In a recent speech, Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick urged China to adopt democratic reforms. “China needs a peaceful political transition to make its government responsible and accountable to its people,” Mr. Zoellick told the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations, a private group that promotes bilateral understanding.
Mr. Zoellick said that the village elections which China currently has are only a start, and should perhaps be expanded to county and province levels. He pointed out that China’s judiciary needs to become independent and the Chinese government has to become more transparent; and political participation of civic groups needs to be encouraged.
China should protect press freedom and stop harassing journalists who point out existing problems. China should also expand religious freedom. More importantly, Mr. Zoellick said that China should make real the guarantees of rights -- freedom of speech, belief, association and assembly -- that exist in the Chinese constitution but are not protected in practice. “Closed politics cannot be a permanent feature of Chinese society,” Mr. Zoellick said. “It is simply not sustainable. As economic growth continues, better-off Chinese will want a greater say in their future, and pressure builds for political reform.”
Deputy Secretary of State Zoellick rejected the idea that being born Chinese predisposes people against democracy. He cited Taiwan as an example of vibrant democracy being practiced by ethnic Chinese. Japan and South Korea share with China a Confucian culture, and have successfully blended that heritage with modern democracy.
“We have many common interests with China,” Mr. Zoellick said. “But relationships built only on a coincidence of interests have shallow roots. Relationships built on shared interests and shared values are deep and lasting. We can cooperate with the emerging China today, even as we work for the democratic China of tomorrow.”
The preceding was an editorial reflecting the views of the United States Government.