Clash of the Worldviews

Secretary of State Madeleine Albright is in China, and she is talking tough--deploring Beijing's crackdown on democracy activists. And, to the outrage of the Chinese, the State Department castigated China in its annual human-rights report for backsliding on human rights. Now, the Clinton Administration--and for that matter, the Bush Administration before it--has made these kind of statements before, and not followed through. But this time, I sense there's something different. The U.S. Senate voted unanimously to condemn the Chinese actions, and Mrs. Albright sounds serious. If she stands her ground, we can teach the Chinese a tremendous lesson about why Americans value human rights so highly, and it could help the plight of the Church and pro-democracy activists in China. Just recently, prior to Mrs. Albright's visit to Beijing and Premiere Zhou's upcoming visit to Washington in April, the Chinese have intensified their human-rights abuses. They are not only jailing political dissidents, but torturing and killing Christians as well. In dealing with any authoritarian regime, the tendency in free societies is not to push them too hard for fear they will crack down harder. Actually, the opposite is the case. I learned about this when I was President Nixon's assistant. In May of 1972, the president was scheduled for his historic summit visit to the Soviet Union. Just three weeks before he was to leave, the North Vietnamese, with Soviet supplies, ferociously stepped up their attacks on South Vietnam. Nixon read their motives precisely: The Soviets thought he wouldn't risk the summit; they thought they could make him back down. Nixon said to me, "This may destroy the summit--but I can't go to Moscow when Soviet tanks are rumbling through the streets of Saigon." So on May 7, 1972, the president ordered the bombing of Hanoi and the mining of the harbors. Many thought the Soviets would cancel the summit. They didn't. Not only that, but they were even more amenable when we arrived in Moscow, giving us concessions we wanted to hammer out a successful summit agreement. Today the Chinese are doing the same thing. They're taking our measure, wanting to know if we really mean what we say about human rights. They want to know how much they have to give in the upcoming Sino-American talks in April. That's why Mrs. Albright is right to get tough and stay tough, even as the Chinese complain about our interfering with their internal affairs. Which brings me to a suggestion I have for Mrs. Albright: She should communicate to the Chinese that this country retains a fundamental Judeo-Christian understanding of human rights. That is, These rights are not conferred by government, and so they cannot be denied by government. Our Founders called these "unalienable rights." Human rights are not internal political questions. For us they're based on our most fundamental beliefs about humans being created in the image of God. Mrs. Albright must remain tough on these issues. To back down now would send exactly the wrong signal. But to stand our ground will not only help China's persecuted Christians and freedom fighters, but will also give the Chinese a wonderful civics lesson on one of the fundamental Christian truths undergirding our government. Christians ought to be praying for Mrs. Albright; much is at stake.


Chuck Colson



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