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Red China

by Paul Heller Monday, May. 31, 2004 at 3:56 AM

Freedom Rings Only In Our Ears

Nothing numbs the psyche of Americans more than the thought of losing our freedom. Our history is sprinkled with the slogans of those who came before us. "Give me liberty or give me death," Patrick Henry declared. "Live Free Or Die" is stamped onto the license plates in New Hampshire; has been since 1945. We adore and cherish our freedom as Americans, but today freedom isn't getting the respect it deserves.

In China, as the 15th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre approaches, "dissidents" are being watched, locked up, or taken out of Beijing altogether. In China, a "dissident" is anyone who wants to live a life blessed with liberty. When they demanded such in June of 1989, thousands of them were blasted with rifles and machine guns, crushed by tanks and trucks, shot in the back as they fled, their makeshift Statue of Liberty toppled to the bloody ground.

Why are we so tolerant of Red China, 15 years later? The Republicans are in control of everything these days, so the question is directed at them. Ronald Reagan once called the Soviet Union "the evil empire", and he is applauded for having done so, but his alarm falls on deaf ears when it comes to the People's Republic of China, which was first engaged by another Republican president, Richard Nixon.

The result of our coziness with these freedom-loathing monsters, ones who control their citizens at gunpoint, has been a steep trade deficit. This rose steadily during Bill Clinton's two terms and has stayed in the neighborhood of to billion dollars a year. But in 1989, when George Herbert Walker Bush was president, the trade deficit with China was only about six billion dollars. Back then, we had to decide each year whether or not to grant China "Most Favored Nation" trade status. Bush extended it in every year of his presidency, and under Clinton it was made permanent.

Even the fact that Chinese nuclear warhead plans were discovered among Libya's cache of surrendered weapons does not deter us from taking this threat seriously, no more so than the crackdown on dissidents today, no more so than did the slaughter in Tiananmen Square in the first place. In the weeks following the "crisis" (a neat political term used by both governments to describe the murder of the Chinese people by their own state), Brent Scowcroft was quietly shuttled over to Beijing with a list of "themes" to reassure the Reds that we could still have a working relationship, albeit one that was sure to be strained in the aftermath of the mass killings (and later arrests).

When our current president, George W. Bush, says that we need to instill freedom across the world, I agree with him. When he goes after oil-based tinhorn tyrants who ruled over a bunch of tribal lunatics, all the while doing business with the last of the Cold War's great dragons, I question his motives. Making matters worse is his waffling on Taiwan; he tells the communists that we support their One China policy even as we provide the Taiwanese military with the might to deal with a potential invasion.

Any American president who truly supports the dream of liberty would slap sanctions on China that really matter. Bush the Elder temporarily banned military trade with China following Tiananmen, as Bush the Younger has banned Norinco imports in response to missile technology turning up in Iran, but the trade deficit still grows each year, so nobody complains. We should be rattling the saber at oil-producing countries to place an embargo on China, to be upheld until the PRC dissolves and a democratic form of government is in place. The same should be done in the steel and coal industries, and in the technology sector. We should not be fattening up our enemy.

Does this sound draconian to the party of big business? That is exactly our policy toward North Korea, another Marxist enclave - one that now threatens the world with nuclear weapons. This policy results from the remaining hard feelings about the Korean War. We conveniently set aside the fact that the Chinese were allies with the North Koreans in that war, that Chinese soldiers killed American soldiers.

Now we sell them our computers, and we buy their egg timers, which are cheap because they're manufactured in prisons that are filled with "dissidents". You can't really blame the American consumer for buying cheap products, given that our wages barely keep up with inflation, never mind with corporate profits or CEO salaries.

And how far away are we from China today? The Bush administration gave us the Patriot Act, which gives the government freedom to wiretap the people, to check out our library selections, our credit card purchases, our travel habits and the like. We have Americans sitting, incommunicado and without due process, in military brigs. When our citizens do assert their right to protest the actions of this president, they're penned up a few miles from the site of his appearances, and if the demonstrators get a little too vigorous for the authorities' taste, they get shot in the face with rubber bullets.

These are things that drift through my mind as I yawn my way through Bush's usual material about democracy. I know he doesn't mean it. That's just window dressing, the better to obscure the public's eyes from seeing what goes on within the hallowed halls of our White House.

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