China policy 2010: Hooray for Arlen Specter!

By John Kusumi

Feb. 3, 2010 (CHESHIRE, CT) — The six weeks following Christmas, 2009 have been topsy-turvey, turbulent times both for United States / China relations and for the Chinese pro-democracy movement itself. It is now time for review, analysis, and recommendations from the China Support Network.

In Washington, DC of the U.S. it becomes evident that China policy 2010 will be nothing like China policy 2009. What changed in between? The 2009 Climate Change Conference of the UN — a summit in Copenhagen, Denmark in mid-December, was an occasion where China maneuvered high-handedly, and this served to block the achievement of a world agreement, which failed to materialize at that summit. U.S. President Barack Obama may have felt personally snubbed by China’s Premier Wen Jiabao.

Also in mid-December, as reported by Google, a series of cyber attacks, believed to be from the Chinese government, targeted Google servers (including GMail accounts of human rights activists) and those of other U.S. firms.

Of course, China has its own problems, and policy irritants, that pre-date December 2009. The persecution of Liu Xiaobo and Zhou Yongjun extends back and originated 20 years ago, as deadly force was used to clear Tiananmen Square of Chinese citizens in their pro-democracy uprising of 1989.

Above ground in mainland China, the Chinese democracy movement has not been seen much in the years since 1989. –But the intervening years have seen a 500,000 person rally in Hong Kong, and a 2 million person rally in Taiwan, and a large number of Tiananmen Square student leaders finished their college educations in the United States. Also in the U.S., more senior Chinese dissidents (Wei Jingsheng, Harry Wu, Xu Wenli) have been exiled after their release from Chinese prisons.

In fact, the United States is a hotbed of the Chinese democracy movement. Falun Gong practitioners have been active in the U.S., and they came to be hardline anti-communists, due to their ongoing persecution — a holocaust which still needs to stop — back in China. Hardline dissidents formed a transitional China Interim Government, to be a government-in-exile standing by. Two of the four original officers were U.S. based.

And in the United States, the above groups mingle freely with protestors of Taiwan, Tibet, East Turkestan, Mongolia, and oppressed peoples of other lands such as Vietnam, Laos, North Korea, and Burma. Wei Jingsheng has helped to form a pan-asian pro-democracy alliance.

In the recent time frame, on December 25 the Chinese government sentenced Liu Xiaobo to 11 years’ imprisonment. His crime? –Writing a tract / petition / manifesto called Charter 08, for the political reform of China in the same style as Charter 77, which was an effort by dissidents in the former Czechoslovakia to resist Communism of the former Soviet sphere.

Then, on January 15, the Chinese government sentenced Zhou Yongjun to 9 years’ imprisonment. His crime? –Trying to return to China to visit his aging / ailing parents.

For both Liu and Zhou, what’s notable is that we’re now 20 years after the fact of Tiananmen Square’s bloody massacre of thousands, seen on world TV. Liu and Zhou have both been political prisoners twice before — and still the persecution continues! The Chinese government has taken out a lease for a third decade of persecution in the Tiananmen crackdown.

The new year of 2010 began with its first news item: a pro-democracy protest in Hong Kong. In fact, protests have continued, demanding the release of Liu Xiaobo and support for Charter 08 and investigation about the “secret rendition” of Zhou Yongjun from Hong Kong authorities to mainland authorities, the precursor to Zhou’s trial and recent sentencing. On January 13, Hong Kong’s Legislative Council debated a resolution in favor of Liu Xiaobo.

Ominously, on January 11 the Chinese regime arrested Zhao Shiying, another signatory to Charter 08. The original group was of 303 signers, from all walks of life including past or present officials in the Communist Party. –How many of these people will be caught in a dragnet? Clearly, mainland authorities have tried to signal a hard line and to intimidate the Chinese democracy movement by way of their heavy handed treatment for Liu, Zhou, and Zhao recently.

On January 12, while Haiti’s earthquake took the world’s attention, Google released “A new approach to China.” This was outing the Chinese government for its cyber attacks and announcing that Google would no longer toe the line for the regime by censoring its results on Google.cn. In Beijing, human rights activists sent flowers to the offices of Google’s headquarters there.

Flowers were not the only repercussion to the Chinese cyber attacks. U.S. Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) promoted his Global Online Freedom Act, and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton correctly seized upon the occasion to speak out for Internet freedom on January 21. Where previously, we would have said that Google had “crossed over to the dark side,” this change of heart seemed like “coming back from the Sith,” and Google was hailed as heroic by energized human rights campaigners.

On January 24, the Wall Street Journal editorialized that campaigners are right — Hong Kong’s special status under the “one country, two systems” arrangement is compromised by how Zhou Yongjun was handed over to mainland authorities, contrary to routine procedures which would have returned him to the United States, where he has permanent residency and two U.S. citizen children. Yet more dissidents, and rights in Hong Kong, may be in jeapordy — the legal precedents in this case are ominous.

