Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Week 9 Responses

This week we will be exploring human rights and dissent in China, and how that has influenced relations between China and the U.S. Here are the readings for the week:

Ansfield, Jonathan and Andrew Jacobs. “Nobel Peace Prize Given to Jailed Chinese Dissident,” (NYT), October 8, 2010.

Mackinnon, Mark. “Profiles in courage: China's dissident gang of 10,” (Globe and Mail), December 3, 2010.

Branigan, Tonia. "China Accuses U.S. of Human Rights Double Standards" (Guardian), April 11, 2011.

Cardenas, Sonia. "Demoting Human Rights" (NYT), December 4, 2009.

MacLeod, Calum. "U.S. and China Miles Apart on Human Rights," (USA Today), April 28, 2011.


  1. This piece is not required, but may be helpful: http://usa.chinadaily.com.cn/us/2011-04/11/content_12303177.htm

    It is China's report entitled, "Human Rights Record of United States in 2010"

    See you tonight!

  2. The problem I have with Chinese government about human rights is not really about how they put on censorship and arrest people who tend to "speak against" the government, because that is generally what they have inherited from thousands of years of feudalism tradition. What annoys me most is the attitude Chinese government chooses to face the outside world when other countries question their action in arresting human right activists or treating its citizens like grass. It seems extremely naive to me that the government behaves like a child, and when its terrible decisions were picked by Hilary Clinton, the country brought so much rage up and tried to accuse others' flaws(Double standard on human rights? That's such a lame excuse.) as revenge(?) instead of reflecting on its own mistakes.

    This type of attitude, from my point of view, probably not now, but will definitely hurt the reputation of China worldwide and this government will be seen soon as a liar and not trustworthy in business field, which will potentially hurt its relation with US at the same time. This is the consequence that Chinese government should realize as soon as possible if they want not only just the economic success.

  3. The U.S. foreign policy establishment will always have to balance human rights concerns with other strategic considerations, as it has always done (in varying degrees with different states over time). Admitting this fact doesn't need to diminish the importance of a principled position on human rights, it's just recognizing that to effectively serve the interests of U.S. citizens and the broader international community, the U.S. must be able to engage foreign governments on a variety of issues. This balance will always be subject to debate.

    China's harsh reaction to the U.S. human rights report is absurd, and it reflects its position of denial and unwillingness to embrace meaningful reform. In my view, it also reflects a broader issue, which is that China's system of government is simply illegitimate and incompatible with the forces of modernization and the desires and needs of free people.

    Of course, the rest of the world can only scratch the surface of China's human rights violations, given the extreme control of Chinese news. In performing just a brief search, I came across the following article about the use of "death vans" by Chinese authorities:

    "In chilling echoes of the 'gas-wagon' project pioneered by the Nazis to slaughter criminals, the mentally ill and Jews, this former member of the China People's Party will be handcuffed to a so-called 'humane' bed and executed inside a gleaming new, hi-tech, mobile 'death van.'

    After trials of the mobile execution service were launched quietly three years ago - then hushed up to prevent an international row about the abuse of human rights before the Olympics last summer - these vehicles are now being deployed across China.

    The number of executions is expected to rise to a staggering 10,000 people this year (not an impossible figure given that at least 68 crimes - including tax evasion and fraud - are punishable by death in China)."


  4. It's clear that, politically at least, the United States has balanced strategic questions with positions on human rights. It is also clear that China continues to systematically violate the democratic rights of its citizens enshrined in it very own constitution.

    Call me naive, but I am optimistic about the future of the human rights situation in China, particularly because many rights that the Chinese are denied are, as stated above, actually in the Chinese constitution. Although those words may not hold significant power now--and keeping in mind that "political reforms in China [have] not kept pace with its economic growth"--there is every reason to believe that those words will eventually matter. The history of the United States may be telling because it reflects many of the same problems of broad discrimination; however, the creed that ultimately prevails is the one that states that "all men are created equal". Liu's asseration that "no force can block the human desire for freedom" is universal truth in my opinion and--while I understand that strategic and economic questions often prevail--I believe that questions of human rights should always be confronted by the United States with a principled stance that favors an expansion of freedom.

  5. China's abuse and disregard for human rights is not a secret. However, what I find most disconcerting is the government's audacity in detaining and imprisoning prominent figures in the protest movement, such as Ai Weiwei. The fact that this recognized artist can be arrested seems to indicate that China does not fear international backlash and is perhaps growing bolder in her responses to dissent.

    In last week's class, we discussed how the Chinese public felt about censorship and restriction of freedoms. I'm concerned that Chinese citizens are more attached to economic security than the basic liberties promised to them. While there are a handful of dedicated activists, I believe that the move towards reform and greater human rights can only happen if there is strong public pressure.

  6. The important question for the US is how much it can pressure the Chinese government for reform. It seems like there is an ongoing debate within the party itself. While the US has often turned a blind eye to its allies' human rights violations, Hillary Clinton's official speech about economics taking precedence over human rights issues further weakens the pro-reform group of people within and outside the party. It would be interesting to find where the line of loyal opposition or dissent is drawn, and about the young generation of dissenters.

    About the link posted just above my comment, that seems too bad to be true, but if it is true, circulation of this information can be a more powerful force for reform in china, and perhaps get young people more involved. I would be interested in hearing what people think about it.

  7. I think the U.S. missed its best opportunity to use political pressure to advance the cause of human rights in China. Now, China is economically large enough that its government can pretty securely thumb their noses at the rest of the world. China's best hope for change is from within. Will it happen? I think so, but it will take a long time and lots of sacrifice.

  8. I agree that China needs more political freedom. Imprisonment of dissents or police harassment has been common. But the freedom of speech, freedom of religions and rights to vote won’t happen over night. These are huge changes, because the feudalism tradition, just like Tina said, is somehow rooted in China and the whole western democratic system will take a long time to sink into a culture which has existed for thousands of years.

  9. China has a communist government and as long as that remains the case, there will be human rights issues. China knows that free speech and freedom to vote are the biggest threats to their government and this makes them least likely to concede on these issues. I honestly don't think there is much that any foreign nation can do to prevent China from somewhat oppressing its people. As was mentioned above, change will have to come from inside.

    Having said that, I in no way believe we should stop applying this pressure. Not only can we use it as a bargaining tool, but it also shows the people of China (or those of them that hear about it) that there is an alternative lifestyle that may be preferable. While I don't think there's any way to convince the Chinese government to come around to our human rights perspective, I do think, though it will be challenging, that we may be able to help persuade the Chinese people to begin to resist these violations.