Commentary Magazine


Topic: Communist party

Rep. West’s Incendiary Comments

There has been a lot of chatter about Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.) as a potential vice presidential nominee. These comments he made at a town hall meeting yesterday are a good example of why that’s unlikely to happen:

Moderator: What percentage of the American legislature do you think are card-carrying Marxists or International Socialists?

West: It’s a good question. I believe there’s about 78 to 81 members of the Democrat Party who are members of the Communist Party. It’s called the Congressional Progressive Caucus.

To be fair, it’s hard to tell whether or not West is joking. His last sentence seems like it could be some sort of punch line, i.e. “Sure, there are Communists in Congress” [beat] “they’re called progressives.” Unfortunately, in all the videos I’ve seen, West’s last sentence is cut out, and it’s impossible to determine without actually hearing it.

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There has been a lot of chatter about Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.) as a potential vice presidential nominee. These comments he made at a town hall meeting yesterday are a good example of why that’s unlikely to happen:

Moderator: What percentage of the American legislature do you think are card-carrying Marxists or International Socialists?

West: It’s a good question. I believe there’s about 78 to 81 members of the Democrat Party who are members of the Communist Party. It’s called the Congressional Progressive Caucus.

To be fair, it’s hard to tell whether or not West is joking. His last sentence seems like it could be some sort of punch line, i.e. “Sure, there are Communists in Congress” [beat] “they’re called progressives.” Unfortunately, in all the videos I’ve seen, West’s last sentence is cut out, and it’s impossible to determine without actually hearing it.

Joke or not, West’s spokesperson offered a clarification today:

“The congressman was referring to the 76 members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. The Communist Party has publicly referred to the Progressive Caucus as its allies. The Progressive Caucus speaks for itself. These individuals certainly aren’t proponents of free markets or individual economic freedom,” Angela Melvin said in a statement to The Huffington Post.

Okay, but West said these were members of the Communist Party. If that was just colorful language for effect, West should say so, but he needs a bit more evidence if he’s trying to stand by his claims.

West may have actually been referring to a document that listed 70-or-so members of Congress as official members of the Democratic Socialists of America, which made its way around conservative blogs a couple of years ago. According to the DSA, the list is fraudulent, and there hasn’t been an official card-carrying member of the DSA in Congress since 1998.

Whatever the reason for West’s comments – joke, bad information, or his honest opinion – this latest flap brings back memories of similar firestorms he’s been involved in. The fact that he speaks his mind even when it’s not politically correct is why conservatives love him, but it’s hard to imagine a politician as cautious as Mitt Romney choosing a running mate with such a penchant for incendiary comments.

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Will Corruption Halt Chinese and Russian Development?

To follow up on my earlier item, regarding barriers to China’s economic development: nothing makes the point more poignantly than news that China’s richest man has just been sentenced to 14 years in jail. Huang Guangyu has been accused of assorted corporate crimes, but few think he is another Bernie Madoff. More likely he is just another corner cutter engaging in the sort of routine practices, including bribery, that other Chinese tycoons engage in. The general view is that he simply wasn’t very skillful politically and got on the wrong side of some powerful faction within the ruling Communist Party.

In some ways his case is reminiscent of that of Mikhail Khodorkovsky, who at one time was Russia’s richest man before clashing with the Kremlin, losing his company (Yukos), and being sent to prison. China, like Russia, lacks the rule of law — an impartial set of rules enforced by neutral judges. Instead it has the rule of current and former Communist Party apparatchiks who manipulate the law to their own advantage. Admittedly the problem is more severe in Russia, but, as Huang Guangyu’s case demonstrates, it also exists in China. That makes both countries high-risk investment propositions and puts their futures in grave doubt.

The full impact of these weaknesses hasn’t yet been felt. Russia has been propped up by high commodity prices, in particular by high oil prices; China, by Western euphoria about its prospects, which has led to a lot of questionable foreign investments. But unless both countries can fundamentally reform their political systems (and odds are against them), I predict that their development will hit a brick wall before long — or if you prefer, a bamboo curtain.

To follow up on my earlier item, regarding barriers to China’s economic development: nothing makes the point more poignantly than news that China’s richest man has just been sentenced to 14 years in jail. Huang Guangyu has been accused of assorted corporate crimes, but few think he is another Bernie Madoff. More likely he is just another corner cutter engaging in the sort of routine practices, including bribery, that other Chinese tycoons engage in. The general view is that he simply wasn’t very skillful politically and got on the wrong side of some powerful faction within the ruling Communist Party.

In some ways his case is reminiscent of that of Mikhail Khodorkovsky, who at one time was Russia’s richest man before clashing with the Kremlin, losing his company (Yukos), and being sent to prison. China, like Russia, lacks the rule of law — an impartial set of rules enforced by neutral judges. Instead it has the rule of current and former Communist Party apparatchiks who manipulate the law to their own advantage. Admittedly the problem is more severe in Russia, but, as Huang Guangyu’s case demonstrates, it also exists in China. That makes both countries high-risk investment propositions and puts their futures in grave doubt.

The full impact of these weaknesses hasn’t yet been felt. Russia has been propped up by high commodity prices, in particular by high oil prices; China, by Western euphoria about its prospects, which has led to a lot of questionable foreign investments. But unless both countries can fundamentally reform their political systems (and odds are against them), I predict that their development will hit a brick wall before long — or if you prefer, a bamboo curtain.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

You don’t say: “The trademark suit sported by North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il is now in fashion worldwide thanks to his greatness, Pyongyang’s official website said Wednesday. Uriminzokkiri, quoting an article in communist party newspaper Rodong Sinmun, said the modest-looking suits have gripped people’s imagination and become a global vogue. … Kim and his deceased father Kim Il-Sung are at the heart of a personality cult that borders on religion, with near-magical powers ascribed to the younger Kim. Rainbows supposedly appeared over sacred Mount Paekdu where Kim Jong-Il was allegedly born, and he is said once to have scored 11 holes-in-one in a single round of golf.”

ObamaCare seems not to have helped: “A record-low percentage of U.S. voters — 28% — say most members of Congress deserve to be re-elected. The previous low was 29% in October 1992.”

It might be more satisfying for Republicans to beat him at the polls, but forced retirement would be a fitting end: “Amidst growing speculation he might retire, Rep. Bart Stupak’s (D-Mich.) office declined to rule it out on Wednesday.”

It might have something to do with the 14.1 percent unemployment rate: “A new poll of Michigan voters’ preferences in the governor’s race has troubling results for Democrats. The two leading Democratic candidates would lose to any of the three top Republican challengers if the election were held today. … That indicates a more energized Republican voter base, just two years after Democrat Barack Obama’s historic election as president had increased the number of voters identifying with the Democratic Party. In 2008, the number of self-described Democrats in Michigan was as much as eight percentage points above the Republican number.”

Jobs do appear to be a popular campaign theme for Republicans: “Delaware businesswoman Michele Rollins announced Wednesday she will run for the at-large House seat currently held by Republican Rep. Mike Castle, landing the GOP a credible recruit in a tough open-seat race. In an e-mail soliciting contributions from supporters, Rollins blasted Democrats for putting job creation on ‘the back burner’ and acknowledged the campaign would be ‘difficult and challenging.’”

You knew this was coming: “White House adviser Paul Volcker said the United States may need to consider raising taxes to control deficits. He also said a European-style value-added tax could gain support. The former chairman of the Federal Reserve who is an outside adviser to President Barack Obama, said the value-added tax ‘was not as toxic an idea’ as it has been in the past, according to a Reuters report.”

Marco Rubio’s star keeps rising: “Ex-FL House Speaker Marco Rubio (R) has seen a fundraising surge over the last 3 months, pulling in $3.6M in what was once an insurgent bid against an insurmountable foe. Rubio’s jaw-dropping figure likely puts him atop, or near the top, of the list of most successful candidates over the first quarter.”

The Orthodox Union writes to Bibi, praising his defense of a unified Jerusalem: “Mr. Prime Minister, we cannot state strongly enough our belief that the Government and people of the State of Israel hold Yerushalayim in trust for the Jewish People no matter where they may live, for we all have a share in the holy city. We applaud your faithfulness to this trust, which realizes the ancient Jewish dream of ascending the foothills of Jerusalem, and keeps alive the hopes of millions of Jews who, for centuries, could not set foot in Jerusalem, yet raised their voices at the end of innumerable Pesach sedarim gone by to say, as we all did last week, with full conviction and deep longing la-shana ha-ba’a bi-Yerushalayim.”

You don’t say: “The trademark suit sported by North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il is now in fashion worldwide thanks to his greatness, Pyongyang’s official website said Wednesday. Uriminzokkiri, quoting an article in communist party newspaper Rodong Sinmun, said the modest-looking suits have gripped people’s imagination and become a global vogue. … Kim and his deceased father Kim Il-Sung are at the heart of a personality cult that borders on religion, with near-magical powers ascribed to the younger Kim. Rainbows supposedly appeared over sacred Mount Paekdu where Kim Jong-Il was allegedly born, and he is said once to have scored 11 holes-in-one in a single round of golf.”

ObamaCare seems not to have helped: “A record-low percentage of U.S. voters — 28% — say most members of Congress deserve to be re-elected. The previous low was 29% in October 1992.”

It might be more satisfying for Republicans to beat him at the polls, but forced retirement would be a fitting end: “Amidst growing speculation he might retire, Rep. Bart Stupak’s (D-Mich.) office declined to rule it out on Wednesday.”

It might have something to do with the 14.1 percent unemployment rate: “A new poll of Michigan voters’ preferences in the governor’s race has troubling results for Democrats. The two leading Democratic candidates would lose to any of the three top Republican challengers if the election were held today. … That indicates a more energized Republican voter base, just two years after Democrat Barack Obama’s historic election as president had increased the number of voters identifying with the Democratic Party. In 2008, the number of self-described Democrats in Michigan was as much as eight percentage points above the Republican number.”

Jobs do appear to be a popular campaign theme for Republicans: “Delaware businesswoman Michele Rollins announced Wednesday she will run for the at-large House seat currently held by Republican Rep. Mike Castle, landing the GOP a credible recruit in a tough open-seat race. In an e-mail soliciting contributions from supporters, Rollins blasted Democrats for putting job creation on ‘the back burner’ and acknowledged the campaign would be ‘difficult and challenging.’”

You knew this was coming: “White House adviser Paul Volcker said the United States may need to consider raising taxes to control deficits. He also said a European-style value-added tax could gain support. The former chairman of the Federal Reserve who is an outside adviser to President Barack Obama, said the value-added tax ‘was not as toxic an idea’ as it has been in the past, according to a Reuters report.”

