On the 20th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square crackdown, everyone is talking about human rights in China. The question is, why isn’t there more talk at other times? The answer is the same for human rights as it is for many other issues involving China: because we overemphasize economic matters unnecessarily.
The PRC’s economic rise is of course important, even breath-taking. But we have gotten ahead of ourselves. It is the American economy which drives the world, with Beijing crafting a development model in light of that dominance. And, as with Japan, China may never reach economic parity with the U.S.
For right now, China depends far more on America than the other way around. For example, the PRC doesn’t choose to buy our debt – it has to.
Conversations about democracy in China, China’s role in North Korea, and the like won’t always be simple and will rarely be easy. But they shouldn’t be pushed to the back burner because the economic dimension is of overriding importance. Are the Chinese economy and our economic relations with them worth discussing? Definitely. Are they the only things worth discussing? Not even close.