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Photo by Huang Jingwen/Xinhua via The Associated Press / In this photo released by Xinhua News Agency, Chinese President Xi Jinping attends the 13th BRICS summit via video link in Beijing, China on Sept. 9, 2021.

Human freedom has many threats, as we have recently been reminded.

The struggle for freedom is never finished. It is iterative and incremental. Where freedom is won, it can be lost again.

We think of this now not only in memory of the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11 that were aimed at American democracy and individual determinism but in the broader context of today's global human struggle for freedom.

The morning of Sept. 11, many of us believed with good reason that the tide was with us and that Western democracy, with its protection of innate human rights, was ascendant. We hoped the war of ideas was won and that broadening freedom and respect for human dignity were its prize.

Today, surveying the world around us, there is much to worry about. And among the first worries we register now is a regressing China.

Twenty years ago, we had reason to believe that China would join the world of free nations by expanding human rights and democratic self-determination as economic freedom and personal prosperity began to bloom. China officially joined the World Trade Organization on Dec. 11, 2001, after enduring the Asian Financial Crisis of the late 1990s, preceded by decades of struggle and desperation under Mao's despotically insane economic and social policies.

A series of reform-minded leaders advanced China with actual great leaps forward, creating an economy that could not only feed but actually enrich its people. Those people, we expected, would seek and win political freedom to match their newfound economic self-determinism.

We were only half right. While the Chinese people have sought greater freedom, the Chinese Communist Party has retrenched in its devotion to oppression in the name of self-preservation.

In the person of Chinese President Xi Jinping, the CCP is grossly expanding its authoritarian control over the lives of the Chinese people. And its expansionist vision on the foreign stage should be a cause for grave concern.

The list of crackdowns and violations of human rights are too numerous to detail here. We note as among the worst offenses the elimination of a free and democratic government and press in Hong Kong and the ongoing oppression and even elimination of Uyghur people in Xinjiang province. But, as The Washington Post pointed out in a recent article, Xi's policies are diminishing freedom in just about every area of Chinese life.

The Chinese Communist Party cherishes a vision of cradle-to-grave control of human life, with the ancillary belief that this can occur in an economically prosperous society. Just follow the rules and nobody gets hurt, it suggests. The vision is as fundamentally misguided about human nature as Mao's grotesque Great Leap Forward programs. But it may be more sustainable in the short run as a way of doing business. And, given China's current economic might and influence in the developing world, it could be expanded either by force or coercion.

It is popular now to suggest that America is damaged goods, that our role on the world stage is so diminished we are no longer an effective advocate of freedom. After the shameful retreat from Afghanistan, there is, sadly, some truth to this. And to no one is that sweeter than Xi Jinping.

That is why it is crucial for every American, and especially for the American president, to remember that America's central idea — its reason for being — is the elevation of human freedom and of the God-given rights that codify that freedom. We need a clear foreign policy that acknowledges China as it is, not for what we wish it to be.

The Dallas Morning News

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