What happened to “one country, two systems?” We want Zhou Yongjun back, and we want Liu Xiaobo freed. There is a point of good news: On January 25, the Washington Post reported that Zhao Shiying was freed after two weeks of being held. Also during January, the problem of poison diary products returned in China — evidently, the milk powder from the last poisoning was not thoroughly destroyed, and it found its way back onto the market.

On January 25, Reuters published ‘Factbox: Sources of tension between China and U.S.’ as a helpful resource for those who need a score card. If you are a busy world leader and can’t remember your place in the story, that’s also why the China Support Network releases this article. Feel free to use it as a crib sheet or Cliffs Notes.

On January 28, Hillary Clinton met Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi, asking China for cooperation at the UN to place stiff new sanctions on Iran. She was also expected to raise the Internet freedom / Google cyber attacks issue.

On Friday January 29, the United States announced that it will sell $6.4 billion worth of weaponry to Taiwan. The sale is said to include 114 Patriot advanced capability (PAC-3) missiles, 60 Blackhawk helicopters, and two Osprey-class mine-hunting ships. Beijing responded by cancelling military visits between the two country’s armed forces, and with a threat of sanctions against related U.S. companies.

Those related companies include Sikorsky Aircraft Corp (United Technologies), Lockheed Martin; Raytheon; and McDonnell Douglas (Boeing).

On Monday, February 1, talks broke off between Beijing and envoys of the His Holiness the Dalai Lama (temporal and spiritual leader of Tibetans and Tibetan Buddhism), with no progress nor agreement on the Tibet issue. On Tuesday, February 2, the White House announced that President Barack Obama will meet with the Dalai Lama. This occasioned another blustery day from Beijing’s propaganda department.

Also Tuesday, U.S. Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair said that recent cyber attacks on Google were “a wake up call.” And U.S. Senator Dick Durbin raised the issue, noting that he has asked 30 companies, including Apple, Facebook, and Skype, about their human rights practices in China. “Google sets a strong example in standing up to the Chinese government’s continued failure to respect the fundamental human rights of free expression and privacy,” Durbin said.

Frustrated Communist leaders may be thinking, “But wait! These are all of our hot buttons!” CSN would note that these are long simmering issues, which were kept invisible by U.S. cheerleaders for China during the warmer period of Sino-U.S. relations. Pendulums also swing back, and the now-boiling issues are precisely the reason why the Sino-U.S. honeymoon may now be over.

Strength with Beijing will generally be applauded among exiled pro-democracy Chinese dissidents. For a decade, we have lamented with horror and dismay that the U.S. seemed to abandon its anti-communist back bone, giving commercial service priority atop such matters as freedom, democracy, human rights, and national security. For Chinese dissidents and human rights campaigners, the new climate may seem electrifying — attention is going to issues that we have long fought to raise!

The wake up call was long overdue, and we are now treated to the interesting sight of the U.S. establishment, waking up on the China issue. It seems that prevailing editorial winds shifted to now blow against China, around the same time that arms sales to Taiwan were announced on January 29. On February 2, Foreign Affairs — published by the Council on Foreign Relations — posted an article by Yang Yao, headlined ‘The End of the Beijing Consensus’ and subtitled, ‘Can China’s Model of Authoritarian Growth Survive?’

It is also true that the Taiwan arms sales and the Dalai Lama meeting were “as expected.” The U.S. does this routinely, and did so under the previous Bush administration. Chinese leaders cannot credibly claim to be shocked and surprised, unless one looks at the reaction of Google and the Internet freedom issue that has been kicked up as a consequence of Chinese cyber attacks. –Really, Google is the new element in the mix of issues that we are seeing at present. Google marked the tipping point.

On Wednesday, February 3, Barack Obama met with Democratic Senators. He was confronted by Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA), who asked:

—–

“We have lost 2.3 million jobs as a result of the trade imbalance with China between 2001 and 2007. The remedies to save those jobs are very ineffective — long delays, proceedings before the International Trade Commission, subject to being overruled by the President. We have China violating international law with subsidies and dumping — really, a form of international banditry. They take our money and then they lend it back to us and own now a big part of the United States.

“The first part of my question is, would you support more effective remedies to allow injured parties — unions which lose jobs, companies which lose profits — by endorsing a judicial remedy, if not in U.S. courts perhaps in an international court, and eliminate the aspect of having the ITC decisions overruled by the President — done four times in 2003 to 2005, at a cost of a tremendous number of jobs on the basis of the national interest. And if we have an issue on the national interest, let the nation pay for it, as opposed to the steel industry or the United Steel Workers.

“And the second part of the question, related, is when China got into the World Trade Organization, a matter that 15 of us in this body opposed, there were bilateral treaties. And China has not lived up to its obligations to have its markets open to us, but take our markets and take our jobs. Would you support an effort to revise, perhaps even revoke, those — that bilateral treaty, which gives China such an unfair trade advantage?”

