16 April 2008

Are we playing fair with China?

China-bashing is all the rage these days and, make no mistake about it, considering their behaviour in Tibet and Sudan, the Chinese deserve it. Nonetheless, I have this uneasy feeling the self-righteousness that accompanies the criticism is somehow excessive.

China is saturating Tibet with Han Chinese in order to inextricably link the two culturally and ethnically. They will brook no resistance from the Tibetans. This strategy is not unfamiliar to us. It is, after all, exactly what we did. We saturated North America with immigrants, overwhelming the native peoples as we stole their land. At least the Chinese have not, to my knowledge, bundled the Tibetans off to reserves or kidnapped their children for indoctrination. Of course we do better now, we respect the civil rights of the Natives, but this is from the vantage point of having secured our country. Once the Chinese have secured Tibet, they too may improve their behaviour.

As for China's cozy relationship with Sudan, despite the Darfur situation, our criticism is pure hypocrisy. Sudan has oil and oil absolves all sins. The United States and Great Britain are tight with Saudi Arabia, a notoriously repressive and misogynistic dictatorship, to an extent that makes a mockery of their claims to be champions of democracy and human rights, all because of the magic substance, oil. Only weeks ago, President George Bush was shamelessly peddling hi-tech weaponry to the Saudis, and one of Tony Blair's last acts as PM was to quash an investigation into bribery between British arms dealers and Saudi officials. Criticism of the Chinese for consorting with brutal dictators while we do it ourselves is cringe-inducing.

So should we lay off the Chinese? Of course not. China's repressive practices go well beyond Tibet and Sudan, and we are morally obliged to respond to violations of people's human rights anywhere. The world has become a small place. And we are after all a signatory of the UN's Universal Declaration of Human Rights. I am simply suggesting that when we criticize we do so with a little humility, keeping in mind our own behaviour both past and present.

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