The China Trade Vote

  The U.S. Senate is set to decide in the next week or two if China should be given permanent normal trade relations, and by all reports the vote will be a real cliffhanger. Now, I'm a committed free-trader. As a conservative, I've always believed in economic freedom, that the market laws of supply and demand promote economic justice for the greatest number of people. But when it comes to the China issue, I have grave reservations. The Chinese, I think, are daring us to impose restrictions -- as though they are trying to see how far they can push us before America will react. Consider these: Dare number one: Two weeks ago Chinese authorities arrested 138 evangelicals, including three Americans. The Americans were subsequently released, but 85 Chinese evangelicals have now been indicted. Their offense? Preaching the Gospel and practicing their faith. Dare number two: Last week religious leaders from every tradition gathered at the United Nations in New York for the Millennium World Peace Summit, an event paid for by Ted Turner. Shockingly, the Dalai Lama was excluded, in order to avoid offending the Chinese. In fact, the Chinese delegation walked out when a message was brought from the Dalai Lama. It was a deliberate snub. And the Chinese even have banned a book recently published of White House photos because the Dalai Lama is pictured in one. Dare number three: It's been disclosed in recent days that the Chinese are once again sending very sensitive, super-secret technology to Pakistan -- all the secrets they could beg, borrow or steal -- some, apparently in exchange for U.S. campaign contributions. They've been doing this for years. But the danger is that the Pakistanis are in a state of cold war with India, so every time Pakistan detonates a nuclear bomb, the Indians have to do the same thing. War could break out at any moment in Kashmir. It is utterly irresponsible not to hold the Chinese to account and to use whatever pressures we can to stop this madness. What's going on here is very simple: The Chinese are testing how far they can push us -- and we're trying to look the other way because American corporations want trade with China and the 1.1 billion people in that market. And the Administration has put blinders on. They seem unconcerned about these insults to the Dalai Lama, one of the world's spiritual leaders whether you agree with him or not. And they don't care about the Chinese Christians who are being locked up for their faith and forced to make toys for American kids. Or worst of all, the threat of war on the Subcontinent caused by Chinese arms brokers. I'm all for free trade. But there comes a point when American honor and the American commitment to human rights have to kick in. We have to say, "Enough is enough. It's time you guys lived by the standards of the civilized world or we're not going give you any breaks on trade -- and we're certainly not going to give you economic assistance." Republicans and Democrats alike are eager to extend permanent normal trade relations to China. But the Senate ought to draw the line. They should renew it for one year and let the next President put pressure on the Chinese. And then we should be praying that the next President will have the courage to stand up to the Chinese -- as well as to American business pressure -- and do the right thing.


Chuck Colson


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