Tuesday, August 7, 2007

America's Relations with China: Contradicting Our Values?

By Justin Soutar



We Americans have a peculiar love of freedom. In fact, for almost one hundred years, our government has taken up an impressive mission to spread freedom to all the peoples of the world. But in practice, our government restricts its focus to what it determines to be the worst examples of tyranny. Iran tops the list due to its anti-Western Shiite Muslim government, its alleged sponsorship of terrorism, its persecution of religious minorities, its nuclear program, and its harsh criticism of Israel. Next comes Syria with another anti-Western, Baath regime, sponsorship of terrorism, persistent meddling in the affairs of its neighbor Lebanon, and hostility to Israel. North Korea ranks third for the cruel Communist dictatorship of Kim Jong Il, the mass imprisonment and torture of political opponents, the manufacture of nuclear missiles and weapons. Although not nearly so cruel, Cuba is another bastion of Communism. Finally, our government ostracizes Myanmar (Burma) for its unelected military junta, and Zimbabwe for its steeped in government corruption and resulting poverty. Despite the fact that personal and political interests and issues heavily shape this list, there is no question that all the countries on this register are guilty of human rights violations to various degrees

But one major country is disturbingly absent from the Bush administration’s list. Having been so completely neglected for so many years now, the absence of this giant nation’s Communist regime from American concern for human rights and freedom is no longer conspicuous. The dramatic shift in American foreign policy thinking after the collapse of the USSR, preoccupation with the “War on Terrorism” and most significantly the narrow bias of Western media are together largely responsible for this omission. By what they cover and don’t cover, the news executives of the Beltway determine how the American people view the world. Fox News, CNN and MSNBC have steadily ignored the situation in China, creating the popular American perception that the Chinese regime is no longer a threat to its people. In any event, we think, the Chinese have attained economic independence thru the globalization system. The Cold War ended in 1991, and Communism now lies utterly discredited.

Such a perception couldn’t be more misleading. Communism has indeed been discredited, but it is far from gone. The second largest country on earth, boasting one fifth the world’s population and now the second largest economy in world history, is still ruled by a Communist dictatorship. Freedom of religion does not exist, and clerics who adhere to a spiritual authority above the government continue to spend years, and even die, in prison. Journalists and political opponents get incarcerated for challenging the ruling Communist party and reporting the hideous methods used to keep control, respectively. With the practice of censorship, freedom of the press is still a dream. Indigenous separatist movements are brutally repressed with military force, torture, and murder. No, China is not a free country like the United States.

Nor is it prosperous. Internationalization of the Chinese regime-controlled economy has made little dent in the glaring widespread poverty afflicting a number of people larger than the whole US population. As many as 325 million Chinese citizens go without clean drinking water, and a staggering 780 million lack modern sanitation. (1) American trade with China has certainly been booming for more than a decade and a half, and investors from Wall Street to Hong Kong have catapulted the huge Asian country into the status of an indispensable link in the global economic chain. But with such a small portion of the Chinese population enjoying the benefits of financial globalization, China cannot truthfully be called wealthy. The average Chinese citizen (about three in five) (2) possesses a small farm and tries to cope with heavy taxes; 350 million others accept a grueling, 100 hour per week “sweatshop” factory job that provides less than 1 dollar an hour. (3) For the latter group, independent labor unions are illegal, stifling hope for better working conditions and wages. Participation in the privatized Chinese market for this 1.1 billion (4) human beings is increasingly a lose-lose situation. Only the foreign investors, their bloated multinational corporations and a relatively few lucky college-grad Chinese expatriate businesspeople draw benefit from this scheme, at the price of hundreds of millions serving against their will—and in violation of their freedom—as sources of cheap labor.

While the American term “Red China” has fallen into disuse, the state is still governed by an authoritarian, political Communist regime. Yet America is unwilling to confront this massive and egregious violator of human rights. Why? Because it is no longer politically correct. America’s present worship of wealth has reached its logical conclusion, where economic considerations trump moral and ethical ones. From Wal-Mart to Microsoft to McDonald’s, every major US business has a crucial stake in China. Uniting with the international community to pressure the Chinese rulers for a more just government might rock the boat—might create some friction and internal “instability”, words that corporate executives do not like to hear. Furthermore, a change of regime would empower separatist movements in Xinjiang, Tibet and other regions, harming the US battle against terrorism. Communists, big business magnates, and supporters of the “War on Terrorism” have all weirdly discovered a common goal: suppress freedom in the name of freedom.

In the excitement of its headlong dive into the world’s oldest continuous civilization, American business to date has left ethical considerations on the diving board. China’s repression of religious liberty, after all, does not hurt the multinational tycoons, who tend to be nonreligious and regard the observance of a weekly day of rest, for themselves and their hapless wage slaves, as an irksome enemy of profit. At the clamor of American investors, the regime has been slipping closer and closer to total laissez-faire economics. Conversely, in fields outside of economics, the Red Chinese regime has maintained tight control over its people’s lives. With its politics, militarism, violations of human rights, and hostility to religion, Red China is a practical demonstration of the wild “free market” at its worst.

Now, I will not deny that capitalism is the ultimate basis for a sound national economic system, or that the worldwide version of it is a real and exciting opportunity for the benefit of the human race. But it is just as true that without civic government based on a foundation of ethics, the human race will destroy itself. Common sense as much as the moral law dictates the necessity of basic principles of justice to guide the world market. To shape a competitive economic system that is both free and fair for all the peoples of the world is a challenge and a responsibility that confronts America more and more each day, with ever-growing monopolies and acts of international “Islamic” terrorism. If only for the sake of world peace, we must strive to carry out this task with international assistance.