Marco Rubio’s star keeps rising: “Ex-FL House Speaker Marco Rubio (R) has seen a fundraising surge over the last 3 months, pulling in $3.6M in what was once an insurgent bid against an insurmountable foe. Rubio’s jaw-dropping figure likely puts him atop, or near the top, of the list of most successful candidates over the first quarter.”

The Orthodox Union writes to Bibi, praising his defense of a unified Jerusalem: “Mr. Prime Minister, we cannot state strongly enough our belief that the Government and people of the State of Israel hold Yerushalayim in trust for the Jewish People no matter where they may live, for we all have a share in the holy city. We applaud your faithfulness to this trust, which realizes the ancient Jewish dream of ascending the foothills of Jerusalem, and keeps alive the hopes of millions of Jews who, for centuries, could not set foot in Jerusalem, yet raised their voices at the end of innumerable Pesach sedarim gone by to say, as we all did last week, with full conviction and deep longing la-shana ha-ba’a bi-Yerushalayim.”

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Can the Chinese Bluff Obama out of Meeting the Dalai Lama?

The first year of the Obama presidency has been long on appeasement and apologies and very short on principled foreign-policy stands. This hasn’t done either Obama or the country any good, but the president now has the opportunity to change course with respect to one casualty to his previous genuflections: by finally meeting with the Dalai Llama, he can send China and the world the message that human rights do mean something to the United States in the age of Obama.

When the Dalai Lama visited the United States in the fall, Obama declined to meet with him because, as the White House explained, he didn’t want to antagonize the Chinese right before his November Asia trip. But now that his trip — during which Beijing humiliated the president anyway — is behind him, surely the time is ripe for Obama to send China a signal that its abuses in Tibet and elsewhere are a matter of serious concern. However, the Chinese are warning Obama that a meeting with the exiled Tibetan leader would damage relations with the United States. A Communist party official announced today in Beijing — which rejects all calls for more autonomy for the oppressed people of Tibet — that there will be “consequences” if the Dalai Lama is given an official meeting.

America’s record on Chinese human rights has been spotty at best in the last generation. Bill Clinton met the Dalai Lama, but only informally.  Similarly, George W. Bush only met privately with him. And despite occasional lip service paid by American leaders against China’s abuses of human rights and its jailing of democracy advocates, the animating spirit of U.S. policy toward China has been one of indifference to the plight of those Chinese yearning for freedom. Despite Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s recent condemnation of China’s attempt to escalate the muzzling of Google as well as cyber attacks on dissidents, Beijing has believed all along that this administration is a paper tiger. And as Beijing showed in November, its contempt for Obama, who foolishly hoped that appeasement might yield Chinese cooperation in stopping Iran’s nuclear program, is boundless. The Chinese believe, as do many Americans, that the size of America’s debt to China and the essential character of this administration mean they have nothing to fear from Washington.

The White House says Obama will meet with the Dalai Lama.  But it doesn’t say when. Last week’s State of the Union speech demonstrated again that when challenged by domestic critics, Obama’s instincts always tell him to stick to his plans, no matter how ill-considered they might be. But until now, his response to threats from governments like the Islamist regime in Iran, China, and Russia has been to back down. The question is whether he can find the courage to stand up and do the right thing, even on a mere symbolic point like meeting with a widely revered advocate of peace. An official meeting, something that neither President Bush nor President Clinton dared to do, would be the appropriate response to Beijing’s threats. It would also be a necessary signal that, despite every other recent indication, Washington hasn’t forgotten its moral obligation to speak up for millions of Chinese locked in the laogai — the Chinese gulag.

The first year of the Obama presidency has been long on appeasement and apologies and very short on principled foreign-policy stands. This hasn’t done either Obama or the country any good, but the president now has the opportunity to change course with respect to one casualty to his previous genuflections: by finally meeting with the Dalai Llama, he can send China and the world the message that human rights do mean something to the United States in the age of Obama.

When the Dalai Lama visited the United States in the fall, Obama declined to meet with him because, as the White House explained, he didn’t want to antagonize the Chinese right before his November Asia trip. But now that his trip — during which Beijing humiliated the president anyway — is behind him, surely the time is ripe for Obama to send China a signal that its abuses in Tibet and elsewhere are a matter of serious concern. However, the Chinese are warning Obama that a meeting with the exiled Tibetan leader would damage relations with the United States. A Communist party official announced today in Beijing — which rejects all calls for more autonomy for the oppressed people of Tibet — that there will be “consequences” if the Dalai Lama is given an official meeting.

America’s record on Chinese human rights has been spotty at best in the last generation. Bill Clinton met the Dalai Lama, but only informally.  Similarly, George W. Bush only met privately with him. And despite occasional lip service paid by American leaders against China’s abuses of human rights and its jailing of democracy advocates, the animating spirit of U.S. policy toward China has been one of indifference to the plight of those Chinese yearning for freedom. Despite Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s recent condemnation of China’s attempt to escalate the muzzling of Google as well as cyber attacks on dissidents, Beijing has believed all along that this administration is a paper tiger. And as Beijing showed in November, its contempt for Obama, who foolishly hoped that appeasement might yield Chinese cooperation in stopping Iran’s nuclear program, is boundless. The Chinese believe, as do many Americans, that the size of America’s debt to China and the essential character of this administration mean they have nothing to fear from Washington.

The White House says Obama will meet with the Dalai Lama.  But it doesn’t say when. Last week’s State of the Union speech demonstrated again that when challenged by domestic critics, Obama’s instincts always tell him to stick to his plans, no matter how ill-considered they might be. But until now, his response to threats from governments like the Islamist regime in Iran, China, and Russia has been to back down. The question is whether he can find the courage to stand up and do the right thing, even on a mere symbolic point like meeting with a widely revered advocate of peace. An official meeting, something that neither President Bush nor President Clinton dared to do, would be the appropriate response to Beijing’s threats. It would also be a necessary signal that, despite every other recent indication, Washington hasn’t forgotten its moral obligation to speak up for millions of Chinese locked in the laogai — the Chinese gulag.

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The Latest Milestone in Chinese Tyranny

For the last two decades, those committed to warm ties with Beijing have tried to tell Americans that the development of capitalism in China—albeit a capitalism that must operate in a system in which the rule of law and property rights are a matter of government fiat—would eventually transform the totalitarian system. But today, as the New York Times reports, another milestone has been passed in which such hopes have been revealed as utterly unfounded.

The Chinese capital was the setting on Wednesday for the trial of Liu Xiaobo, one of the country’s leading human-rights advocates. Liu faces up to 15 years in prison for calling for open elections and free speech. His role in promulgating Charter 08, a manifesto in favor of Chinese political freedom, is the chief reason for the government’s latest attempt to silence Liu. As the Times notes, the document’s language that states “We should end the practice of viewing words as crimes” is itself viewed as a crime by the Communist Party.

The persecution of Liu is something of a history of China’s abuse of human rights since 1989. At the time of the Tienanmen Square demonstrations in 1989, he was a visiting scholar at Columbia University but returned home to join the hunger strikers. When the Chinese army struck, he was arrested and held for 21 months without trial. In 1996, he was sent to the laogai—China’s gulag—for three years for calling for the release of others still imprisoned for their participation in the Tiananmen events. Since then he has been a thorn in the side of the Communist Party but the charter, which evokes similar protests by Czech opponents against the Soviet empire, has motivated the government to try and put him away again. Reporters were barred from the trial, as were other dissidents who bravely came to support Liu. This is all we know of the proceedings:

Liu Xiaoxuan, the defendant’s younger brother, was one of two family members allowed in the courtroom. After the trial adjourned, he tried to recall details of the proceedings — court officials had prevented those in the room from taking notes — and he repeated his brother’s final words, spoken to a judge. Mr. Liu, according to his brother, said that he came from a long line of persecuted thinkers and hoped he would be the last. “He said that if he was sent to jail, it might bring others freedom of speech,” Liu Xiaoxuan said.

It would be nice to think that were true. But neither the Obama administration—which allowed Beijing to humiliate the president during his recent trip there—nor its predecessors have had any interest in the fate of Chinese dissidents or the drive for pushing the world’s largest tyranny to change its behavior. The Chinese authorities have stepped up their suppression of freedom in the last year with a vengeance. Yet most Americans either don’t care or still actually believe the propaganda about the Chinese not caring about freedom, which business interests put forward about China and democracy. As with the successful campaign to stifle concerns about Chinese human rights that preceded the 2008 Beijing Olympics, the Chinese government can count on the self-interest of the business community and the indifference of Washington to allow it to continue its abuses with impunity.

Yet the attempt by Liu to courageously invoke the example of those who challenged the seemingly unshakable grip of Soviet communism in 1977 ought to remind us all that even the most powerful of tyrants can be resisted and toppled. Provided, that is, that dissidents such as Liu Xiaobo be not forsaken by the forces of freedom elsewhere. Just as the West once embraced men like Vaclav Havel and Natan Sharansky, Americans must not allow Liu’s oppressors to triumph in silence.

For the last two decades, those committed to warm ties with Beijing have tried to tell Americans that the development of capitalism in China—albeit a capitalism that must operate in a system in which the rule of law and property rights are a matter of government fiat—would eventually transform the totalitarian system. But today, as the New York Times reports, another milestone has been passed in which such hopes have been revealed as utterly unfounded.

The Chinese capital was the setting on Wednesday for the trial of Liu Xiaobo, one of the country’s leading human-rights advocates. Liu faces up to 15 years in prison for calling for open elections and free speech. His role in promulgating Charter 08, a manifesto in favor of Chinese political freedom, is the chief reason for the government’s latest attempt to silence Liu. As the Times notes, the document’s language that states “We should end the practice of viewing words as crimes” is itself viewed as a crime by the Communist Party.

The persecution of Liu is something of a history of China’s abuse of human rights since 1989. At the time of the Tienanmen Square demonstrations in 1989, he was a visiting scholar at Columbia University but returned home to join the hunger strikers. When the Chinese army struck, he was arrested and held for 21 months without trial. In 1996, he was sent to the laogai—China’s gulag—for three years for calling for the release of others still imprisoned for their participation in the Tiananmen events. Since then he has been a thorn in the side of the Communist Party but the charter, which evokes similar protests by Czech opponents against the Soviet empire, has motivated the government to try and put him away again. Reporters were barred from the trial, as were other dissidents who bravely came to support Liu. This is all we know of the proceedings:

Liu Xiaoxuan, the defendant’s younger brother, was one of two family members allowed in the courtroom. After the trial adjourned, he tried to recall details of the proceedings — court officials had prevented those in the room from taking notes — and he repeated his brother’s final words, spoken to a judge. Mr. Liu, according to his brother, said that he came from a long line of persecuted thinkers and hoped he would be the last. “He said that if he was sent to jail, it might bring others freedom of speech,” Liu Xiaoxuan said.

