As you know, our concern for human rights in China is nothing new. Our Republican Party has long shown its solicitude for the Chinese people. Fifty years ago, your grandfather protested against a certain hardness of heart which some still show toward China as a measure of their “realism” in foreign policy:
It is unfortunate that so many Americans still think of China in terms of great inert masses and not in terms of people, still think of the death of five million Chinese as something different from and less costly than the death of five million Westerners.
Wendell Willkie’s eloquent statement was in the long tradition of American moral leadership in international affairs. George Washington believed that our cause was mankind’s cause. And Abraham Lincoln thought slavery robbed America of “its just influence in the world.” To exercise that “just influence,” I believe we should revoke Most-Favored Nation trading status from communist China now. The recent campaign-funding scandals have shown us that Beijing, while loudly protesting against our “meddling” in their internal affairs, is fully willing to meddle in our internal affairs. Companies controlled by China’s People’s Liberation Army stand accused of smuggling arms to L.A. street gangs. This should send a chill down every American spine. Can anyone believe that China’s rulers would go on placidly trading with us if we had armed China’s student democracy movement?
Our State Department acknowledges that Beijing has completely crushed the dissident movement. All those who spoke out for democracy in China have either been imprisoned, exiled, or shot. Nor has Beijing been a good neighbor internationally. Poison gas, nuclear-weapons technology, and missiles have been cash cows for Beijing. When we examine who China’s most-favored nations are–Iran, Syria, North Korea–the list reads like a roll call of international terror states.
America rightly took action during the Cold War when Soviet religious oppression at home combined with an aggressive foreign policy. The Jackson-Vanik law made sure that the USSR would receive no trade concessions at all unless it allowed Jews to emigrate. That wise policy helped bring down the “evil empire,” which never enjoyed MFN status.
Wendell, we do not ask China to become a mirror-image of the United States. But we are trying to apply moral suasion and diplomatic pressure to get the rulers of Beijing to end their self-destructive policy of religious oppression, human-rights violations, and military threats. And we do demand that China’s rulers honor the commitments they have already made to behave as a valued member of the international community.
American honor and American interest alike call for a change in our policy. I hope you will join our effort for reform.