintain in front of
people who have been tortured? Yes, I'm afraid so. Nevertheless, that
is precisely one of the responsibilities that goes with holding any public
office. It may become necessary to swallow hard and defend certain things
in spite of their lack of popular support or grandiosity.