It would be nice to think that were true. But neither the Obama administration—which allowed Beijing to humiliate the president during his recent trip there—nor its predecessors have had any interest in the fate of Chinese dissidents or the drive for pushing the world’s largest tyranny to change its behavior. The Chinese authorities have stepped up their suppression of freedom in the last year with a vengeance. Yet most Americans either don’t care or still actually believe the propaganda about the Chinese not caring about freedom, which business interests put forward about China and democracy. As with the successful campaign to stifle concerns about Chinese human rights that preceded the 2008 Beijing Olympics, the Chinese government can count on the self-interest of the business community and the indifference of Washington to allow it to continue its abuses with impunity.

Yet the attempt by Liu to courageously invoke the example of those who challenged the seemingly unshakable grip of Soviet communism in 1977 ought to remind us all that even the most powerful of tyrants can be resisted and toppled. Provided, that is, that dissidents such as Liu Xiaobo be not forsaken by the forces of freedom elsewhere. Just as the West once embraced men like Vaclav Havel and Natan Sharansky, Americans must not allow Liu’s oppressors to triumph in silence.

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The Right to Be Like Obama

The New York Times is giving Barack Obama high marks for “push[ing] rights with Chinese students.” In Shanghai, Obama was asked via Internet, “Should we be able to use Twitter freely?” Here was the audacious answer:

“Well, first of all, let me say that I have never used Twitter,” he said. “My thumbs are too clumsy to type in things on the phone.”

OK, that wasn’t the audacious answer. That was the “self-effacing” appetizer that whets the appetite for the audacious answer:

“I should be honest, as president of the United States, there are times where I wish information didn’t flow so freely, because then I wouldn’t have to listen to people criticizing me all the time,” he said. But, he added, “because in the United States, information is free, and I have a lot of critics in the United States who can say all kinds of things about me, I actually think that that makes our democracy stronger and it makes me a better leader because it forces me to hear opinions that I don’t want to hear.”

Get it? Twitter should be used freely because Barack Obama manages to bravely endure the free flow of information in the U.S., and that makes him a better leader. Clumsy thumbs and all.

There is an Obama teaching-moment methodology. He has employed it to teach us mortals about America’s founding documents, to teach the International Olympic Committee why it should choose Chicago, and to teach Europeans why the fall of the Berlin Wall was so great: Look at what has worked so well to make me who I am. Follow that road and you shall be set free.

The sad truth is that Obama’s answer (without, of course, a simple “yes” in it) really is an administration high point for human rights. When Hillary Clinton visited China a few months back, she raised the topic only to announce her indifference to it. In other news, China detained dozens of dissidents in advance of Obama’s visit. That Beijing actually believed human-rights activists could move Barack Obama serves to demonstrate the extreme paranoia of the Communist party.

The New York Times is giving Barack Obama high marks for “push[ing] rights with Chinese students.” In Shanghai, Obama was asked via Internet, “Should we be able to use Twitter freely?” Here was the audacious answer:

“Well, first of all, let me say that I have never used Twitter,” he said. “My thumbs are too clumsy to type in things on the phone.”

OK, that wasn’t the audacious answer. That was the “self-effacing” appetizer that whets the appetite for the audacious answer:

“I should be honest, as president of the United States, there are times where I wish information didn’t flow so freely, because then I wouldn’t have to listen to people criticizing me all the time,” he said. But, he added, “because in the United States, information is free, and I have a lot of critics in the United States who can say all kinds of things about me, I actually think that that makes our democracy stronger and it makes me a better leader because it forces me to hear opinions that I don’t want to hear.”

Get it? Twitter should be used freely because Barack Obama manages to bravely endure the free flow of information in the U.S., and that makes him a better leader. Clumsy thumbs and all.

There is an Obama teaching-moment methodology. He has employed it to teach us mortals about America’s founding documents, to teach the International Olympic Committee why it should choose Chicago, and to teach Europeans why the fall of the Berlin Wall was so great: Look at what has worked so well to make me who I am. Follow that road and you shall be set free.

The sad truth is that Obama’s answer (without, of course, a simple “yes” in it) really is an administration high point for human rights. When Hillary Clinton visited China a few months back, she raised the topic only to announce her indifference to it. In other news, China detained dozens of dissidents in advance of Obama’s visit. That Beijing actually believed human-rights activists could move Barack Obama serves to demonstrate the extreme paranoia of the Communist party.

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IOC: Stop Bothering China

International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge is asking the world to stop bothering China on issues such as human rights. “You don’t obtain anything in China with a loud voice,” he said in an interview appearing Friday on the website of the Financial Times. “That is the big mistake of people in the west wanting to add their views. To keep face is of paramount importance. All the Chinese specialists will tell you that only one thing works-respectful, quiet but firm discussion.”

Really? Rogge, echoing the view of China’s Communist Party as carried in People’s Daily, was speaking in the context of protests that for more than a month have dogged the Olympic torch relay, starting with the flame-lighting ceremony in Greece. He raises the broader issue: How should the world deal with China today?

It is true that China will change on its own. The Chinese people are in the midst of the process of both shedding their self-image as outsiders and ending their traditional role as adversaries of the existing global order. There is unimaginable societal change at unheard of speed thanks to the energy and enthusiasm of China’s 1.5 billion or so restless souls. They are making a “kinetic dash into the future” without so much as a roadmap or compass. If there is any cause for optimism in the world today, it is that the Chinese people are aware, assertive, and confident.

But they are not yet in charge. Unfortunately for them, nine men in blue suits and red ties sit at the apex of political power on the Communist Party’s Politburo Standing Committee. These modern autocrats, more than anyone else, are standing in the way of transformation of the Chinese nation.

They have been able to do so and stay in power because they have been ruthlessly pragmatic. They, like all successful leaders, can be flexible when they must. In other words, they react to pressure. As Arthur Waldron has been pointing out recently, they just bowed to global sentiment by agreeing to talk to representatives of the Dalai Lama. And almost universal African defiance of Beijing’s wishes has forced China’s leaders to give up their attempt to deliver arms to the repugnant Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe.

So if we want China to change now–and not years from now when it will be too late–the world has no choice but to convince the country’s leaders that the price of resistance is too high. Rogge is right insofar as he notes that the Chinese are concerned about world opinion. When the international community has been united in the past, Beijing has almost invariably modified its behavior. So if we want those nine Chinese autocrats to change their abhorrent policies and practices of today, we must give them no choice at this moment but to do the right thing.

International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge is asking the world to stop bothering China on issues such as human rights. “You don’t obtain anything in China with a loud voice,” he said in an interview appearing Friday on the website of the Financial Times. “That is the big mistake of people in the west wanting to add their views. To keep face is of paramount importance. All the Chinese specialists will tell you that only one thing works-respectful, quiet but firm discussion.”

Really? Rogge, echoing the view of China’s Communist Party as carried in People’s Daily, was speaking in the context of protests that for more than a month have dogged the Olympic torch relay, starting with the flame-lighting ceremony in Greece. He raises the broader issue: How should the world deal with China today?

It is true that China will change on its own. The Chinese people are in the midst of the process of both shedding their self-image as outsiders and ending their traditional role as adversaries of the existing global order. There is unimaginable societal change at unheard of speed thanks to the energy and enthusiasm of China’s 1.5 billion or so restless souls. They are making a “kinetic dash into the future” without so much as a roadmap or compass. If there is any cause for optimism in the world today, it is that the Chinese people are aware, assertive, and confident.

But they are not yet in charge. Unfortunately for them, nine men in blue suits and red ties sit at the apex of political power on the Communist Party’s Politburo Standing Committee. These modern autocrats, more than anyone else, are standing in the way of transformation of the Chinese nation.

They have been able to do so and stay in power because they have been ruthlessly pragmatic. They, like all successful leaders, can be flexible when they must. In other words, they react to pressure. As Arthur Waldron has been pointing out recently, they just bowed to global sentiment by agreeing to talk to representatives of the Dalai Lama. And almost universal African defiance of Beijing’s wishes has forced China’s leaders to give up their attempt to deliver arms to the repugnant Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe.

So if we want China to change now–and not years from now when it will be too late–the world has no choice but to convince the country’s leaders that the price of resistance is too high. Rogge is right insofar as he notes that the Chinese are concerned about world opinion. When the international community has been united in the past, Beijing has almost invariably modified its behavior. So if we want those nine Chinese autocrats to change their abhorrent policies and practices of today, we must give them no choice at this moment but to do the right thing.

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Re: Why We Shouldn’t Boycott the 2008 Games

David Hazony, in a well-reasoned posting in this forum, argues that nations should not boycott this year’s Summer Olympics, scheduled to begin in August in Beijing. No one wants to snuff out young athletes’ dreams, as he puts it, but we must remember that they are not the only ones whose fortunes are at stake. Chinese people have been forcibly relocated, illegally incarcerated, and unjustifiably deprived of basic rights so that autocrats can stage a celebration of more than a half century of misrule. They have, in order to put on their extravaganza, reemployed mass-mobilization techniques and reimposed strict social controls, the essential tools of totalitarian governance.

At home, China’s government has implemented a campaign of repression now lasting five years. Abroad, Beijing in this half decade has continued its support for criminal regimes and persisted in other irresponsible policies. Whether we like it or not, participation in the Olympics is giving legitimacy to all the Chinese state has done internally and externally. Moreover, that state is having an extended argument with its people, and by participating in the Olympics we are taking the wrong side.

As China’s Communist Party so often says, the Games should not be “politicized.” Yet the reality is that it has already done so. Beijing made the promotion of Chinese human rights a foundation of its Olympic bid. It will be using its Olympic torch relay, the longest in history, to bolster its claim to restive areas, including Tibet. And Chinese leaders have, without precedent, invited about fifty heads of state to the opening ceremony on August 8 so that they can, at least in China’s eyes, pledge their allegiance to the People’s Republic of China.

Nonetheless, Hazony says we should refuse to boycott the Games so that athletes can conduct a “symbolic debate on the playing field.” I agree that we should not punish the contestants for the gross error made by others of awarding the Olympics to China. But now that this mistake has been made, no world leader should show support for the Chinese Communist Party. The opening ceremony has nothing to do with sport. This year, it will be a mass event with totalitarian overtones. For the sake of the great people of China, no one-no president, prime minister, or athlete-should participate in this glorification of all that is reprehensible and repugnant.

