The Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC) tends to be a good barometer of legislative thinking about China in the United States. Not that this thinking is either coherent or well directed. But it does represent the way in which U.S. "China expert" elites and their legislative masters develop "knowledge" about China. This knowledge is then used to shape U.S. policy and legislative approaches U.S. China relations. It also suggests the way that U.S. ideological thinking shapes the way in which China is viewed as understood by the United States.
This characterization is not meant to suggest a personal position on either the outlook or work of the CECC, or of its advisers. That characterization, however, does suggest that ideological blinders tend to tell us more about the U.S. (in this case) than it does about the Chinese. It is with the object of helping to understanding American construction of China, rather than of helping to understand Chinese constructions of themselves (however "flawed either exercise may be in and of itself and to itself), that this announcement is offered.
On the eve of the 2016 G 20 Meetings CECC issued a press release "Chairs Say President Should Lead G-20 Effort To Raise Concerns about China’s Repression of Civil Society and Rights Defenders" which follows below along with my brief observations.
Chairs Say President Should Lead G-20 Effort To Raise Concerns about China’s Repression of Civil Society and Rights Defenders
Urge Obama to use last trip to China to raise U.S. profile as defender of freedom and human rights
For Immediate Release
September 1, 2016
(Washington DC)—With the opening of the G-20 Leaders Summit in China this weekend, the Chairs of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China, Representative Chris Smith and Senator Marco Rubio, urged President Obama to raise critical human rights issues with Chinese President Xi Jinping and publicly link human rights protections and civil society development to continued progress in U.S.-China relations. The Chairs pressed the Administration to lead an effort with like-minded countries to raise concerns about the strategic consequence of China’s shift to hard authoritarianism under President Xi’s leadership and to raise the cases of detained American Sandy Phan-Gillis and jailed human rights lawyers and religious leaders.
“The Administration still operates as if human rights are a barrier to its other priorities, instead of intimately linked to the progress of U.S. economic and security interests. This is the President’s legacy; he looks uninterested and weak while President Xi runs roughshod over human rights advocates and represses civil society and religious freedom. In his final trip to China, he should do something radically different--mildly raising human rights accomplishes very little,” said Congressman Chris Smith, CECC Chair. The President should consider visiting an illegal church or the wife of jailed Nobel Prize laurate Liu Xiaobo. He should organize a public statement with other G-20 members connecting religious freedom, labor rights and civil society development with economic prosperity and better bilateral cooperation. He should do something that gives heart to China’s freedom advocates and sends a signal that no country benefits from China’s shift to a hard authoritarianism. Sadly, it is unlikely the President will take such steps, as no wants to upset China's big event."
“If the President fails to speak publicly about jailed lawyers or religious leaders, church demolitions and forced confessions, it will send a horrible message to Chinese dissidents and freedom advocates who look to the U.S. for leadership," said Senator Marco Rubio, CECC Cochair. “There is a direct link between human rights protections, civil society development and China’s future economic prosperity, and President Obama should lead other like-minded nations in pressing President Xi to change course. The Chinese government has zero regard for human rights or the rule of law and in fact uses the law, when convenient, to repress and control the Chinese people—and even unjustly detain American citizens such as Sandy Phan-Gillis. China cannot continue to benefit from the international rules-based system while ignoring the rule of law and abusing human rights with impunity."
The President Should Seek Release of Sandy Phan-Gillis: The Chairs also urged President Obama again to raise the case of detained American businesswoman Sandy Phan-Gillis and to urgently seek her immediate and unconditional release. “The case is critically relevant to matters of the G-20 Summit. Her continued detention is bad for the U.S.-China economic relationship, bad for China’s global image, and deeply damaging to our bilateral relationship,“ said the Chairs. See previous statements by the CECC Chairs seeking information about and the release of detained American citizenSandy Phan-Gillis. ###