Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng has had his share of political frustration over the past few years, but at the moment he's one of the most powerful people in the world. How he winds up framing his decision to leave the American embassy, and what he decides to do next, could (1) affect President Obama's chances of re-election (and Chen's current framing is definitely not helping Obama); and (2) significantly complicate Chinese-American relations.
The part of me that likes dissidents is happy about this. The part of me that likes to keep great powers on good terms isn't; that part of me finds it unsettling that a single person, however noble his cause, could disrupt relations between China and America at a time when the world definitely doesn't need more instability.
Is there a way these two parts of me could both find happiness? Could we arrange things so that, in the future, people who seek refuge in embassies could have their day in court without threatening relations among nations?
Warning: I'm about to enter visionary mode .
MORE ON CHEN GUANGCHENG
|The American Beacon in Beijing|
|The Geopolitics of Helping a Confused Blind Man|
|Preventing the Next Chen|
|New Challenges for U.S. in Beijing|
Wouldn't it be nice if there was some international tribunal that handled cases like this? If such a thing existed, we could have just said to China: As is our unvarying custom, we are turning the Chen Guangcheng case over to the IXYZ (insert international acronym of your choice) and will abide by its decision; meanwhile, Chen can stay in our embassy as long as he likes. Poof--just like that, tension between America and China would begin to dissipate.