Friday, May 4, 2012

The China Debacle

Can anyone blame Chinese human rights dissident Chen Guangcheng for being a tad nervous about his present situation? After all, being under the aegis of the United States is a fairly dangerous proposition of late.

This latest American foreign policy debacle might, at any other time in recent American history, have been at least remotely considered a risky, but potentially audacious move – if successful, it would fundamentally change the U.S.-Sino dialogue on human rights, and signal a concession on China’s part that would be difficult for them to retreat from.

Under this Administration’s State Department, however, it more accurately appears to be another in a string of fiascos that seems to showcase the Department’s apparent standing order to find new and creative ways to demonstrate American weakness.

Chen Guangcheng is the blind human rights activist best known for his vociferous opposition to Red China’s barbaric one-child policy, particularly the practice of forced abortions. For his efforts, he was arrested and imprisoned for four years. Following his release in 2010, he was placed under abusive house arrest, from which he escaped on April 22 and fled to the U.S. Embassy, where he had been until U.S. officials brokered a deal with the Chicoms to guarantee his safety in China. The deal, to which Mr. Chen reportedly initially agreed after Chinese authorities threatened to beat his wife to death (I think in China they actually have an official form for that), would see Mr. Chen and his family relocated to another part of the country, and included assurances from the Chinese government –  the  government which had him arrested on the first place, and for whom torture and brutal oppression of dissent is as routine as issuing a parking ticket is in Denver – that he would be safe from persecution.

Unsurprising to anybody (save perhaps the State Department), upon arriving at a Beijing hospital, Mr. Chen was immediately surrounded by plainclothes police, and has since issued panicked pleas for the Americans to get him the heck out China.

Now, it is only fair to say that we do not know what was said between Mr. Chen and American Embassy officials – human rights groups are asserting that Mr. Chen was pressured into the deal, but we simply do not know that. The officials who negotiated the deal may have done so in entirely good faith.

The problem is that it is now up to the United States to show considerable backbone in the follow-up, and remain faithful to their protectorate – something in which the most recent American record had been deplorable. From the Middle East, to Russia, to North Korea, to South America, American diplomatic muscle of the last 3 ½ years has been at best anemic.

The Obama administration’s foreign policy, to the extent it has one, is based on the political exigency of the moment, rather than on strategic foresight or a set of principles.

It is quite understandable, then, to hear questions concerning Mr. Chen’s disposition; for instance, was a deal rushed though in order to have the situation neatly wrapped up ahead of Secretary Clinton’s visit to the People’s Republic?

In any event, at this point, few are taking bets that  the Administration will assertively stand up to the  Chinese Communists should they go back on their word and arrest or kill Chen Guangcheng, three things that Chinese Communists are particularly adept at.

As an Editorial in the Washington Post last Thursday correctly pointed out, Mr. Chen’s safety is now morally the responsibility of the Obama Administration. God help him.

There is a wider strategic element at play here; perhaps no one is watching this situation more closely than Taiwan, who has been protected from Red Chinese aggression for decades by the United States. If anyone has a reason to be terrified by America’s self -inflicted feckless timidity, it is the Taiwanese.

If America cannot, or will not, protect one high profile human rights activist, for fear of offending the Chinese, can anyone honestly believe that it will protect Taiwan when push comes to sea-borne invasion?

While the President has all but presented himself the Medal of Honor for his role in the elimination of Osama Bin Laden, he has absolved himself of the crucial but less ostentatious responsibilities of leading the United States in foreign issues – at the cost of stability and the security of both America and her allies.

If and when something happens to Chen Guangcheng, America will lose whatever shred of credibility in has retained in the international arena. This deal was a gamble that the Obama administration was neither prepared nor competent to take – and one that Taiwan, Mr. Chen, and his family could ill afford.

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