The Foreign Service Journal, September 2012

30 F O R E I G N S E R V I C E J O U R N A L / S E P T E M B E R 2 0 1 2 and helps to build a more mature bilateral relationship. Economic Success, Political Lag Our dialogue must begin with a clear-eyed assessment of what is happening in China today. The country’s spectac- ular economic growth over the last 30 years has lifted an estimated 600 million people out of poverty. China has be- come the global epicenter of manufacturing, producing not only apparel and toys but also cars, cell phones and iPads. Last year, U.S. trade in goods and services with China exceeded $500 billion. With hundreds of millions of in- creasingly wealthy consumers, China is a prime market for companies from around the world. Chinese society, too, has changed, as the inward focus of the last century has been replaced by an increasingly inter- national outlook. Chinese tourists and investors roam the world, and more than 330,000 Chinese students are study- ing abroad, some 150,000 of them in the United States. Chinese citizens are wired: More than half a billion of them have Internet access, a penetration rate of about 38 percent. One in five global Internet users is Chinese. They are connected: There were more than a billion Chinese mobile phone subscribers in a population of about 1.3 billion. And they are on the move: More than half of all Chinese now live in urban areas, creating a web of new cities on what was farmland three decades ago. Yet China’s economic transformation has not been matched by progress on political reform, democratic de- velopment, and the government and party’s respect for human rights and the rule of law. If we consider some of the characteristics experts prioritize for successful devel- oping nations — transparency, accountability, the rule of law, a strong civil society, a free press, Internet freedom, freedom of religion, free and fair elections, and independ- ent unions — none of these is fully present in China. (Though it isn’t a candidate, it is still striking that the world’s second-largest economy would not qualify as a partner under the publicly available Millennium Challenge Cor- poration criteria, which require that a country “demonstrate a commitment to just and democratic governance, invest- ments in its people, and economic freedom as measured by different policy indicators.”) Chinese Communist Party officials are publicly reluc- tant to accept any linkage between democratization, respect for human rights and the rule of law, and the ability to cope with change (and thereby preserve stability) that generally characterizes the world’s democratic nations. If anything, China’s economic success blunts the impetus for top-down F OCUS Making Common Cause T hirty-five years after DRL’s creation, we enjoy close, mature partnerships with the regional bureaus. We must. We share a com- mon charge from the president to encourage governments to respect human rights and democracy. It is in our national interest to do so. Start with Burma. Two years ago, led by Assistant Secretary for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Kurt Campbell, the administration started new diplomatic engagement with Burma’s military regime. President Thein Sein took the first steps toward reforming Burma’s repressive political system. In response, DRL and EAP worked together to adapt our policy to ensure that principled engagement achieved human rights results, and rewarded the regime for positive change, while keeping on pressure to halt abuses and promote further reforms. DRL and EAP’s tight cooperation has already played a part in real results: hundreds of political prisoners released, Aung San Suu Kyi free and in parliament, and authorization for U.S. investment accompanied by reporting requirements to ensure transparency. All around the world, DRL and the regional bureaus take advantage of differing contact networks, expertise and organizational focus to create practical, on-the-ground outcomes. DRL’s collaboration with NEA is encouraging Bahrain’s monarchy toward national recon- ciliation and dialogue with the opposition, while in Tunisia we have arranged mediation training to reduce and manage strikes disrupt- ing the Tunisian economy. Our Internet Freedom and Programming teams work with the regional bureaus to finance and spread secure communication tech- nologies that help human rights defenders escape surveillance and detection, and allow citizens access to the open Internet. And to- gether with EUR, we coordinate with partners in the European Union on human rights challenges from North Africa to North Korea, from Belarus to Burma. To paraphrase President Obama, governments that respect human rights and democracy are more just, peaceful and legitimate. Their success fosters an environment that supports America’s national interests. That success is our common cause. —Michael H. Posner