From Washington's stance of isolationism portrayed in his Farewell Address, the role the U.S. plays in the world's affairs has drastically changed. Through the years, the U.S. has emerged as the world dominant power and with this power comes responsibility. Since the U.S. entered a pact after WWI that gave birth to the U.N., the U.S. has a position that gives them the responsibility of procuring rights describe in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Though this is true, the leaders from the past three decades seem to put "human rights" second to a policy of engagement, as is the case with President Clinton and China.
During the Revolutionary War, the "New World" fought for the rights they believe they, along with all humans, have. These are the same rights outlined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This proclamation was designed to protect the rights of the citizens of the world as a whole. The rights described consist of not only legal privileges, but also moral rights such as freedom of religion and physical well being.
This being known, this policy has been shunned be the leaders of the U.S. for some time. Instead, an act of engagement has occurred, which they deem is most beneficial, economically and militarily, whether it goes against the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Doing this provides a way to accomplish the same goals while maintaining important economic ties or strategically significant military connections. This, however, can present an ugly image (which consequently may be true) of selfishness and self preservation instead of trying to unite the world as a whole
The case of Clinton and China is a prime example of engagement. China's form of government is communistic, which directly contradicts the Universal Declaration's idea of a democratic government. With China's population of over a million citizens, a vast economic opportunity is available not to mention a militarian threat. A bad relationship with China, due to the Universal Declaration, could mean a sizeable loss of trade and could bring forth military concerns. Clinton's plan, however, is to avoid this by not exiling China (by way of such things as embargoes) or overthrowing them by force, but to change them by companionship. With this method, Clinton hopes to open the eyes of China's citizens showing them the benefits of democracy and the throwbacks of communism. He tries to achieve this by a multitude of ways, including giving China most favored nation trade status. Doing this, Clinton hopes to sever the connection between human rights and trade.
Now with every action, there are certain benefits and drawbacks, and the United States' decision with China are no different. If Clinton (and U.S.) took a strict stand on human rights in China, a wide spectrum of occurrences could take place. Some advantages would be respect as a nation and set of standard rules while some disadvantages would be loss of income and military insecurity.
With a strong stance on human rights, the U.S. could receive recognition for sticking to their guns. No nation could criticize the choice because of inequality. This brings forth another advantage which is that it would set a standard (in this case keep the status quo) of the U.S.'s policy of human rights. It would show that America will not deviate from their objectives due to profits obtainable and also shows that each country is treated the same.
If advantages are present, then one can always be certain that disadvantages are lurking around also, and in this situation there is no exception. With a strong position on human rights, the United States could severely lose out economically. As stated before, China has well over a billion people, which would mean a significant amount of potential customers might vanish. This provides the possibility of one less country to export goods, such as tobacco (which might be a secret government way of eliminating the human rights problem by eliminating China by means of cancer). Besides financial loss, with this attitude towards human rights, our physical well being might be in jeopardy. With a population the size that China has, whether they are only armed with rocks and sticks (which is obviously not the case due to China's current increase of military expenditures), a threat is always present.
Though the following of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights could achieve "universal harmony", the chances of this occurring is slim. The better bet seems, in the long run, to be the United States' current position of engagement because instead of an authoritarian appearance, it shows one of compassion, which nine times out of time will totally sway a person as opposed to force (which can sway people but, most likely, not entirely or permanently).