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Relief as Chen Leaves For US

The barefoot, blind lawyer from China is apparently on a flight bound for the US, and there are huge sighs of relief in both the Foreign Ministry in Beijing and at the US Department of State.

Although some breathless commentary describes the diplomacy around Chen’s flight to freedom as the worst diplomatic spat between the US and China in many years, that is a very poor description of what took place. This was actually a triumph of diplomacy: the two teams of diplomats did exactly what they should do — they kept what could have been a major political crisis from erupting as they crafted and kept a deal that was acceptable to both sides.

To do that, they had to handle political problems inside the two countries as well as between them. Elements in China’s security forces — and the local authorities in Shandong — had their own agendas and in various ways took actions against Chen and/or his family that threatened to blow up the deal. And there were plenty of people in the US eagerly sniffing for signs of weakness in order to turn the Chen affair into a domestic political issue.

But in the end, Chen got out and the disruption to US-Chinese relations was contained. There are some regrets on both sides; diplomacy by its nature produces compromises, and compromises never satisfy anyone. Chen is worried about the health and safety of his family members and friends in China as well he should be; we must hope that the Chinese authorities in Beijing understand the importance of keeping this issue quiet and so make sure that local authorities and hotheads don’t do anything ill-advised.

But overall, this is a story of problem solved and crisis averted. The US China relationship is strong; our diplomats can work with one another; both sides are committed to making things work. That is the takeaway message from the events in Beijing, and it is very good news.

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  • Luke Lea

    @ WRM – “The barefoot, blind lawyer from China is apparently on a flight bound for the US, and there are huge sighs of relief in both the Foreign Ministry in Beijing and at the US Department of State.”

    Right. Now both sides can get back to exploiting their populations.

  • Luke Lea

    Exploitation: taking unfair advantage of, whether by force or fraud

    Clinton was persuaded (by economists no less*) that trading with China would make everyone better off in the United States. That was a fraud perpetrated upon the American people.

    *the most notable of which were Paul Samuelson and Paul Krugman (see here. Or if you don’t have Jstor access see here and search “Samuelson”)

  • Luke Lea

    I am in the middle of a big China kick right now, reading Chinese history backwards so to say (we live life forwards but understand it backwards), starting with the People’s Republic, then first half of the last century, Qing Dynasty, Ming, Yuan, Song, Tang, and so on right back to the Han and Confucius before that.

    One of my conclusions is that it isn’t the corruption of contemporary Chinese society that is the problem. It is the corruption of Chinese civilization. From the beginning it has been set up in such a way as to virtually guarantee endemic corruption from top to bottom. Of course all autocratic societies have been corrupt to some degree. It goes with the territory. But China is unique. It has never had even the glimmer of countervailing centers of power, not even a bunch of barons or a landed aristocracy competing for dominance.

    There was nothing like the Roman Senate during the republic or even the pretense of a Senate under the Roman emperors; no college of cardinals, no Doge, no Medieval parliaments, no self-governing towns, no republican traditions whatsoever.

    China has always been governed autocratically and bureaucratically from the top; a small mandarin elite (less than one ten-thousandth of the population) serving at the Emperor’s pleasure was in absolute charge of local and regional administration: tax assessment and collection and law enforcement primarily, where the local yamin was prosecutor, judge, and jury all rolled into one. (Only Russia comes close — and they got their model from East Asia.)

    Of course there was competition at the very top just like in Tudor England, Rome, or any other absolute monarchy — a sordid tale of regicide, murder, deceit, and of course graft, bribery, fraud, extortion, blackmail and every sort of palace intrigue imaginable. But short of revolution or foreign conquest there was never a mechanism for reform. Each new dynasty took up from where the last one ended, with maybe a reduction in taxes for the first generation or two.

    I bring this up in connection with this discussion here, where two American experts are wondering whether a Leninist political party is China’s “original sin.” The sad truth is there’s nothing original about it. Chinese civilization itself is corrupt, and has been from the time it was established. Our educated elites are unable to get their heads around this possibility. I hold our universities responsible. The history of Western civilization went out the door a generation ago. How could we possibly know anything about the history of Chinese civilization?

    I wonder what Wei Jingsheng thinks? I’m pretty sure about Lu Xun cause he just gave me the idea in these beautiful essays which I highly recommend.

  • Lorenz Gude

    I agree. As different as they are, both China and the US are countries that understand win win and know how important it is to avoid unnecessary win lose situations. I wont name them, but some cultures only know how to do win lose. In very broad perspective I see the win win cultures moving on and leaving the win lose ones further and further behind. But the win lose types will cause many problems before its over.

  • Luke Lea

    And lets not forget about Liu Xiaobo. From Wikipedia:

    “On 8 December 2008, Liu was detained because of his participation with the Charter 08 manifesto. He was formally arrested on 23 June 2009 on suspicion of “inciting subversion of state power.”[4][5] He was tried on the same charges on 23 December 2009,[6] and sentenced to eleven years’ imprisonment and two years’ deprivation of political rights on 25 December 2009”

    Check out that Charter 08 manifesto link. This is 30 years after Wei Jingsheng! There is not an iota of evidence that China will ever reform without outside pressure. And the longer we wait the less pressure we can apply. The West has the means still if we work with our allies.

    Otherwise we are creating an 800 lbs. monster and losing our soul into the bargain.

  • Luke Lea

    How about democratic reform in Taiwan? Isn’t that a hopeful sign of the possibilities? I don’t know. Taiwan is a very small country and U.S., influence has been immense. Even so, apparently it didn’t really happen:

    The more you learn the scarier it gets. Naive fools in bed with cynical knaves. You’ve no idea.

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