The “War on Terrorism”, however, because it is a war on political freedom and economic fairness, conflicts with our duties in regard to Red China. Two hundred thirty years ago, America was born as a result of England’s consistent, deliberate failure to remedy the English colonists’ economic and political grievances. Having evolved into a unique people and facing a repressive government, the colonists believed that they had a right to form their own country. Nationalist and separatist movements in northwestern China and Tibet as well as thruout the Middle East, Africa, Europe and South America are all products of serious injustices remaining unresolved for a significant period of time. When grievances lie disregarded by the government for too long, citizens are likely to reject or even overthrow that government. And according to our Declaration of Independence, such oppressed citizens have not only the right, but the duty to oust a despotic regime.

Yet instead of championing the human freedom of all including the Chinese people, America has politicized the concept of freedom to suit the interests of big business. The tyrannical Red Chinese regime is the most outstanding example of this double standard. Repeating the slogan that Communism is dead and a thing of the past enables the US to cover up this evil policy for dishonest, voracious multinational corporations.

By shamelessly monopolizing the market and squeezing out all competitors, big businesses and multimillionaire investors unite with our government in attacking human freedom. The average Chinese citizen has no prospect of starting a successful small business or improving his or her life, and lacks the money to attend college or university. While the Red Chinese regime has significantly released the nation’s economy and merged it with the international economy, the result has not been vibrant financial health for the nation as a whole. Excessive privatization leads to a wildly insecure market that negatively affects the greater part of the Chinese, and world, population.

Classic Communism is a mistaken response to such economic travail and injustice which does just as grave damage as unrestrained capitalism. Between the extremes of total central economic planning and ridiculous laissez-faire indifference, only a balanced financial system established on moral and ethical principles will succeed. If government does not exercise some degree of regulation over the national economy, if businesspeople can operate above the rule of law, the road is open for wealth to be progressively concentrated in fewer hands at the ever-increasing expense of poorer citizens. Red China‘s speed in traveling down this road does not bode well for the future.

The Communist philosophy which dictates every facet of Chinese public life is evil. Moreover, this current hybrid form in which civil and political rights are curtailed and big business is allowed to dominate the ordinary people is the very antithesis of freedom. Yet America pathetically acquiesces in the first form of repression and actively promotes the latter. What happened to our will to fight Communism? Partly due to our waging of a Cold War and partly to Communism’s inherent economic and political flaws, Russia, Eastern Europe, and most of South America and Africa are free of it. Multinational executives and investors have bribed our government policymakers into facilitating their access to the lucrative Chinese market at the price of capitulating to the last major Red power. We should keep working tirelessly and, as much as possible, peacefully to wipe Communism off the earth.

The “War on Terrorism” emerged from a clear misunderstanding of what terrorism is. It’s simply a method of extortion that some people resort to, in order to compel a government to address their grievances. Although Red China tramples our values, it has received unstinting praise from President Bush as a firm ally in the “War on Terrorism”. This makes no sense and is an inconceivable logic gap. Righting injustices eliminates terrorism. But since the grievances too often concern the huge wealth disparities resulting from the international economic system which America protects, we will not lift a finger to resolve them, causing terrorism to continue unabated.

Sadly, greed has politicized our moral values and distorted our concern for basic human rights. While America should not be an interventionist that builds a worldwide empire, our foreign policy must be guided by the light of our moral values. Governments guilty of systematic and serious violations of the human rights and freedom of their people must be held accountable in the UN and be subject to our diplomatic pressure to change their ways. Red China fits that description. If in spite of these actions it continues to impose Communist dictatorship on its massive and helpless population, we must arm and train Chinese separatists for a revolutionary war of independence—as we did in Afghanistan in the 1980s, with spectacular success.

ENDNOTES


(1) Figures calculated from percentages of the population retrieved from Terrorism Knowledge Base, “Country/Area Overview: China”, at www.tkb.org/Country.jsp?countryCd=CH.

(2) Rural population distribution is 60 percent. Retrieved from www.tkb.org/Country.jsp?countryCd=CH.

(3) Sarah Anderson, “Wal-Mart’s Pay Gap”, Institute for Policy Studies, retrieved from www.ips-dc.org/projects/global_econ/walmart_pay_gap.htm.

(4) Equal to population on farms plus population in sweatshops.



Copyright © 2006, 2007 by Justin Soutar. This article may not be reproduced in whole or in part without the explicit written permission of the copyright holder.
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1 comment:

D.B. Kenner said...

You write:

"Iran tops the list due to its anti-Western Shiite Muslim government, its alleged sponsorship of terrorism, its persecution of religious minorities, its nuclear program, and its harsh criticism of Israel."

Why "alleged" sponsorship of terrorism? It is a fact that Iran sponsors terrorism. You make it sound like a neocon fantasy. Why should we who promote Distributism and abhor the Iraq war use soft words to describe the hard truth about Iran?

And then there's Iran's "harsh criticism of Israel." Harsh criticism!? Iran's leader (and its Mulahs) pledged the complete destruction of Israel. This is similar to the Arab's desire to "drive every Jew into the sea" or the PLO's promise to "finish Hitler's work."

If I pledge to wipe out you and your entire family, would you say I had some "harsh criticisms" of you?