Image copyright of Tim Simpson
Baron Laudermilk - 06 December 2011
Navi Pillay, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, desperately urged the United Nations to take immediate action to save the Syrian people from being “ruthlessly repressed” by the their government. Many human rights activists, governments, and the European Union agree with her idea that action must be taken now. Navi Pillay never clarifies what she means by intervention, but it is clear that she does not mean economic sanctions. The sanctions from the West and the Arab League that were implemented last week have not impeded Assad’s method of maintaining power by brutally cracking down on the protestors in the streets of cities across the country.
Simply looking at the pictures of the atrocities that have occurred in Syria, and those that are occurring every day, make the idea of intervention a legitimate one. Since March of this year, more than 4,000 people
have been killed in military crackdowns on protestors, and an estimated 14,000 people have been detained. Reports have been seeping out of Syria stating that the Bashar al-Assad administration is severely violating human rights by raping women, torturing people, and by killing more than 307 children
But despite the vast amount of evidence that has proved there is in fact an overwhelming number of human rights violations that have occurred in Syria since the protest began in January, and despite the unwavering support from the West to directly intervene in Syria, China (along with a few other members) voted against a resolution backed by the Arab League to condemn Syria’s human right violations. A Chinese envoy said,
“It is our consistent view that constructive dialogue and cooperation are the right approaches to promote and protect human rights, whereas finger pointing and pressurizing give no solution to any issue.” Xinhua, the Chinese government’s mouthpiece, said “The Chinese representative stressed that [action] to promote and protect human rights should not in any case be taken by any country as pretext of intrusion over another's territorial integrity and sovereignty.” What the Chinese government wants to say is that there is no reason—ever—for a government to intervene in another country’s affairs.
Naturally most people would disagree with this. Many countries, including the United States, regret not intervening in Germany when it was committing genocide against the Jews in World War II. Many people, including scholars and human rights activists, wonder why nobody stepped in when Japan was slaughtering the northern Chinese during World War II. And many people still wonder why the West did not intervene in Rwanda when more than 800,000 people were murdered over a course of 100 days
. Clearly, when a government or a group of people is killing an overwhelming number of other people, it is only morally right to intervene.
The question is: Why is China against military action in a nation that is clearly violating human rights? Why won’t China step up to the plate and demonstrate to the international community that it supports the United Nations in preventing the bloodbath that is occurring in Syria?
The Chinese government does not want foreign forces intervening in any nation for several reasons. First of all, China has a long history of being invaded by foreign nations and controlled from afar, by both Japan and the West. It is possible that China does not want to see the West tamper with other governments’ affairs, because if the West can intervene in smaller nations, it may, one day, intervene in Chinese affairs, as it did two hundred years ago. Also, China has a reputation for violating its own peoples’ human rights. If a nation is not being punished for atrocities that it is committing, but apparently sees other nations being punished for the same things it is doing, it becomes apparent that the domino effect may take place. China does not want Syria to establish an unwritten precedent for governments to intervene in nations who are committing human right violations. And, finally, the Chinese government does not want its people to see men and women across the world sacrifice their lives for civil rights and democracy. The peak of the Jasmine Revolution, when Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya saw their governments fall to young people demanding for their civil rights and democracy (supported by Western governments), made the Chinese government realize that one day this could happen to them. It forced the Chinese government to rethink what happened in Tiananmen Square in 1989, and compelled it to hide this information from its people in fear that they may use the Middle East’s spring to democracy as motivation to demand it in their own country. China does not want foreign ideas of democracy, civil rights, and the possible threat of a nation invading it.
I find it reasonable for China to be a little paranoid about seeing the United States and the rest of the West intervene in other nations’ affairs. China has a long history of being invaded by foreign nations. Around 1075, China’s next door neighbor, Vietnam, a country it had been doing trade with since its existence, invaded Song Dynasty China. The Manchurians, at that time barbarians according to the Chinese, invaded China in 1644. The French and British invaded China in 1856 to force them to liberalize their ports and to do trade with the West in the Opium Wars. And then Japan, a country that has historically had wars and territorial tensions with China, invaded China in 1895, 1931, and, the most famous time, during World War II. All these nations that had invaded China had attempted to force it to change the way it did business with other nations, or the way it operated in general. This long history of being forced to open up to foreign ideas has rightfully caused China to be more cautious when it sees nations intervening in other nations’ affairs.
