Four days prior to the 30th anniversary of the Tiananmen Massacre, the Brookings Institution published an article asking the United States to temper its expectations of China’s political reform.
The piece, written by Ryan Hass, makes absolutely valid points: America has little credibility defending human rights when the president himself does not truly believe in them. Notwithstanding this face, the assumption that the US still has no ability to influence foreign policy abroad is problematic, especially considering the size and diversity of the US foreign service, and the transient nature of presidential politics. The thrust of the article was that China is so behemothic and impenetrable to outside influence that the United States should cease its influence aims, yet can this ever be true?
Post-Tiananmen, the United States and much of the rest of the world were swept up in the economic fervor created by the rise of China and they gradually not only reduced their criticism of China, there was a decoupling of the notion that liberalization and the creation of preferential trade relationships should be contingent on political closeness. Thus, China was allowed to gradually increase its political repression, massacring children, harvesting and selling the organs of dissidents, charges both supported by research conducted by non-affiliated international NGOs, and increasing its bellicose and inflammatory behavior colonizing the South China Sea to satisfy its jingoistic impulses as China feels increasingly bold.
Rather than criticizing the government and trying to sanction or otherwise limit friendly trading relations with a country that for all intents and purposes is an enemy state, the United States has remained largely silent and non-reactive towards China’s crimes against humanity, creating an opening for them to act with impunity and creating a precedent instructing genocidal tyrants everywhere that to some Washington elites, freedom is no longer important; trade has a higher value than democracy, or even human life.
The notion that China should be left alone, that they need to be allowed to reform on their own timeline is dangerous for the trajectory of democratization around the entire world, and not supported by the history of US efforts in promoting democracy around the world, a campaign not without significant blunders and costs, as well as monumental achievements.
A full 30 years has elapsed since Tiananmen, an event where hundreds died in their support of the basic freedoms that America purports to support, and over this time, America instead of consistently defending those rights has abetted the regime’s continuance through its continued cooperation with the regime. Meanwhile, China has not improved in any real sense, and the superficial reforms mask the moves the state has made towards an even deeper form of totalitarianism that polices public thought. China, without facing extreme outside pressure, will never reform. The government has no need, nor intention to relinquish any power, and any assertions otherwise are utterly false. They do not ever intend to reform.
More importantly, as China’s economy continues to equilibrate with Western markets, their military and geopolitical influence continue to grow, threatening their neighbors in the region, and soon will potentially threaten the homeland of the United States.
America now has the power to contain China, to pressure reforms and democratization, to foment revolution or catalyze a transition to the breakdown of the CCP-led greater China. In 20 years, it is highly doubtful whether this will still be the case. By stalling, America utterly forfeits its opportunity to preserve the current world order, and potentially sows the seeds for its own role in the world to be subsumed by a racially supremacist, evil, totalitarian regime bent on global domination, truly a modern-day Nazi state.
The piece is correct in its criticism of American weakness on the defense of human rights, however, outside of the executive branch, Americans can not abdicate their responsibility to pressure China. While it is true too that Americans should not close their borders or hearts to the Chinese, we must still be wary of the insidious threat of thought work from the CCP, including from students, academics, and business people from the PRC, all screened for party loyalty before being granted permission to leave.
Unfortunately for the people PRC, there is no opportunity for the government to reform, to promote human rights, without the collapse of totalitarianism, and the CCP will never step down willingly. The CCP showed the world on June 4th, 1989 that there can be compromise, and that they will not accept a PRC without CCP domination, therefore, the party should never be “tolerated,” and be compromised with on any principles for reasons of trade, it must be crushed by the world.
This is not the time for appeasement or weakness, this may be one of our last chances to use our power to project strength. America must act decisively in defense of these values. If it fails to, if we are unwilling to make sacrifices, when the world marks the 50th anniversary of Tiananmen in 2039, there is no guarantee that even in the United States, we will be free to speak the truth about this event.
Democracy is fragile and the truth is fleeting.
Staff writer: Ari B
Source article: https://www.brookings.edu/blog/order-from-chaos/2019/05/29/lessons-for-raising-human-rights-issues-with-beijing/