Renaissance Column

JULY 1999 | VOL. 3, NO. 7



Stricter Gun Control is Not the Answer


Cris Cohen
James L. Iannone
Kevin Ridolfi

ANTHONY MARCIANO, a native of North Providence, Rhode Island, holds a masters degree in political science from Suffolk University. He has worked on various campaigns including that of current Rhode Island governor Lincoln Almond. Marciano lives in Boston, MA.


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It was reported this week that the Clinton administration has sent Undersecretary of State Thomas Pickering to China in an attempt to "convince" the Chinese that the bombing was accidental. This is manifestly ridiculous. The butchers of Beijing are not stupid. They know fully well that the bombing was accidental. They simply are acting as if they are unaware of this so that they will have a pretext for their hostility towards us when we try to bring attention to the repression of dissidents that has been a consistent hallmark of the regime during the 10 years since the Tianamen Square killings. Our stand towards the Chinese should not be that of an errant nation that ought to be apologizing. We did apologize for what was a regrettable error brought about by faulty intelligence during a time of war. They have yet to show any contrition over the deaths of those killed during the Tianamen crackdown. They also remain insistent that they did nothing wrong during the time that they obtained sensitive weapons technology from the United States. Furthermore, we have, each year, renewed their Most Favored Nation trading status, while they make empty statements about "reviewing" their human rights situation.

Our response ought not to be to send a team of high ranking officials to grovel before the leaders of this repressive regime. Rather, we ought to make clear to them that we are not the ones who need to explain ourselves. We should also make it clear that we will not expand trade between us until there is tangible evidence that they have improved their human rights situation. We will no doubt hear protests that this will damage what could be a profitable trading relationship. The fact remains that the Chinese need to trade with us more than we need to trade with them. We have a more advanced economy than they do, and we have more of what they need than vice versa. They may someday have an economy that rivals ours, but we should certainly not engage in trade that will hasten this occurrence. We should also not be swayed by the argument that by trading, we will "open up" this repressive society. This is the policy that we have been following, and the result has been that the Chinese economy has in fact expanded, with their government being just as willing to suppress dissent as in the past, and just as hardened in its anti-Western orientation. By continuing to bolster their economy with favorable trade status, we are basically building a more formidable adversary.

Let us not deceive ourselves; China must be regarded as, at a minimum, a potential adversary, for as long as the current leadership holds power. China status as an adversarial power is not going to be altered by promoting an excessively close trading relationship with the current regime. The only thing that will effect this change is if a Yetlsin-type of figure were to take power in Beijing. This does not seem likely to occur anytime soon. Although the analogy to the Soviet Union is not perfect (the Chinese are not, so far as we know, attempting to ferment Communist revolutions anywhere in the Western hemisphere), I would have to say that the Chinese are at about the Brehznev stage of Communism. They are beginning to create the appearance of a more open society (thus putting them past the Stalinist stage), but they remain firmly committed to suppressing any real dissent.

The Chinese government regards maintenance of their power as far more important that creating goodwill with the Western powers. They instead desire that the West, led by the United States, accept their repression, with this acceptance being the price for not angering the Chinese. This is what the Soviets under Brezhnev hoped to accomplish with détente, and this is what the Western powers, led by Ronald Reagan and the United States, refused to accept. This refusal was what led to the eventual collapse of the Soviet Union. While we would deal with the Soviet rulers, we made it known that we wanted to see them replaced by a more democratic government. We supported those who risked the gulag by speaking out against the regime. This is what gave hope to those in Russia who saw the possibility of a future in which their countrymen would enjoy at least some of the freedoms which those of us on the Western side of the Iron Curtain often took for granted. In addition to encouraging the rulers that they can continue their oppression, our refusal to push the Chinese leadership on creating an open society sends a very bad message to those in China who might hope that they too may enjoy these freedoms.

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