China, Human Rights Champion?

If Diane and the pope are right that we shouldn’t privilege civil and political rights over social, economic, and cultural rights, and maybe they are right, then we should give credit where credit is due, and crown China the human rights champion of the last thirty years.  During that time, the authoritarian Chinese government has raised more than 400 million people out of extreme poverty through its enlightened pursuit of capitalism at all costs.  Its indifference to the civil and political rights of Tibetans and other minorities, not to mention those of its own people, detracts from this achievement, but no one can say with any confidence that China could have come so far, so fast, if it had snapped its fingers in 1980 and become a democracy.  The only other contender for the human rights crown is the group of western powers that brought down the Soviet Union, and Mikhail Gorbachev, for not standing in the way, an accomplishment that freed a great number of people living in Soviet-dominated satellite states and finally discredited forever a malign ideology, but did much less for the poor than China has.  We needn’t declare a winner; but out of respect for China’s achievement, we should at least let it relay its Olympic torch in peace.