Friday, September 7, 2012

President Jimmy Carter's Tragic Legacy

"Freedom is the right to question and change the established way of doing things. It is the continuous revolution of the marketplace. It is the understanding that allows to recognize shortcomings and seek solutions." - Ronald Wilson Reagan

Carter's normalization of  relations with Communist China is a tragic legacy

President Jimmy Carter has repeated his long standing position of arguing in favor of normalized relations with the dictatorship in Cuba that began during his presidency. Ironically when President Carter took steps to normalize relations with the dictatorship in Cuba while at the same time isolating the military junta in Argentina, it was Fidel Castro who responded by embracing the Argentine regime. Afterwards as a private citizen he has visited Cuba twice, first in 2002 and a second time in 2011. The former president has continued to seek normalized relations between the United States and the Castro regime. Until now he has failed in achieving that policy objective, but he did "succeed" in China. The case for maintaining economic sanctions on the Castro regime is sound of its own accord and the results of the Carter policy on China only serve to reinforce it.
President Carter normalized relations between Washington and Beijing on January 1, 1979. China's one child policy that systematically violates the reproductive rights of all Chinese was first applied in 1979. The conventional belief then with regards to the Soviet Union and China, as with Cuba now, was that normal relations would lead to a greater opening for human rights and a peaceful transition to democracy. The opposite has been the case. In the Soviet Union confrontation and economic isolation led to a peaceful implosion of the regime. In China the policy of trade and political engagement has led to a thriving economic system under Communist party control and modernization and expansion of both the military and police state to continue repressing the Chinese people.

Ten years after Carter succeeded in normalizing relations with the communist dictatorship in China that same regime on June 4, 1989 engaged in a massive crackdown killing thousands of Chinese students and workers who had been non-violently protesting in what became known as the Tiananmen Square massacre. One month later on July 4, 1989 George H.W. Bush sent a secret high level delegation to meet with the Chinese regime and join with them in celebrating American Independence while downplaying pro-forma criticisms made by the Administration. Candidate Bill Clinton would critique this de-linkage of human rights and commercial interests only to intensify the practice during his own presidency. This reached a symbolic low point in 1996 when the General responsible for the 1989 massacre was received at the Clinton White House with a 19 gun salute. The bipartisan consensus on China is one that all Americans should be ashamed of. It has not aided freedom in China but conspired against it.

On the same day that President Jimmy Carter was widely quoted on his desire to see improved relations with the dictatorship in Cuba the fruits of his normalized relations with communist China policy once again also made the news. Chinese students were forced to "intern" on an i-Phone production line six-days a week, 12 hours a day. Involuntary forced labor used to be called slavery but in today's Orwellian environment it is called an "internship" in China.

The result of engagement with China has not been the transformation of the Chinese dictatorship to democracy. Amnesty International’s 2012 report states: "Executions were estimated to number in the thousands. However, statistics on death sentences and executions remained classified." The same report further stated that "Fearful of a protest movement inspired by events in the Middle East and North Africa, in February the authorities unleashed one of the harshest crackdowns on political activists, human rights defenders and online activists since the 1989 Tiananmen Square demonstrations. Harassment, intimidation, arbitrary and illegal detention, and enforced disappearances intensified against government critics." Finally, Amnesty International reported that "China’s economic strength during the global financial crisis increased the country’s leverage in the domain of global human rights – mostly for the worse."

The events of June 1989 when thousands of students were butchered by Chinese troops for peacefully demonstrating for democracy, human rights, and an end to government corruption dramatically revealed the failure of the policy of engagement. Surprisingly, economic engagement with the butchers of Beijing was not even suspended but intensified. Twenty three years have passed since the Tiananmen Square massacre but according to Amnesty International, China continues its systemic suppression of dissent, which includes arbitrary arrests, torture, unfair trials, religious repression, and executions." 

Nevertheless former President Carter in his trip report on his December 6-15, 2011 visit to communist China stated "In general, we were impressed with the enormous vitality of the Chinese economy, rapid improvements in commerce, transportation, education, and international influence, concern about election year 'China bashing' from 2012 U.S. candidates, pride in 40 years of peaceful engagement with their neighbors, and quiet self-assurance about China's future role in global affairs."

Recalling that President Jimmy Carter's made human rights a cornerstone of his foreign policy the aftermath of his normalization of relations with China and his continued blindness towards the harm it has and continues to do not only in China but around the world is a tragic legacy.

It is not the policy on Cuba that needs to be overhauled but U.S. foreign policy in China that has been disastrous both for the Chinese people and the United States.

Carter is advocating normalizing relations with the Castro regime

No comments:

Post a Comment