David Hazony, in a well-reasoned posting in this forum, argues that nations should not boycott this year’s Summer Olympics, scheduled to begin in August in Beijing. No one wants to snuff out young athletes’ dreams, as he puts it, but we must remember that they are not the only ones whose fortunes are at stake. Chinese people have been forcibly relocated, illegally incarcerated, and unjustifiably deprived of basic rights so that autocrats can stage a celebration of more than a half century of misrule. They have, in order to put on their extravaganza, reemployed mass-mobilization techniques and reimposed strict social controls, the essential tools of totalitarian governance.

At home, China’s government has implemented a campaign of repression now lasting five years. Abroad, Beijing in this half decade has continued its support for criminal regimes and persisted in other irresponsible policies. Whether we like it or not, participation in the Olympics is giving legitimacy to all the Chinese state has done internally and externally. Moreover, that state is having an extended argument with its people, and by participating in the Olympics we are taking the wrong side.

As China’s Communist Party so often says, the Games should not be “politicized.” Yet the reality is that it has already done so. Beijing made the promotion of Chinese human rights a foundation of its Olympic bid. It will be using its Olympic torch relay, the longest in history, to bolster its claim to restive areas, including Tibet. And Chinese leaders have, without precedent, invited about fifty heads of state to the opening ceremony on August 8 so that they can, at least in China’s eyes, pledge their allegiance to the People’s Republic of China.

Nonetheless, Hazony says we should refuse to boycott the Games so that athletes can conduct a “symbolic debate on the playing field.” I agree that we should not punish the contestants for the gross error made by others of awarding the Olympics to China. But now that this mistake has been made, no world leader should show support for the Chinese Communist Party. The opening ceremony has nothing to do with sport. This year, it will be a mass event with totalitarian overtones. For the sake of the great people of China, no one-no president, prime minister, or athlete-should participate in this glorification of all that is reprehensible and repugnant.

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The “Other Tibet”

“We are now engaged in a fierce blood-and-fire battle with the Dalai clique, a life-and-death battle between us and the enemy,” said Zhang Qingli, the Communist Party boss in Tibet, in the middle of last week. That sounds a little dramatic, especially because no one thinks the Tibetans can gain independence, much less bring down the one-party state. Nonetheless, the mighty Communist Party is rightly concerned. The Tibetans aren’t the only restive minority group the Chinese rule.

Welcome to the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, the “other Tibet.” It is three times the size of France, a sixth of China’s landmass, and China’s largest province. This region is inhabited by Turkic Muslims who believe they should govern themselves in an independent state. The Uighurs, by all accounts, hate the Chinese more than the Tibetans do, if that is possible. Throughout history, these Muslims have managed to free themselves periodically from Chinese rule. Now, however, they live in the Autonomous Region, which for more than five decades has been tightly governed from a thousand miles away. In the wake of the Tibetan disturbances, Chinese authorities have tightened surveillance of Uighurs and have stepped up their national campaign against “splittists” of all types. On Saturday, People’s Daily, without evidence, accused the Dalai Lama of colluding with the country’s Muslims to plan attacks.

The People’s Republic of China is a vast multicultural empire. Unfortunately for the so-called Han, the dominant ethnic grouping in the country, most minority “citizens” do not think of themselves as “Chinese” and want no part of Beijing’s rule. Therefore, it is not surprising that the Uighurs, like the Tibetans, have periodically erupted in violence. The last major Muslim revolt occurred in 1997 and was centered in Yining, a remote city near the border with Kazakhstan. The Uighurs, at times, resort to terrorism and violence in large part because Beijing has attempted to control their homeland by importing Han settlers, just as it does in Tibet. The Dalai Lama rightly calls the tactic “cultural genocide.”

In 2002, the Bush administration, at the behest of Beijing, designated the East Turkistan Islamic Movement a terrorist organization. Many dispute the characterization. But, whatever the facts, the United States should not help autocrats suppress ethnically distinct peoples. Due to their abhorrent policies, the Han Chinese will continue to suffer from minority revolts. The United States, however, need not be a part of this continuous dynamic of suppression and insurrection.

“We are now engaged in a fierce blood-and-fire battle with the Dalai clique, a life-and-death battle between us and the enemy,” said Zhang Qingli, the Communist Party boss in Tibet, in the middle of last week. That sounds a little dramatic, especially because no one thinks the Tibetans can gain independence, much less bring down the one-party state. Nonetheless, the mighty Communist Party is rightly concerned. The Tibetans aren’t the only restive minority group the Chinese rule.

Welcome to the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, the “other Tibet.” It is three times the size of France, a sixth of China’s landmass, and China’s largest province. This region is inhabited by Turkic Muslims who believe they should govern themselves in an independent state. The Uighurs, by all accounts, hate the Chinese more than the Tibetans do, if that is possible. Throughout history, these Muslims have managed to free themselves periodically from Chinese rule. Now, however, they live in the Autonomous Region, which for more than five decades has been tightly governed from a thousand miles away. In the wake of the Tibetan disturbances, Chinese authorities have tightened surveillance of Uighurs and have stepped up their national campaign against “splittists” of all types. On Saturday, People’s Daily, without evidence, accused the Dalai Lama of colluding with the country’s Muslims to plan attacks.

The People’s Republic of China is a vast multicultural empire. Unfortunately for the so-called Han, the dominant ethnic grouping in the country, most minority “citizens” do not think of themselves as “Chinese” and want no part of Beijing’s rule. Therefore, it is not surprising that the Uighurs, like the Tibetans, have periodically erupted in violence. The last major Muslim revolt occurred in 1997 and was centered in Yining, a remote city near the border with Kazakhstan. The Uighurs, at times, resort to terrorism and violence in large part because Beijing has attempted to control their homeland by importing Han settlers, just as it does in Tibet. The Dalai Lama rightly calls the tactic “cultural genocide.”

In 2002, the Bush administration, at the behest of Beijing, designated the East Turkistan Islamic Movement a terrorist organization. Many dispute the characterization. But, whatever the facts, the United States should not help autocrats suppress ethnically distinct peoples. Due to their abhorrent policies, the Han Chinese will continue to suffer from minority revolts. The United States, however, need not be a part of this continuous dynamic of suppression and insurrection.

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The Reluctant Communist

Can a deserter, a seeming traitor and a star in a propaganda film produced by a Communist dictatorship also be, in the end, an American patriot? That is one of the questions posed by the life of Charles Robert Jenkins, the author of The Reluctant Communist. This extraordinary book is now available for sale on Amazon and elsewhere. It is one of the most important documents to come out of North Korea ever. I review it in today’s Wall Street Journal.  The review can be found on their site, or you can click on the “Read the rest of this entry” link below to read it here.

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Can a deserter, a seeming traitor and a star in a propaganda film produced by a Communist dictatorship also be, in the end, an American patriot? That is one of the questions posed by the life of Charles Robert Jenkins, the author of The Reluctant Communist. This extraordinary book is now available for sale on Amazon and elsewhere. It is one of the most important documents to come out of North Korea ever. I review it in today’s Wall Street Journal.  The review can be found on their site, or you can click on the “Read the rest of this entry” link below to read it here.

The Reluctant Communist

By Charles Robert Jenkins, with Jim Frederick

University of California, 192 pages, $24.95

Can a deserter, a seeming traitor and a star in a propaganda film produced by a Communist dictatorship also be, in the end, an American patriot? That is one of the questions posed by the life of Charles Robert Jenkins, the author of The Reluctant Communist.

Uneducated, dirt poor, from rural North Carolina, Mr. Jenkins joined the U.S. Army in 1958 and rose to the rank of sergeant within three years. He was soon sent to South Korea, where he was assigned to patrols along the demilitarized zone and regularly came under hostile fire. Depressed and drinking heavily, he started searching for a way home. The scheme he cooked up: Cross into North Korea, get handed over to the Russians and then repatriated to the U.S. At most he would face the sanction of a court-martial.

But there was a hitch. “I did not understand,” Mr. Jenkins writes, “that the country I was seeking temporary refuge in was literally a giant, demented prison; once someone goes there, they almost never get out.” Mr. Jenkins was to spend the next four decades in North Korea. His memoir, written with the help of Jim Frederick, a Time magazine senior editor, is the story of his life in that bizarre and barbaric land.

After his capture, Mr. Jenkins recounts, he was subjected to a none-too-gentle period of interrogation and then brought together with three other Americans who had done the same thing, “all young dumb soldiers from poor backgrounds” like himself whose misbegotten actions turned them into North Korea’s “cold-war trophies.” Their lives were privileged compared with those of ordinary North Koreans, but the physical hardship was extreme: scarce, rotten food, lack of heat and indoor plumbing (not to mention privacy), insect and rat infestation.

But the mental strain was far worse. Complete isolation from the familiar world was a mere backdrop to the ordeal inflicted by an endless procession of Communist Party minders, who monitored Mr. Jenkins’s every move and who strove, by means of compulsory self-criticism sessions and beatings, to inculcate in him the “correct ideology.”

Under threat of transfer to a prison colony and almost certain death, Mr. Jenkins was routinely assigned to socialist toil. Sometimes it was weaving fishing nets, sometimes teaching English to North Korean military personnel. Sometimes it was acting in North Korean films, including one celebrating the North Korean capture of the USS Pueblo in 1968. (Mr. Jenkins played the captain of a U.S. aircraft carrier.) With characteristic inefficiency, the North Koreans shot the scenes in the order in which they would appear in the film, breaking down the sets each time and then rebuilding them when needed.

Thanks to Kim Il Sung’s “glorious benevolence,” as the North Koreans called it, Mr. Jenkins and his American comrades were eventually provided with female personal “cooks.” They were expected to serve the state as another set of watching eyes and, as it happened, as “unofficial wives” — potential consorts. The first words that Mr. Jenkins’s own cook said to him were: “I am not cooking for an American dog.” Relations between them, he observes, “went down from there.”

One of North Korea’s cruelest policies was to intersect bittersweetly with Mr. Jenkins’s life. Beginning sometime in the mid-1970s, the regime began kidnapping young Japanese women, some as young as 13, snatching them off streets near beaches in Japan and conveying them to North Korea to fulfill various tasks for its intelligence service. One such young woman was Hitomi Soga, seized along with her mother, stuffed into a black sack, taken by submarine to North Korea and, after a suitable “adjustment period,” delivered to Mr. Jenkins’s home and made to live with him, presumably to bolster the morale of a cold-war trophy.

Mr. Jenkins’s minders, he says, encouraged him to rape her. Instead he treated her with kindness and respect. Before long, the two fell in love, a bond apparently made all the stronger by the suffering both had endured at the hands of their common tormentors. Marriage followed, along with three children, one of whom died at birth. The whereabouts of Hitomi’s mother remain unknown to this day.