But, regardless of China’s extensive history of seeing imperialism first-hand, China should start acting as a world power. Or in the words of Fareed Zakaria
, “Beijing needs to recognize that it has become a world power, that its every move is now deeply analyzed, and that it is expected to play by the rules - indeed, it is expected to help maintain the rules.” With great power comes great responsibility. The Chinese government becomes irritated when the West wants to step into its affairs, such as the territorial disputes
in the South China Sea. But the United States and other Western nations feel that they must step into China’s affairs because although it is economically and militarily a global power, it is not acting like one.
Beijing uses its history to justify to the world that nations should not intervene in other nations’ domestic affairs. But Beijing should use its history to accept that foreign intervention is necessary when a government is brutally killing its own people. When the Japanese were controlling Manchuria, they treated the Chinese as second-rate citizens and, during the war, brutally killed them and raped their women. The history China uses to justify to itself that foreign intervention can cause imperialism can also be turned around to support intervention when a nation is being dominated, regardless if it is committed by domestic or foreign forces.
My second point: it is hard to criticize someone for something when you are doing the same thing. China has a reputation for violating its people’s rights. In fact, what Syria is doing now—preventing the people from overthrowing the government and possibly installing a democracy— China did in 1989
during the Tiananmen Square Massacre. The Chinese government has made progress since it massacred young, peaceful protestors in 1989, but it still has a long way to go before the Chinese people have civil rights that are protected by the rule of law. The Freedom House “Map of Freedom 2010
” ranked China’s political rights and civil liberties very low compared to Western nations. The overview of the report highlights the Chinese government’s major human rights issues: The Chinese government continued in 2009 to demonstrate high levels of insecurity and intolerance regarding citizens’ political activism and demands for human rights protection. Aiming to suppress protests during politically sensitive anniversaries during the year, including the 60-year mark of the Communist Party’s rise to power, the authorities resorted to lockdowns on major cities and new restrictions on the internet. The government also engaged in a renewed campaign against democracy activists, human rights lawyers, and religious or ethnic minorities, which included sentencing dozens to long prison terms following unfair trials. Repressive measures were intensified in the northwestern region of Xinjiang, especially after ethnic violence erupted there in July. Nevertheless, many citizens defied government hostility and asserted their rights to free expression and association.
So it appears that China is not in the position to censure other governments’ foreign rights violations when it are also committing serious crimes against its own people. But China needs to make efforts to prove to the international community that it is capable and willing to become a leader of the world. It has made steps in accomplishing this. Democracy
is being experimented with in many villages, people are virtually allowed to say and do what they want as long as they do not threaten the government, and the government has published many official papers stating it will further protect human rights. The world has seen this and has applauded China in its efforts to incrementally improve its protections of its people’s rights. But if China would have wanted to show the world that it truly supports the rights of people from all over the world, it would have supported that resolution and even offered economic and military resources to aid the United Nations. Clearly China has no intentions, as of now, to fully support the rights of its own people and people abroad.
Seeing dictatorships toppled by the demand of civil liberates and democracy is a scary thing for the Communist Party. Earlier this year, when the Jasmine Revolution was catching the attention of the world, the Chinese government swiftly censured the word “Egypt” and the phrase “Jasmine Revolution” from its search engines to ensure that the Arab Spring did not spread to China.
Despite the Chinese government’s well-coordinated and premeditated information chokehold on the Arab Spring, traces of the movement leaked into the minds of young Chinese students across the Middle Kingdom. In February of 2011
, there were signs that some Chinese people were going to protest in Beijing and cities across China demanding democracy and civil rights. The Chinese government took action the way it typically does when it feels threatened by protestors. It filled the streets of Beijing and other large cities, where there were rumors of planned protest, with police officers who were cradling guns and bats. There were not any protests that day, and none in the near future directly related to the Arab Spring, but the fact that the Chinese government deployed an overwhelming force to quash any protesters demonstrates the government’s paranoia and its unwavering will to maintain its hold on society and politics, regardless of the cost.
