Politics & Policy

Say What to Hu?

Thinking about our policy toward China.

As President Bush prepares to meet with Chinese President Hu Thursday in Washington, D.C., National Review Online asked a group of China experts for their advice to our president when dealing with Beijing this week and onward.

Dan Blumenthal

Over a decade ago we launched our “comprehensive engagement policy” toward China, the primary purpose of which was to anchor Beijing in the international system and secure its acceptance of the status quo.

A secondary purpose was to promote China’s democratization, guided by a belief that trade leads to liberalism. In the meantime, when we noticed a rapid build-up of the People’s liberation army, we strengthened our alliance with Japan and formed a strategic partnership with India. Now that China has been comprehensively engaged, yet has skillfully eluded democracy, we are troubled by its international behavior. It has provided diplomatic cover to Sudan and Iran, and is beginning to flex its military muscles. We are adjusting our rhetoric: China should become a “responsible stakeholder” in the international community, but we are hedging in case it does not.

If China is going to be a responsible stakeholder now is the time to show it. President Bush should ask Hu Jintao to state unequivocally that China stands ready to sanction Iran. A responsible stakeholder must risk energy deals to meet this grave challenge to international peace. Should China refuse to do so, and continue to equivocate on other areas where “responsibility” is called for–say, North Korea–Beijing can expect more hedging and less engaging.

Dan Blumenthal is a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.

John Derbyshire

Three big issues: trade, proliferation, human rights. On trade, our big grievance, and a proper one, is rampant intellectual piracy. Not much the Chinese can do, because law enforcement is too crude and corrupt, but they must try harder–a few headline prosecutions with savage sentences (that they are good at). Press their moral buttons: This is wrong. Our stick is tariffs on Chinese imports, make sure you mention–just mention–tariffs, and congressional enthusiasm for same. Proliferation: Be firm, clear on Iran & North Korea, stress determination todo something, note present Iran situation unstable, instability could infect central Asia. Chinese don’t want instability. Human rights: No real leverage, try flattery, China’s great humanistic tradition, etc., have researchers dig up a couple of apt quotes from Mencius, best for this sort of thing. Try saying quote in Chinese (lots of practice)–they’ll swoon. Always remember China has not often been a strong nation, has 3,000 years experience of managing her own weakness, using enemy’s strength against them. Be firm and clear, confident in USA’s strength & resolve–they’ll respect that. Chinese officials who deal with foreigners are instructed: “bu kang bu bei”–don’t be too proud, don’t be too humble. Good advice.

John Derbyshire is an NR and NRO contributor/columnist who writes frequently about China. His upcoming book is Unknown Quantity: A Real And Imaginary History of Algebra.

Steven W. Mosher

Unlike the Third Reich of Adolf Hitler, the Soviet Union of Joseph Stalin, and the Democratic Kampuchea of Pol Pot, the People’s Republic of China of Mao Zedong survives to the present day, its ruling party intact, its system of government largely unchanged. The myths and lies that continue to prop up Mao’s image also bolster the claims of the People’s Republic of China to political legitimacy. The current Communist leadership, led by Mr. Hu, proudly declares itself to be Mao’s heir, maintains a Leninist dictatorship, continues his military build-up, and cherishes his grand ambitions.

All this suggests a PRC that has, in combination, the historical grievances of a Weimar Republic, the paranoid nationalism of a revolutionary Islamic state, and the hegemonic ambitions of a Soviet Union at the height of its power. As China grows more powerful, and attempts to rectify those grievances and act out those ambitions, many fear that it will cast an ever-lengthening shadow over Asia and the world.

No country that is not facing a serious military threat maintains a 3.2-million-man military, increases its military budget at a double-digit clip well in excess of growth in GNP, and vigorously upgrades its military technology and hardware–unless it intends to use force, or the threat of force, to accomplish certain domestic and international ends.

Mr. Hu, what are China’s intentions?

Steven W. Mosher is the president of the Population Research Institute and the author of Hegemon: China’s Plan to Dominate Asia and the World.

Arthur Waldron

First, President Bush should remember Reagan in 1987 at the Brandenburg Gate that divided Communist East Berlin from the West: “Mr Gorbachev, open this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!” A few weeks ago, Bush told an audience at Freedom House that “elections are beginnings” not endings of processes of political change, and spoke with eloquence and real sincerity about democracy. So let him say: “Mr. Hu, open up the internet! Mr.Hu, stop censorship and repression and let the Chinese people be heard.” And most importantly, “Mr. Hu, hold a real election.”

