There are a couple of big reasons to let Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng seek refuge in America: 1. They let Soviet dissidents do it during the Cold War. 2. It would send a message to the Chinese that the inscription at the base of the Statue of Liberty rings as true today as it ever has before. 3. They probably will mess him up bad if he stays. Maybe not soon, but they could use him as a bargaining chip for years to come – as if they needed another one, considering all that American debt they still hold.
Unfortunately, there are a couple of even bigger reasons not to let him in: 1. He initially wanted to stay in China, with protection, and now he’s changed his mind, which might be OK if the U.S. legally owed him protection without requiring him to go through the usual diplomatic channels. 2. If the U.S. did too much “message-sending” while they’re still in China’s pocket, it could mess them up bad.
Think about it. If they let Chen in, a whole host of other dissidents could come out of the woodwork and demand their fair share. If that happened, the Chinese could respond any number of ways: calling in its payments, putting up new trade barriers, conveniently disposing of the attempted refugees. Everyone will find a reason to blame the U.S. for letting that happen.
And without getting too deeply into the fear-mongering, China has been building up its military capabilities, and even if they’d be no match for the U.S. military, there are a few lesser countries closer to them whom they could easily turn into collateral damage. With no political or economic appetite for another big war, the U.S. couldn’t afford to do much with its military. And if they were dumb enough to use it on China now, that would provide a nice opening for Iran, for whom China is an oil buyer. In short, another Cold War, with both countries waiting for the other to drop the bomb.
So, in the long run, it may be better for the U.S. and China if this happens: The U.S. stays out of dissident issues, except to express general support for democracy, and devotes its resources toward a real economic resurgence and consequent debt resolution. China, meanwhile, continues on its current course (which it surely will) until its emerging middle class starts demanding their rights. Economic activity is disrupted, U.S. business ship out manufacturing for safety, the world turns on China. Deaths ensue, but so does a movement for regime change. By that time, the U.S. is ready to get involved.
Leaving Chen in China may make this administration look soft. But if they’re thinking along these lines, it could be part of a much bigger plan.