Steven Phillips: Human Rights Must Be at the Center of U.S.-China Policy
Steven Phillips, a professor of history at Towson University, is currently on sabbatical and living in Taiwan. Readers may send him email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
President Barack Obama's China policy combines deterrence and engagement, but it gives insufficient attention to human rights. Since early 2009, when Secretary of State Hillary Clinton noted that human rights "can't interfere" with other aspects of Sino-American relations, the administration has tried to avoid public discussion of the issue.
Over the past year, the Obama administration has increased attention and resources devoted to East Asia. Expanded military cooperation with Australia and the Philippines, a robust Japanese-American defense relationship, and enhanced naval and air forces in the region illustrate Washington's efforts to counter China's growing assertiveness and military power. Human rights, however, has been left out of this regional effort.
Attempts at engagement were on display last week when Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Secretary of the Treasury Timothy Geithner and a host of high-level American officials traveled to China for the fourth round of the Strategic and Economic Dialogue. Each side promised to increase economic integration, scientific exchanges and environmental cooperation. Human rights have not been a significant part of these meetings. When the two sides do discuss human rights, the talks are held separately and are led by lower-level officials....
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