Politics A realistic approach to democracy and human rights in China begins at home
Nearly half of Americans think democracy isn't really working, a new poll shows
Only 16% of Americans say democracy is working well or extremely well, the poll found, and this pessimism was bipartisan.The poll found that almost half of Americans (45%) think democracy isn't functioning properly. Meanwhile, about 38% say it's working only somewhat well.
Idealism or realism? The Biden administration appears to be struggling with this question as it formulates its foreign policy. During hisat the U.S. Department of State (DOS), President Biden committed to calling a Summit of Democracy and pushing back authoritarianism.
Some would argue this is an idealist endeavor. Biden also recognized that the United States will work with China to accomplish American interests. This would be a pragmatic approach that would allow him to address two of his administration's top- COVID-19 and climate - with authoritarian China.
Call between Biden and China’s Xi portends rocky road in post-Trump era
The president pressed human rights concerns such as Hong Kong, Taiwan and Xinjiang, which Beijing sees as nonnegotiable issues of sovereignty. In the call Wednesday evening U.S. time, Chinese leader Xi Jinping spoke in conciliatory tones about the importance of a healthy bilateral relationship, according to the Chinese state broadcaster. But Xi pointedly warned President Biden to “act prudently” on the three regions, where China’s forceful policies have drawn U.S. condemnation.
However, in the same speech, Biden also said the United States will pushback against China's human rights violations and challenges to democracy. Again, one could argue that it is idealistic to think that any country but China could positively change Beijing's human rights practices. If the Biden administration wants to achieve American interests when working with China, it would do well to recognize the limits of American power on Chinese democracy and human rights issues while effectively practicing American values at home to enhance moral authority.
Beijing's position has always been clear: the Chinese Communist Party's (CCP) overriding priority is maintaining power. China's President Xi Jinping effectivelythis at the 2021 World Economic Forum. The policy was by Yang Jiechi, director of the Office of the Foreign Affairs Commission of the CCP Central Committee, only days before Biden's first foreign policy speech.
Biden's (mostly) straight talk on China
Steady, straight talk from Biden and his team will be an improvement over the hot-and-cold rhetoric from Trump.Biden is trying to balance several competing imperatives: keeping China at bay but still in communication while his team develops its own coherent policy, and distinguishing his strategy from both the Obama and Trump approaches without scrapping the latter's historically important initiatives.
Despite the redline, the Biden administration has begun engaging China at a high-level on democracy and human rights issues. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken raised democracy and human rights issues in China, specifically mentioning Xinjiang, Tibet and Hong Kong, before addressing security concerns during his firstwith Yang, his Chinese counterpart. According to the Chinese readout, Yang with China's vision for the U.S.-China relationship and then stated both countries should respect their individual political systems. Instead of focusing directly on accomplishable American interests, the Biden administration seems to have prioritized a Chinese redline. This poses several questions for the democracy and human rights component of the administration's China policy.
First, what does the Biden administration want to see China do on democracy and human rights? Does it want regime change? Does it want self-determination for Xinjiang, Tibet and Hong Kong? Or is the administration's goal a return to collective leadership and less visible human rights abuses?
To meet the China challenge, the US and Europe must look beyond the WTO
Today, the U.S. and the EU appear to be looking at China through different lenses. Hearing important European leaders invoke the discredited "change through trade" mantra is eyebrow-raising. The timing and substance of the recently-concluded China-EU Comprehensive Agreement on Investment also raises questions about whose interests the agreement is actually serving. At the WTO, the EU has so far taken an excessively cautious approach, refusing even to cosponsor a U.S.-crafted statement affirming the centrality of market-oriented conditions to the global trading system.
Second, will theaddress authoritarian China? Will there be a leaders' communiqué with a specific reference to China and how the summit participants should approach it on democracy and human rights issues? Will Taiwan join? Is the summit's goal to declare an informal containment policy against China and other authoritarian states?
Regarding the broader multilateral front, will the Biden administration rejoin the United Nations (U.N.) Human Rights Council and press for an investigation of China's human rights abuses? Will it use other U.N. agencies, the G7 and the G20 to systematically and visibly raise human rights issues in China?
To be clear, China's democracy and human rights record is atrocious. It has grown increasingly totalitarian and engages in inhumane treatment of some of its minority groups. One need only look atin Xinjiang. But given the Chinese regime's redlines and the fact that it is up to the Chinese people to decide upon their desired form of government, the Biden administration must adopt a realistic approach once it has concluded its of the U.S.-China policy.
Dealing with China in a way where the United States can achieve its interests while standing up for its values will be difficult. The Biden administration needs to approach democracy and human rights in China with clear eyes and aim for benefits to the American people while avoiding unnecessary conflict. Doing this starts at home and we have a lot of work to do.
Quinn Marschik previously served in the Trump administration as the policy advisor to the deputy undersecretary for International Affairs at the U.S. Department of Labor.
As U.S., U.K. Converge on China, British Lawmaker Says 'Golden Era Is Over' .
An "awakening" to the challenges posed by Beijing has caused a shift in attitude in the United Kingdom, says Tom Tugendhat, chair of China Research Group.Echoing recent sentiments expressed on Capitol Hill, Tom Tugendhat, who chairs the British Parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee, said there had been an "awakening" in the U.K. to the many irreconcilable practices of the Chinese government.