What did the US promise China?

Getty Images

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton are among several US officials attending the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue in Beijing, China, on May 3-4. High-level representatives from both countries were meeting to discuss a wide range of issues from economics to security.

Article Highlights

  • The real question hanging over all this is whether there was a quid pro quo for Chen’s release

    Tweet This

  • China's demand that the US apologize over Chen shows a growing dismissive attitude towards America

    Tweet This

The mini-stand-off between Beijing and Washington over blind Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng may have ended with his leaving the U.S. Embassy for a local hospital under promises of safe conduct and no future retaliation by Chinese authorities. From one angle, this is a victory for the State Department, which appeared to secure Chinese vows to keep him and his family together, to allow U.S. officials to make regular visits to check on his status, and to investigate the harassment Mr. Chen has undergone for over a year and a half. Other reports state that Mr. Chen was pressured into staying in China by threats against his family, which would make the State Department agreement for his release a far-from-ideal solution.

The real question hanging over all this is whether there was a quid pro quo for Mr. Chen’s release.

According to the Financial Times (subscription required), “China was demanding an apology from the US, an investigation into the matter, punishment for those responsible and a guarantee that similar events would not happen again.” More significantly, an official quoted by the paper added that “the US had shown contrition and promised to take measures to prevent a similar event from happening again.” American officials seem to confirm this statement, saying that Mr. Chen’s asylum was sought under “exceptional circumstances” and that Washington did not expect it to happen again.

Did U.S. officials agree to no longer accept oppressed dissidents seeking asylum? If true, it is a giant step backward for American moral power in the world.

Did U.S. officials agree to no longer accept oppressed dissidents seeking asylum? If true, it is a giant step backward for American moral power in the world. Such a promise will not only discourage those fighting for freedom, openness, and human rights in China, but it may also embolden the Chinese government to greater repression, knowing that America will not step in to help, even in “exceptional circumstances.” This follows President Obama’s failure to stand up for Mr. Chen, and human rights, in China during his press conference with Japanese prime minister Yoshihiko Noda this week. 

The absence of words have as much consequence as their use. It’s not just a moral matter, as important as that is; rather, such apparent weakness will change Chinese perceptions of our backbone, willingness to stand for universal freedoms, and U.S. confidence in dealing with Beijing. Perhaps that’s why the Chinese are not only demanding that the United States provide an apology (which they likely won’t get), but also that the U.S. show “contrition” for its acts. That may be boilerplate for the Chinese masses, but it also shows a strong and growing dismissive attitude towards America. In her meetings this week, Secretary of State Clinton may well see that hard line up close and personal. Regardless of how her talks go, China’s behavior doesn’t bode well for the relationship in coming months.

Also Visit
AEIdeas Blog The American Magazine
About the Author



What's new on AEI

In year four of Dodd-Frank, over-regulation is getting old
image Halbig v. Burwell: A stunning rebuke of a lawless and reckless administration
image Beware all the retirement 'crisis' reports
image Cut people or change how they're paid
AEI on Facebook
Events Calendar
  • 21
  • 22
  • 23
  • 24
  • 25
Monday, July 21, 2014 | 9:15 a.m. – 11:30 a.m.
Closing the gaps in health outcomes: Alternative paths forward

Please join us for a broader exploration of targeted interventions that provide real promise for reducing health disparities, limiting or delaying the onset of chronic health conditions, and improving the performance of the US health care system.

Monday, July 21, 2014 | 4:00 p.m. – 5:30 p.m.
Comprehending comprehensive universities

Join us for a panel discussion that seeks to comprehend the comprehensives and to determine the role these schools play in the nation’s college completion agenda.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014 | 8:50 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.
Who governs the Internet? A conversation on securing the multistakeholder process

Please join AEI’s Center for Internet, Communications, and Technology Policy for a conference to address key steps we can take, as members of the global community, to maintain a free Internet.

Thursday, July 24, 2014 | 9:00 a.m. – 10:00 a.m.
Expanding opportunity in America: A conversation with House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan

Please join us as House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) unveils a new set of policy reforms aimed at reducing poverty and increasing upward mobility throughout America.

Thursday, July 24, 2014 | 6:00 p.m. – 7:15 p.m.
Is it time to end the Export-Import Bank?

We welcome you to join us at AEI as POLITICO’s Ben White moderates a lively debate between Tim Carney, one of the bank’s fiercest critics, and Tony Fratto, one of the agency’s staunchest defenders.

No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled today.
No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.