Tuesday, March 24, 2009

A painful lesson is being relearned

Just over a month ago, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton signaled that under President Obama, the United States was no longer interested in pushing human rights or other thorny issues. Henceforth, "cooperation" would reign between Washington and Beijing.

Zhongnanhai responded by pressuring South Africa into banning the Dalai Lama (Guardian, UK) and calling for a new international currency to replace the dollar (BBC).

The wages of weakness have come.

To be fair to the new Administration, "engagement" - the label that the president believes still encompasses his China policy - has been the coin of the realm for two decades. If anything, President Obama has merely been more obsequious, more eager-to-please, and more naive about the cadres than his three most recent predecessors. However, it is that degree of difference that has given the Chinese Communist Party the belief it can act with this impunity, and so it has.

The Bush and Clinton Administrations would never have presented such a weak face to Beijing - and in fact, even at their worst, neither of them did. That the Obama Administration (as of Tuesday morning) has still said nothing about the South African ban on the Dalai Lama is painfully telling.

When you allow the last apartheid president to take the moral high ground (London Telegraph), it is a good time to reassess your policy. Sadly, what we get instead is the spreading of the "engagement" virus across the world map.

As the president was ignoring the CCP's muscle flexing, he was making an "overture" to the Iranian mullahcracy, itself a major coup for a regime listed by President Bush as part of the "axis of evil." Yet Mr. Obama made no attempt to reach directly to the Iranian people, who have suffered the effects of Tehran's tyranny for more than anyone else on the planet. Instead, he gave the "Islamic Republic" a legitimacy no predecessor had granted them in nearly three decades.

The tyrants' response was quick and unsurprising: thanks so much, now give us more (Time).

Meanwhile, the CCP's Korean colony is preparing to test-fire a missile that could hit the United States and holding two American journalists prisoner (BBC) - and Washington's silence is deafening.

For those who remember the Carter Administration, it is all gruesomely familiar: a new president looking to break from the past and reach out to our enemies, a lack of understanding about just how dangerous these enemies are, and a refusal to take a stand even as previous weaknesses lead to adventurism from said enemies. Yet even President Carter coupled his unfortunate geopolitical policies with a genuine concern for the rights and dignity of the oppressed. That is nowhere to be found in the Obama Administration.

President Carter reaped what he sowed in Afghanistan and Iran. This president will likely see the result of his weakness in Taiwan, Korea, and the Middle East - if he's lucky, the consequences will remain that far away for now.

However, for all the dark clouds on the horizon, there remains an important silver lining.

Carter took office in 1977, after defeating a Republican incumbent (Gerald Ford) who had the "detente" policy of his predecessor (Richard Nixon) hanging around his neck like a millstone. "Detente" was in many respects a doomed policy, certain to give the Soviets badly needed breathing room and a chance to advance its interests abroad at our expense. Domestically, it was one of the many things that made the Republican Party an anathema among voters. Yet the four years out of power, along with the mistakes of the Carter Administration, gave the GOP an opportunity to capture the anti-Communist mantle for its own - which it did under Ronald Reagan in 1980. The rest, as they say, is history.

Likewise, the Republicans in 2009 are recovering from a deep "engagement" hangover, yet once again, the mistakes of the Obama Administration gives the party a chance to grasp the anti-Communist mantle. The question is: will they?

For those of us eager to see the Chinese, Iranian, and Korean peoples take their countries back, it will be a very difficult four years. However, if we take the time to make sure the peoples of the democratic world are aware of the rising dangers - and the need to confront them - they can be productive all the same. With enough hard work, we could get the anti-Communist leadership that is so desperately needed, and see freedom finally come to the dark tyrannies of the world.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Has the Speaker found her voice?

Since her ascension to Speaker of the House in January 2007, Nancy Pelosi has been a deeply painful disappointment. Her long history of championing freedom in China appeared (from afar) to vanish the moment she was handed the gavel.

Yet, if Michael Isikoff and Mark Hosenball of Newsweek are to be believed, Mrs. Pelosi may very well have found her voice again during the Chas Freeman fiasco:

But Pelosi's objections reportedly focused on Freeman's ties to China. A well-placed Democratic source said Pelosi, a strong supporter of the Chinese human-rights movement, was incensed about public remarks that Freeman once made that seemed to justify the violent 1989 Chinese government crackdown on democracy protesters at Tiananmen Square. The source, who asked not to be identified, said Pelosi thought Freeman's views were "indefensible" and complained directly to President Obama about his selection.
h/t Greg Pollowitz at NRO Media Blog.

