The Foreign Service Journal, September 2012

S E P T E M B E R 2 0 1 2 / F O R E I G N S E R V I C E J O U R N A L 29 F OCUS ON U. S . -C HINA R ELAT IONS H UMAN R IGHTS , C HINA AND 21 ST -C ENTURY D IPLOMACY s U.S. diplomacy re- balances toward Asia, China is playing an increasingly large role in every sphere. It is now our largest trading partner outside of North America. China is an important partner in addressing regional and global security issues, from North Korea to Iran to Syria. Beijing’s decisions and the character of the U.S.-China relationship are critical to our prospects for success in tackling global challenges, ranging from nonproliferation to climate change to the future of the Internet. As China’s role on the global stage has grown, the United States has underscored the importance of China playing by international rules, norms and universal principles. Human rights is no exception. Indeed, protection of human rights is an important national interest, in addition to a moral one. China’s future stability and its value as a long-term partner will depend on its government’s will and capacity to meet the aspirations of its 1.3 billion citizens. Therefore, the United States has integrated human rights as a central ele- ment of our diplomacy. While we maintain a longstanding commitment to uni- versal rights, we have opportunities to do what we do dif- ferently than we have in the past. Rapid changes within Chinese society and the growing demands by ordinary Chi- nese citizens for reform offer new opportunities for the United States to reframe the emphasis of, and approach to, our bilateral discussions of human rights. Human rights has long been an issue in U.S.-China re- lations. From Tibet to Tiananmen Square, from the Cul- tural Revolution to the one-child policy, and with regard to specific dissident cases, human rights issues in China have stirred passionate feelings on both sides of the Pacific. Many Americans are harshly critical of the Chinese gov- ernment’s persecution of dissidents and its one-child policy, while some Chinese are angered by what they see as an ef- fort to judge their country as part of some broader effort to foment instability in China and to bring about the demise of the Communist Party. But we believe that engaging on all issues, including ones where we have differences, is part of building a strong U.S.-China relationship — as well as a more stable and prosperous China. The State Department has engaged with the candor and pragmatism that arise from the con- viction that progress on realizing universal rights and the rule of law advances the national interests of both nations D EVELOPMENTS IN C HINA OFFER NEW OPPORTUNITIES TO REFRAME OUR APPROACH TO BILATERAL DISCUSSIONS OF HUMAN RIGHTS . B Y M ICHAEL H. P OSNER Michael H. Posner is the Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor.