China has future as a superpower

Jon Bosscher and Jon Bosscher

Who visited the U.S. last week? Hu visited the U.S. last week. That’s right, China’s President Hu Jintao stopped in the States to meet with President Bush on Tuesday for what was termed an ‘official visit’ rather than the more formal state visit.

Instead of dinner with the president, Hu will have lunch with him and in the Blair House, the president’s official guest lodging, there will be no mints on the pillows. The reason for this reaction is that it is a response to China’s ongoing and flagrant human rights violations. Hu’s rebuttal: A government responsible for Abu Ghraib has no business criticizing anyone’s human rights record.

China’s economy has been growing at the breakneck pace of about 10 percent every year and economists predict that its gross domestic product will eclipse that of the United States by 2045. Additionally, the United States harbors a massive trade deficit with China. To relieve this deficit, primarily the result of imports, China is recycling its export earnings by purchasing U.S. Treasury bonds. The effects of this policy are three-fold: it keeps U.S. interest rates low, maintains American consumer spending and sustains the U.S. budget deficit – in effect, helping to finance the war in Iraq.

Most alarming however, is not China’s rapid economic growth, but the current regime’s determination to preserve the social status quo in China while simultaneously liberalizing the economy. Despite increasing wealth in the world’s most populous nation, instances of civil unrest have steadily increased.

According to the Chinese Communist Party’s own statistics, there were over 58,000 major incidents of unrest in the country last year alone. Nearly all are brutally put down by government police and soldiers as in the recent clash over an imminent domain dispute in which 20 protesters were shot and killed by police.

During an elaborate welcoming ceremony, President Hu’s remarks were interrupted by a protester representing practitioners of Falun Gong, a persecuted group residing in China’s northeast province. She yelled at President Bush, “Stop him from killing. Stop him from persecuting the Falun Gong.” According to representatives of the spiritual movement, the Chinese government has been holding members in a Nazi-style concentration camp and harvesting organs from the prisoners. President Bush personally apologized for the incident and the woman is being charged with causing a public disturbance and intimidating a foreign official. The interruption was censored from Chinese television. It’s bad enough that the Chinese suppress free speech in their own country but now we apparently have to do the same when they visit.

However, our government officials are not the only ones capitulating to China’s autocratic tendencies. Google recently agreed to censor itself by restricting access to Web sites the regime finds offensive in exchange for access to its huge market.

The company argues it can play a more useful role in China by participating than by boycotting it, saying that “while removing search results is inconsistent with Google’s mission, providing no information”is more inconsistent with our mission.” Julian Pain, Internet spokesman for the group Reporters Without Borders, said Google’s decision to “collaborate” with the Chinese government was “a real shame.” Last year, Yahoo was accused of supplying data to China that was used as evidence to jail a Chinese journalist for 10 years.

Great change is coming to China. While the government emphasizes the preservation of social stability above all else this only belies their fear of the inevitable overturning of the status quo.

The richer the Chinese get, the more intense the unrest and the demands for social reforms will become. However, the government and businesses of the U.S. have a great deal of leverage with which to hurry this process along. The world’s distrust of the United States has multiplied in recent years because of the seeming inconsistency between our stated goals and our actual policies.

Thus, relations with China offer a golden opportunity to prove that the expansion of freedom, democracy and human rights really are at least a part of our not-so-benevolent agenda.

Send comments to Jon at [email protected].