In 2002, North Korea unexpectedly acknowledged its kidnapping program and Hitomi was repatriated to Japan. Mr. Jenkins and the couple’s two daughters followed 18 months later. At that point, he turned himself in to American authorities in Tokyo, becoming the longest-missing U.S. deserter ever to report again for duty. The U.S. Army sentenced him, humanely, to 30 days in the brig. “Going AWOL to avoid combat is a serious crime,” Mr. Jenkins writes, “and abandoning troops under your command is one of the worst things a military man can do. . . . I am sorry for that, and I have spent my life having to live with my conscience and the consequence of my actions on that day.”

However we judge Mr. Jenkins’s actions so many years ago, “The Reluctant Communist” is itself an act of redemption. This extraordinary book opens a window on a world of fathomless evil, and it tells a heartbreaking story — of a life lived in adversity and conducted with a mixture of fortitude, resignation, tenderness and regret. Clearly Charles Robert Jenkins emerged from his years of ordeal with his Americanness intact. True patriotism can come in many forms.

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Who is Thomas P. M. Barnett?

In the LA Times today, Max Boot effectively takes down the Esquire profile of Admiral William Fallon, who just resigned as head the U.S. Central Command in a spat with the Bush administration over Iran policy:

Its author, Thomas P.M. Barnett, a former professor at the Naval War College, presents a fawning portrait of the admiral — a service he previously performed for Donald Rumsfeld. But evidence of Fallon’s supposed “strategic brilliance” is notably lacking. For example, Barnett notes Fallon’s attempt to banish the phrase “the Long War” (created by his predecessor) because it “signaled a long haul that Fallon simply finds unacceptable,” without offering any hint of how Fallon intends to defeat our enemies overnight. The ideas Fallon proposes — “He wants troop levels in Iraq down now, and he wants the Afghan National Army running the show throughout most of Afghanistan by the end of this year” — would most likely result in security setbacks that would lengthen, not shorten, the struggle.

Max calls Barnett’s portrait “fawning.” Max is a master of understatement. Here are some excerpts:

The first thing you notice is the face, the second is the voice.

A tall, wiry man with thinning white hair, Fallon comes off like a loner even when he’s standing in a crowd.

Despite having an easy smile that he regularly pulls out for his many daily exercises in relationship building, Fallon’s consistent game face is a slightly pissed-off glare. It’s his default expression. Don’t fuck with me, it says. A tough Catholic boy from New Jersey, his favorite compliment is “badass.” Fallon’s got a fearsome reputation, although no one I ever talk to in the business can quite pin down why.

And in truth, Fallon’s not a screamer. Indeed, by my long observation and the accounts of a dozen people, he doesn’t raise his voice whatsoever, except when he laughs. Instead, the more serious he becomes, the quieter he gets, and his whispers sound positively menacing. Other guys can jaw-jaw all they want about the need for war-war with . . . whomever is today’s target among D.C.’s many armchair warriors. Not Fallon. Let the president pop off. Fallon won’t. No bravado here, nor sound-bite-sized threats, but rather a calm, leathery presence. Fallon is comfortable risking peace because he’s comfortable waging war.

Along with such treacle, the Esquire portrait also contains a dose of the same kind of poison pedaled by John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt. Barnett writes that Fallon’s articulation of a soft line toward Iran amounts to “fighting words to your average neocon — not to mention your average supporter of Israel, a good many of whom in Washington seem never to have served a minute in uniform. But utter those words for print and you can easily find yourself defending your indifference to ‘nuclear holocaust.’” Thanks largely to Mearsheimer and Walt, this kind of Charles Lindbergh-Henry Ford-style discourse has seeped into the discourse of even third-rate hacks.

But perhaps even more notable is Barnett’s account of Fallon’s travel to a Chinese city when he was in charge of American forces in the Pacific:

Early in his tenure at Pacific Command, Fallon let it be known that he was interested in visiting the city of Harbin in the highly controlled and isolated Heilongjiang Military District on China’s northern border with Russia. The Chinese were flabbergasted at the request, but when Fallon’s command plane took off one afternoon from Mongolia, heading for Harbin without permission, Beijing relented.

Did a U.S. military aircraft really enter Chinese airspace without permission? Under what circumstances are U.S. military aircraft ever granted permission to fly over China, let alone over a military district? What really happened here? My first bet is that either Barnett made this stuff up or he was sold a bill of goods by the man with the “calm, leathery presence.” I knew Barnett back in grad school at Harvard, and my second bet is the latter.

Barnett became famous at Harvard for another fawning article he wrote, in this case about the Romanian tyrant Nicolae Ceausescu. Describing Ceausescu as a “shrewd and farsighted politician,” Barnett noted that the Romanian leader had recently been “unanimously reelected at the recent Communist Party congress,” and his “grip on power appears firm.” Barnett’s op-ed appeared in the Christian Science Monitor on December 11, 1989. Fourteen days later, Romania was in full revolt and Ceausescu was dead — not of natural causes.

Let’s put aside Admiral Fallon’s views on Iran. If for nothing else, he deserved to be relieved of his command for collaborating with such a malign goofball in anything, let alone a campaign of insubordination.

In the LA Times today, Max Boot effectively takes down the Esquire profile of Admiral William Fallon, who just resigned as head the U.S. Central Command in a spat with the Bush administration over Iran policy:

Its author, Thomas P.M. Barnett, a former professor at the Naval War College, presents a fawning portrait of the admiral — a service he previously performed for Donald Rumsfeld. But evidence of Fallon’s supposed “strategic brilliance” is notably lacking. For example, Barnett notes Fallon’s attempt to banish the phrase “the Long War” (created by his predecessor) because it “signaled a long haul that Fallon simply finds unacceptable,” without offering any hint of how Fallon intends to defeat our enemies overnight. The ideas Fallon proposes — “He wants troop levels in Iraq down now, and he wants the Afghan National Army running the show throughout most of Afghanistan by the end of this year” — would most likely result in security setbacks that would lengthen, not shorten, the struggle.

Max calls Barnett’s portrait “fawning.” Max is a master of understatement. Here are some excerpts:

The first thing you notice is the face, the second is the voice.

A tall, wiry man with thinning white hair, Fallon comes off like a loner even when he’s standing in a crowd.

Despite having an easy smile that he regularly pulls out for his many daily exercises in relationship building, Fallon’s consistent game face is a slightly pissed-off glare. It’s his default expression. Don’t fuck with me, it says. A tough Catholic boy from New Jersey, his favorite compliment is “badass.” Fallon’s got a fearsome reputation, although no one I ever talk to in the business can quite pin down why.

And in truth, Fallon’s not a screamer. Indeed, by my long observation and the accounts of a dozen people, he doesn’t raise his voice whatsoever, except when he laughs. Instead, the more serious he becomes, the quieter he gets, and his whispers sound positively menacing. Other guys can jaw-jaw all they want about the need for war-war with . . . whomever is today’s target among D.C.’s many armchair warriors. Not Fallon. Let the president pop off. Fallon won’t. No bravado here, nor sound-bite-sized threats, but rather a calm, leathery presence. Fallon is comfortable risking peace because he’s comfortable waging war.

Along with such treacle, the Esquire portrait also contains a dose of the same kind of poison pedaled by John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt. Barnett writes that Fallon’s articulation of a soft line toward Iran amounts to “fighting words to your average neocon — not to mention your average supporter of Israel, a good many of whom in Washington seem never to have served a minute in uniform. But utter those words for print and you can easily find yourself defending your indifference to ‘nuclear holocaust.’” Thanks largely to Mearsheimer and Walt, this kind of Charles Lindbergh-Henry Ford-style discourse has seeped into the discourse of even third-rate hacks.

But perhaps even more notable is Barnett’s account of Fallon’s travel to a Chinese city when he was in charge of American forces in the Pacific:

Early in his tenure at Pacific Command, Fallon let it be known that he was interested in visiting the city of Harbin in the highly controlled and isolated Heilongjiang Military District on China’s northern border with Russia. The Chinese were flabbergasted at the request, but when Fallon’s command plane took off one afternoon from Mongolia, heading for Harbin without permission, Beijing relented.

Did a U.S. military aircraft really enter Chinese airspace without permission? Under what circumstances are U.S. military aircraft ever granted permission to fly over China, let alone over a military district? What really happened here? My first bet is that either Barnett made this stuff up or he was sold a bill of goods by the man with the “calm, leathery presence.” I knew Barnett back in grad school at Harvard, and my second bet is the latter.

Barnett became famous at Harvard for another fawning article he wrote, in this case about the Romanian tyrant Nicolae Ceausescu. Describing Ceausescu as a “shrewd and farsighted politician,” Barnett noted that the Romanian leader had recently been “unanimously reelected at the recent Communist Party congress,” and his “grip on power appears firm.” Barnett’s op-ed appeared in the Christian Science Monitor on December 11, 1989. Fourteen days later, Romania was in full revolt and Ceausescu was dead — not of natural causes.

Let’s put aside Admiral Fallon’s views on Iran. If for nothing else, he deserved to be relieved of his command for collaborating with such a malign goofball in anything, let alone a campaign of insubordination.

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Yet Another Dialogue with China

This week, China agreed to resume its human rights dialogue with the United States.   Beijing broke off the discussions in 2004 after Washington sponsored a U.N. Human Rights Commission resolution attacking the Chinese government’s record.  “We are willing to have exchanges and interactions with the U.S. and other countries on human rights on a basis of mutual respect, equality and non-interference in each others’ internal affairs,” said Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi, after meeting with Condoleezza Rice on Tuesday in the Chinese capital.

China has, off and on, maintained human rights “dialogues” with about a dozen nations.  Beijing always acts as if its participation in these discussions is a favor to the international community, but they actually benefit Chinese autocrats.  The dialogues permit them to maintain the appearance of progress without having to make concessions of any lasting significance.

China, under President Hu Jintao, is suffering under a crackdown that has now lasted a half decade.  The political system in 2008 is more repressive than it was in 1998.  And there is even less room today for political discussion than in 1988.  The Communist Party, incredibly, is moving backward.

This regression coincides with China’s drive to host the Olympics.  In 2001, at China’s final presentation before the International Olympic Committee’s vote, Liu Qi, the head of the country’s bid committee, said “I want to say that the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games will have the following special features: They will help promote our economic and social progress and will also benefit the further development of our human rights cause.”  It has not worked out that way, however.  As Robin Munro, a veteran human rights campaigner, noted this week, the Chinese government has made a “mockery of promises made.”  Worse, the intensifying crackdown could “become the new normal” in China after the Games are over.  

