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America’s tortured China policy

By Maura Moynihan - posted Thursday, 21 May 2009

When Americans discovered that the Bush Administration used torture techniques detailed in a Chinese Communist military manual from the 1950’s, citizens and legislators across the nation were outraged and demanded an investigation. Torture is illegal in the United States, and President 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 labour organisers?


Has America’s policy of “constructive engagement” with China deteriorated into craven appeasement of a vast totalitarian 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 both 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 legalise torture. Is it merely coincidence? The tragic legacy of allowing bankers to dictate foreign policy?

Those Wall Street analysts whose passion for de-regulation 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 neighbour and trading partner, and getting its way. Where's the free press and independent judiciary that the MacDonald’s Corporation was supposed to fabricate?

If you wish to study the grotesque particulars of Communist 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 de-linked 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 Communist torture tactics dating from the Korea 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 de-link 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 Communist China regime has western powers ensnarled in a policy morass. A new report from the European Council on Foreign Relations states: “The EU’s China strategy is based on an anachronistic belief that China, under the influence of European engagement, will liberalise its economy, improve the rule of law and democratise 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.”

For decades Chinese soldiers have slaughtered men, women and children in Tibet as heads of state looked away in uncomfortable silence. China's barbarous treatment of a helpless civilian populace in Tibet exposes the uncomfortable truth that China remains a rigid totalitarian state. 30 years of market capitalism and foreign investment did not nurture democracy; it made the Chinese Communist Party rich and powerful.

America spent billions to fight communism in the former Soviet Union, while investing billions in the People’s Republic of China. America has become the Chinese Communist Party’s chief enabler and ally. As the economic crisis threatens the supremacy of the western powers, China is poised to become global emperor, and will likely accrue more power in the Maoist way; from the barrel of a gun. How will the United States and other NATO powers respond should China strike hard on India, Taiwan, Japan, or the West? What cards will the western powers have to play, when it was western corporations who willingly handed China our computer codes and surveillance cameras in the quest for profit?

Chin Jin, of the Federation for a Democratic China, journeyed to Dharamsala to stand with the Dalai Lama on March 10, 2009, the 50th anniversary of the Tibetan Uprising. On his last day in India, Chin Jin recalled; “I was a teenager in Shanghai in 1972, when Nixon came to China. An elderly friend of my father’s started to cry when Nixon came, he said, ‘now the USA has come to the rescue of the Communist Party, and this will prolong the suffering of the Chinese people for many more years.’ He was right. If the western powers don’t use their leverage to promote political reform in China, if they keep this dictatorship in power, it will be a tragedy not only for the Chinese and Tibetan people, but the world.”

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First published in on May 13, 2009.

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About the Author

Maura Moynihan is an American based in New York, and contributes to Radio Free Asia.

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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