On his trip to China, Vice President Dick Cheney spoke to students at Fudan University in Shanghai. As he pointed out, this is the same place where former U.S. President Ronald Reagan spoke twenty years ago. At that time, Mr. Reagan expressed the essence of economic and political freedom. Free institutions, he said, reflect “an appreciation of the special genius of each individual, and of his special right to make his own decisions and lead his own life.”
Compared to twenty years ago, many Chinese citizens are now freer to make their own way in life -- to choose careers, to acquire property, and to travel. China has opened itself up to the world economy and become a major trading nation. This has brought rapid economic growth that has lifted the living standards of large numbers of Chinese citizens.
“When people have the liberty to manage their own lives and to enjoy the fruits of their labors,” said Vice President Cheney, “they work hard and contribute more to the well-being of their societies. And when they experience the benefits of economic liberty, they desire greater freedom in expressing their views and choosing their leaders. . . . Economic growth is important in allowing individuals to lead lives of comfort and dignity,” Mr. Cheney said. “But material goods alone cannot satisfy the deepest yearnings of the human heart; that can only come with full freedom of religion, speech, assembly, and conscience.”
These freedoms are still denied in China. This was made clear in a U.S.-sponsored resolution at the United Nations Human Rights Commission meeting in Geneva. Richard Williamson is U.S. representative to the commission:
“Regrettably, we saw backsliding on key human rights issues. Arrests increased of democracy activists. The Chinese government record in Tibet remains poor.”
Because of this backsliding, the U.S. submitted the resolution on China to the commission. But the resolution was killed on a procedural vote.
Nevertheless, as Vice President Cheney stressed to Chinese students in Shanghai, “The desire for freedom is universal. . . . And it is something that successful societies, and wise leaders, have learned to embrace rather than fear.”