“China is at a special, historic stage of its development,” said Wang Baodong, a Chinese Embassy spokesman in Washington, responding this week to criticisms of his country’s human rights record.  “We do not deny that there are a lot of problems.”  Wang is correct that this is an especially crucial time for China.  While Beijing’s leaders are pushing the country back, the Chinese people are surging forward.  There is more societal change in China than in any other nation at this moment.

The human rights dialogues, if they have any positive effect at all, show the Chinese people that their government fails to meet acceptable standards of conduct and therefore brings shame on their nation.  As such, the discussions promise the same benefit as the Helsinki Final Act of 1975.  Yet the dialogues with China won’t have the same impact until Western presidents and prime ministers are willing to be as forthright about China’s communists as they were about the Soviet ones.

This week, China agreed to resume its human rights dialogue with the United States.   Beijing broke off the discussions in 2004 after Washington sponsored a U.N. Human Rights Commission resolution attacking the Chinese government’s record.  “We are willing to have exchanges and interactions with the U.S. and other countries on human rights on a basis of mutual respect, equality and non-interference in each others’ internal affairs,” said Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi, after meeting with Condoleezza Rice on Tuesday in the Chinese capital.

China has, off and on, maintained human rights “dialogues” with about a dozen nations.  Beijing always acts as if its participation in these discussions is a favor to the international community, but they actually benefit Chinese autocrats.  The dialogues permit them to maintain the appearance of progress without having to make concessions of any lasting significance.

China, under President Hu Jintao, is suffering under a crackdown that has now lasted a half decade.  The political system in 2008 is more repressive than it was in 1998.  And there is even less room today for political discussion than in 1988.  The Communist Party, incredibly, is moving backward.

This regression coincides with China’s drive to host the Olympics.  In 2001, at China’s final presentation before the International Olympic Committee’s vote, Liu Qi, the head of the country’s bid committee, said “I want to say that the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games will have the following special features: They will help promote our economic and social progress and will also benefit the further development of our human rights cause.”  It has not worked out that way, however.  As Robin Munro, a veteran human rights campaigner, noted this week, the Chinese government has made a “mockery of promises made.”  Worse, the intensifying crackdown could “become the new normal” in China after the Games are over.  

“China is at a special, historic stage of its development,” said Wang Baodong, a Chinese Embassy spokesman in Washington, responding this week to criticisms of his country’s human rights record.  “We do not deny that there are a lot of problems.”  Wang is correct that this is an especially crucial time for China.  While Beijing’s leaders are pushing the country back, the Chinese people are surging forward.  There is more societal change in China than in any other nation at this moment.

The human rights dialogues, if they have any positive effect at all, show the Chinese people that their government fails to meet acceptable standards of conduct and therefore brings shame on their nation.  As such, the discussions promise the same benefit as the Helsinki Final Act of 1975.  Yet the dialogues with China won’t have the same impact until Western presidents and prime ministers are willing to be as forthright about China’s communists as they were about the Soviet ones.

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Sharing with China

Yesterday, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said that the United States will release data on the Navy’s successful shootdown of a stricken American reconnaissance satellite. “We are prepared to share whatever appropriately we can,” he noted in remarks to reporters. Gates’s offer came in response to comments from Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao. “China is closely following the possible damage to the security of outer space and relevant countries by the U.S. move,” he stated. Liu, calling on the United States to “fulfill its international obligations in earnest,” stated that the Pentagon should “provide necessary information and relevant data to the international community promptly.”

Liu’s request—more like a demand—came in conjunction with sharp comments carried by People’s Daily, the Communist Party’s flagship paper, and unwarranted attacks from Beijing’s surrogates in the Chinese academic community. The harsh reaction orchestrated by China’s leaders raises a simple question: Why is Gates agreeing to release any information at all?

The defense secretary, of course, will not provide much, if anything, of technical value, but this is not an issue of supplying classified material to a potential adversary. The issue is the way we are interacting with China. The Chinese, for no good reason, threw a tantrum about this week’s shootdown. So how did we react? We tried to placate them with technical data.

For years we have given Chinese generals and admirals military information in the hopes they would respond in kind. They have almost always failed to do so. For instance, despite repeated requests, they still have not said anything to us about their destruction, with a ground-launched missile, of an old weather satellite in January of last year.

This week, both before and after we shot down our satellite, the Chinese hurled belligerent comments in our direction. Yet we reacted as if they were our long-time partners. They will not even agree to install a phone link connecting our military with theirs, despite our attempts spanning years to put one in place. What kind of “friends” are they?

By rewarding unfriendly conduct, we are encouraging the very behavior we wish to forestall. What Gates should have done yesterday is told the Chinese that we will cooperate with them only if they cooperate with us. It’s time we require reciprocity in our dealings with China. You don’t need a degree in International Relations to come to this conclusion. All you need is common sense.

Yesterday, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said that the United States will release data on the Navy’s successful shootdown of a stricken American reconnaissance satellite. “We are prepared to share whatever appropriately we can,” he noted in remarks to reporters. Gates’s offer came in response to comments from Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao. “China is closely following the possible damage to the security of outer space and relevant countries by the U.S. move,” he stated. Liu, calling on the United States to “fulfill its international obligations in earnest,” stated that the Pentagon should “provide necessary information and relevant data to the international community promptly.”

Liu’s request—more like a demand—came in conjunction with sharp comments carried by People’s Daily, the Communist Party’s flagship paper, and unwarranted attacks from Beijing’s surrogates in the Chinese academic community. The harsh reaction orchestrated by China’s leaders raises a simple question: Why is Gates agreeing to release any information at all?

The defense secretary, of course, will not provide much, if anything, of technical value, but this is not an issue of supplying classified material to a potential adversary. The issue is the way we are interacting with China. The Chinese, for no good reason, threw a tantrum about this week’s shootdown. So how did we react? We tried to placate them with technical data.

For years we have given Chinese generals and admirals military information in the hopes they would respond in kind. They have almost always failed to do so. For instance, despite repeated requests, they still have not said anything to us about their destruction, with a ground-launched missile, of an old weather satellite in January of last year.

This week, both before and after we shot down our satellite, the Chinese hurled belligerent comments in our direction. Yet we reacted as if they were our long-time partners. They will not even agree to install a phone link connecting our military with theirs, despite our attempts spanning years to put one in place. What kind of “friends” are they?

By rewarding unfriendly conduct, we are encouraging the very behavior we wish to forestall. What Gates should have done yesterday is told the Chinese that we will cooperate with them only if they cooperate with us. It’s time we require reciprocity in our dealings with China. You don’t need a degree in International Relations to come to this conclusion. All you need is common sense.

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Another Reason to Fear Jacob Zuma

One of the few reasons to be cautiously optimistic about the impending presidency of Jacob Zuma in South Africa was the expectation that the ousted Deputy President would change his country’s disastrous policies towards Zimbabwe. Zuma’s leadership style is that of the populist, in stark contrast to Thabo Mbeki, an English-educated intellectual with an aloof demeanor. Zuma has long been the man of the African National Congress’ left wing, and is firmly supported by the country’s Communist Party and COSATU, the Congress of South African Trade Unions, both of which fought a years-long struggle to mobilize support for Zuma over Mbeki, whom they viewed as too friendly to business. The support Zuma has garnered from the most left-wing elements in South African politics would normally give those supportive of liberal democracy and free markets pause, yet on the issue of Zimbabwe, South Africa’s trade unions have been stalwart opponents of Mugabe. The Zimbabwean dictator, after all, has tried to crush free labor unions, and the main opposition party in Zimbabwe — the Movement for Democratic Change — is led by a trade unionist. South African labor has put worker brotherhood before vague appeals to liberation-era, anti-imperialist “struggle” politics, and for that it should be applauded.

Yet the expectation that Zuma would follow South African labor’s lead in favoring a more aggressive policy to end the rule of Robert Mugabe and restore constitutional government seems to have been dashed. In an interview at the World Economic Forum in Davos last week, Zuma criticized the United States and Europe for “tell[ing] us what we need to do” about Zimbabwe and said that Western appeals contained “an element of racism.” He went onto state that “I’m not sure I will do anything fundamentally different,” from Mbeki in terms of Zimbabwe policy.

For years, Zuma’s critics have alleged that he will prove to be another Mugabe. I’ve long found such criticism hysterical, as South Africa’s economic infrastructure, centuries-long example of (limited) parliamentary government, and connections to Western capital would preclude a Zimbabwe-type tragedy from occurring there. Jacob Zuma will not be another Mugabe, but, at the very least, he does not seem all too bothered by him.

One of the few reasons to be cautiously optimistic about the impending presidency of Jacob Zuma in South Africa was the expectation that the ousted Deputy President would change his country’s disastrous policies towards Zimbabwe. Zuma’s leadership style is that of the populist, in stark contrast to Thabo Mbeki, an English-educated intellectual with an aloof demeanor. Zuma has long been the man of the African National Congress’ left wing, and is firmly supported by the country’s Communist Party and COSATU, the Congress of South African Trade Unions, both of which fought a years-long struggle to mobilize support for Zuma over Mbeki, whom they viewed as too friendly to business. The support Zuma has garnered from the most left-wing elements in South African politics would normally give those supportive of liberal democracy and free markets pause, yet on the issue of Zimbabwe, South Africa’s trade unions have been stalwart opponents of Mugabe. The Zimbabwean dictator, after all, has tried to crush free labor unions, and the main opposition party in Zimbabwe — the Movement for Democratic Change — is led by a trade unionist. South African labor has put worker brotherhood before vague appeals to liberation-era, anti-imperialist “struggle” politics, and for that it should be applauded.

Yet the expectation that Zuma would follow South African labor’s lead in favoring a more aggressive policy to end the rule of Robert Mugabe and restore constitutional government seems to have been dashed. In an interview at the World Economic Forum in Davos last week, Zuma criticized the United States and Europe for “tell[ing] us what we need to do” about Zimbabwe and said that Western appeals contained “an element of racism.” He went onto state that “I’m not sure I will do anything fundamentally different,” from Mbeki in terms of Zimbabwe policy.

For years, Zuma’s critics have alleged that he will prove to be another Mugabe. I’ve long found such criticism hysterical, as South Africa’s economic infrastructure, centuries-long example of (limited) parliamentary government, and connections to Western capital would preclude a Zimbabwe-type tragedy from occurring there. Jacob Zuma will not be another Mugabe, but, at the very least, he does not seem all too bothered by him.

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This Land Is My Land!

Today, Reuters reports that Chinese authorities in central Shaanxi province have detained three peasants who led a campaign to reclaim land. The three were among six farmers who signed an open letter, purportedly on behalf of 70,000 others. “We reject the previous form of collective ownership,” the letter states. “It cannot guarantee the farmers’ permanent rights to the land . . . and cannot prevent the illegal infringement by officials and thugs.”

