House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a longtime critic of Chinaâ€™s abysmal human-rights record, is currently inÂ Shanghai. Yet she has chosen, likeÂ Secretary of State Hillary Clinton before her, to utter not even a word aboutÂ that record.
It seems that in Pelosi’s calculus,Â human rightsÂ must now take a back seat to so-called “climate change,” which the SpeakerÂ callsÂ a “crisis” requiring “that critical choices be made now [by the U.S. and China] that are bold and based on the clearest understanding of how to achieve our goals of preserving the planet and protecting the health of the worldâ€™s people.” “Climate change,” she elaborates, “provides a crucial opportunity for dialogue between our two nations.”
Surely that other champion of human rights for the people of China, the Dalai Lama, never envisioned such an about-face during hisÂ March 2008 photo op with Speaker Pelosi. At that meeting, Pelosi sanctimoniously declared: “If freedom-loving people throughout the world do not speak out against Chinaâ€™s oppression and China and Tibet, we have lost all moral authority to speak on behalf of human rights anywhere in the world.”Â This was, moreover,Â the same Pelosi who, duringÂ a 1991 visit to Beijing’s Tiananmen Square, had unfurled a banner that read: “To those who died for democracy in China.”
Fast-forward to 2009. With the tax-and-spend policiesÂ of the Obama administration threatening to depressÂ the U.S. economy into oblivion, Pelosi’sÂ sudden shift in priorities are hardly surprising. China, which is flush with cash, is the largest holder of U.S. debt and is viewed by the Obama administration as our nation’s future economic savior — aÂ savior whom, at this juncture, it would be unwise to alienate.
In fact, some experts have expressed concern that China’s substantial holdings of U.S. debt give it increased leverage in its dealings with Washington because any halt in Chinese purchases of American bonds would make it more difficult for ourÂ government to finance its bailout and stimulus packages. The Chinese, it would now appear, have us over the proverbial barrel.
Pelosi, for her part, seems to be unconcernedÂ by this sudden change in the administrationâ€™s priorities. In fact, she has figured out a creatively Orwellian wayÂ of making it seem that those priorities haven’t changed at all –Â by linking human rights to environmentalism!Â “Indeed,Â protecting the environmentÂ is aÂ human-rights issue,” she says. “We hope to send a clear message that transparency, accountability, enforcement, and respect for the rule of law are essential if we are to protect our planet.”
The Dalai Lama must be scratching his head in confusion.