Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Renew China's MFN Status

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Renew China's MFN Status

Article excerpt

STATESMANSHIP, it is said, is the art of balancing conflicting claims. As he considers whether to renew China's most favored nation (MFN) trading status, President Clinton will need to pull off the diplomatic version of riding a unicycle blindfolded on a high wire stretched over Niagara Falls

The problem is simple to state: How can we most effectively promote our human rights concerns in China, while at the same time supporting our other objectives? But the answer is maddeningly difficult.

Americans care deeply about human rights in China, and we rightly wish to use whatever influence we might have in Beijing to promote a greater respect for basic individual freedoms. We remain extremely concerned about the future of the pro-democracy activists arrested at the time of the Tiananmen Square tragedy, as well as about other political prisoners. We are troubled by the use of prison labor to manufacture export goods. We abhor China's persecution of its religious minorities. We deplore Chinese activities in Tibet who threaten the very existence of that nation.

But our relationship with China is multi-faceted. We also care about the economic liberalization that is changing parts of China, particularly in the south, with unprecedented speed. We also care about China playing a helpful role in Cambodia, where the murderous Khmer Rouge seems intent upon shredding the peace accord and plunging that country back into full-scale war. We care about using China's influence with North Korea to halt Pyongyang's rush to nuclear weapons. We care about Chinese missile technology transfers to Syria, Iran, and Pakistan. We care about China playing a constructive role in the United Nations, where Beijing can veto any action of the Security Council.

The real question is whether we should allow a policy that has laudable goals, but also an arguably better-than-even chance of backfiring, to dictate the relationship's direction. …

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