Responding to the heroic escape of blind Chinese rights activist, Chen GuangCheng from brutal house arrest, the best comment a White House spokesman could muster on Sunday was that that the Obama administration hopes to “balance” its commitment to human rights with its commitment to maintaining the economic and strategic relationship with China’s dictators. In other words our former activist President is saying, “Human rights just doesn’t trump money and power.”
Sadly, this should come as no surprise, given the way this administration and its predecessors have dealt with China. Throwing Tibetans, Chinese Christians, Falun Gong, and democracy advocates under the bus in order to appease the Boys from Beijing and keep them funding Washington’s reckless spending has been the most successful bi-partisan policy this decade. Keeping WalMart’s aisle stuffed with undervalued Chinese goods has been important in both buying off consumers –who’ve lost their jobs to China’s predatory trade behavior – and in driving up profits for the multinational corporations that fund the campaign machines.
So, while President Obama was happy to endorse China’s non-democratic succession process by welcoming dictator-in-waiting, Xi Jinping to the White House, having one brave, blind man show up at the U.S. embassy in Beijing asking for refuge has created a political nightmare. While nobody in the government has officially confirmed that Chen is in the embassy, the fact that they have also refused to deny the rumors makes it pretty obvious, that they are true. The silence over this issue has made the administration’s discomfort, palpable.
Mr. Chen’s case has handed Mr. Obama’s Republican opponents the ripest of tomato’s to toss at the administration’s appeasement policy. Mitt Romney quickly called on the administration to “take every measure” to protect Chen and Congressman Chris Smith of New Jersey has written Secretary of Sate Clinton urging her to, “raise the issue of all harassed, arrested, disappeared, and disbarred human rights lawyers and defenders with the Chinese Government on an on-going basis and link this issue to the United States’ interests in the rule of law and respect for human rights generally in China.”
Of course, that is exactly what Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton do not want to be doing on the eve of an economic and strategy summit with China’s oligarchy. That sort of talk could disturb the very cozy status quo that America’s crony capitalists have struck with Beijing’s corrupt communists. Threatening the flow of profits to multinationals like General Electric and banks like Goldman Sachs, could reveal just how weak this supposed economic recovery is and would surely mean a drop in contributions to Obama friendly PACs during the most expensive Presidential campaign in history.
Coming at this critical juncture in Chinese and American politics Chen’s case offers the perfect opportunity to disrupt the current paradigm. It’s time for all the interested parties to come together and say “Human rights, jobs, and peace are more important than low prices and WalMart and next quarter’s stock indices.” Boycott China! Do your best to avoid Chinese goods until there is regime change in Beijing along with a change in attitude in Washington and in America’s boardrooms. I call on every decent free person to commit to reducing their purchases of Chinese products by 20% until blind men no longer have to escape beatings by crawling over walls and swimming rivers to hide, unacknowledged in an American embassy.
Greg Autry serves Senior Economist with the American Jobs Alliance and is co-author (with Peter Navarro) of Death by China: Confronting the Dragon – a Global Call to Action. He blogs regularly with Navarro on the Huffington Post.