Looking the Other Way A Nobel Prize for China?


By Chuck Colson
While the U.S. may say it wants to see China improve its human rights record, the Chinese government can rest easy. We don't really mean it.

The decision last month to award Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobao the Nobel Peace Prize prompted the expected howls of protest from the Chinese government. In its eyes, Liu is a mere criminal, and those who support his efforts are meddling in China's internal affairs.

Just as expected was the attempt by China's trading partners, including the United States, to change the subject. We may pay lip service to human rights, including religious freedom, but in the end, what matters most is our trade relationship with China.

Then you have a fellow named Morits Skaugen, the head of a Norwegian shipping company. Writing in a Norwegian newspaper, Skaugen not only changed the subject, he stood it on its head: He argued that China itself should win the peace prize!

Skaugen called China's economic transformation the "greatest economic experiment we have seen ever." He noted that "we find very few markets today which are not directly or indirectly affected by what is happening in China."

Skaugen also says that China, with some of the world's worst air and water quality, should also get a prize for leadership in "green technology." All of this would make the People's Republic worthy to stand alongside the likes of Mother Theresa and Elie Wiesel.

But awarding the prize to the very regime that is holding Liu prisoner would be ridiculous by anybody's standard.

Ridiculous — but not that different from the way global leaders, including ours, treat China.

Attorney General Holder called on China to release Liu from prison. And last year's Nobel Laureate, President Obama, made a brief, obligatory statement. But at the same time, ambassador Huntsman was praising what he called the "dynamic of change," a "dynamic" that has resulted in exactly zero political prisoners being released, in Beijing.

The message to the Chinese leaders is clear: Don't take the talk about human rights too seriously. We don't, at least not enough to risk economic ties.

The irony is that this looking-the-other-way hasn't affected Chinese economic behavior, either. New York Times columnist and himself a Nobel Laureate, Paul Krugman, recently called Beijing a "rogue economic superpower." He was referring to China's blocking shipment of rare earths to Japan, which are essential in the manufacture of high technology goods.

Now comes word that China, which controls 97 percent of the market, is reducing its overall rare earth exports by 30 percent to the detriment of the rest of the world.

Add other Chinese trade and economic policies and it becomes clear that not only is so-called "realism" about China's human rights policies cynical, it's not even realistic.

Looking-the-other-way hasn't secured us any economic advantages. Indeed, our own behavior has put us between a rock and a hard place. The U.S. government and the American people have spent beyond their means for years, choosing instant-gratification and debt instead of hard work and frugality.

Well, guess who owns most of our debt? That's right. The Chinese. That kind of makes it hard to protest Chinese behavior too loudly, doesn't it? Sadly, we are selling our moral birthright for a mess of spoiled pottage.

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