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Identifying the pathways to freedom

ASK THIS | February 01, 2005

In the wake of President Bush's inaugural address, Freedom House's research director suggests some questions about the push to promote – and protect— liberty in China and elsewhere.

By Arch Puddington

Q. By any standard, China is the largest dictatorship in the world. It wields great influence through its trade relations with other Asian countries and, increasingly, the rest of the world. Its "model" of political development is much admired by some developing countries. Yet from Nixon on through Bush, the United States has declined to take issue with China's internal policies. The question -- and it should be addressed not just to the administration but throughout the policy community -- is how can the United States most effectively challenge China's domestic regime and work to influence change?

Q. Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, though democratically elected, is cracking down on domestic dissent and muzzling the media in his country. He is also attempting to expand his influence throughout South America. What is Washington's strategy to ensure that Venezuela remains a democracy during Chavez's rule?

Q. In the aftermath of the Rwandan genocide, leading democracies agreed that mechanisms needed to be created to prevent such tragedies from being repeated. This commitment, however, has not been fulfilled, as events in Darfur demonstrated. Is the United States prepared to lead an effort to provide a multinational solution to future Rwandas and Darfurs, either within the UN structure or outside it?

Q. No strategy to rid the world of tyranny can succeed without the involvement of Europe. But the European Union's record is erratic on the promotion of democracy. The E.U. has played an important role in promoting the consolidation of freedoms in formerly Communist countries that have joined the E.U. But its record on the promotion of freedom in Russia, China, and the Middle East is unimpressive. Given the E.U.'s stated commitment to human rights and law based societies, European leaders should be asked probing questions about their own commitment to a strategy that seeks to rid the world of tyrants.

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