How do you "agree to disagree" on human rights?
"You say to-may-to, I say to-mah-to. You like the Beatles, I prefer the Stones. You give political dissidents the right to voice their opinions, I run them over with tanks! Ha-ha-ha. But seriously, let's make some money!" President Clinton and Jiang Zemin, the President of China, did just that Wednesday, when they reached a trade agreement. In exchange for "clear assurances" that China will stop exporting nuclear technology, the United States is lifting sanctions imposed after the Tiananmen Square massacre, when the Chinese army slaughtered hundreds of pro-democracy demonstrators.
Many are critical of this deal. They point to China's recent history of blatant human rights violations, including the "mishandling" of Tibet, the Tiananmen Square "incident," and the forced incarceration and murder of thousands of Chinese who have been imprisoned or killed for their political or religious beliefs. Then there are those who maintain that, although China's history regarding human rights has been less than desirable, we cannot make China mend her ways. We have to work with her.
Implicit in this is the fact that Jiang is not just another podunk puppet of a third-rate, Third World nation whose strings can be pulled any way we want. China is, like it or not, a nuclear power, as well as the most populous nation in the world. In the great schoolyard playground of international politics, China is the big Asian kid with lots of aunts and uncles who is especially to be feared because he knows karate.
And, as any second-grader knows, playgrounds are safer when the biggest kids get along. When they don't, other kids have to pick sides, the slightest push can escalate into a full-scale brawl, and everyone ends up in trouble, or, as with nuclear war, dead.
That's why we should trade freely with China. But I don't think we should trade goods or technology or merchandise.
I propose we trade people. Jiang, we'll take any and every Chinese person including, but not limited to, Wang Dan, Wei Jingsheng, Peter Xu Yongze, pro-democracy students, and anyone else in your country who dares to protest your regime, worship his own god, or think for himself, from now 'til infinity. In return, you get Americans who don't think for themselves, who take their country and freedoms for granted, including, but not limited to, Dittoheads, non-voters, frat rats, Russian medieval history doctoral students, editorial cartoonists, professional athletes, Ralph Reed and the Christian Coalition, talk-show viewers, NOW members, the Nation of Islam, etc.
It's a win-win proposition, Jiang. We'd get the best and brightest minds out of a nation of one billion people. And you could oppress your heart out by slaughtering millions who disagree with you, not to mention the money their organs would fetch on your black market.
Pennell is a senior English major.