Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Obama sets a tone for U.S. policy on Human Rights in China

Here are Obama's comments Monday to a visiting Chinese delegation on human rights. I think these are probably alright. The bigger question is what's going on behind the scenes.

Some backstory: when pressured on human rights in China, the Bush Administration responded "If we yell 'you need to improve human rights' to Beijing, it won't be effective." And, strictly speaking, that's probably largely true. However, it's not as if the administration was doing everything it could on the issue behind the scenes. Hardly. Bush -- like many of his predecessors, I believe, though I'm less familiar with that -- genuinely cared about some rights issues in China, but it was a far lower priority than so many other issues in the U.S.-China relationship (i.e. economic issues, North Korea, Iran).

Jaeah Lee of CFR has a piece proposing how the Obama Administration should engage China. Lucia Green-Weiskel also had a provocative piece on this in the Brooklyn Rail last year; she comes at it from one radical left angle ("..Hollywood liberals and Washington neo-cons have formed an unsung and unholy alliance against China.." etc).


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