Ideals vs. pragmatism

China presents the United States with some difficult decisions. On one hand, it fails miserably to live up to the standard American ideals of human rights and freedoms. Thus, some want to limit relations between the two countries until China begins respecting its people’s rights. But on the other hand, China and its 1.2 billion people represent the largest single market for American goods. Instead of isolating China until it changes, a policy of actively engaging China is cited as the best way to gradually nudge it toward Western standards. At the White House Tuesday, those two views were in clear contrast.

President Clinton welcomed Chinese leader Jiang Zemin with red-carpet treatment. As the two discussed positions generally agreed upon, several thousand protesters reminded the public of the treatment of those Chinese citizens who call for change.

It is unrealistic and foolish to cease all trade relations with China. However, though the United States must continue and increase its economic relationship with China, it also must constantly remind Beijing of human rights violations and push for change.

The cause to free Tibet seems to be a trendy cause c?l?bre. While no one is lessening the importance of Tibet and its people, many other people fare similarly under Chinese rule. At the Lafayette Park rally, many cameramen and photographers waited until actor Richard Gere gave his speech, then took a few shots of the next speaker, activist Harry Wu, and left. Attention to Chinese human rights issues must focus on all of China, not simply those causes that draw Hollywood attention.

It is impossible for the United States to simply ignore China. It will most likely become an increasingly significant power in the next century. Though the United States needs to maintain an active relationship with China for both economic and geopolitical reasons, it also must continue advocating those ideals of freedom, rights and liberties that are the bedrock of America. It is only by continuing to engage China that internal change can come about.

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