- The Washington Times - Monday, July 23, 2001

For months Americans who devote at least part of their minds to the everlasting struggle with dictatorships, have tried to figure out how they could lessen the damage of granting Communist China the enormous political and economic boon of the 2008 Olympics. We knew that would be rewarding the torture, imprisonment and mass murders of its own citizens — among its most important methods of governance.
The vast majority of countries, encouraged by the United States, preferred going for the money in their policies to even considering the strange concept of going for the decency of human rights of decency.
To stand any chance at all of rescuing some good from the greedy nastiness of the vote for the Beijing Olympics, we have to answer two questions — one each for China for America.
Who governs the country, how, for what motives, with what strengths and weaknesses, not as a sports spectacled but in as a powerful political power being intently watched around the world.
The Chinese answer is fairly simple. The vast land and a billion people are governed without election by a million or two chosen Communist Party faithful, themselves run by a much smaller apparatus directed by the top party and military leaders, the Politburo.
Day after day the Politburo keeps repeating certain comedy lines, like how the law of China has been liberalized and there the whole communist government will be, just wait. Nothing is said at all about the labor and re-education camps, that now provide a mandated, specific amount of money for the government, military and civic — no shortage allowed.
And day after day Chinese are beaten, and arrested for going to unauthorized churches or in all innocence sending complaints about government efficiency through the mails. And every year 2,000 or more Chinese are executed after being convicted by kangaroo courts — in front of large crowds — usually, with exquisite choice of venue, in arenas that symbolize fairness and good fun: Chinese sports stadiums. Government bills are waiting to be sent out to families ready to pay for the bullets in the head and possibly for the champagne that will swish around in official stomachs after the games the people have just cheered.
The Chinese people are obviously self-preserving enough to know when it is safe to cheer and when to shut up tight. The Politburo people count on the Olympics to show how happy, safe and free are the Chinese right in the open streets and stadiums.
The "engagement" philosophy when it was put into operation under President. Nixon was supposed to be between the Chinese and the American peoples, not simply the two governments trying to make money for themselves and obedient companies, domestic or foreign. That point is not mentioned to the Chinese people, and I do not hear it from the Washington bureaucracy much.
A few American and other foreign companies sometimes yatter about how they will bring American business idealism to China, without unions and health laws and all that nonsense. The higher up economically you ask, the more you find satisfaction with the mock "engagement" you get.
American business is investing scores of billions more in China than it gets, but the more it invests the more subservient to Chinese orders it seems to be.
But in the U.S. there are more than gimmee politicians and businessmen involved, and they do use their brain fighting dictatorships. The beautiful thing is that they are conservatives and liberals, Catholics, Jews, Baptists, atheists, union officials and CEOs and any other variety you can think of. Rep. Nancy Pelosi, the Democrat from San Francisco and Gary L. Bauer, the Republican conservative who ran for president last year — no end of the American variety.
Mr. Bauer, now head of the Campaign for Working Families, has a plan to prepare Americans who visit the Olympics. I hope they go ready to talk whenever and wherever they can about the tortures, political prisons and executions the Communist Party needs to use and keep power, and the Politburo's fear of its own people that shows so vividly.
They should be prepared to explain why the American government takes no economic action against Chinese atrocities the U.S.-China trade lobbies. They have made China the most powerful influence of a dictatorship in the history of American business ,government and academia.
The Politburo will not surrender its powers immediately in fits of regret or allow talkative Americans to remain long in the country. But at least Americans who speak out will show Americans and Chinese that they will not submit to our own economic lobbies and that, whether in China or the U.S., not all Americans are as stupid as we look.

A.M. Rosenthal, former executive editor of the New York Times, is a nationally syndicated columnist.

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