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Chen Apparently Free To Go

The latest twist in the Chen drama: the US and China have announced a set of new agreements and steps under which the blind “barefoot lawyer” and his family will be free to come to the United States. As the FT reports,

“Assuming this new deal stands, this has been, on balance, a good week for the US, for the Obama administration and for US-China relations,” said Ken Lieberthal, a former national security council official now at the Brookings Institution in Washington. The fact that the US and China had negotiated two agreements over a sensitive human rights case in the space of a week, while also conducting the summit shows that the two governments “can walk and chew gum at the same time”.

Correct; it is also a victory for human decency and common sense — and a sign that the modernizers are, if anything, tightening their grip in China. The possibility is now open for significant progress on a range of issues. Just as modernizers in Japan once sought to reach trade agreements with the US as a way of forcing change in Japan’s corporate culture, so now there are many in China who see international agreements as a way to speed up economic modernization inside the country.

There are still a few ways this could go wrong. One wrinkle is that technically Chen must return to his home province to apply for a new passport. That would probably not be a good idea. But the outlines of a solution now seem to be clear, and both the US and Chinese governments are signalling agreement. It won’t be over until Chen’s plane lands in the US, but resourceful diplomacy and good will on both sides appears to have defused what could have been a major problem.

Every now and then, the optimists are right.

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  • Anthony

    It won’t be over until Chen’s plane lands in the United States…???

  • Brendan Doran

    Hillary Rodham Clinton you continue to amaze.

    “a victory for human decency..”

    @ Mr. WRM – ….?…Dude….

  • Luke Lea

    Chen’s Lawyer Jiang Tianyong Captured, Beaten, and Put Under House Arrest

    There is no justice in China. Why are we doing business with them?

  • Luke Lea

    I’d like to see an analysis of the way China is governed today and how it compares to the ways it was governed under the Chinese emperors. Apart from there being a nine man committee at the top (how long will that last?) I don’t see any differences at all.

    Based on my current reading: Treason by the Book by Jonathan Spence.

    Corruption in China is like mud in a rice paddy.

    It’s a great read. Spence can write.

  • Luke Lea

    A good review of Treason by the Book:

  • Lyle Smith

    What’s going to happen to other dissidents in China though? Especially those close to Chen?

  • JC


    “I don’t see any differences at all.”

    New Zealand signed a Free Trade Agreement with China in 2007 and so far its been very good for us, eg, our once vast trading gap has nearly closed.

    Also in 2007 China reformed its property laws and people can now own the buildings they erect and land can be leased by foreigners for 70 years.

    There’s a long way to go there, but once you start signing up FTAs and start the long process on property rights there is only one way its going to go.. capitalism and some form of democracy.


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