Wednesday, January 20, 2016

The High Cost of Doing Business in China

"Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly." - Martin Luther King Jr., Letter from a Birmingham Jail, April 16, 1963

Presidents Richard Nixon, Jimmy Carter meet with Deng Xiaoping in 1979

Normalizing relations with China and engaging it both diplomatically and economically is often given as an example of the inconsistency of a human rights based policy in Cuba. This fails to look at the negative consequences of China policy not only for the United States but the world. Swedish human rights defender Peter Dahlin was taken in China by state security on January 3, 2016 and today was paraded on television to make a scripted confession. In Hong Kong the long reach of the Chinese communist regime has led to five book sellers disappearing because they sold books critical of the dictatorship.  The Free Cuba Foundation in an open letter replying to Cuban American businessmen advocating engagement with the Cuban dictatorship summarizes some of the costs of this policy on the world stage:
Human rights and democracy have been in retreat for the better part of a decade emboldening dictators and terrorists to challenge the international order turning it into something cruel and indifferent to human aspirations for freedom and dignity. We are witnessing today in Venezuela the attempt by the Maduro regime to undermine the results of a democratic election while at the same time rejecting calls for an amnesty to free Venezuelan prisoners of conscience. This change poses a challenge for a democratic Cuba in the future.

This new reality is in large part due to unprincipled engagement with Communist China by Western Countries, including the United States. Corporations shifted manufacturing away from their free markets, labor unions, and environmental protections toward Communist China were workers are paid slave wages, work in terrible conditions and where environmental regulations are non-existent. The world today is dirtier, less free, and human dignity has been debased to the point that organ trafficking is a common practice and the bodies of dissidents are put on display for the amusement and curiosity of paying visitors around the world.   
 Dr. King's epigram "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere" can be seen in action in China. The decision to continue the China policy initiated by Nixon and Kissinger in a Cold War context with the Soviet Union when it had a basis in realpolitik but ended with the collapse of the Soviet empire (1989 - 1991). The decision to continue based on narrow economic self-interests has had negative consequences not only in China but around the world. It is long past time for the United States and other democracies to advance a principled human rights policy in China and elsewhere. This also does not mean going to war that often has made things worse but doing the right thing. This is the third way, that neither engages in preemptive wars or appeasing brutal tyrants, and is the best hope to a world of freedom and justice which is necessary for a lasting peace.

No comments:

Post a Comment