Cash Register Ethics

President Clinton recently announced that he would renew China's Most Favored Nation trade status with the United States--and in the process sent the world a message that America's soul can be had for a price. Most Favored Nation (MFN) trade status gives China the same access to American markets that most of the world enjoys. But for all its economic progress, China is still governed by communist thugs. Listen to the latest story coming out of the country President Clinton thinks ought to be our most favored trading partner. United Press International reported recently that Chinese authorities detained five Christian women after a crackdown on a church in the Zhejiang Province. Police beat more than a dozen worshippers and poured boiling water on them. The five in police custody--women whose only crime was organizing a church service--face long prison terms. These are the people President Clinton wants to do business with: tyrants who never met a human right they didn't kick in the teeth. Why are we cutting deals with the butchers of Beijing in the first place? The answer is China's 1.2 billion consumers--potentially the world's biggest market and one that corporate America is salivating over. Renewing China's MFN status usually requires debate over the balance between America's economic interests and our country's commitment to human rights. But two years ago President Clinton--with support from both parties, I might add-- formally shut down this debate. And last week the president reaffirmed that decision. Egged on by corporate giants who fear economic retaliation from the Chinese, President Clinton once again brushed aside human rights concerns. As the New York Times put it, "faced with a choice between . . . [America's] economic relationship with China or eating a little crow on his human rights promises, Mr. Clinton chose crow." Or, as the president himself put it, renewing MFN status to China was "a vote for America's interests." A vote for America's interests? This collapses the concept of interests to purely economic concerns. But America's entire history is bound up with concern for human freedom. What could be of greater interest to us than helping other countries achieve that same freedom? If we renew MFN status with China, we'll be delivering a heartless message to Chinese leaders, namely: Go ahead, torture Christians--so long as you keep buying our jets and sending us those cheap Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. That's an obscene message for a nation founded on Christian principles to send--and God in due course will judge us. Proverbs 14 reminds us that "Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people." What could be more disgraceful than ignoring the suffering of Christ's people so that McDonald's restaurants can keep putting those plastic "made in China" toys in their Happy Meals? Congress has 60 days to overturn the president's decision. You and I ought to be calling our senators and representatives and telling them that's exactly what we want them to do. Renewing MFN status for China is a "vote for American interests" only if America has become nothing more than a giant cash register. If we don't overturn this decision, we'll become a nation that has sold its soul.


Chuck Colson


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