“As we diversify the ways in which we do business with China, we will continue to champion respect for the rule of law, human rights, religious freedom and democratic principles.” So proclaimed Susan Rice, national security adviser, near the beginning of what was billed as a major address last week on Obama administration policy toward Asia.

But as Rice’s long speech unspooled, she had nothing further to say about human rights or democracy in China. She held out hopes of cooperation in foreign policy, military-to-military relations, energy and climate change. In economics, she said that Chinese leaders have announced “sweeping reforms” that may help the two nations “elevate our economic relationship.”

But you would not know from Rice’s speech that the prospect of “sweeping reforms” in the economic realm has been accompanied by the reality of an intense political crackdown. Chinese bloggers and academics are hounded, fired and imprisoned if they challenge political orthodoxy.

Dissidents who might have been heartened by a word or two are let to know that they are on their own. Their jailors — the Communists who run China — are let to know that nothing they do will bother the Americans enough to interfere with business.

The Washington Post (Nov. 25)