The Chinese government has astonished the world with its economic progress since the late 1970s. It has pulled over half a billion people out of poverty, it has build megacities that maintain fine public transportation systems, and it has given the average person the chance to become wealthy. But that is it. The Chinese Communist Party will allow the Chinese people to seek wealth, but nobody is allowed to challenge the party, nobody. As long as the Communist Party maintains the idea of holding its power at all cost, it will manipulate its history to justify its actions, and use its military to crush domestic opposition. It surprised the world that even when China had the opportunity to give a hand to the struggling Syrians against its relentless government, it decided not to. But that is not surprising. Everything the Communist Party does, from voting in the United Nations on critical issues regarding the livelihood of humanity, to buying natural resources from South America, are for one reason: Maintaining the Party’s Power. As long as the Communist Party desires to uphold its power and deny civil rights and liberties to its own people, the people around the world who desperately need their civil rights protected will not see a helping hand from the Chinese government.
BARON LAUDERMILK - 08 NOVEMBER 2011
Ten years ago, when people thought of free market capitalism, they imagined the United States’ robust and seemingly unstoppable economy. For the most part, they were right. The U.S. had an efficient and productive private sector, establishing billion dollar companies all over the world in a laissez-faire political environment, with little industrial, political or financial regulations.
People around the world believed that the American economy was an example for the world. It strategically survived the Great Depression and came out with a victory in World War II. It saw an economic boom under both Ronald Reagan and the fall of the Communist block and the Soviet Union in the late 1980s and early 1990s, which was thought to bring about “the end of history,” Francis Fukuyama, one of the world’s most respected political scientists, argued. The United States’ specific style of democracy and capitalism did seem to be the best example for countries to look up to.
But the world’s economic downturn in 2008 demonstrated that the U.S. system had major economic and political cleavages. While the United States was juggling high unemployment and soaring deficits and the European Union was struggling to keep the euro alive, China proved to the world that its state-run capitalism was an effective and highly productive system. China went virtually untouched during the 2008 economic crisis and came out of it as the world’s second largest economy. Western nations are still shocked as to how a country that did not have a functioning economy just fifty years ago was able to become one of the richest states in the world.
China’s method of achieving unprecedented economic progress in the last few decades is no secret. The Chinese government has carefully, deliberately, and strategically guided and manipulated its private sector to become loyal participants of the Communist Party’s game. The Middle Kingdom’s capitalism is a constant game of tug and war between the Communist Party and China’s private sector. This game has resulted in a stalemate, in which both sides are not able to pull the other side into the middle. The Communist Party wants to ensure its power over the state, but the private sector is constantly pulling for its own interests.
While the government’s bureaucrats have been getting their hands on many resources, and while the bosses in the private sector have made their fortunes, the inequality amongst the people is rising. The Gini Coefficient, a standard measure of income inequality in a society, is over 0.5, which is similar to many unstable, heavily corrupt nations in sub-Saharan Africa. The nation’s nearly 10 percent annual growth in GDP has pulled a half billion people out of dire poverty, but compared to the wealthy class in China, which consist of bureaucrats and executives, the average households is on a tight budget. The government has kept interest rates
on savings accounts so low that they cannot keep up with China’s rising inflation. This system, which is in place to benefit state-run banks and their rent-seekers, has moved the wealth from the average Chinese person to state-operated banks, which are directly connected to affluent corporations and government-supported organizations. The stalemate in this game of tug of war between the Communist Party and the private sectors’ executives have made them strong and rich, but the people have not seen these benefits yet. There are only two players in this game of tug of war. The people are barred from this match.
The constant fight of power between the Communist Party and the private sector has resulted in a unique form of capitalism that I call “The Middle Kingdom’s capitalism”. This new Chinese style of capitalism has three classes. The most powerful class is the Communist Party. This class consists of any government worker who has been brought into its club. This brings protections, benefits, and networking opportunities to their close family members. The children of the Communist Party members, infamously known as “princelings,” are born with a silver spoon and they die with a silver spoon. They are guaranteed a cushioned life and access to high-paying jobs. The princelings are almost able to get away with murder,
and their connections with the government allow them to bypass the weak, paid-off legal system.
After the Communist Party officials, the government executives and their families come in a close second. They are close to Communist officials
, especially if they are working in industries that the government is interested in, such as commodities, information, and technology. The third class is everybody else; the students, farmers, city dwellers, etc. If an ambitious Chinese student wants to be successful, he or she must find a way to get into the first two groups.
