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Source: New York Times|
By JANE PERLEZ
ULAN BATOR, Mongolia — Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, in an unmistakable message to China delivered in a speech from this neighboring country, said Monday that economic success without meaningful political openness was an unsustainable equation that would ultimately lead to instability.
Mrs. Clinton arrived in this mineral-rich nation on the border of China on the second day of an Asia tour dedicated to broadening the Obama administration’s renewed focus on the region beyond an early emphasis on building up American military strength. The effort was seen as aimed at easing away from a confrontation with China.
But Mrs. Clinton’s comments, made at an international forum on democracy, came at a sensitive time for China, where a leadership transition at the top of the Communist Party is proving messy, and as criticism of the government spreads from environmental concerns to social issues, including forced abortion.
Mrs. Clinton did not mention China by name, but it was clearly the target of her remarks.
“You can’t have economic liberalization without political liberalization eventually,” she said. “It’s true that clamping down on political expression or maintaining a tight grip on what people read, say or see can create an illusion of security. But illusions fade — because people’s yearning for liberty don’t.”
In a dig at China as it wrestles with an economic downturn after a decade of double-digit growth, Mrs. Clinton added, “Countries that want to be open for business but closed to free expression will find that this approach comes at cost: it kills innovation and discourages entrepreneurship, which are vital for sustainable growth.”
The notion that democratic values were for Western societies only, an idea spawned in the 1990s by Lee Kuan Yew, the founder of modern Singapore, was antiquated, she said. “In the last five years, Asia has been the only region in the world to achieve steady gains in political rights and civil rights, according to the N.G.O. Freedom House,” Mrs. Clinton said.
But in contrast to governments that had made democratic gains, she said, there were those “that work around the clock to restrict their people’s access to ideas and information, imprison them for expressing their views, usurp the rights of citizens to choose their leaders and govern without accountability, closed off from public view.”
Mrs. Clinton is well known to the Chinese as a critic of their model of government, a fact that she recalled on Monday by referring to her visit to Beijing 17 years ago as first lady.
On that occasion, in 1995, she addressed a United Nations conference on women and created a firestorm when she declared that “human rights are women’s rights — and women’s rights are human rights.” Immediately after that conference, she visited Mongolia for the first time and was struck, she said, by the emergence of a democracy, a contrast that appears to have left an indelible impression.
In the eyes of the Chinese government, Mrs. Clinton was further identified as a promoter of human rights when, during a visit to Beijing in May, she negotiated the departure of the dissident Chen Guangchen to the United States.
Formerly aligned with the Soviet Union, Mongolia has been held up by the administration as a model of how democracy can be born from authoritarianism. Its democratic credentials were tarnished in April when the government arrested former President Nambaryn Enkhbayar on corruption allegations; he was held for a month until formally charged and released on bail in May, according to the State Department.
On Monday, Mrs. Clinton did not refer to the arrest, choosing to praise parliamentary elections last month in which nine women were elected to the 76-member Parliament, three times the number in the previous legislature.
She met President Tsakhia Elbegdorj in a ceremonial yurt, the traditional abode of nomadic herders, that featured a carved wooden ceiling, elaborate chairs and a glistening chandelier.
With Mr. Elbegdorj seated on the stage at Government House, a Soviet-style building from the 1950s, Mrs. Clinton extolled Mongolia as an excellent example of how freedom and democracy were not exclusively Western concepts. To those who doubted, she said, “Let them come to Mongolia.”
The Obama administration has taken a special interest in Mongolia, largely because of its position next to China. Mr. Elbegdorj visited the White House last year, and Vice President Joe Biden went to Mongolia last year, as well.
Washington is backing an American company, Peabody Energy, based in St. Louis, to win a contract to mine a massive coal deposit at Tavan Tolgoi. The other main contender, Shenhua Energy, is a state-owned Chinese enterprise.