Power Play

China Dissident Debacle Has Implications for November

Chen Guangcheng, a Chinese dissident lawyer arrested for suing the regime over forced abortions and sterilizations, is now pleading for asylum after being handed by U.S. officials over to Chinese authorities.


“My fervent hope is that it would be possible for me and my family to leave for the U.S. on Hillary Clinton’s plane.”

-- Chen Guangcheng, a Chinese dissident lawyer arrested for suing the regime over forced abortions and sterilizations, in an interview with the Daily Beast pleading for asylum after being handed back over to Chinese authorities after escaping house arrest and seeking sanctuary at the U.S. embassy in Beijing.

The batch of swing-state polls out today from Quinnipiac University shows Ohio very much up for grabs, with Mitt Romney going from a 6-point deficit at the end of March to a 2-point lead this week.

In a race so close, it will matter how the drama plays out in China over a blind dissident, imprisoned for opposing the country’s practice of forced abortions and sterilizations, who escaped arrest and fled to the U.S. Embassy.


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Chen Guacheng was convinced to leave the protection of the embassy to be reunited with his family after, depending on the telling, promises of better treatment or threats of worse treatment for his family by Chinese officials. It remains unclear the role U.S. officials and President Obama's ambassador to the country played in the back and forth.  

Once back in the hands of Chinese authorities, Chen said he and his family were being mistreated and that he wanted asylum in the U.S. This is complicated because having harbored him at the embassy and facilitated his transfer back into custody, American officials have a responsibility to make sure that Chen’s human rights are not further abused.

The real complication is that Chen staged his remarkable escape just before Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner were set to arrive in China for economic talks.

The Obama administration wants China to stop manipulating its currency. The Chinese yuan is intentionally devalued to make it hard for other countries to export goods into the country but easy for China to sell cheap goods overseas.

President Obama has made increasing exports a central theme in his re-election campaign. The president, who won office in part by attacking the free-trade policies of his predecessors, has embraced a limited version of the Bush and Clinton approaches to the subject in a bid to show some progress for the saggy economy. Obama-affiliated companies like General Motors and General Electric have joined the push and taken advantage of administration incentives to expand operations in China.

Plus, the Unites States government owes a ton of money to the Chinese government and is borrowing more all the while.

Those two requests – more lending and less currency manipulation – make this a very awkward time to have a blow up over human rights. While Western officials have heaped praise on China for market reforms that allow commerce, the country has maintained a repressive system on the social side.

China’s one-child policy has been enforced through forced abortions, sterilizations and infanticide, with local and provisional officials killing babies and severely punishing families for having additional children. These practices are what Chen has been fighting.

The Obama administration has been looking to entice China into more favorable terms on trade and currency, and having a standoff over forced abortion makes it harder for Clinton and Geithner to woo their hosts.

The trade and currency stuff is not a easy sell among Rust Belt voters, many of whom have for decades demanded tough tariffs and trade restrictions on Chinese imports. Having seen steel mills and tire plants devastated by cheap Chinese goods, made by wage slaves and subsidized by the government, there is a strong streak of resentment against China running through Ohio.

Romney has taken a hard line on China – both on trade and human rights – and even incurred the wrath of former rival and former Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman, who said Romney’s policies would start a trade war with the world’s second-largest economic power. But there are plenty of voters in Akron and Steubenville who like the sound of that.

Many traditionally Democratic voters in the Buckeye State share Chen’s anti-abortion cause and do not like the fact that Obama supports the practice of legal, elective abortions in the U.S. So, if the administration is seen as bowing to China on abortion in order to preserve free trade, it will not play well in must-win Ohio.


The Day in Quotes

“I am deeply disturbed by the most recent report by the Associated Press, which suggests Chen Guangcheng was pressured to leave the U.S. embassy against his will amid flimsy promises and possible threats of harm to his family.”

-- Statement from House Speaker John Boehner.

“We asked him what did he want to do, did he want to leave, was he ready to leave. And we waited several minutes and then suddenly he jumped up, very excited, very eager, and said, “Let’s go,” in front of many, many witnesses.”

-- U.S. Ambassador to China Gary Locke defending his handling of Chen Guangcheng.

"I'm asked sometimes, 'Is Mitt Romney conservative enough?' And my answer is simple: Compared to Barack Obama?

-- Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich at a press conference announcing the end of his presidential bid.

“I listed myself in the directory in the hopes that it might mean that I would be invited to a luncheon, a group -- something that might happen with people who are like I am.”

-- Elizabeth Warren, Democratic Senate nominee in Massachusetts, saying that she, the great-great-great granddaughter of a woman believed to have been Cherokee, described herself as “native American” to officials at Harvard University Law School until 1995 not to obtain her teaching position or advancement, but for tribal purposes.

“That was an example of compression. I was very sensitive in my book not to write about my girlfriends, partly out of respect for them. So that was a consideration. I thought that [the anecdote involving the reaction of a white girlfriend to the angry black play] was a useful theme to make about sort of the interactions that I had in the relationships with white girlfriends.”

-- President Obama explaining to biographer David Maraniss that in his autobiography “Dreams From My Father” a number of white girlfriends were fused into one character Obama called his “New York girlfriend.”

“We will have to look at all the details, of course; however, there have clearly been some constructive changes. We hope there will be many changes.”

American Petroleum Institute CEO Jack Gerard talking to The Hill about new EPA regulations on natural gas drilling expected out today or Friday.


And Now, A World From Charles

“Jimmy Carter is the Republican Herbert Hoover. The Democrats flogged Hoover for 30 years. We've got just a few years left to go after Carter.”

-- Charles Krauthammer on “Special Report with Bret Baier.”


Chris Stirewalt is digital politics editor for Fox News, and his POWER PLAY column appears Monday-Friday on FoxNews.com.

Chris Stirewalt joined Fox News Channel (FNC) in July of 2010 and serves as politics editor based in Washington, D.C. Additionally, he authors the daily Fox News Halftime Report political news note and co-hosts the hit podcast, Perino & Stirewalt: I'll Tell You What. He also is the host of Power Play, a feature video series on FoxNews.com. Stirewalt makes frequent appearances on network programs, including America’s Newsroom, Special Report with Bret Baier and Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace. He also provides expert political analysis for FNC’s coverage of state, congressional and presidential elections.