Chasing the Tiger’s Tale

Chinese President Jiang Zemin recently arrived in the U.S. for a state visit. President Clinton rolled out the welcome mat—including a glittering state dinner and a 21-gun salute. This, despite the fact that, according to all accounts, China’s leaders continue to murder pastors and burn churches. But while President Clinton was serving tea to a tyrant, the U.S. religious community was pleading with Jiang to stop the persecution of Christians and other human-rights abuses. Jiang’s visit raises a sobering question for Americans: Why do we prop up leaders who torture Christians and practice forced abortion and infanticide? After all, we blacklist Cuba and North Korea, and we squeezed South Africa when its leaders practiced apartheid. The answer, I’m afraid, comes down to one word: money. American businessmen are drooling over that huge Chinese market—more than a billion people. But the irony is that while our businessmen salivate over China, the economies of the so-called "Asian tigers" are on life-support. The collapse of the "Asian Miracle" is proof that economic strength, divorced from political freedom, is destined to fail. Back when Americans believed in the Asian Miracle, Asian despots told us that we should respect so-called "Asian values." In other words, freedom and democracy were not necessary for a healthy economy. Whether the leaders were Malaysian, Thai, or Singaporian, the message was the same: Our pact with our people exchanges freedom for prosperity. And it wasn’t just despots who believed this. Many of America’s elites bought into this cultural relativism as well. That’s why it’s so easy for them to overlook China’s transgressions. Not only is there money to be made, but also the core values they take for granted—democracy, freedom of speech, and freedom of religion—they no longer hold to be universal values. In a perverse kind of racism, they seem to assume that Asians are less interested in these values than we are. But the present currency collapse in Asia proves that freedom and democracy are prerequisites for a healthy economy after all. After all, as economist Michael Novak has argued, free economies rest on a three-legged stool: political freedom, economic freedom, and a moral consensus. People who think the Chinese can make it without political freedom are kidding themselves. For America to continue neglecting human rights abuses is not only morally wrong, but also shortsighted. Besides, if you do business with the devil, you end up doing the devil’s business. That’s the message that members of a prayer vigil hoped to communicate to President Clinton on Oct. 27. The Catholic Alliance held a rally in front of the White House. More than 20 human-rights, labor, and religious organizations attended. More protests were scheduled around the country during the week of Jiang’s visit, despite efforts by Beijing and U.S. officials to keep his itinerary secret as long as possible. On the night of that glittering state dinner on Oct. 29, thousands more human-rights activists held a candlelight vigil across from the White House. You and I ought to commit ourselves to prayer, confident that the power of prayer is the one thing that can get past all the protocol and security guards to touch the hearts of both President Clinton and the man he recently dined with—the man responsible for the persecution of millions of our brothers and sisters in Christ.


Chuck Colson



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