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As American businesses rush to take their high-tech industries and marketing skills to the rest of the world, we wonder whether they're in too big a hurry; whether their eagerness has numbed their consciences.

Our sense is many will agree with Patrick J. McGovern, chairman of International Data Group, who told Advertising Age that, in effect, dollars come first in today's untidy new world order. Referring to our government's apparent China policy of attempting to link trade to human rights, Mr. McGovern said: "It's unfortunate the State Department seems to be putting the economic interests of the U.S. secondary to other matters."

"Other matters," of course, is his euphemism for abuse, for the way Communist China's diehard political leaders treat their people. There are those in and out of government who argue our economic interests should come before concern about the aftermath of the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown on pro-democracy students-concern about China's imprisoned and oppressed dissidents, its cruel attempt to destroy Tibet, its slave labor and its denial of emigration rights to its citizens.

Even if we could ignore China's record, could we do the same with the monumental human rights violations in Bosnia, Somalia, Mexico, the Middle East, the former Soviet Union?

This is recent history. How far back in time must we go to drive home the point that, in the final analysis, our nation stands for freedom's agenda and cannot unconditionally reward political, religious and economic oppression.

This compact inevitably supersedes one's right to pursue-unrestricted-immediate profits.

Mr. McGovern is probably correct when he notes China, while not yet perfect, "is heading for a destination that's going to be a democratically functioning society." But we suggest he show a little more patience. In time, aided by Western and and U.S. pressures, China will arrive at that destination. The profits will still be waiting there.

But first and foremost, China's leaders need to know that, when it comes to human rights, the U.S. still means business.

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