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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

U.S. Turns Blind Eye to China Abuses

Leonid Brezhnev must be turning in his grave. Despite his efforts at detente and his openings to trade with the NATO powers, the West never gave up its assault on the Soviet human rights record.

But how differently the West is treating China, whose prison labor system appears from the researches of Harry Wu to be as foul as anything in Stalin's Gulag, and whose behavior in Tibet and bullying of Taiwan could be said to qualify it as another "evil empire."

In announcing two summits with China's leaders in the next two years, despite the latest crackdown on dissidents like Wei Jingsheng, President Bill Clinton made it clear this week that U.S. commercial interests take precedence over human rights.

He will not find much dispute at home, where the National Association of Manufacturers has issued a report which concludes: "To benefit American workers and increase economic growth, we cannot afford to limit our ability to trade with China -- the world's fastest growing economy."

In his speech to the Australian parliament on Asian policy, Clinton ruled out any new policy of containment against China. He made no mention of China's new DF-31 mobile inter-continental missile, which can reach the United States, nor of its attempts to purchase SS-18 multi-warhead missile technology from Russia and Ukraine.

But behind the scenes, some interesting developments are under way, and not just the continued sale of 150 F-16 fighters to Taiwan. The Pentagon has prepared a series of long-range strategic studies on Asia, and one of the most interesting has been the strategic options open to India and Pakistan.

Researched by the RAND Corporation, the reports are unpublished, but I am told that members of the Indian general staff presented their country as a bulwark against Islamic fundamentalism, and entitled to greater American support. This argument was dismissed by the U.S. researchers, who suggested that India might get a better hearing in Washington if they stressed their potential usefulness as a regional balance against China.

Another clue to the complications of U.S. policy toward China emerged during Clinton's meeting with China's Jiang Zemin. Clinton suggested the United States and China make a joint declaration that none of their nuclear missiles are targeted against the other. Sure, said the Beijing leader, so long as the United States signed a pledge of 'no-first-use' of nuclear weapons, the demand the Soviets had made in vain. Sorry, replied Clinton. That is against our military doctrine. This was the first real sign that U.S. geopolitical concerns can still trump the geoeconomic strategy that Clinton has made the hallmark of his presidency.

All this has clear implications for Russia, the one major Pacific rim power which is not a member of Clinton's favorite forum, the Asia-Pacific Economic Conference, and which is being carefully excluded from the region's slowly-forming security groupings.

Russia continues to play the China card, and to sell its military hardware, including submarines and new Sukhoi jets, to Beijing, seeking to remind the United States that Russia has strategic options. On his visit to the United States, Alexander Lebed said his next stop after Washington will be Beijing.

One question he might put to his Chinese hosts is how they get away with it, when Leonid Brezhnev and the old Soviet Union were made to pay such a price for their record on human rights.