Thursday, 13 September 2007

China: future or social justice nightmare?

This was an interesting comment on Australia's international relations with China from Chin Jin:

"Since the 1990's, Western countries have not consistently pursued democracy and human rights. In dealing with the remaining authoritarian countries, the West has been dazzled by trade and economic prospects, and inclined to adopt a policy of appeasement.

"Instead, the great democracies need to maintain a consistent strategic vision, a far-sightedness that will lead the world not merely to economic prosperity, but to the creation of more democratic societies which live together in peace, and which respect the rule of law and uphold the human rights of each citizen. They should remember the extraordinary events of 1989-91, when communist governments in Europe, under pressure, gave up their power. The lessons of that time can be applied elsewhere.

"The Asia Pacific region contains some of the world's largest and long standing democracies: the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Japan. It also contains authoritarian regimes, hopefully near the end of their tenure: Vietnam, North Korea, Burma, and largest of all, China. The region incorporates the biggest developed nation, and the biggest developing one. So far, annual APEC Summits have concentrated on economic issues. But by ignoring issues of human rights, freedom and democracy, the democratic countries show weakness and make implicit concessions to the authoritarian regimes. And they kowtow unnecessarily to China, the largest authoritarian regime of all.

"The rise of an autocratic China will not be a blessing to the world, and the US, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and Japan cannot be indifferent to this. We would call on the democracies within APEC to use the next summit meeting as an opportunity to demonstrate their moral obligation to encourage authoritarian regimes along the road to democracy.

"The members of APEC have worked together to sustain economic growth through a commitment to open trade, investment and economic reform. While that is useful, in our view it is an unbalanced development. Democracy and human dignity are also necessary as values in their own right, and as long term guarantees of economic development and social justice.
As the political opposition to the Chinese Communist Government, we want to highlight the situation of the Chinese people and the repressive nature of the Chinese regime, and help their voices to be heard. They too deserve the opportunity of all-round development as human beings. They too deserve human rights, the rule of law, freedom of expression, an independent media, social justice and democracy.

"The Chinese regime receives little political pressure or criticism from the international community. Mostly it enjoys a benign international environment to maintain its repressive rule. Meanwhile there are many brave dissidents inside China, but they are limited in what they can do. They face censorship and the danger of harassment, police violence and imprisonment for themselves and their families. When they do speak out, the West tends to ignore them. Through the Chinese overseas democratic movement, we are trying to give them a voice. We want China to progress from repressive one-party rule, towards human rights and democracy. Until the Chinese regime gives up its political monopoly, we will continue to speak out."

This is particularly interesting, given Rudd seems to be aligning himself with China (the future) while Howard clings on to America (the patriarchal past). But social justice must operate on the world stage too, and we will need to find ways of being able to have a relationship while pushing for change. Is it possible? Or does the very fact of the existence of a relationship mean blind eyes must be turned? That has certainly been the case in the Aus-US alliance.

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