The three peasants have been charged with “inciting to subvert state power,” and it’s not hard to see why. In what could be the most significant development in China this year, peasants across the country in the last few weeks are declaring that they, and not the state or its collectives, own the fields they till and the orchards they tend. Similar declarations have been made in the last two weeks in the provincial-level city of Tianjin and the provinces of Heilongjiang and Jiangsu.

Mao Zedong came to power in 1949 on promises of land redistribution. He made good on his word by breaking up the holdings of landlords, but he soon confiscated all land for the state in the 1950s. Local peasants, on their own initiative, brought back the concept of individual farming in the early 1980s, but they never obtained title to the soil. Now, they want to complete the process and own the land they occupy. If successful, they will put an end to socialism in the countryside.

It’s not that the agricultural poor are highminded. They merely want what is theirs. In the last decade predatory officials have, in the name of development, grabbed peasant land with little or no compensation but almost always for their personal benefit. Land seizures are undoubtedly the biggest cause of unrest—sometimes in the form of pitched battles between peasants and thugs hired by local governments—in China today.

Beijing vows that the countryside will be stable in 2008. Yesterday, the Central Committee of the Communist Party and the central government’s State Council concluded their annual central rural work conference with the usual pledges to aid the peasantry, including a ten-point program. In addition, on Saturday the Ministry of Finance announced a pilot program to provide in three agricultural provinces subsidies covering 13 percent of the cost of color televisions, refrigerators, and mobile phones.

The Chinese will gladly take handouts, but central government technocrats are mistaken if they think they can prevent peasants from taking what they have demanded for generations—the right to own land. And there are others who are also deluded: we are about to witness, once again, the world’s poor conclusively prove to Western analysts that socialism is not sustainable.

Today, Reuters reports that Chinese authorities in central Shaanxi province have detained three peasants who led a campaign to reclaim land. The three were among six farmers who signed an open letter, purportedly on behalf of 70,000 others. “We reject the previous form of collective ownership,” the letter states. “It cannot guarantee the farmers’ permanent rights to the land . . . and cannot prevent the illegal infringement by officials and thugs.”

The three peasants have been charged with “inciting to subvert state power,” and it’s not hard to see why. In what could be the most significant development in China this year, peasants across the country in the last few weeks are declaring that they, and not the state or its collectives, own the fields they till and the orchards they tend. Similar declarations have been made in the last two weeks in the provincial-level city of Tianjin and the provinces of Heilongjiang and Jiangsu.

Mao Zedong came to power in 1949 on promises of land redistribution. He made good on his word by breaking up the holdings of landlords, but he soon confiscated all land for the state in the 1950s. Local peasants, on their own initiative, brought back the concept of individual farming in the early 1980s, but they never obtained title to the soil. Now, they want to complete the process and own the land they occupy. If successful, they will put an end to socialism in the countryside.

It’s not that the agricultural poor are highminded. They merely want what is theirs. In the last decade predatory officials have, in the name of development, grabbed peasant land with little or no compensation but almost always for their personal benefit. Land seizures are undoubtedly the biggest cause of unrest—sometimes in the form of pitched battles between peasants and thugs hired by local governments—in China today.

Beijing vows that the countryside will be stable in 2008. Yesterday, the Central Committee of the Communist Party and the central government’s State Council concluded their annual central rural work conference with the usual pledges to aid the peasantry, including a ten-point program. In addition, on Saturday the Ministry of Finance announced a pilot program to provide in three agricultural provinces subsidies covering 13 percent of the cost of color televisions, refrigerators, and mobile phones.

The Chinese will gladly take handouts, but central government technocrats are mistaken if they think they can prevent peasants from taking what they have demanded for generations—the right to own land. And there are others who are also deluded: we are about to witness, once again, the world’s poor conclusively prove to Western analysts that socialism is not sustainable.

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Dealing Dangerous Drugs

Last Tuesday, the United States and China signed an accord on pharmaceuticals and medical devices, one of fourteen agreements inked in Beijing during the eighteenth meeting of the Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade. The pact will require Chinese companies that export certain products to America to register with their nation’s regulators. The general concept is that Washington can ensure the safety of items before they ever reach our shores.

Who can argue with this cooperative approach? For starters, I will. As an initial matter, we cannot trust the lives of Americans to Chinese regulators, who have shown a blatant disregard for the well-being of foreigners, not to mention their own people. Unfortunately, regulation in China does not work well. On July 10, the Chinese government hurriedly executed Zheng Xiaoyu, the former head of the State Food and Drug Administration, for taking bribes to approve defective drugs that resulted in at least ten deaths in 2006. This drastic penalty followed the July 6 imposition of a death sentence on Cao Wenzhuang, a former senior official in the agency, for the same offense. Zheng and Cao were only the unfortunate ones because many, if not most, SFDA approvals are tainted by some form of bribery.

The Communist Party may one day solve the problem of corruption, but we should not risk the life of anyone on the hope that it can accomplish something that it has not been able to do after more than five decades of rule. Beijing sometimes resorts to high-profile executions when it wants to make a point, but exacting the ultimate penalty has rarely, if ever, solved underlying conditions.

The United States devoted seven months of discussions to come up with Tuesday’s pact, which covers just a small number of items. The time and effort would have been better spent expanding the testing of imports as they reach our ports and airports. Beefing up inspections at our borders is something that we are going to have to do anyway as drug companies expand their activities in China. According to the November 26 issue of Time, pharmaceutical manufacturers are shifting their research and development and testing to China, where costs are lower. “The price tag for drug trials in China can be one-tenth that in the U.S. or Europe,” the magazine reports, based on the comments of Chen Li, medical director of Shanghai-based KendleWits, which facilitates testing for major pharmaceuticals.

Pharmaceuticals, of course, pose a special problem. An anxious parent can avoid buying a Chinese-made Thomas the Tank Engine toy if he does not want his child to suck on lead paint, but a sick person who needs a certain drug usually has no such freedom of action. The risk to Americans from imported products is about to get worse, not better, because of the agreement we just signed with Beijing.

Last Tuesday, the United States and China signed an accord on pharmaceuticals and medical devices, one of fourteen agreements inked in Beijing during the eighteenth meeting of the Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade. The pact will require Chinese companies that export certain products to America to register with their nation’s regulators. The general concept is that Washington can ensure the safety of items before they ever reach our shores.

Who can argue with this cooperative approach? For starters, I will. As an initial matter, we cannot trust the lives of Americans to Chinese regulators, who have shown a blatant disregard for the well-being of foreigners, not to mention their own people. Unfortunately, regulation in China does not work well. On July 10, the Chinese government hurriedly executed Zheng Xiaoyu, the former head of the State Food and Drug Administration, for taking bribes to approve defective drugs that resulted in at least ten deaths in 2006. This drastic penalty followed the July 6 imposition of a death sentence on Cao Wenzhuang, a former senior official in the agency, for the same offense. Zheng and Cao were only the unfortunate ones because many, if not most, SFDA approvals are tainted by some form of bribery.

The Communist Party may one day solve the problem of corruption, but we should not risk the life of anyone on the hope that it can accomplish something that it has not been able to do after more than five decades of rule. Beijing sometimes resorts to high-profile executions when it wants to make a point, but exacting the ultimate penalty has rarely, if ever, solved underlying conditions.

The United States devoted seven months of discussions to come up with Tuesday’s pact, which covers just a small number of items. The time and effort would have been better spent expanding the testing of imports as they reach our ports and airports. Beefing up inspections at our borders is something that we are going to have to do anyway as drug companies expand their activities in China. According to the November 26 issue of Time, pharmaceutical manufacturers are shifting their research and development and testing to China, where costs are lower. “The price tag for drug trials in China can be one-tenth that in the U.S. or Europe,” the magazine reports, based on the comments of Chen Li, medical director of Shanghai-based KendleWits, which facilitates testing for major pharmaceuticals.

Pharmaceuticals, of course, pose a special problem. An anxious parent can avoid buying a Chinese-made Thomas the Tank Engine toy if he does not want his child to suck on lead paint, but a sick person who needs a certain drug usually has no such freedom of action. The risk to Americans from imported products is about to get worse, not better, because of the agreement we just signed with Beijing.

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A Papal Kowtow

On Friday, the Dalai Lama said that he was sorry that he would not be meeting the Pope during his visit to Italy. The Pontiff met with the exiled Tibetan last October in what the Vatican termed “a private courtesy visit.” This time, however, the Pope refused to have any contact with him. The turn-down was unexpected: a December 13 audience between the two spiritual leaders was unofficially announced in late October.

Why would Pope Benedict change his mind and shun one of the world’s most respected figures? Beijing in early November said such a meeting would “hurt the feelings of the Chinese people.” Most Chinese, frankly, do not care; it’s the Chinese leaders who would be upset. Their campaign to isolate the Dalai Lama is failing. So far this year, the Tibetan has met the leaders of Germany, New Zealand, Austria, Australia, Canada, and the United States. Moreover, Tibetan lands that the Chinese rule are going through another cycle of instability—disturbances there are occurring with increasing frequency. It’s exhilarating to watch the Chinese repressors on the run both at home and abroad.

Yet it is so depressing to watch the Pope perform the kowtow to atheistic autocrats in Beijing. One of Benedict’s top priorities is to establish relations with the modern Chinese state. He has made some progress recently—China’s state-run Catholic Church ordained two Vatican-approved bishops within the month (it often chooses clergymen who do not have Rome’s blessing). The timing of the elevations suggests they were directly related to Benedict’s refusal to see the exiled Tibetan.

The Pope, in a 55-page open letter dated May 27, indicated that the Vatican was willing to switch recognition from Taiwan to the mainland under certain conditions, including those relating to the selection of bishops. That would be a betrayal of millions of souls. Now, to please the Communist Party, he is breaking the Holy See’s long relations with the Dalai Lama. The Pontiff, unfortunately, is becoming just another craven figure in a world with too many of them. We expect better from religious leaders. Benedict, I am sad to say, is a disappointment.

On Friday, the Dalai Lama said that he was sorry that he would not be meeting the Pope during his visit to Italy. The Pontiff met with the exiled Tibetan last October in what the Vatican termed “a private courtesy visit.” This time, however, the Pope refused to have any contact with him. The turn-down was unexpected: a December 13 audience between the two spiritual leaders was unofficially announced in late October.

