The Rope With Which We Hang Ourselves

V. I. Lenin may or may not have actually declared that “the capitalists will sell us the rope with which we will hang them,” but something of the sort is occurring nowadays between American educators and the Communist regime in Beijing. Consider what happened last week in Chicago.

No doubt it was a fine thing for Sino-American relations when the Windy City rolled out its big red carpet for Chinese President Hu Jintao on Thursday, much as official Washington had done earlier in the week. But the Obama administration deserves a bit of credit for engaging in some pointed warnings and tough talk about problems that the U.S. has with China, ranging from human rights to the undervalued renminbi to the support that China gives rogue states like North Korea and Myanmar. For all the glitterati (and rib-eye steaks) at the White House state dinner in Hu’s honor, his visit to the nation’s capital was no simple love-in.

But then he and his entourage flew to Chicago, which appears to have staged a love-in pure and simple, reminiscent of the city-wide swoon and Grant Park soiree that followed Obama’s own election two years back. Beginning with outgoing mayor Richard Daley, community leaders fell all over the Chinese as part of their multifaceted effort to transform Chicago from a city of meat packers and rail yards into the hub of Sino-American commercial activity of every sort. Chicago, it seems, yearns to be the place that manufactures and sells today’s version of the rope to which Lenin (maybe) referred. Included among the goodies assembled by the city was a million dollar Pritzker Foundation grant to bring Chinese designers to study at the Art Institute of Chicago.

But it isn’t just commerce and art at stake here, much less China’s immense stash of U.S. bonds and growing leverage over our national economy. Chicago also seems willing to turn its school kids over to Beijing—and Beijing is only too happy to help cover these costs. It’s not the only place in America where this is happening, to be sure.

On Friday morning, he and his entourage visited Walter Payton College Prep, a decade-old, high-achieving, selective-admission public high school that focuses on science, math, and languages and which has hosted a “Confucius Institute” since 2006. This is one of almost 300 centers like this now operating worldwide. All are affiliated with and financially supported by Hanban, the executive arm of the Chinese Language Council International, which in turn consists of representatives of a dozen government ministries, including foreign affairs, commerce and the “State Council Information Office” which is responsible for, among other things, internet censorship.

Hu announced that his government would bring twenty Payton students and teachers to China this summer, and of course the kids cheered. Who wouldn’t relish such a trip?

But it’s insane to think this is only about cultural understanding and international comity. That’s not how China works—though any number of American educators seem oblivious or uncaring about this topic. The Chinese regime is advancing its own interests in the West—including Walter Payton College Prep—by, in effect, bribing school systems, educators, and students to see the world through Chinese eyes and, of course, to turn blind eyes and deaf ears toward anyone who might raise concerns about the innumerable threats that Beijing poses to America’s future.

I’m not sure whether senior Chinese government officials have much of a sense of humor, but I’ll wager that they are at least smiling at the gullibility, pliability, and naïveté of Western educators—and how cheaply China can buy them off. They are, one might say, giving us the rope with which they will shackle and bend us to their will.

—Chester E. Finn, Jr.

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