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Obama Missteps In Weakening America's Human Rights Policy toward China

June 03, 2009

On the 20th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square uprising, Penn Law's Amy Gadsden criticizes the Obama administration for weakening America's human rights policy toward China. "When Secretary of State Hillary Clinton debuted on the diplomatic stage in China in February 2009, she made a point of elevating cooperation with China on pressing transnational problems over human rights issues," Gadsden writes for the Foreign Policy Research Institute. "In a moment of candor that was highly criticized, Secretary Clinton dismissed the importance of raising human rights with her Chinese counterparts, saying, 'We know what they are going to say because I've had those kinds of conversations for more than a decade with Chinese leaders.'”

"In 1989, China stood on the precipice of history," concludes Gadsden, Penn Law's associate dean and executive director of international programs. "After the Tiananmen crackdown it was unclear whether economic liberalization would continue and what the future of China might look like. It turned out to be another chapter in the story of China’s economic development, not its political reform. It would be comforting to think that China over the next twenty years will liberalize, but it is naive to assume that such changes are inevitable. China’s civil society groups offer tremendous hope for the protection of human rights in China and the Obama administration, perhaps above all others, should grow comfortable investing in this hope."