I for one was very pleased to see the protests taking place in Paris, London, and now San Francisco over the human rights abuses and dreadful foreign policy decisions by China. At a time when too many here think of Iraq and the Middle East when the extremely broad topic of foreign policy is mentioned, it is important that Chinese policies be brought to the center of our global awareness.
I have long argued that the decision by President Nixon to go to China was more important than the Watergate affair. As deeply damaging as Watergate was to the political culture in our nation, the fact is the positive effects of Nixon’s famous China trip are more important. The long lasting impact of opening lines of dialogue and trade has benefited both our nations, and fostered connections that will serve all in the future. If we do what is right.
By having international connections with China does not mean there are not serious differences that will require honest debate and action. We should not be blind to the fact that every nation that we consider to be a rouge state has the support of China. China policy to these nations comes in various forms, be it militarily or economic. Iran is but perhaps the most central example to many who follow the headlines. But the issues that arise from Chinese policies in places like Tibet and Darfur, and which do not see the banner headlines everyday, are worthy of the reaction that has been seen over the Olympic Games to be held this summer in China.
The ability of leveraging China to move in a more humane direction is one of the benefits of having diplomatic relations with the most populous nation in the world. We should not, and must not abdicate our role on the world stage. There is an old saying that “the road to the East runs through the West.” If the United States uses the clout we now have on the world stage, and in conjunction with our European allies, we can set again a tone and series of expectations about Chinese foreign policy. There are rules that govern civilized nations, and the world community.
We have the ability to do this, since our primacy on the world stage is not in doubt today. But with China growing in economic and military power, that chance will not be forever ours to take. By banding together with leaders such as Prime Minister Brown, and French President Szarkozy we have an opportunity to make a statement about what we think is most important in the world. As China rises as a world power it does so at a time when open and democratic nations rule the world. To not coerce China to play by the international rules will set up a world struggle that we will soon regret.
We have an opportunity with the Olympic Games. The protestors have opened the door. Will the United States be willing to lead the world through the door?