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China Letter-News and Human Rights

China human rights news with focus on the Uygur of Xinjiang, Tibetans and Tibet, Chinese mining workers, religion, corruption and censorship.

Friday, May 07, 2004

China: From Cockiness to Threat?

Lead the Way China? german Chancellor and Premier Wen
"In Italy, Europe and across the globe, Chinese are courted everywhere, hoping to get a small slice of China’s 400 billon dollars in foreign investments and currency reserves. And the Chinese are amazed, too, yet fearful about such changes of fortune. Such changes represent a Copernican revolution with respect to the past, when China begged for aid and Western investment."

So said an Italian journalist on the eve of the visit of Premier Wen Jiabao to Italy. The author argues that Italy and Europe have to seriously re-think attitudes and policies towards China given not only China's new found economic strength but also her increasing role and influence in Asian and Central Asian affairs.

In the words of the author European views of the 'new China"
"require a deep moral examination and honest evaluation of our current industrial system.."

What I believe him to mean is that Europe does not have the experience of the United States in dealing with China and does not have in place the checks and balances that America has.

I think this is true of many nations of the world. Dealing with China today is not only about economics, the simple “inking” of deals, it has also has to be about moral and ethical considerations and very importantly long term strategic considerations.

The article I link to gives as example small matters of corporate ethics that taken in isolation could be considered of little significance but when viewed in the overall scheme of things can be of major importance.

Such things as building into a contract with the Chinese government or Chinese companies that they must supply a worker's canteen or demanding that worker accommodation be supplied where only four people share a room not hundreds.

These things are small in themselves but can work to raise not only the quality of working conditions for those directly involved but also raise worker expectations and ultimately conditions for all Chinese workers. Such contractual demands or requirements work to condition the Chinese government and Chinese employers to move away from their "coolie mentality" regarding the working class as very much evidenced by their treatnment of "migrant" workers.

It is ironic is it not that foreign "Capital" is being asked to act as de facto "worker's unions" for Chinese "Labour" in a Communist/Socialist state but these are some of the things that need to happen in each and every dealing with China.

From Cockiness to Threat?

I do not know if I am the only one feeling it but as I mentioned in a previous post the Chinese leadership is allowing a degree of cockiness to enter their public demeanour of late. They appear to me as if they are feeling their muscles, testing their strength and beginning to revel in the results.

The author of the article in question must be sensing something similar when he makes comment about the recent Hong Kong democracy issue:
China’s new status makes it extremely strong. And for this very reason, international public opinion tends to overlook Hong Kong’s problems. Hong Kong's main problem now is that it will not be able to directly elect its "Chief Executive" (president) as hoped for by 2007. In a different day and age, such an announcement by Beijing would have sparked a chorus of protests around the globe. Today, however, one sees hardly a ripple in the waters of international political debate.

And therein lays the worry. It has been said by many commentators that there is a direct link between the strength of the Chinese economy and the strength of the Chinese Communist Party and that a strong CCP is not kind to either it’s people or it’s foes. Paradoxically when the CCP is feeling the most vulnerable is when it is the most “kind” to it’s people.

The recent events in Hong Kong prove just how newly confident and strong the CCP feels in the world and just how acquiescent that world has become in light of China’s ‘Peaceful rising” and new found economic clout.

China is feeling strong, China is feeling confident, of that there can be little doubt. Just watch and hear her leaders strut the foreign stage, see the never ending stream, nay river, of foreign countries and companies knocking on her door. Only today for example I read with some incredulity that the German Chancellor has paid five visits to China so far during his term in office.

China is also developing a list of client states throughout Asia, Central Asia, Africa and the middle east in a manner that is almost textbook Soviet style cold war diplomacy but without, at this stage, the arms supplying.

She has become an important linchpin go between with one of the member states of the “Axis of Evil” North Korea.

A confident, strong Chinese Communist Party that feels immune to what world thinks about her is really a worry for her people and, without trying to be alarmist, should be a worry for the world.

I am not advocating that we do not trade or invest, quite the contrary, but I am advocating that a) We use whatever bargaining power we have, whilst we still have it, to effect change in China particularly as it concerns human rights and, b) that we do not allow a potential bully boy to rise in the playground and then bemoan the fact latter on.

We really have to stop thinking with our wallets and start thinking with our brains again.

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