- The Washington Times - Monday, April 9, 2001

The collision between the American and Chinese planes presents Americans and their government with two duties that should be inescapable. One is the release of the American crew who hour by passing hour are more obviously hostages. President Bush is facing that duty as directly as he can without further jeopardizing a crew in hostile hands.
But for at least three decades, American administrations, voters and business have been trying to escape the other duty using our economic and political pressure to try to persuade Beijing to employ its usual instruments of government less often and less cruelly.
Among them are: uncountable political imprisonments, forced labor-in-exile, torture in prison cells, incarceration of dissidents in mental hospitals, destruction of thousands of churches and temples, whose congregations refuse to worship under the censorship of communist overseers, compulsory abortion after one child, the outlawing of all unions but one run by the Communist Party, the growth of Chinese military power and the dictatorial governments contempt and detestation of everything about America except its money and the arms China can buy.
And now comes Beijings hysterical persecution of the practitioners of the peaceful philosophy known as Falung Gong, simply because its popularity startled the nervous dictatorship. Settlement of the hostage situation would not diminish Beijings rule by police power and mental and physical torture. That will come one day with revolution, when enough Chinese are able to free their minds and angry enough to express them in the streets, as so many did before the communist army literally shot down the student demonstrators at Tienanmen Square.
Americans can help the Chinese people, but only if we take the time to understand what is the one motive of the China policies of our country, and other Western democracies, our sometime allies. We betray the people of China and captive Tibet and strengthen the communist government and its army, for money, profit from trade with China and to the devil with how that hurts American workers and national interests. Some American companies do make money investing in cheap Chinese labor. But for selling its soul, overall the United States is allowed by Beijing the privilege of losing scores of billions of dollars a year, and nobody knows how many American jobs.
The political and propaganda arms of China in America are those U.S. companies that obey Beijings instructions, turning trade into vassaldom. When Washington shows signs of putting national interests above the cash register, they whine that America may lose commercial and military products America manufactures in China for export to the United States. Why are we making them in China, when they can be made in America with American workers? Answer: With the Chinese pay scale, and no unions, the profit margin is so deliciously larger in China.
And we have to grasp that our own government, many of our China specialists and the American press distort the choice for the U.S. as between isolating or "engaging" with China.
Distort? I am not in the politesse business. It is a lie. When President Nixon and Henry Kissinger made the first overtures to Communist China, all who knew, admired or loved China rejoiced. Washington, the American business lobby and journalism called it "engagement."
But it turned out not to be engagement with the Chinese people but their rulers, the men who approve the contracts with foreign business or reject them. Americans who object to dealing only with the rulers are accused of trying to "isolate" China.
Another lie. It is American business and government that isolates the Chinese people, at the command of the Politburo that its officials be the only important link between the two countries.
The man most responsible for the betrayal of the Chinese and Tibetans is Bill Clinton. Running for president the first time, he said he would use trade pressures against the oppression the less oppression the easier he would go on tariffs for U.S.-China trade. After his inauguration, he reversed himself completely, canceling any connection between U.S.-Chinese business and Chinese human rights assuming he ever intended to carry out his promise.
My stomach lurches at pictures of Bill Clinton, walking into church on Sundays, Bible tucked under his arm. In my years of writing about human rights, I found among conservatives as much support, stimulation and passion as among liberals actually, more. I hope someday a picture of President Bush, plus Bible, will bring warm thoughts of how he helped Chinese Christians, which he has not yet done. And I hope you and I, and Americas tens of thousands of religious or civil groups will fight for help for the persecuted Christians, in China and wherever else they may be found, using the power of tariffs, and refusal of international loans. That is engagement, of the free with the oppressed.


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

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