A Response to an article posted at http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/7555831.stm
Just about everyone in the West is by now familiar with the dire consequences which have accrued to us for turning a blind eye to the Maoist invasion of Tibet in 1950. For the past five decades, the CCP has ruthlessly ground out any and all resistance to their gross violation of the sovereignty of a traditionally free people. The language, culture, and religion of the country have been systematically discriminated against, culminating in China's latest effort at what might be called 'ethnic cleansing by numbers'. The central governement built a grossly uneconomical rail line into Lhasa, for the sole purpose of flowing Han Chinese into Tibet and demographically overwhelming the existing population. Although we in the West certainly have earned ourselves no credit in the eyes of posterity for actually doing anything, at least we can't be accused of totally ignoring events there, as our constant meetings with the Dalai Lama demonstrate. Of course, if we really cared about the people of Tibet, we would give him a pass entirely. Don't get me wrong, I have a great deal of respect for the man as a spiritual leader, but that's not what Tibet needs right now. Only political action will bring an end to the suffering. When Catholic Poland was overrun by the Nazis, we didn't protest it by meeting with the Pope.
Right next door to Tibet, however, is a similar travesty--one which we can be accused of ignoring. How many Westerners have ever heard of the Uighurs? How many could find their lost country on the map, subsumed under the deluge of Maoist Chinese? They too wage a war for their independence. They too put their lives on the line to drive out a monstrous oppressor, but we do not meet with their leaders. No Uighurs appear in photographs with the German Chancellor, or shaking hands with the Presidents of France and the United States. Why not? I understand that resources are limited; there is too much evil in the world to truly fight all of it at once. However, this is no excuse to shirk our duty of decrying the evil when we see it.
Some will accuse me of bleeding-heart rhetoric. They will say I worry too much about humanitarian affairs and that I ought to pay more attention to realpolitik. But in fact, it is precisely the realpolitik which I wish to add to US and EU policy towards the situation in western China.
China is not our friend. On the economic front it has artificially manipulated its currency to maintain a positive balance of trade against us, it has flooded our markets with cheap goods--goods which are cheap because they are produced without the slightest semblance of regulations for environmental protection or worker safety--and so dragged our working conditions slowly down toward their level. We wage a war against runaway pollution (which is important all issues of global warming aside) and they pump out clouds of toxic dust which shut down towns in Korea and Japan. (here and here) All of this could be written off as poor China's chronic underdevelopment. I am not entirely insensitive to the arguments of developing countries relating to their industrial pollution, for instance. But just when we are inclined to feel a little sympathy, we are reminded that they are planning to kill us. It is no secret on either side of the Pacific that in the event of a conflict between China and the US, which many senior Chinese officials consider nearly inevitable, the Chinese navy plans to quickly strike and destroy US bases in Japan, Korea, and the Phillipines, and then use these areas as a buffer zone, so that US troops can be killed while destroying the land of America's allies, rather than China itself. (see this article - or, if you want the knock-down drag-out version, this) I hardly think I need to mention the human rights abuses. Suffice it to say, they serve to put Reagan's infamous "evil empire" quip about the Soviet Union into its proper ludicrous perspective.
And while this goes on, while we know about all of it in declassified documents, we grant them Most Favored Nation status for trade. We urge Boeing into contracts that require them to teach the Chinese how to manufacture all of the advanced aerospace components Boeing builds in Chinese factories. We open ourselves more and more, hoping to see positive movement for the Chinese people, only to be rewarded with increased repression, increased militarization, increased jingoism, and increased belligerence. China is no less our enemy now that fifty years ago in Korea, the only difference is that we have made them wealthy and powerful, "the better to attack you with, my dear (right after we get through with these Falun Gong practitioners)."
And this brings us back to western China. Here we have two captive nations, two peoples struggling for freedom. One we pass over with platitudes, the other we ignore completely. The fact is, we should be arming them. We should be funding them. We were willing to arm violent Muslim heretics in Afghanistan against the Soviet Union, and we were ready to pour weapons into the hands of tinpot dictators all over Africa and Latin America to fight Marxist rebels, but we will not equip honest men and women who ask only for the right to live in peace in their own country? Thomas Jefferson once said that "he who would be free must himself strike the first blow." Yet we 'liberate' Iraqis who never asked for our help, and leave those who are willing to risk their lives for freedom to fend for themselves. Jefferson is rolling in his grave, and we are standing by while the Chinese send the heroes of Tibet and Xinjiang to theirs, and ready themselves to put us in ours.