On a week-long trip to China in late May, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told a Beijing audience about a "game-changing" issue in U.S-China relations: global warming. It was a game-changing statement for Pelosi herself. For years, the Democratic representative has trumpeted a different issue when it comes to China: human rights.
On a 1991 trip to Beijing, Pelosi unfurled a banner in Tiananmen Square, where the Chinese military had killed thousands of student protesters and civilians in a massacre two years earlier. The banner proclaimed: "To those who died for democracy in China." Last summer, the speaker urged President George W. Bush to boycott the opening ceremonies of the Olympics in Beijing.
But last month, the speaker adopted a softer tone in China, reflecting the Obama administration's evolving approach to foreign relations with severe nations. Her only mention of human rights came in the context of global warming: "Indeed, protecting the environment is a human-rights issue."
Pelosi acknowledged evangelicals when she spoke of environmentalism: "One important part of the coalition is the faith-based community, including the evangelicals, because they believe as many of us do, that this planet is God's creation and it is our moral responsibility to preserve it."
Chinese Christians may have been more eager for Pelosi to argue for their right to worship freely. The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom includes China in its list of countries of particular concern, reporting: "Religious activities are tightly controlled and some religious adherents were detained, imprisoned, fined, beaten and harassed."