There are a couple of important lessons regarding the Chen Guangcheng crisis of last week. The first is an understanding of the dissident’s problems and the second is a foreign policy lesson which Mitt Romney failed. China is different. As Fareed Zakaria explains in The Post-American World:
Central planning was not supposed to work. And in some sense it doesn’t, even in China. Beijing has much less knowledge and control of the rest of China than it would like and than outsiders recognize.[snip]
The greatest problem China faces going forward is not that its government is incurably evil; it is the risk that its government will lose the ability to hold things together — a problem that goes well beyond spiraling decentralization. China’s pace of change is exposing the weakness of its Communist Party and state bureaucracy.
Chen was being held by local officials of the Sandong province which is the 2nd largest populated provence in China. (It would be the 12th largest country in the world.) Chinese government officials lack a certain amount of control over local authorities and Chen has accused Sandong officials of making his house arrest a money making scheme. The situation in Shandong is bordering on comical as local officials have arrested Chen’s nephew for voluntary homicide even though know one as died. This may also just be an attempted murder charge, but reports are cloudy at best on this topic.
The second issue is Mitt Romney’s naiveté over foreign policy and another display of his inherent lack of leadership. While the United States government was working behind the scenes to work on Chen’s release, Romney, in an utter lack of foreign policy understanding, called the crisis a “day of shame”. Even neocon Bill Kristol was aghast calling Romney “foolish” and saying, “There is no need to butt into a fast moving story when the secretary of state is in Beijing with delicate (negotiations).” It turns out that even in the specifics of the events of last week, it was the State Department that supplied Chen with the cell phone that he called the Congressional hearing on, he was suffering with severe abdominal pain and that “his stool contained so much blood that the doctor feared he might have colon cancer.”