“No country, including the United States is perfect on the human rights issue.”
– Zhang Zhijun, Chinese Executive Vice Foreign Minister
I’d like to thank Mr. Zhang for taking some time during recent – and pointless – US-China Strategic Economic Dialog meetings in Washington to remind us of America’s short-comings. While I’m at it, let me give a big shout-out to Vice Premier Wang Qishan for his constructive comment, on the Charlie Rose show, that Americans are “very simple people” who can’t be expected to really understand how great China is. Reacting to valid criticisms by turning on their hosts is typical of the new Chinese approach to diplomacy. It’s an in-your-face defensive mechanism that has been emboldened by a particularly smug breed of American media apologists.
Now, to be honest, if these comments had come from someone other than cronies from a criminal regime, they could be the basis for some honest introspection. That is, as long as that someone wasn’t just a crony of these cronies. We often hear the same sort of drivel repeated by the American business leaders who live off the slops of China’s fascist setup and academic free trade pundits who probably picked it up from some Party member during their last sumptuous feast in Shanghai. It’s a familiar refrain to anyone who has called for a serious inspection of our dysfunctional and disastrous China policy.
Call out Beijing on environmental degradation and you’ll hear “America (or Europe) polluted their cities and land during their industrial development. It’s simply part of progress.”
Mention human rights and you’ll surely be reminded of America’s struggle with civil rights.
Bring up workers’ rights or safety and you’ll hear all about 19th century child labor sweatshops and probably the story of the triangle shirt factory fire 100 years ago.
If you mention China’s brutality against Tibetans, Mongolians, and Uighars you’ll get the lecture on America’s battle with it’s indigenous population a hundred and fifty years ago.
Express dismay over China’s exploitation of Africa and Latin America and you’ll be surely reminded of the grim history of Western colonialism.
Show your disgust at the industrial production of cancer in China and you’ll be told about America’s cigarette firms promoting smoking in the last century.
OK, thanks for the guilt trip. Well deserved and guilty as charged! Let me get it all out: America institutionalized slavery. The US government ran a virtual campaign of genocide against Native Americans in the 19th century – some of whom were my ancestors. The skies in LA, when I grew up in the 70s were awful and the Cuyahoga River did catch fire. US national guardsmen once gunned down four student protestors at Kent State University. Our shining city on a hill tried it’s hand at colonialism in the Philippines and supported dreadfully repressive regimes around the world in pursuit of geopolitical and economic advantage.
All you fifty-centers* and communist apologists masquerading as free-marketeers please feel free to continue this US-bashing rant for me in the comments section. Knock yourselves out in the noble quest to justify authoritarianism. It won’t make a difference because as Secretary of State Clinton so wisely commented about the Chinese leadership recently, “they are trying to stop history, which is a fools errand.”
What Hu Jintao, Chinese nationalists living in Internet cafes, and American editorialists seem to miss in this silly argument of moral equivalence is that everyone in the world knows about all of this because in America we don’t hide the truth or lock up those who speak it. We air our laundry for all to see. Hell, we make best selling novels, movies, and TV miniseries about this stuff. When America makes a mistake it calls itself out on it, puts an end to it, and will not accept it’s repetition – at home or abroad. That’s why America is really the home of the brave and why China’s great and powerful dictators are mere cowards by comparison.
The fact is, that not only did America go through a lot of pain and suffering to demonstrate what should not be done, we’ve also provided the world a very clear path on how to avoid these problems. For instance, the air of Beijing does not need to be noxious, because America has developed and tested pollution control mechanisms for autos and factories. The thugs living off that poor city’s residents don’t care about their future lung cancer deaths and America’s corporate and media sycophants pretend it’s an inevitable sign of progress. So everyone laughs about the pollution and looks the other way because fixing it would undermine the ill-gotten competitive advantage that sucks the jobs out of Detroit and St. Louis to boost quarterly profits in Shanghai and on Wall Street. America’s investment in doing the right things is not only dismissed as somehow inapplicable to China, it is used as an economic weapon against our workers. The apologist pundits offer little comfort by explaining that our growing misery is simply part of the mysterious workings of “free” markets – something that “simple” Americans are too stupid to really understand.
As for the rest of the litany, I’m not even going to dignify questions of why China shouldn’t be allowed to enslave Tibet, exploit their workers, or rape Africa with replies. If you seriously want to make those arguments, you need a whole lot more help than I can provide.
The trouble with totalitarians is they don’t need to learn from the mistakes of others because they simply don’t have to. Fear is their crowd control mechanism but it is just not a good educational system. Which is why, today, repression in Beijing is as bad as it has been in twenty years and artists, protestors, and nobel prize winners are filling the reeducation camps. It’s why nothing is really changing in Chinese politics and selling out America’s economy in hopes that “engagement” would civilize The Boys from Beijing was a fool’s errand. It has simply empowered those who cover their current sins by pointing at past records of others.
The Chinese Communist Party is essentially incapable of imagining anything beyond copying what others have done and doing it BIGGER. That means more pollution, more repression, and more colonialism.
So, before you come to me with anymore of that nonsense about “China is just doing what we did . . .” be prepared to tell me why it is necessary or ethical to repeat every mistake we’ve made.
“You can always count on the Americans to do the right thing, after they’ve tried everything else.”
– Winston Churchill
*The fifty-centers are semi-amateur Internet censors who get some support from the Chinese government to identify web content unfriendly to China (domestic and abroad) and overwhelm it – usually with silly patriotic posts, but sometimes with pretty educated assaults. For instance, they will flood amazon.com with negative reviews of our book or any other that is critical to China and then spend the time to vote any negative review as “helpful” many hundreds of times,