I’ve been wondering for a while now why the heck Rep. Thad McCotter is running for president.
Yes, president of the United States.
You may not have encountered the Michigan Republican as presidential candidate because he did not meet the 1 percent poll threshold for the Fox News debate in Iowa. But a few days later, at the Ames Straw Poll, there he was.
At the Iowa State University stadium, what began as a professorial lecture gave way to a sharp wake-up call as McCotter brought up China: “We have to accept the reality that Communist China is a strategic threat and a rival model of governance to the United States.” The applause made clear that the audience had been called to attention.
McCotter continued: “And the reason, as the party of Reagan and Lincoln, we understand, as a free people — we understand our liberty, which comes from our creator, is the foundation of our security and the foundation of our prosperity. The Communist Chinese regime in Beijing that butchered my generation in the streets of Tiananmen Square for quoting Jefferson and Madison believes that human liberty is a threat to state-provided security and prosperity. They are as wrong today as the Soviet Union was wrong in the 20th century, and I for one will not cede the 21st century to a Communist nuclear-armed dictatorship that tells you how many children you can have, that tells you if you can pass out Bibles, that tells you what Catholic Church you can attend, or tries to culturally commit genocide against the people of Tibet.”
China, of course, is home to the one-child policy, which turns 31 this September. The policy has manifested itself in a kind of brutality that we can’t watch on CNN but that is nonetheless both real and devastating. China will boast that it has prevented 400 million births since 1980; the program has been implemented through a culture of forced abortion, involuntary sterilization, infanticide, and other persecution. The World Health Organization tells us that China also has the highest female suicide rate in the world. “Could this high suicide rate be related to forced abortion?” asks Reggie Littlejohn, president of Women’s Rights without Frontiers. Many families make sure that their one child is a boy. China has reported as many as 37 million more men than women, making unhappy bachelorhood increasingly commonplace.“China’s One Child Policy causes more violence towards women and girls than any other official policy on earth,” Littlejohn contends. “It is China’s war against women and girls.” And not only against Chinese women; desperate times open the floodgates for sex trafficking. A North Korean women’s “refuge” is sex slavery in China. Women from other neighboring countries, such as Vietnam, often suffer the same fate.
Mark Steyn in his new book, cheerily titled After America: Get Ready for Armageddon, makes a typically practical point: “China has structural defects. It’s a dictatorship whose authoritarian policies have crippled its human capital. It has too many oldsters and not enough youth, and among its youth, it has millions of surplus boys and no girls for them to marry. If China were the inevitable successor to America as global hegemon, that would be one thing. But the fact that it is incapable of playing that role is likely to make things even messier, more unpredictable, and far more destabilizing.”
When I met with Cardinal Joseph Zen, the Shanghai-born bishop emeritus of Hong Kong, in Washington, D.C., earlier this year, his message was simply, “Help!” His focus is on the Orwellian rhetoric coming out of China. “Religious freedom” does not mean remaking a church into a government institution. Our Founders knew that. But that’s what China is doing today. When the Chinese authorities are not arresting Christians, they are consecrating Catholic bishops. “Obedience” is the key word — not to Rome but to Beijing. This has pernicious implications for what can be preached and taught. During his pontificate, John Paul II canonized 120 martyrs from China. That fact is both inspiring and ominous, especially when Zen tells you he worries about a lack of courage today: Some bishops may have joined the government-run Catholic Patriotic Association without resistance.
McCotter, a Catholic, is helping as he seizes his freedom to grab the somewhat louder megaphone of even a lowest-tier presidential campaign. And his campaign is about more than China. When I interviewed him about his book, Seize Freedom, earlier this year, I titled the interview “Servant, Not Servile,” because his message in the book — and now on the campaign trail — is about clearly choosing what America’s future will look like. As McCotter put it at the straw poll: “You are the masters of your fate, and you are the custodians of the legacy of liberty that we have been bequeathed throughout the generations. And now, in a difficult time, you are asked to transcend the challenges that we face.”
How we respond has implications the world over.
In the streets of Tiananmen Square back in 1989 was a student protester named Chai Ling, who would be subsequently nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. She lives in Massachusetts now and runs a group called All Girls Allowed, seeking to expose the injustice of the one-child policy and help support families in China, with its horrific gender imbalance.
In the future, will America still be the place dissidents look to, for a model, inspiration, support — moral and otherwise — and, if need be, exile? The place where the huddled masses come, yearning to breathe free?
Well, I satisfactorily figured out why McCotter is running for president. And I thought you might want to know, too. It’s because individuals matter. And because societies that recognize that can make all the difference.
— Kathryn Jean Lopez is the editor-at-large of National Review Online. This column is available exclusively through United Media.