But the President is right to argue for a policy of constructive engagement. It is naive to expect the Chinese to stop rounding up dissidents for the sake of a bit more foreign trade. What will liberalise China is the exchange of goods, information and ideas.
Precisely the same considerations should rule the British government's attitude to China although, once again, the declaration of an explicitly "ethical" foreign policy has given rise to the expectation that Tony Blair and Robin Cook should indulge in gesture-diplomacy. Mr Blair may have been going a little far in welcoming Zhu Rongji, the Chinese Prime Minister, as a fellow moderniser. But the argument that economic reform will lead to social reform remains sound. Better for Mr Blair and Mr Clinton to lecture the Chinese on the basics of human rights on trade missions than at the United Nations. And far better to lecture Mr Zhu, as Mr Clinton will, on the steps at one end of Tiananmen Square than by megaphone across the Pacific.Reuse content