Kate Saunders of the International Campaign for Tibet posted this comment on my blog “Seeking the Power of the Powerless” at Huffington Post at 01:16 PM on 1/10/2011.
Interesting and thought-provoking, but Jamyang Norbu is wrong (not for the first time) about the International Campaign for Tibet. Yes, the Clinton Administration mounted a campaign for permanent normal trade relations (PNTR), and even some prominent supporters of Tibet embraced this position. ICT opposed it. The term “constructive engagement ” as applied to US-China relations was a construct adopted by the Clinton Administra tion. The business community was successful ly advancing the position that linking trade with human rights played into the hands of those who would seek to “isolate” China. Clinton found this false dichotomy useful. ICT did not adopt this approach. On May 24, 2000, ICT said: “Today’s vote will change the tenor of U.S. China relations and bring proponents of PNTR, including big business interests, face-to-fa ce with the reality of China — a new scenario based on China’s command and control of U.S. trade and investment dollars is about to unfold.” ICT’s then Government Relations Director (now President) Mary Beth Markey, said: “Beijing should not interpret PNTR as a referendum on human rights or a retreat from the Congress’ 1991 declaratio n that Tibet is an ‘occupied country under establishe d principles of international law.’” The Dalai Lama favored China’s entry into the WTO believing that the Chinese people merited the opportunit y to fully participat e in the global economy. Efforts – often unfortunat e ones – were made by PNTR proponents to color His Holiness’ support for WTO entry as pro-PNTR.
Thank you for the kind words about my piece, but I don’t think I am wrong about ICT, as you claim. You write that when”the Clinton Administration mounted a campaign for permanent normal trade relations (PNTR)…ICT opposed it. (Which is not exactly true). If you had read my piece carefully you would have realized that I did not say anything specifically about PNTR but just mentioned that “Clinton ‘persuaded’ ICT to accept constructive engagement.” That’s all.
But if you want me to get into the nitty-gritty of PNTR or MFN as it was called earlier, let me tell you about an article I wrote in August 1996 in the Tibetan Review where I described how ICT had shifted its position from full revocation of MFN to China in 1990 to “not calling for total revocation of MFN” in 1996. ICT director Lodi Gyari explained that “supporting complete revocation of MFN would not send a constructive message to China and would not give them a reason to improve their treatment of the Tibetan people.” So Lodi called for “conditional renewal of MFN”. (see “MFN for China Alert” Jun 15, 1996 WTN)
Of course that concession, or capitulation, did nothing to improve China’s treatment of the Tibetan people and in fact as we all know now, made things much worse. But that concession was enough to cause misunderstanding and confusion in the ranks of those Congressmen who had till then been our staunch supporters on this issue, and helped Clinton undermine their solidarity. So the President got his votes in Congress to give China PNTR in 1996 and admission to WTO the next year. ICT got a lesson in “triangulation” (a fancy term for being all things to all people) from Bill (the master) and an introduction to another fancy term “constructive engagement”. the Tibetans lost whatever little “economic” leverage they had in the US Congress.
I have no doubt that you, Kate, and others working at ICT mean well. But I think it is important to realize that whatever the ICT mission statement might be, you are all unwittingly earning your living by undermining the struggle of the Tibetan people for a free and independent nation. There is another lobby group in your town that claims to be fighting to protect the second amendment rights of the American people, which is no doubt true and commendable as far as it goes, but what happens down the line as a consequence is unfortunately more tragic than praiseworthy.
(Note my reply in Huffington Post is shorter as they have a 250 limit on comments)