Friday, November 12, 2010

Don't you dare go to dinner

November 11, 2010

“Ii is the unrelenting, unremitting continuance of pressure that often yields results on human rights.” Thus Britain’s then prime minister, John Major, during a visit to Beijing in 1991. On the first trip to China since then by a Conservative prime minister, David Cameron was far more cautious. In the face of Chinese fury over the awarding of the Nobel peace prize to an imprisoned Chinese dissident, Mr Cameron opted for deference.

Liu Xiaobo’s prize on October 8th has made Western governments almost as uncomfortable as China’s. Since the early 1990s the West and China have largely managed to accommodate their differences over human rights while pursuing closer economic ties. “Pressure” has consisted of polite but unproductive “human-rights dialogues” between lower-ranking Chinese and Western officials. The peace prize has pushed the issue back to the fore.