Second, Bush should ask Mr. Hu to explain China’s current military buildup. She faces no enemy. No one wants to attack her. Everyone wants to be her friend. Yet she is pouring money at double digit rates of yearly growth, into missiles, advanced submarines, space weaponry, and so forth–with a good portion specifically targeting American systems. He should ask why China feels the need to acquire Russian missiles designed to destroy U.S. aircraft carriers. Either the Chinese are wasting their money lavishly, at a time when hundreds of millions of Chinese live in desperate poverty–or they have something in mind. Which is it?

Finally, Mr. Bush should ask when China is actually going to begin to do the things she promised when she joined the WTO. Right now hers is a mercantilist, not a free-market, economy. The fact that foreigners are making plenty of money may cause them to keep quiet, but it does not change the situation.

In particular, he should ask why China cannot have a convertible currency like everyone else. None of the explanations makes sense. The Euro floats, the Dollar floats, as do dozens of other currencies–so why not the Renminbi? I can’t see any good reason.

Arthur Waldron is Lauder Professor of International Relations at the University of Pennsylvania and vice president of the International Assessment and Strategy Center.

Kate Zhou

For the past 30 years, China has been experiencing rapid economic development, with a phenomenal annual growth rate of nearly 10 percent. But the rise of a new kind of social movement, the xinmingquan yundong (or civil-rights movement), is even more impressive. This is a struggle for civil society, for a free and independent sphere, where 5,000 years of Chinese authoritarianism (not to mention decades of Maoist totalitarianism) stops and a liberal future begins. Four areas in particular warrant attention.

1. Freedom of movement: All Chinese should have an equal opportunity to participate in the development of their nation, regardless their background. But the hukou (residential registration designed to restrict geographical mobility) system has limited the opportunities for millions of people in rural China and institutionalized the inequality between urban and rural Chinese. In spite of this system, 150 million to 200 million rural people have left their farms and villages for cities.

2. Land use and environmental rights: All Chinese should have institutionalized equal land-use rights. These rights are among the main anchors of liberty. They can improve the living standards of the poor and protect their tenuous access to resources. Ordinary Chinese have increasingly begun to assert these rights. In 2005, according to official figures, some 84,000 riots and protests occurred in China, most of them land-related. Linked with land-use rights are environment rights. At present, for example, cities freely dump industrial pollutants into rural areas. Land-use rights will increase rural China’s awareness of the possibility of successfully opposing the degradation of the environment.

3. Personal liberty: Today, China is awash in issues of personal liberty. The one-child per family policy should certainly be relaxed, to name just one issue. The Chinese government is concerned about population increase, but strict, coercive family-planning in China has led not only to intrusion into personal freedom but to a serious social malady–an imbalance of the sexes: millions more boys than girls. The source of this imbalance–gender abortion–is common in many parts of rural China. There must also be a guarantee of religious freedom. Attempting to suppress man’s spiritual quest drives seekers underground, which may end in a violent challenging of the regime, as witnessed in Chinese history, such as in the Taiping Rebellion in the nineteenth century. President Bush should suggest that the Chinese government stop impeding the construction of churches in the countryside and cease prosecuting “home church” leaders. The Chinese leadership should know that a China traveling the path of real religious freedom, not the ersatz version now trumpeted by Mr. Hu and his minions, would gain immensely in global stature.

4. Rule of law: It is true that China has made some progress in reforming the legal system. But it is still a very long way from becoming a society governed by the rule of law. On the bright side, however, the incidence of mingao guang (taking government officials or the government itself to court), has increased rapidly. Taking into account both lawsuits and popular protests, a tipping point has been formed in China to force the government to account for their own behavior. Forceful measures should be taken to protect defense lawyers, who are often persecuted (tried, imprisoned, beaten, bankrupted) by the powerful when they attempt to bring corrupt dealings to light.

Hu should reverse his deliberate course of repression, such as the “secret war” against civil society, allowing hundreds of millions to liberate themselves and finding systematic means of making the Chinese government at all levels accountable to its own people.

Kate Zhou is a professor of political Science at the University of Hawaii.

NR Symposium — National Review symposia are discussions featuring contributors to and friends of the magazine.

Most Popular


Weirdo O’Rourke

Friends of the young Bill Clinton and Barack Obama spoke of the special glow of promise they had about them, even back in their early twenties. Angels sat on their shoulders. History gave them a wink and said, “Hey, good lookin’, I’ll be back to pick you up later.” Robert O’Rourke? Not so much. He ... Read More

McCain at Annapolis

President Trump has been doing a lot of tweeting today -- against TV programs, companies, and other things that have incurred his displeasure. These tweets make for interesting reading. One of them is this: So it was indeed (just proven in court papers) “last in his class” (Annapolis) John McCain that sent ... Read More