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
.

Last
Friday, 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.

This piece originally
appeared
(in a slightly different format) on Fordham’s
Flypaper blog.
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