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The China Syndrome Print E-mail
By Joseph Wood   
Thursday, 26 February 2009

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton chose Asia for her first overseas visit, and with good reason. Chinese talent and industriousness, set loose through economic liberalization and coupled with a poverty that “incentivizes” a large and inexpensive work force, has produced extraordinary growth in the last few years. China seems bent on using its economic strength as a basis for military and political power. Moreover, with its exports and its quest for energy to drive its industry, China’s interests, like those of the United States, are now global. But with China, there is much more to be concerned about, particularly its embrace of a harsh culture of death.

The State Department Human Rights Report on China, released in March of last year, noted: “The government restricted the rights of parents to choose the number of children they will have…. [T]he country's birth limitation policies retain harshly coercive elements in law and practice. The penalties for violating the law are strict, leaving some women little choice but to abort pregnancies.…The law grants married couples the right to have one birth and allows eligible couples to apply for permission to have a second child….The law requires couples that have an unapproved child to pay a ‘social compensation fee,’ which sometimes reached 10 times a person's annual disposable income, and grants preferential treatment to couples who abide by the birth limits.…The law provides significant and detailed sanctions for officials who help persons evade the birth limitations.”

The neutral tone here should not cause readers to miss the full scope of what Beijing is doing. The State Department provides extensive evidence of the Chinese government’s attack on humans it considers unwelcome burdens on the state. It documents cases of forced mass abortions, and describes the means used to compel women to abide by the one-child policy, which amount to making life impossible for women who refuse legally prescribed abortions. Forced sterilization is not uncommon. We also know of China’s organ harvesting from deceased prisoners and lax attitudes towards human trafficking.

This year’s report on China, which was released yesterday, is even tougher than last year’s in some areas. In the contemporary world, China displays a uniquely grotesque record of complete and systematic – not occasional or isolated -- opposition to human dignity and the culture of life. Run-of-the-mill horrors such as repression of free worship, free expression, etc., are also on the record. The Communist Chinese government has interposed itself between Chinese Catholics and Rome, for example, by fostering a “Patriotic” Catholic Church, which it monitors closely. Other non-sanctioned religions also find themselves strictly controlled.

Such is the human rights record that Secretary Clinton, on her recent trip, readily subordinated to cooperation on the financial crisis, climate change, and security. She pointed out that we already know what Beijing will say in response to our statements on human rights, just as they know what we will say about arms sales to Taiwan (an odd juxtaposition of issues of quite different natures). Certainly, she has good reasons for her conclusions, though the whole approach smacks of preemptive capitulation to Chinese intransigence. Other efforts to sway the Chinese government, including the Vatican’s labors to gain freedom for Catholics in China, have fared little better. But Clinton’s comments indicate the administration will view China as a critical financial partner and a typical human rights violator – perhaps like Saudi Arabia – rather than as a uniquely violent and methodical assailant of human life.

Some additional reporting from the Department of Treasury: In November of 2008, China held $681.9 billion in U.S. government securities, about 20 percent (the largest percentage by any nation) of total foreign government holdings of such securities. This does not include Chinese investments in private securities. According to the Census Bureau, as of last November, the U.S. trade deficit with China stood at $246 billion for 2008 alone. Secretary Clinton was correct in her assessment of the importance of the Sino-American economic relationship.

This is not a moment for trade protectionism or market isolationism. The alleviation of poverty, the rewards of fruitful labor for billions of people, and many good works generated by disposable wealth all hinge on international economic cooperation. But as we Americans contemplate our own material consumption and the recovery of our 401k plans, we should ask, “How is our involvement in the implementation of the Chinese government’s policies on forced abortion and sterilization not formal, or even material, cooperation with evil? How can we work against it effectively to advance the culture of life?”

The theory that China’s economic liberalization will lead to political freedom, let alone to a humanization of its population policy, seems to offer more a distant hope than a practical course of action. We need to watch the new administration’s actions closely on human rights in China and the ways in which it might condone China’s forced abortion program in the wake of the reversal of the Mexico City policy. And we will then need to do a great deal more thinking about our economically beneficial relationship with a regime whose policies are inhuman and anti-life on a historic scale.

Joseph Wood is a former White House official who worked on foreign policy, including Vatican affairs.

(c) 2009 The Catholic Thing. All rights reserved. For reprint rights, write to: info at thecatholicthing dot org

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Comments (3)Add Comment
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written by James the Least, February 26, 2009
“How is our involvement in the implementation of the Chinese government’s policies on forced abortion and sterilization not formal, or even material, cooperation with evil? How can we work against it effectively to advance the culture of life?”

Um, I believe it's called "evangelization." Isn't that how they did it in ancient Rome?
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No Surprise
written by William Dennis, February 26, 2009
This piece brings up an interesting dilemma. I don't think that the American taxpayer is involved in material or formal complicity in these anti-life atrocities. The present regime is responsable. Is anyone surprised? The American voter knew what he was getting, therein lies the cooperation. It is pure naivete to think that any consideration to life issues will play a role in the present regime. It just doesn't fit the socialist mindset. I worry for the change in my America.
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written by Tom Brennan, February 27, 2009
While agreeing with Mr Wood's assessment of our Favored Nation Trading Partner, I wonder about: "This is not a moment for trade protectionism" - I can't shake the feeling that part of our troubles, and an impediment to recovery, is that we've given away too much in Free Trade with the likes of China.
There is a US sentiment that "we can compete with anybody in the world - if the competition is fair", but there's no way to compete against a country that places no value on its environment or workers.

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