Bush's shameful record on combating human rights abuses in China.
As a candidate in 2000, George W.
Bush didn't offer too many opinions on foreign policy. He could not name the
leader of Pakistan, and his
entire global experience consisted of a few trips south of the border and to
Europe and Israel.
But Bush did make one thing clear: On his watch, a new administration would
take a far tougher stance toward China. While the Clinton
administration had welcomed China into the global trading community and treated
Beijing like a partner--most importantly, pushing for permanent normal trade
relations with the People's Republic--Bush promised to treat China like a "strategic
competitor," a nation to be contained like the former Soviet Union, rather than
Well, that hasn’t exactly happened.
Despite the Department of Defense’s continuing concerns about China’s military buildup, the White House has
backpedaled, leaving its China
policy exactly the opposite of what Bush had promised. And nowhere is his
retreat more obvious than on human rights, an issue Bush claims is the centerpiece
of his presidency.
At first, the White House
seemed willing to live up to its promises. It said that it would do “whatever
it takes” to defend Taiwan, which China has intimidated for years--whether that
meant supporting the beleaguered democracy’s right to stockpile missiles across
the Taiwan Strait or to join global institutions like the United Nations and
the World Health Organization. And on his first visit to China as
president, in 2002, Bush gave a speech to Chinese students emphasizing his
commitment to political and religious justice. “Freedom of religion is not
something to be feared, it’s to be welcomed,” Bush declared. It was a brave
thing to say under the circumstances.
But this strategy changed quickly
after 9/11, when the U.S.
sought China’s help in the
war on terror--even though Beijing
had little to offer in the way of counterterrorism assistance and contained no
pockets of radical Islam. “Administration officials now see smooth U.S.-PRC
relations as an important tool in cooperating against terrorism,” concluded a 2004 study by the Congressional
Research Service. One consequence of this new arrangement was that the
White House agreed to Beijing’s
demands to place an
obscure group of Uighurs, who reportedly call themselves the East Turkestan
Independence Movement (ETIM), on the State Department’s list of terrorist
groups in 2002. This, despite no evidence that ETIM posed an international
threat or had committed terrorist activities, that some Uighur specialists
question whether ETIM exists at all, and that Washington
knew well that Beijing
harshly represses the Uighurs.
And in recent years, without the U.S.
raising an objection, over 4,000 Uighurs have been executed by the Chinese,
frequently without due process. “China has opportunistically
used the post-September 11 environment to make the outrageous claim that individuals disseminating peaceful religious and cultural messages
in Xinjiang [where most Uighurs live] are terrorists who have simply changed
tactics,” Human Rights Watch found in an extensive 2005 report
on the Uighurs. Despite explicit concerns raised by the State Department
about the situation, the White House has twice
declined to sponsor U.N. resolutions condemning Chinese human rights abuses--an
abrupt shift from previous U.S.
policy: The Clinton administration had backed similar U.N. resolutions nearly
every year in office.