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Speaking Frankly to Chinese Autocrats

Yesterday, Beijing defended its Friday veto of a UN Security Council resolution that would have imposed an arms embargo on Zimbabwe and financial and travel restrictions on President Robert Mugabe and 13 other officials.  “Under present conditions, passing a sanctions resolution against Zimbabwe would not help to encourage the various factions there to engage in political dialogue and negotiations and achieve results,” said Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao.  “On the contrary, it would further complicate conditions.”

In fact, Zimbabwe’s conditions need more complication.  The odious Mugabe has been able to settle the situation in his country after he stole the presidency from opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai in the March 29 election and the June 27 run-off.  Dialogue, as we have seen during the past several weeks, will be ineffective in restoring any semblance of democracy.  Mugabe will step aside only when he is forced to do so.  Beijing has backed the autocrat to the hilt, thereby rendering the UN ineffective.

If Beijing can be resolute, why can’t the United States?  Washington, which sponsored the sanctions resolution, has been meek after its defeat at the Security Council.  The most that Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S. ambassador to the global body, could say is that Beijing’s veto was “disturbing.”

Yet what is even more disturbing is Washington’s inability these days to confront the Chinese for their irresponsible behavior at the UN and other international settings.  And the problem starts at the top of the American political order.  Earlier this month, President Bush said he was going to the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics so that he could be in a position to “speak frankly” to the Chinese leaders.

Well, Mr. President, let me speak frankly to you.  You don’t need to wait a month and travel half way around the world to have a candid conversation.  I am sure your office has a telephone that can reach the Chinese capital.  Now is the time for a harsh word or two for the unrepentant autocrats who rule from Beijing.

If you won’t do that for Zimbabwe’s long-suffering people, Mr. President, at least do that for yourself.  Your inability to stand up to Chinese despots makes you look weak-and undermines your ability to accomplish important items on your foreign policy agenda.



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