The diplomatic relationship between the United States and the People’s Republic of China has historically been complicated, but the relationship recently became even more tangled after Chen Guangcheng, the blind Chinese dissident temporarily given shelter in the U.S.’s Beijing embassy, departed the embassy to be admitted into a Beijing hospital.
Chen, a human rights activist, has now reversed his intention to stay in China and has requested to be given refuge in the United States. Chen’s request comes after U.S. diplomats, including Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell, negotiated a deal with officials of China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs for Chen to remain in China with assurance that he would be treated humanely.
The apparent unraveling of the arrangement comes at an inopportune time during a high-level U.S.-China economic strategy conference. The incident is overshadowing the conference and calling attention to controversial human rights grievances against the communist country.
Can U.S. diplomats trust China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs to follow through with protecting Guangcheng’s human rights? How much influence, if any at all, do Chinese diplomats have on internal Chinese security operations?
Susan Shirk, professor of China and Pacific relations at University of California, San Diego; she was Deputy Assistant Secretary of State responsible for U.S. relations with China from 1997 to 2000