If true, we can only hope this isn't the last time Pelosi speaks up and out. After all, when it comes to actions and policies regarding the CCP worthy of criticism, the Obama Administration has redefined "target-rich environment."

Cross-posted to the right-wing liberal

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The next four years

As always, Ethan Gutmann is a must-read in the Weekly Standard on the Obama Administration:
Human rights in China. Democracy in China. These are things that the Obama administration wants nothing to do with. Are the Chinese people on their own now?
His view has a lot of company now, especially in light of the Administration's recent actions (which Gutmann also details):

First came the news that Chas Freeman would chair the National Intelligence Council. The former U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia and an adviser to CNOOC (the state-owned Chinese oil company), Freeman clearly fits the Chinese Communist party's idea of a four-year plan for American intelligence oversight. Just note Freeman's curious 2006 statement about the Tiananmen massacre (C e-L note: said statement can be found here).

. . .

The Chinese will score their number two victory with Gary Locke, former governor of Washington, becoming our new commerce secretary. Locke's been a very--very!--good Friend of China: making public displays of affection for the party's brilliant stewardship, carrying a torch for China in the Beijing Olympics relay, and easily straddling his public and private interests to make a deal. Locke has paraded his guanxi--his connections--and, indeed, his numerous meetings with Hu Jintao are real. As are the campaign funds he got in the 1990s through Buddhist temple fundraisers, Chinese cut-outs, and confessed felon John Huang.

Naturally, Gutmann also had some choice words for the Secretary of State.

I am happy to report that Mr. Freeman has seen the writing on the wall and has chosen not to serve in the Administration (National Review Online - The Corner), but the person who wanted to give him a job is still there, as is the president whose "leadership" has brought us to this point.

That said, I'm not prepared to follow my good friend Ethan into the despair in which he understandably finds himself - not yet, anyway.

True, we are seeing an Administration with the largest blind spot on the totalitarian threat since the Carter era, and that should be cause for great concern. However, we also need to remind ourselves that the Carter era also happened to be one of the most prolific for anti-Communist dissidents - no matter how much they were ignored in Washington. Moreover, as the Carter crew continued to cower before Soviet expansion, more and more Americans started to wonder why, and demanded a change. Up stepped Ronald Reagan, and the rest was history.

Of course, this leads to a brief discussion of the Republican Party, which appears in disarray, recovering from a wildly unpopular president, and is still shot through with "engagement" supporters. However, again, we need to remember that the GOP was in just such dire straits in 1977 - in fact, one could say they were in worse shape. Moreover, unlike in the late 1970s - when Henry Kissinger was easily powerful enough to hijack the party's foreign policy views until Reagan won the nomination - no such "engagement" supporter is in a similar position today.

It is just as likely (perhaps even more likely) that the Republican Party will spend the next four years reconnecting with their anti-Communist past and bring that forward to the 21st Century.

Meanwhile, on the Democratic side, Ethan has effectively noticed the complete silence of the left:
Nancy Pelosi cut her teeth on China human rights, but she won't break ranks without sustained pressure. Amnesty International has made some noises about Clinton's comments. To a lesser extent, so have Freedom House, Reporters Without Borders, and Human Rights Watch. But it's not nearly enough. And where are the AFL-CIO, the academy, and the sweatshop coalitions?
Either this pitiful state of affairs will be halted by other Democratic heavies who are not so worried about the president's views (Barney Frank comes to mind), or appeasement of the Chinese Communist Party will become a partisan issue - landing the president on the wrong side of a nearly 60-40 split.

Now, none of this is to excuse the president and his supporters from gross negligence in foreign policy - a negligence that is sure to cost blood (Chinese certainly, American possibly) and treasure (ditto). In addition, 2012 is a long way off, and the CCP can do a lot of damage in the interim (like Ethan, I am very concerned about Taiwan).

However, the regime cannot overcome its inherent weaknesses. It cannot afford to scale back the international adventurism that upsets so many in the free world. It cannot afford to wean party members of ill-gotten gains - the promise of which remain the biggest incentive for joining the CCP in the first place. All it can do is delay the inevitable.

History tells us the inevitable will come sooner than we can imagine; Ethan reminds us that it is already painfully late.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Will Wall Street FINALLY get it now?

From CNN Money, detailing the latest bloodletting in the financial markets (emphasis added):

Stocks plunged to fresh 12-year lows Thursday as investors waded through more grim news: GM said its survival is in doubt, bank shares took a beating and Citigroup fell below a buck.

