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America's Tortured Policy with China

In the People's Republic of China, there is no debate about torture; it's an integral part of governance.

When Americans discovered that the Bush administration used torture techniques detailed in a Chinese Communist military manual from the 1950s, citizens and legislators across the nation were outraged and demanded an investigation. Torture is illegal in the United States, and President Barack Obama has stated that torture does not reflect American values.

In the People's Republic of China, there is no such public debate, for in China's totalitarian dictatorship, soon to celebrate 60 years in power, torture is an integral part of governance.

So why does the United States of America continue to relocate manufacturing, sell T-bills and hand over all manner of high-tech hardware to the Chinese Communist Party, a regime that routinely tortures Buddhist monks, AIDS activists, bloggers and labor organizers?

Has America's policy of "constructive engagement" with China deteriorated into craven appeasement of a vast dictatorship? Our close relationship with China is deemed "vital" to preserving the global economic order, but it has entangled America in a policy that is morally repugnant and politically dangerous.

As America and China have become close friends and trading partners in recent years, America's democratic institutions have been dangerously attacked. We have witnessed a shocking erosion of civil liberties and press freedom, the doctrine of "pre-emptive war" and a vigorous effort to legalize torture. Is it merely coincidence? The tragic legacy of allowing bankers to dictate foreign policy?

Those Wall Street analysts whose passion for deregulation created the global economic crisis are the same fellows who for years predicted that market capitalism would magically give rise to democracy in China. Now, the global economy is collapsing, China is becoming more repressive and playing tough with every neighbor and trading partner and getting its way. Where's the free press and independent judiciary that the McDonald's Corp. was supposed to fabricate?

If you wish to study the grotesque particulars of China's torture techniques, study Tibet. Human-rights researchers have for decades agreed that China uses Tibet as a torture laboratory to develop and practice torture methods of extreme cruelty, a reminder to all free-thinking Tibetans that the totalitarian order prevails, and anyone who challenges it will be shackled, whipped, beaten, starved and killed.

Torture in Tibet has increased as an instrument of state policy under China's "Strike Hard" policy -- implemented in 1995, moments after the Clinton administration delinked trade and human rights. Tibetan civilians, of all ages, are routinely arrested and tortured for such crimes as waving the Tibetan flag or proclaiming allegiance to the Dalai Lama.

New videos and film of men, women and children killed under torture have streamed out of Tibet since the populist uprising of March 2008. The Chinese torture tactics dating from the Korean War are not only still in use, they have been enhanced by new technologies, in particular, electric batons and wires.

Nonetheless, policy makers in the West continue to delink the obscene record of barbarism in China's Tibet from the "constructive engagement" myth. Meanwhile, China is exploiting the economic crisis to push human rights and Tibet off the table and is aggressively punishing heads of state who have the temerity to meet the Dalai Lama, the distinguished Nobel Peace Prize laureate.

Many heads of state are bending to Beijing's will. Support for Tibet is eroding, as foundations, academies and governmental agencies discreetly cancel funding for projects linked to the Tibetan government in exile. The Dalai Lama's popularity does not translate into tangible support for his people; the Tibetan refugees hang by a slender thread, which cannot hold indefinitely.

The disastrous misreading of the nature of the Chinese regime has Western powers ensnared in a policy morass. A new report from the European Council on Foreign Relations states: "The E.U.'s China strategy is based on an anachronistic belief that China, under the influence of European engagement, will liberalize its economy, improve the rule of law and democratize its politics. Yet … China's foreign and domestic policy has evolved in a way that has paid little heed to European values, and today Beijing regularly contravenes, or even undermines, them."

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