My last two articles here at CatholicVote were on Vice President Joe Biden and China’s one-child policy. That’s incredibly ironic. I could never have imagined that my next piece would be forced to cover Biden’s comments in China regarding the one-child policy. And how especially ironic that the first article discussed reports that Biden had referred to Tea Party members as “terrorists.” Given Biden’s strong views on the Tea Party, you’d think this Roman Catholic champion of “social justice” would unload on the Chinese for their horribly coercive one-child policy.
Alas, it looks like Biden’s moral indignation—and courage—goes only so far.
On August 21, Vice President Biden spoke at Sichuan University in Chengdu, China. He began with his usual smile, cheerfully thanking his “gracious” hosts. He noted that he had brought along his daughter-in-law and granddaughter—two women who, if Chinese, would not be permitted to bring to term more than one child, without severe fines or possibly even forced sterilization. But Biden didn’t mention that. He wasn’t about to go there.
No, the vice president had come to celebrate China; its “proud history,” its “high-tech future,” its “land of abundance,” its abundant “hospitality.” He repeatedly glowed about how he was “amazed” by China. Reading from prepared remarks, Biden raved about China’s economic growth. And then he turned to some questions from the student audience.
The first questioner wanted to know about the U.S. economy, and there, in that context, Biden managed a remark about China’s one-child policy, and it was hardly a rebuke. Said Biden:
What we ended up doing is setting up a system whereby we did cut by $1.2 trillion upfront, the deficit over the next 10 years. And we set up a group of senators that have to come up with another $1.2 to $1.7 trillion in savings or automatically there will be cuts that go into effect in January to get those savings. So the savings will be accomplished. But as I was talking to some of your leaders, you share a similar concern here in China. You have no safety net. Your policy has been one which I fully understand—I’m not second-guessing—of one child per family. The result being that you’re in a position where one wage earner will be taking care of four retired people. Not sustainable.
So hopefully we can act in a way on a problem that’s much less severe than yours, and maybe we can learn together from how we can do that.
If the goal of the smiling vice president was to not offend his gracious hosts, he didn’t disappoint.
Biden’s remark was not only not a condemnation of China’s one-child policy, it wasn’t even a slight criticism. Worse than that, it seemed to be an endorsement. Note the line again: “Your policy has been one which I fully understand—I’m not second-guessing—of one child per family.” He next appeared to say that the policy, which he “fully understands” and is “not second-guessing,” is not financially/economically sustainable because too few young people will exist to pay the social services of elderly people. If that’s a criticism, it’s one based strictly in financial/economic terms, not moral terms. In fact, Biden thus seemed to express added understanding of the “severe” problem China faces.
Yet again, as he has done frequently here at home, Joe Biden has completely failed to support his Church’s most basic teachings on the sanctity and dignity of human life. And if Biden cannot bring himself to criticize China’s one-child policy, then can we ever expect him to speak for unborn life anytime and anywhere? (A spokeswoman for Biden has since tried to cover for his comments, but she cannot deny what he said.)
Previous statesmen have gone to China and spoken boldly against the nation’s infamous trail of human-rights abuses. President Reagan gave a wonderful, brave speech at Fudan University in April 1984, a stirring statement on the Christian faith, delivered to an officially atheist nation. Reagan quoted the inalienable rights of the Declaration of Independence, “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” among much more. President George W. Bush never failed to single out China for its abuses, including from inside China itself. Speaking at Tsinghua University in Beijing on February 22, Bush spoke powerfully of religious freedom. “America is a nation guided by faith,” Bush told the Chinese students. “This may interest you: 95 percent of Americans say they believe in God, and I’m one of them.” And, to her credit, Hillary Clinton has not shied from denouncing China’s one-child policy, including at a U.N. conference speech in Beijing in September 1995 when she was first lady.
Joe Biden did none of this. To borrow a phrase from an earlier Catholic statesman, John F. Kennedy, Biden’s performance in China was not exactly a profile in courage. And yet, here is a man who has never hesitated to excoriate or humiliate folks ranging from Bill Clark to Ed Meese to Clarence Thomas to faceless, anonymous Tea Party members. Why the kid-gloves for the communist Chinese, who have the blood of hundreds of millions of unborn babies on their hands?
Let the history books read: Joe Biden went to China, and he did not “second-guess” the one-child policy.
How’s that for Catholic statesmanship? Saint Thomas More, pray for us.
Paul Kengor is professor of political science at Grove City College. His books include The Judge: William P. Clark, Ronald Reagan’s Top Hand (Ignatius Press, 2007) and Dupes: How America’s Adversaries Have Manipulated Progressives for a Century.