The Middle Kingdom’s style of capitalism has compelled executives across the globe to pack up their businesses and move straight to the heart of China. U.S. companies have a particular interest in China. China is not just attracting U.S. companies because of China’s cheap labor and low taxes, but because the Chinese government is more receptive to capitalism than the U.S. David Rubenstein, the co-founder and managing director of the Carlyle Group, a massive equity firm, told Thomas Reuters that he thinks
China’s new style of capitalism is more open to business ideas than Washington’s. In his words, “I would say that today when I go to China, I find more people in government who are interested in learning about the things that private equity can do to help an economy and help companies than you often do in Washington… Washington, for a number of reasons, is not as focused on the joys of private equity… So very often, you have to defend yourself when you’re talking to a member of Congress.”
The Middle Kingdom’s style of capitalism consists of the state owning all the major firms, but it allows smaller firms to work without much regulation and interference. The Chinese government may want to maintain its power over its massive state-owned companies, but it should realize that the smaller, private companies are more profitable and effective. According to a paper by Liu and Alan Siu
, unlisted private companies have an average return of around 10 percent a year. State-owned companies are earning a mere 4 percent a year. These private firms are rapidly growing. Between 2000 and 2009, registered private companies grew by 30 percent. Non-governmental industries are producing two-thirds of the country’s industrial output. Yet there is still fear that these businesses could be shut down on a whim.
Yes, the Middle Kingdom’s style of capitalism has produced a robust and booming economy. There does appear to be a healthy mixture of state-owned companies and private enterprises in China. There is no doubt that it would be foolish for an international company to not get involved in the Chinese market. Yet the fear that the Communist Party can just can suddenly shut down a company and choose favorites, and the fact that the legal system is fragile, strikes fear in all private and corporate businesses, foreign and domestic. Richard McGregor, the former Beijing bureau chief for the Financial Times
, clearly said in his excellent book The Party
that the Communist Party can fire, replace, and move executives of its state-owned international company spontaneously, with little to no notice. What kind of international company, or even a privately owned Chinese company, would put all their eggs in China’s basket?
This new form of capitalism will see its economy stagnate if the government does not allow freedom of speech and the press. All journalists, novelists, essayists, lawyers, and good politicians must be careful of what they write and say. The Communist Party has frequently demonstrated that it has no problem with incarcerating famous critics, as we have seen with Ai Weiwei and Lu Xiaobo
. There are a variety of industries that are not able to grow because people are not able to think for themselves. The regulations on freedom of speech and press must be eradicated in order to allow the spread of ideas and business.
China’s new style of capitalism will slow down in the next decade because of the attempt of the government to transition the economy from one based on exports to one based on consumption. As Hugo Dixon argues in The China Files, Part 1: How fast can China grow?,
“These trends can’t continue at the same pace. The country’s exports are now so big that it can’t keep expanding its share of world trade so fast. What’s more, its indebted customers in the West have a limited ability to keep buying.” The Chinese government rightly laid out in its last five-year plan (2011-2015) that it will boost domestic consumption and rely more on its services. But in order to do this, China must alter its education system, which is based around memorizing text and obeying authority instead of thinking for oneself, and back off of the economy and the nation’s politics.
The Middle Kingdom’s form of capitalism has pulled a half billion people out of poverty, made millions of people across the world rich, and will probably keep loaning to the United States and Europe. But at the same time, people should be skeptical of this mutation of capitalism. It is still an unpredictable system. This elite group will do what it takes to stay in power, as we have seen in both Mongolia and Tibet, a move which is bad for business. We must give the Chinese government credit, for they have proved that state-owned capitalism is possible, but now let’s see them peacefully make the transition to a more free and open society.
BARON LAUDERMILK - 21 JULY 2011 - BEIJING
The Chinese government recently released its nation’s second national Human Rights Action Plan
, a lengthy document guaranteeing protections for civil rights. The Action Plan has publically claimed
that over the past two years the Chinese government has successfully completed “all targets and tasks set by the National Human Rights Action Plan of China (2009-2010).”
Indeed, it appears that the Chinese government has decided to truly protect its peoples’ rights. As we most of us know, China has a history of violating its people’s rights, especially regarding freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, and freedom to worship. The Action Plan has received much support through formal Chinese institutions and media outlets. China Daily and Xinhua
, two Chinese state owned media companies, have touted the success that has resulted from the Action Plan.
