The U.S. and Chen Guangcheng
Image Credit: VOA News

The U.S. and Chen Guangcheng


A potential diplomatic flashpoint between the U.S. and China looks to have been avoided with news that a Chinese activist will be allowed to apply to study abroad.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton welcomed news that Chen Guangcheng, who walked out of the U.S. Embassy in Beijing on Thursday following a deal between the U.S. and China, would be allowed to apply through “normal channels.”

Clinton and other officials will no doubt be breathing a huge sigh of relief after the Obama administration came under fire yesterday when Chen started to back away from the agreement, saying that he wanted to leave China and that he was “very disappointed” with the U.S. Adding to the drama, Chen called in to a U.S. Congressional hearing to list his grievances.

Was Chen right to be disappointed? I asked Kelley Currie at the Project 2049 Institute, who has been following this closely and offered some great commentary to The Diplomat, for her thoughts on how the U.S. handled all of this.

“First, I have to say that they have achieved what appears to be a good outcome for Chen at the moment, but we are far from finished with this, and even if Chen and his family make it safely to the U.S., there are still the underlying problems of the completely lawless behavior in Linyi, the detention and abuse of Chen’s friends and family members, and Chen’s ultimate ability to return home to China when he is ready to do so, and live there unmolested. It’s unclear what arrangements have been made to deal with these issues and eventualities, and these are all matters that are of great importance to Chen. I look forward to further announcements from the U.S. in coming days regarding how these issues are going to be handled. 


“Second, it’s clear that there was failure of process and some relatively poor judgment used on Wednesday in Beijing. The U.S. side shouldn’t have been “spiking the football” with their Wednesday announcements, especially since they were only at about mid-field. Their haste in trying to get a deal done before Secretary Clinton arrived, and their failure to work out details regarding access to and regularized contact with Chen, allowed the situation to blow up overnight in Beijing and during the workday in the U.S. Some of us were already communicating to the State Department that there were distress calls coming from Chen, even as they were briefing us on their innovative solution, and these warning flares were treated rather dismissively and defensively. Likewise, it was an incredibly bad idea to reveal at this point the level of detail that was revealed about how Chen entered the embassy. These revelations served to further embarrass Chinese security officials who had already been humiliated by Chen’s initial escape. It makes no sense to needlessly antagonize the coercive elements of the Chinese party-state under these circumstances.

“In the end, I would rather have a good outcome for Chen than some pristine process, but it’s pretty clear to me that much of the drama of the past two days could have been avoided if the U.S. side hadn’t let themselves gotten themselves caught up in false deadlines around the Strategic Dialogue, if they had taken a more circumspect approach in rolling out the deal, and if they had worked out a few key details before letting Chen walk out of the embassy.”

John Chan
May 7, 2012 at 13:52

Chen breached the one-child law, and he span it off as human rights issue.

May 7, 2012 at 01:54


so they are not torturing him. that was a mistake of assumption on my part–considering the CPC’s past behavior–however, that Beijing was so very desperate to muzzle him suggests that whatever criticisms he made carry more than just a hint of truth.

May 7, 2012 at 01:50

the issue of Chen Guangcheng has become extremely important; how the PRC treats its own citizens, especially those who dissent against its rule, is in a microcosm how it will treat the nations of the world if and when its rise to hegemon is completed. That they have, apparently, taken Chen Guangcheng on promises that they would do him no harm and then have proceeded to inflict grievous torture on him is but a taste of what is to come.

Tom Tran
May 7, 2012 at 01:28

Both China and the US wants to settle the Chen’s drama for good. There is no gain for China to push too hard, and the US needs China’s support on many important issues more than Mr. Chen’s well-beings. Things will be over very quickly.

May 7, 2012 at 00:32

“The members of the free world and the suppressed people must support the Muslim communities and the indigenous people in Philippines Islands their arm struggles to shake off the yoke imposed on them by the kleptocratic regime in Manila.”

Yes, and let us support the Muslim peoples of East Turkistan, and the Buddhist Xi of Tibet in their fight against the autocratic regime in Beijing.

John Chan
May 6, 2012 at 13:30

Your plead to uphold the integrity of this forum is applaudable, but I won’t stop the “John Chan” wannabe; he is making a mockery of freedom of speech, the foundation of democracy, and he is demonstrating how the censorship works in the western media. He is proving there is no difference in information control between the West and China, just the approaches are different.

John Chan
May 5, 2012 at 23:40

@JC Impostor,
Filipinos are gutless; they, as you represent, even dare not express their view in their own name. Chicken.

May 5, 2012 at 23:36

There are two people that use the name John Chan.

One who constantly regurgitates the same vommit that can be passed for chinese communist party ideology.

The other who trys and (it seems) succeeds at making him look worse.

Give the first one a break as unless he is schizoid, it isn’t the first poster.

May 5, 2012 at 21:48

There are urgent issues that Lowen should address: the ‘Ghost Army’ and ‘Death Squads’ in Phil Army.

May 5, 2012 at 18:22

interesting article.

@John Chan.

I believe you have sunk to a new low. congratulations.

John Chan
May 5, 2012 at 17:32

“…Filipino females working as housemaids overseas”
Filipino females should learn from Chinese females counterpart (stay home and their chief job are to make babies. if they make more than one then local Chinese communist official can come and rip the unborn child out anytime)

John Chan
May 5, 2012 at 16:48

The members of the free world and the suppressed people must support the Muslim communities and the indigenous people in Philippines Islands their arm struggles to shake off the yoke imposed on them by the kleptocratic regime in Manila.

It is not right for those morons back home in the Philippines to run an arm race on the backs of the Filipino females working as housemaids overseas.

Major Lowen Gil Marquez, Phil Army
May 5, 2012 at 08:14

The member of the free world and democratic society must support Mr.Chen in his fight for truth freedom and justice for the Chinese people in communist china regime..

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