President George W. Bush is set to arrive in Beijing, China, today for the start of the Olympics. Here's a snippet from a speech he gave in Thailand before heading on to his final destination:
"America stands in firm opposition to China's detention of political dissidents, human rights advocates and religious activists," Bush is to say in the marquee speech of his three-nation Asia trip. "We speak out for a free press, freedom of assembly and labor rights—not to antagonize China's leaders, but because trusting its people with greater freedom is the only way for China to develop its full potential."
I hope he managed to squeeze in a word about freedom of expression in Thailand, which just banned sales of the video game Grand Theft Auto.
And I hope when he returns to the U.S., Bush will consider cases of godawful and morally corrupt prosecution like that of Charlie Lynch, the California medical marijuana dispensary owner just found guilty of selling drugs in federal court.
But the message to China is a solid one, though suggesting freedom is a means to economic fulfillment is misguided in my opinion—it's an end in itself. But here's hoping that Bush's words are not simply meant for Western audiences who seem increasingly uncomfortable with engagement with China.