Just about everywhere outside of China, and in fact even people in certain parts of China, have depicted the Action Plan as propaganda and completely ineffective. International human rights groups and local human right activists have already refuted the action’s plan “success.”
The Human Rights Watch in a recent review of the Action plan was highly critical of the success documented in the action plan. “The government has systematically continued to violate many of the most basic rights and the document address,” said in the Human Rights Watch review of the action plan. Chinese activist are on the same page. Teng Biao
, a Chinese human rights lawyer and teacher remarked, “There has been no improvement in the Chinese human rights situation over the past two years. On the country, things have been going backwards.”
Though the Chinese media has celebrated the success of the two year Action Plan, rights protecting religious practice have been violated, farmers and even urbanites have had their land illegally grabbed, and most gravely, the right to a fair trial has been nonexistent.
Tibetan Monks and Protestants in China have consistently had their civil rights violated between 2009 and 2010. In June, 2009, the Office of Religious Affairs sent its officials and a local police
force to Amdo Jaqung monetary in Qinghai to expel one of its leaders, Lobsang Tsultrim for “persuading the monks to be faithful to the Dalai Lama rather than the Peoples’ Republic of China.”
On April 21, 2011, unrest amongst Tibetan
Monks emerged when Chinese local authorities sealed off a deeply respected Tibetan monastery in Sichuan province, Kirk monetary, after a young monk set himself on fire to protest against the government’s oppressive policies towards religious, Tibetan monks.
Over the last two years, Protestants
have also seen the government treat them in unfair ways, and have been arbitrary detained. Protestants in China have also faced repression by the Chinese state. On April 24,2011, Chinese police arrested hundreds of congregants from the Shouwang Evangelical Church, one of the largest house churches in the capital, when they attempted to hold Easter services in a public square. Earlier during the same month, the local government authorities demanded the church to be shut down. The authorities also stifled the church’s attempts to lease or buy space for services in other areas. Some church members said that they were confined to their homes by agents to keep them from joining Easter services.
In late April 2011, a 28 year old member
of the Shouwang church, who identified herself as Waters, told a CNN correspondent that she feels that if she practices Christianity she will be harassed by the authorities. “Personally I don't know how long I can last because the pressure is pretty intense, because they try to harass your family, your workplace and your landlord. They want to control you.”
There has been countless land grabs throughout China’s urban and rural areas with very little compensation to the residents. Protests broke out
in Guangdong, southern China, in mid June 2011, after a local government boss was accused of stealing compensation payments from the people. Around 12 people were arrested. Information Center for Human Rights and Democracy, a Hong Kong-based information center, said that villagers suffering from high inflation hoped for an increase in payments from business in the industry park, but the local factory owner had been embezzled by the former head, who is now a local Communist Party Secretary. The Ministry of Land
and resources have recently released a list on Thursday of 73 officials from 31 cities and counties who have been punished for illegal use of land. Although land grabs are decreasing, they are still rampant and appear arbitrary. The rights of those people are not enforced in the courts and are rarely recognized and documented.
The Chinese government has also arrested dozens of lawyers and civil activist without giving them a trial. Lu Xiaobo, Ai Weiwei, and other high profile Chinese activist, and artist, have been arrested detained without the prospect of a trial. In fact, many civil rights lawyers and activist have disappeared without a sight. Forced confessions are also still a problem that was not discussed in the Action Plan.
The Action Plan appears to be propaganda
that is designed make international organizations and the West believe that they are working towards implementing and protecting civil rights. I personally feel that the Action Plan may have positive intentions, but the results are relatively feeble. Instead, the Action Plan appears to just be a public relations exercise. Sophie Richardson, the Asia advocacy director of the Human Rights Watch, correctly noted “that the (the action plan) is more of a public relations exercise than a meaningful tool for protecting and promoting human rights.”
The fact that the Chinese government is picking and choosing which civil rights it wants to protect and not protect demonstrates that it has a hidden motive. In the light of the Jasmine Revolution that recently occurred in the Middle East, the Chinese Communist Party certainly is nervous of having a domino effect tumble into their land. Any threat to the Communist Party’s authority is immediately suppressed and dispersed. Many people, including me, applaud some of the writings in the Chinese constitution, and the action plan, that are designed to protect civil rights. But right now, it’s all bark, and no bite.