Adding to the global woes: China defied expectations by failing to boost its economic stimulus program.


Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Will President Obama save the CCP? No.

For those of us who have been watch the Chinese Communist Party, this is a painful time. A golden opportunity to work with the Chinese people to end the CCP tyranny is being tossed away. There is no other way to describe the Obama Administration's policy toward Beijing.

Fresh off Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's abysmal visit to Beijing and the execrable appointment of cadre-sympathizer Chas Freeman, it should come as no surprise that Washington has resurrected military talks with the "People's Liberation Army" (Agence France Presse via Google). One of the "engagement" floozies called the talks "the single best set of talks I’ve been to" (Bloomberg).

Meanwhile, the new Commerce Secretary-designate (Gary Locke) prides himself on "reluctance to link trade issues to alleged human rights abuses in China" (Los Angeles Times).

Clearly, the new Administration prefers the cadres to the people. It's maddening; it's depressing; and it's an outrage.

But is it enough for the CCP to stave off its inevitable demise? I don't think so.

It will postpone it - and that postponement could lead to a painful loss of blood and treasure for the free world - but the Soviets gained a similar reprieve in the 1970s, and their decline continued apace in the 1980s.

In the case of the CCP, the problems that they face cannot be reversed by Washington, no matter how pliant or cooperative Washington may be. For starters, while President Obama has run away from his tough-on-Beijing rhetoric far faster and with more callousness than either Bush the Younger or Bill Clinton, the fact remains that neither of Obama's two predecessors stuck to their rhetoric for very long. Anti-Communists are still smarting from the betrayal, but it is a pain they've felt before.

More importantly, matters inside the CCP's realm continue to depart from the "engagement" script. There is no better example of the problems Zhongnanhai faces - and the appeasers' impotence in solving them - than the very "stimulus" package Beijing repackaged for the world today.

If one believes Wall Street, the Communists' stimulus plan is just what the doctor ordered. Markets zoomed upward today (MSNBC). Unfortunately for the cadres, optimism about the package is greater abroad than at home.

Take a look at what Peng Yunliang, a Shanghai Securities analyst, had to say (MSNBC):
Obviously, this unusual rally suggests that investors are overly optimistic about what to expect from the legislature.

A ringing endorsement this is not, but it was tame compared to the reaction of several "liberal Communist Party elders" (Int'l Herald Tribune), who had the audacity to demand the funds not be stolen by their fellow cadres:

A cluster of liberal Communist Party elders recently wrote to President Hu Jintao and the rest of the party leadership, seizing on the economic troubles and the need for more accountability to promote democratic reforms.

"We very much endorse the central government investment of 4 trillion yuan" — $586 billion — "to invigorate the economy," they explained in the letter, dated Jan.
20, a copy of which was obtained by The New York Times.

"At the same time, we are extremely worried that the privileged and the corrupt will seize this opportunity to fatten themselves, damage the relationship between the party and the people, and intensify social conflict."

They pressed for checks and balances on the recovery program. More sweepingly, they urged that state media be freed from censorship and courts allowed to operate without inference from the governing party, reforms the party has repeatedly rejected in the past.

In other words, not even the cadres trust each other with the "stimulus" money! This comes despite another rash of "anti-corruption" measures (AFP via Yahoo), although given the regime's history with these things, it may actually be because of them.

After all, it is become more and more clear that bribery fueled the Communist expansion of the last generation (Times of London).

Finally, and most importantly, there is the reaction of the impoverished interior. This is typical (AFP via Google):
The central government is always promising us beautiful things, but in reality these things never happen.

There is one organization sure to be happy with the CCP: the PLA. After all, they got another whopping increase in funding (15% - London Telegraph).

Meanwhile, the very West that is bending over backwards to be nice to the CCP is - accused by the CCP of stirring up trouble in Tibet (BBC and AFP via Google) - and the people of Macau are told the true meaning of one-country, one-and-a-half systems (BBC).

The mutual distrust between the CCP and the Chinese people is still there; the economy - stimulus aside - is still unable to provide the funds necessary to keep the urban elite happy; and the regime must still rely on radical nationalism to survive.

Unfortunately, another Administration is determined not to take advantage of these weaknesses within the CCP, but that doesn't make the weaknesses go away. The CCP will limp along, adding more names to the tens of millions of victims inside and outside China, until the Chinese people finally have a partner in the democratic world ready to help them take their country back.