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Sarah Palin was pounded by the media as a foreign-policy novice during last year's presidential campaign. But when it comes to the U.S. approach toward China, she has ideas worth listening to.

"Twenty years ago, many believed that as China liberalized its economy, greater political freedom would naturally follow," the former Alaska governor and Republican nominee for the vice presidency told a Hong Kong audience yesterday. "Unfortunately that has not come to pass."

[...]

The solution, she argues, is to encourage political change from within China—a movement that regained momentum last year with the launch of Charter 08, a democratic manifesto.

Such developments, she argued, are in everyone's interest. "The more politically open and just China is, the more Chinese citizens of every ethnicity will settle disputes in courts rather than on the streets," she said. The more open China is, "the less we will be concerned about its military buildup and intentions."

[...]

Mrs. Palin also espoused the value of alliances with like-minded democratic countries in the region such as Japan, Australia and India. The U.S. "can, must and should" work with China to address issues of "mutual concern," she said. "But we also need to work with our allies in addressing the uncertainties created by China's rise."

The Obama Administration could take a page from this book. So far, the White House has gone out of its way to downplay human rights in China and tiptoe around recent crackdowns in Tibet and Xinjiang, preferring to focus on hipper issues like climate change. This "don't ask, don't tell" approach to Beijing does no favors to the Chinese people, much less to the West's core interests in Asia. At the same time, America's other alliances in the region have been largely ignored.

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