President Bush Renews China’s Favored-Nation Trading Status


President Bush’s decision to renew China’s most-favored-nation trading status is the moral equivalent of grave desecration. While this decision may make economic sense for some American businesses, it makes no sense to the cause of democratization in China and it is that cause which should receive the primary attention of the President. However, since last June’s massacre of pro-democracy demonstrators in Tian An Men Square by the “butchers of Beijing,” the Bush Administration has nervously pursued a policy of reconciliation with China’s totalitarian leadership. This policy was ostensibly designed to minimize the damage to American economic interests in China produced by an outraged American public that expected their President to speak out and act on behalf of democratization in China. Unfortunately, America’s leaders have yet to learn that the interests of democratization are not necessarily compatible with America’s economic interests!

Given the Bush Administration’s feigned interest in a democratic China, I am compelled to ask a question reminiscent of Ronald Reagan: Is the cause of democracy in China better off today than it was a year ago? Absolutely not! There is far more systematic oppression and repression in China today than there was a year ago.

Further degradation and humiliation has been perpetrated on the people of every Asian nation by the Bush Administration’s decision to withhold most-favored-nation status from the Soviet Union because the Lithuanian question remains unresolved. Why should we value the human rights of Lithuanians more than the human rights of the Chinese? The answer rests in the priority the Bush Administration gives to American economic interests at the expense of human rights.


The Bush Administration actions teach that when it comes to the cause of democratization around the world, one minimalist response deserves another. This decision, as with so many others promulgated by the Bush Administration, also constitutes a grave insult to the millions of Americans who throughout our history believed that this nation stood for the pursuit of democracy and freedom first. If this was ever the case, President Bush’s action should convince us that it’s not true any more!


Assistant Professor, UCI

In the fall of 1987 Petracca was a visiting professor in the department of international politics at Beijing University.