The euphoria over the return of the EP-3 surveillance plane’s crew from China has now subsided. As the dust settles over a bitter standoff that embroiled the nation for eleven long days, we are left with a compelling need to reflect upon this bruising experience.
The incident may be over but its dramatic lesson must be learned.
Opening Every Door
Since President Richard Nixon’s trip to China in February 1972, successive American administrations have built a China policy based on the illusion that we might somehow win the sympathy of the Communist Chinese through dialogue.
Over these years, we have opened every door in the hope that our smiles and dollars might soften the cold hearts of party ideologues.1
We have opened our markets to the point where our stores teem with cheap Chinese goods even at the cost of American jobs. We absorb one third of all their exports and sustain an $86 billion annual trade deficit.
We have moved whole factories to their land and transferred new technologies. Chinese students flock to our universities and technical schools, profiting from our research and learning facilities.
Indeed, in our optimistic quest to promote democracy and the free market in China, we have bent over backwards to accommodate an ever-elusive transition even to the point of scandalously closing our eyes to rights abuses and inhumane labor practices.
For nearly thirty years, we have invested heavily in the illusion that a new China will soon appear over the horizon. Given enough Western support, the conventional wisdom said, China would abandon its outdated Marxist ideology, democracy would flourish, and the rule of law finally prevail.
However, the brazen attitude of the Chinese government throughout the EP-3 incident can only reinforce the growing perception of China’s disregard for the rule of law and international standards. Now it is clear that this is true not only of human rights, but also of military matters.
These events clearly demonstrate the ongoing “dialogue” with China must come down from the clouds. The much-longed-for “new China” is nowhere on the horizon.
The Chinese Record
Buoyed by optimistic hopes and easy profits, we have turned a blind eye to this disturbing reality for far too long. The massive influx of Western capital has failed to wrench the Chinese government from its obstinate attachment to a communist ideology that has caused the deaths of tens of millions of Chinese citizens.
Nor has it kept the Chinese government from violating human rights on a massive scale. Twelve years after the bloody events of Tiananmen Square, ruthless oppression continues unabated.
In fact, a February report by Amnesty International reviewed torture allegations involving not just the police but also tax collectors and other agents. Not least among these are birth-control officials who brutally force women to undergo abortions. The report concluded: “Torture and ill-treatment of detainees and prisoners is widespread and systemic in China.”2
Can we continue to ignore the cries of millions of underground Chinese Catholics? Their Catholic Faith is outlawed; their churches demolished and their pastors imprisoned. Elderly bishops are routinely beaten and detained. This persecution has only intensified in recent years, according to the well-informed Cardinal Kung Foundation.3
The very technology that should transform China into a modern, civilized nation under the rule of law finds its way into military programs that are part of its aggressive military buildup. China is preparing for war and producing long-range ballistic missiles targeted at American military bases and cities.
If anything, the EP-3 incident has added insult to injury. It should open our eyes to the evidence of growing Chinese aggressiveness and should absolutely prevent us from throwing good money after bad.
Opening Our Eyes
Many will try to explain away the crisis on the basis of cultural differences. Others will smirk at these considerations and dismiss them as Cold War relics.
Many will want to return to business as usual, using any excuse not to fault the world’s largest dictatorship. Those who put money before principle are only too willing to continue exploiting those slaving away in Chinese sweatshops.
The fact of the matter is that behind the EP-3 incident looms the larger problem of China’s unrepentant communist dictatorship.
Our heritage calls on us to have the courage to see this clearly, avoid all wishful thinking, and act as loyal Americans when it comes to the bottom line as consumers and investors.
We can no longer pretend there is freedom in a land where the most basic civil liberties – the freedom to practice the Faith, to own property, to constitute a family, to associate with friends of one’s choosing, to express one’s opinions openly – are routinely or arbitrarily denied.
We cannot pretend to be a strategic partner, competitor, or ally with a regime that treats us like an enemy.
A Reality Check
The American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property (TFP) appeals to our nation’s leaders and the public at large to adopt a fundamental change of attitude toward China. The EP-3’s plummet towards the South China Sea should jolt us to a reality check.
As the incident so poignantly demonstrated, the reality is that we cannot trust the Chinese communists. We are dealing with a regime that has again shown its true face. That face is not one of a friend but of an adversary.
Our nation’s leaders must develop political and economic policies that reflect this painful reality rather than wishful thinking. All Americans must have branded in their minds the memory of this episode every time they cross the threshold of a shopping mall or supercenter.
Every American should also be concerned that our military, after years of neglect, be made sufficiently strong to defend our interests large and small. Only thus can we keep the peace and protect ourselves and our allies against dictatorial and expansionist regimes.
There is no doubt in our minds that the welfare of our nation and the cause of freedom all over the world depend upon this conviction.
May God Almighty, through the intercession of His Holy Mother give every American, especially our leaders, the courage to take strong and resolute action in face of the looming Chinese threat. May He bless and protect America in the difficult days ahead.
Permission to be reproduced granted with credit given to The American TFP and linked to www.tfp.org.
Published in The Washington Times on April 18, 2001.
- According to Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira, “It can be said without exaggeration that from the time of the bolshevization of Russia, Communism had not a victory comparable” to that granted it by détente. “Even the catastrophic concessions of Roosevelt at Yalta were not as harmful as the profound results of the ‘collapse of ideological barriers’ brought about by the Nixon-Kissinger team” in China (“A Crazy Crisis,” Folha de São Paulo, 8/18/74).
- Erik Eckholm, “China Begins to Turn Light on Wide Use of Torture,” The New York Times, 2/13/01.
- See http://www.cardinalkungfoundation.org