Why would Pope Benedict change his mind and shun one of the world’s most respected figures? Beijing in early November said such a meeting would “hurt the feelings of the Chinese people.” Most Chinese, frankly, do not care; it’s the Chinese leaders who would be upset. Their campaign to isolate the Dalai Lama is failing. So far this year, the Tibetan has met the leaders of Germany, New Zealand, Austria, Australia, Canada, and the United States. Moreover, Tibetan lands that the Chinese rule are going through another cycle of instability—disturbances there are occurring with increasing frequency. It’s exhilarating to watch the Chinese repressors on the run both at home and abroad.

Yet it is so depressing to watch the Pope perform the kowtow to atheistic autocrats in Beijing. One of Benedict’s top priorities is to establish relations with the modern Chinese state. He has made some progress recently—China’s state-run Catholic Church ordained two Vatican-approved bishops within the month (it often chooses clergymen who do not have Rome’s blessing). The timing of the elevations suggests they were directly related to Benedict’s refusal to see the exiled Tibetan.

The Pope, in a 55-page open letter dated May 27, indicated that the Vatican was willing to switch recognition from Taiwan to the mainland under certain conditions, including those relating to the selection of bishops. That would be a betrayal of millions of souls. Now, to please the Communist Party, he is breaking the Holy See’s long relations with the Dalai Lama. The Pontiff, unfortunately, is becoming just another craven figure in a world with too many of them. We expect better from religious leaders. Benedict, I am sad to say, is a disappointment.

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Fukuda’s New Low

Yesterday, Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Nobutaka Machimura called a press conference to complain about China’s alteration of a joint press communiqué, which was released after the High-Level Economic Dialogue, bilateral economic talks held on December 1 in Beijing. The alteration, he said was “unthinkable from the viewpoint of customary international practice, and inexplicable.”

The Chinese deleted two references in the jointly-approved communiqué. The first omitted statement noted that Japan expressed its hope that Beijing would increase the value of the renminbi. The other deleted reference relates to China’s participation in the Energy Charter Treaty. The Japanese government delivered a formal protest on Friday.

Yasuo Fukuda, the current prime minister, has worked hard to improve Japan’s relations with Beijing. Since taking office in September he has reinvigorated dialogue with China, stepped up military exchanges, and increased financial assistance to the Mainland. Fukuda is scheduled to travel to Beijing soon, and the alteration may have been an attempt to limit the summit’s agenda.

Prospects for the meeting in the Chinese capital do not look good for the Japanese side. Officials in Beijing have not been impressed by gestures of friendship from a nation they consider to be inferior to their own. China and Japan have a troubled history going back centuries, and the act of altering an agreed text, virtually unheard of in the diplomatic world, shows a continuation of the Chinese people’s contempt for Japan and the Communist Party’s belief that others must accept its version of reality.

If anything, the incident shows that Fukuda’s conciliatory approach to China is undoubtedly the wrong one—unless he wishes Japan to become a vassal to the great and glorious Chinese state. So this is a crucial test for the prime minister and the nation he leads.

Yesterday, Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Nobutaka Machimura called a press conference to complain about China’s alteration of a joint press communiqué, which was released after the High-Level Economic Dialogue, bilateral economic talks held on December 1 in Beijing. The alteration, he said was “unthinkable from the viewpoint of customary international practice, and inexplicable.”

The Chinese deleted two references in the jointly-approved communiqué. The first omitted statement noted that Japan expressed its hope that Beijing would increase the value of the renminbi. The other deleted reference relates to China’s participation in the Energy Charter Treaty. The Japanese government delivered a formal protest on Friday.

Yasuo Fukuda, the current prime minister, has worked hard to improve Japan’s relations with Beijing. Since taking office in September he has reinvigorated dialogue with China, stepped up military exchanges, and increased financial assistance to the Mainland. Fukuda is scheduled to travel to Beijing soon, and the alteration may have been an attempt to limit the summit’s agenda.

Prospects for the meeting in the Chinese capital do not look good for the Japanese side. Officials in Beijing have not been impressed by gestures of friendship from a nation they consider to be inferior to their own. China and Japan have a troubled history going back centuries, and the act of altering an agreed text, virtually unheard of in the diplomatic world, shows a continuation of the Chinese people’s contempt for Japan and the Communist Party’s belief that others must accept its version of reality.

If anything, the incident shows that Fukuda’s conciliatory approach to China is undoubtedly the wrong one—unless he wishes Japan to become a vassal to the great and glorious Chinese state. So this is a crucial test for the prime minister and the nation he leads.

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Graham Goes to China

Earlier this month, the Reverend Franklin Graham, son of Billy, wrapped up the Hong Kong Franklin Graham Festival, his largest evangelistic event. Over the course of four days he preached to 423,335 people in Hong Kong and Macau. The two cities are special administrative regions on the southern periphery of the People’s Republic of China.

“I feel as though I am an ambassador for Christ, to bring this wonderful message to this part of the world,” Graham said. The famous preacher was undoubtedly happy that 33,464 souls accepted Jesus in his presence, yet he had a higher calling in mind. As he noted, “We pray that God will open up other doors.”

Which other doors, we might ask? Graham said he will go to Beijing in May to see if he can stage one of his extravaganzas on the mainland. “When I look at China and there’s a billion people and God loves each and every one of them; that is a wonderful truth and that is a great message that we are here to share with this city and this great nation,” he said. China, with a rapidly aging population, is religion’s most fertile ground today.

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Earlier this month, the Reverend Franklin Graham, son of Billy, wrapped up the Hong Kong Franklin Graham Festival, his largest evangelistic event. Over the course of four days he preached to 423,335 people in Hong Kong and Macau. The two cities are special administrative regions on the southern periphery of the People’s Republic of China.

“I feel as though I am an ambassador for Christ, to bring this wonderful message to this part of the world,” Graham said. The famous preacher was undoubtedly happy that 33,464 souls accepted Jesus in his presence, yet he had a higher calling in mind. As he noted, “We pray that God will open up other doors.”

Which other doors, we might ask? Graham said he will go to Beijing in May to see if he can stage one of his extravaganzas on the mainland. “When I look at China and there’s a billion people and God loves each and every one of them; that is a wonderful truth and that is a great message that we are here to share with this city and this great nation,” he said. China, with a rapidly aging population, is religion’s most fertile ground today.

He’ll need God’s help to accomplish this. So far, the Chinese central government, which is officially atheistic and deeply hostile to religion, has confined prayer meetings to churches and prohibited the mass gatherings that Graham has in mind. Billy’s son should be glad that he is at least getting an audience with China’s Communist leaders. Those leaders have persecuted and tortured Falun Gong practitioners, Tibetans, Muslims, and Christians of all denominations.

Officially, Beijing says it guarantees freedom of religion, but it tolerates only seven “patriotic” religious organizations run by the state, and it has carried on long-running disputes with religious figures such as the Dalai Lama and the last six popes. An untold number of Chinese have died because they prayed in the way they chose.

Five mainland officials attended the Hong Kong event at Graham’s invitation, and due to his family’s long-standing connections to China—his mother was born there, for instance—he has a better chance than most of being able to stage some sort of event. Yet the Communist Party is an insecure mass organization that has lost the loyalty of most of its people and will not tolerate any organization it does not control. It will not allow a charismatic reverend to convert millions of Chinese at one time. Among other things, that would be too embarrassing.

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A Closer Look at China’s Port Closures

There is word from Washington that, together with the Chinese, the American government has agreed “to put behind them” the dispute that erupted when China abruptly closed Hong Kong to a number of American ships and aircraft.

The most important turn-away was the USS Kitty Hawk carrier battle group, which had been granted permission to spend the Thanksgiving holiday in Hong Kong. The U.S. government had flown the families of the crew to the former British dependent territory for the festivities. Then, without explanation, on November 22 that permission was withdrawn, along with permission for the frigate Reuben James to spend New Year’s in Hong Kong.

Faced with great U.S. unhappiness, China reversed herself again, saying the Kitty Hawk could come—but carrier battle groups cannot turn on a dime. By then the Kitty Hawk was well under way for Japan—via the Taiwan Strait.

It is all very well and good for the Chinese ambassador to tell President Bush that it was a “misunderstanding”—indeed, a lot of talk has been coming out of our capital that would make you think sudden port closures on the eve of long-planned visits were routine. But they are not. Closing Hong Kong is not an oversight; it is serious business.

A few questions must be answered before the United States can close the file on this case. Who is in charge of access to Hong Kong? Do people in Hong Kong decide? Does the Chinese Navy decide? Does the standing committee of the politburo of the Communist Party decide? To make the point absolutely clear: does the Party rule the gun—or, as looks increasingly to be the case, does the gun rule the Party?

If the military made the decision against civilian wishes, that would be important news, for the Chinese military recently has been showing more “assertiveness” (to put it delicately). If, on the other hand, the civilians initiated the action, then clearly we have to reconsider what exactly the Chinese authorities are envisioning as a future.

What worries me most in this whole situation is that we seem not to want to know what really happened. If we look too closely, we might find that the benign assumptions upon which our China policy rests do not fit with the facts.

There is word from Washington that, together with the Chinese, the American government has agreed “to put behind them” the dispute that erupted when China abruptly closed Hong Kong to a number of American ships and aircraft.

The most important turn-away was the USS Kitty Hawk carrier battle group, which had been granted permission to spend the Thanksgiving holiday in Hong Kong. The U.S. government had flown the families of the crew to the former British dependent territory for the festivities. Then, without explanation, on November 22 that permission was withdrawn, along with permission for the frigate Reuben James to spend New Year’s in Hong Kong.

Faced with great U.S. unhappiness, China reversed herself again, saying the Kitty Hawk could come—but carrier battle groups cannot turn on a dime. By then the Kitty Hawk was well under way for Japan—via the Taiwan Strait.

It is all very well and good for the Chinese ambassador to tell President Bush that it was a “misunderstanding”—indeed, a lot of talk has been coming out of our capital that would make you think sudden port closures on the eve of long-planned visits were routine. But they are not. Closing Hong Kong is not an oversight; it is serious business.

A few questions must be answered before the United States can close the file on this case. Who is in charge of access to Hong Kong? Do people in Hong Kong decide? Does the Chinese Navy decide? Does the standing committee of the politburo of the Communist Party decide? To make the point absolutely clear: does the Party rule the gun—or, as looks increasingly to be the case, does the gun rule the Party?

If the military made the decision against civilian wishes, that would be important news, for the Chinese military recently has been showing more “assertiveness” (to put it delicately). If, on the other hand, the civilians initiated the action, then clearly we have to reconsider what exactly the Chinese authorities are envisioning as a future.

What worries me most in this whole situation is that we seem not to want to know what really happened. If we look too closely, we might find that the benign assumptions upon which our China policy rests do not fit with the facts.

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