China, Jiang Not Evil


The Crimson's staff editorial (Oct. 14) characterized Chairman Jiang as "an evil man, leading a truly evil empire." Having spent two years in the so-called "evil empire," I feel that such a description is both inappropriate and counter-productive. Jiang's China is currently the fastest growing economy in the world. [Economist, August 17th, 1996.] One result of this economic prowess is a dramatic increase in the living standard for one-fifth of the world's population. While the government's actions at Tiananmen Square in June 1989 insult our American sense of human rights, our definition of those rights is not the only one. An economic framing of the term places greater importance upon the right to a full stomach, a clothed body and a warm bed than the right to political expression. China is making tremendous strides toward providing these economic human rights for its people.

The student of history tells us that freedom is the fruit of stability. China's rising unemployment, determination to privatize state industry, and ever-growing population ensure a significant restless minority for the foreseeable future. Uncritically adopting an American model of political freedom today would most likely lead China down a Russian road of chaos and despair.

As we march into the 21st century, let us not repeat the errors of the 19th. Two centuries ago the "white man's burden" was to help his little brown brothers around the globe learn the superior ways of the West. Today, America has taken up the same burden under a new name, "universal human rights." But the world does not agree on a universal definition of human rights. And who are we to insist that China embrace our definition based upon our morality?

When we welcome Chairman Jiang to campus, we should welcome the protesters, as well. But we should also struggle against our provincialism and attempt to recognize China as a rising nation with the right to chart its own future guided by its own principles. Only by doing so will we come closer to understanding China and establishing a base of mutual respect for the most important bilateral relationship of the 21st century.--Greg Pilarowski, Harvard Law School '00


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