In just one day last week three stories were reported that told of the stunning successes the Chinese Politburo has achieved in manipulating America and diminishing it as a credible political player in the Far East.
Americans can find similar stories almost every day in their press. But American journalism, like American diplomacy and politics, has failed to show the clear line that connects the stories. And historically--meaning from tomorrow deep into the next century--that failure can be the Politburo's biggest triumph of all.
One story dealt with China's plan to influence the American Presidential race and how President Clinton insisted that the agent of Beijing's chief overseas economic commercial partner be given a role in the campaign.
This agent, John Huang, received regular C.I.A. briefings. If the White House does not understand that anything interesting the C.I.A. told him found its way through his Indonesian masters to their Beijing partners, it would be obscene self-delusion amounting to dereliction of duty.
Another story was about the growing worry in Congress that U.S. intelligence has not kept track of how China's increasing military and political power affect America. The house has called for a report within a year. It appropriated $5 million to hire academics to help our multi-billion-dollar intelligence machinery.
The third story told of how the dissident movement has been crushed in China. The Communists got a free hand when the Clinton Administration dropped human rights as a goal of its foreign policy. The Communist then had no worry about economic penalty for the torture and murder of Chinese guilt of trying to express themselves. So they set to work.
Just another human rights story. But the connecting line among all the successes of China is human rights. The line begins with President Clinton's decision in 1994 to renege on promises he had made to use economic pressure to help imprisoned Chinese and Tibetan dissidents.
Human rights for Chinese--the right to speak, write and worship as they choose--should be important in themselves to Americans. They should make us cherish and protect our own, inspire us to give a hand to those who have none.
The apologists for China sneer at all that. What are we, missionaries? They say Americans supporting human rights thirst for enemies after the Soviet breakup and select China for the role.
This is a knowing falsehood. The opposite is true. Like other police-state rulers, Chinese Communists live in fear of their people's desire for liberties. They see American democracy as the danger to the Communist Party, the inevitable enemy. They search out other dictatorships for help in damaging America.
That is why China sells nuclear technology to the likes of Iran. To weaken America--that is the connecting line in Politburo policy.
For Mr. Clinton, the decision to betray Chinese human rights was the beginning of the line to the other accommodations and appeasements that flowed from it. Could he have brought into his campaign a man useful only because of his links with China, direct or indirect, if he were still standing up to what the Communists were doing to dissidents?
The President's men, and women, walk the line with him. For career reasons, they pretended to believe his cynical fantasy that deserting human rights would somehow make the Communists improve human rights. They said straight-faced that it would also persuade the Politburo to safeguard America's security interests--no more sales of cruise missiles and nuclear technology to the Irans of the world.
So when American intelligence did report those sales, the Administration whined a bit but accepted Beijing's insulting answer that it knew nothing about the sales. They expected Americans to believe even pistols could be exported from China without Beijing's approval.
Only one thing prevents Beijing from fully relishing its double victory over Chinese human rights and American's claims to international moral leadership.
Beijing has not yet stamped out one human rights struggle--the passion for freedom of worship. Yesterday the U.S. again acknowledged the persecution of Christians in China. America's Government will try to remain detached. Amerca's people may not.