—–

The President answered Senator Specter, saying:

“Arlen, I would not be in favor of revoking the trade relationships that we’ve established with China. I have shown myself during the course of this year more than willing to enforce our trade agreements in a much more serious way. And at times I’ve been criticized for it. There was a case involving foreign tires that were being sent in here, and I said this was an example of where we’ve got to put our foot down and show that we’re serious about enforcement. And it caused the usual fuss at the international level, but it was the right thing to do.

“Having said that, I also believe that our future is going to be tied up with our ability to sell products all around the world, and China is going to be one of our biggest markets, and Asia is going to be one of our biggest markets. And for us to close ourselves off from that market would be a mistake.

“The point you’re making, Arlen, which is the right one, is it’s got to be reciprocal. So if we have established agreements in which both sides are supposed to open up their markets, we do so and then the other side is imposing a whole set of non-tariff barriers in place, that’s a problem. And it has to be squarely confronted.

“So the approach that we’re taking is to try to get much tougher about enforcement of existing rules, putting constant pressure on China and other countries to open up their markets in reciprocal ways.

“One of the challenges that we’ve got to address internationally is currency rates and how they match up to make sure that our goods are not artificially inflated in price and their goods are artificially deflated in price. That puts us at a huge competitive disadvantage.

“But what I don’t want to do is for us as a country, or as a party, to shy away from the prospects of international competition, because I think we’ve got the best workers on Earth, we’ve got the most innovative products on Earth, and if we are able to compete on an even playing field, nobody can beat us. And by the way, that will create jobs here in the United States.

“If we just increased our exports to Asia by a percentage point, by a fraction, it would mean hundreds of thousands, maybe millions of jobs here in the United States. And it’s easily doable.

“And that’s why we are going to be putting a much bigger emphasis on export promotion over the next several years. And that includes, by the way, export promotion not just for large companies but also for medium-size and small companies, because one of the challenges — I was up in New Hampshire yesterday, and you saw this terrific new company that had just been started up — it’s only got 13, 14 employees at this point. But it has a new manufacturing technique for the component parts in LED light bulbs, potentially could lower the price of LED light bulbs, cut them in half.

“And these folks, they potentially could market not just here in the United States, but this is a technology that could end up being sent all around the world. But they don’t have the money to set up their own foreign office in Beijing to navigate through the bureaucracy. They’ve got to have some help being over there. And so that’s one of the things that we really want to focus on in this coming year, is making sure that our export-import banks, our trade offices, that we are assisting not just the big guys, although we do want to help them, but also the medium-sized and small businesses that have innovative products that could be marketed if they just got a little bit of help and a little bit of push from the United States government.”

—–

Later in the day, CNBC debunked the President’s claim about how many jobs would be added if the U.S. increased its exports by 1%. The numbers fall short and do not come out at the level suggested by the President. Meanwhile, U.S. China trade has been a net minus of at least 2.3 million jobs, and the trade deficit is a net minus in the ballpark of a quarter-trillion dollars yearly.

In fact, the China trade policy means that stimulus in Washington stimulates the economy of China, where they also enjoy the multiplier effect as a quarter trillion dollars recirculate in the Chinese economy. China trade is a net minus for U.S. jobs, wealth, and taxpayer dollars (and weakens the dollar and adds inflation pressure and weakens U.S. wages / incomes).

Dated February 4 in Australia, The Sydney Morning Herald reports that OECD, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development “has added to the pressure on Beijing to revalue its currency.”

A story by Tom Gjelten posted by NPR on February 3 concludes,

“As politicians, both Democrat and Republican, take greater note of conflicts with China, U.S.-China policy could become a hot election issue.

“‘[In 2008], we voted for Obama or McCain with no interest in their positions on China,’ Bremmer notes. [Ian Bremmer, president of the Eurasia Group] ‘I believe that that will never happen again. This relationship is going to become politicized, and going forward it is going to be key in determining how we think about candidates, how we think about U.S. policy.'”

Right now, your author at the China Support Network is suppressing an urge to order a lawn sign for political campaigning: “* * Duncan Hunter 2012 * *”. America’s highest office should have a China hawk, not a China wimp. I suppress that urge in the interest of being constructive here and now.

As ever, the China Support Network is standing by with suggestions for Washington and demands for Beijing. The suggestion is to be a China hawk, not a China wimp. Consider these demands for Beijing (and, more advice for Washington will follow below):

—–

China must abolish slave labor, and the systems of Laogai and Laojiao. (For newbies, Laogai is the Chinese gulag of slave labor camps. Laojiao is the procedure of administrative detention, by which people are sent to the labor camps with no due process of law.)

Persecution of Falun Gong is not a simmering issue; it is a boiling issue, and it must stop.

For that matter, all Maoism must cease immediately. The China Support Network demands the full implementation of all 19 points in Charter 08:

1. Amending the Constitution.
2. Separation of powers.
3. Legislative democracy.
4. An independent judiciary.
5. Public control of public servants.
6. Guarantee of human rights.
7. Election of public officials.
8. Rural–urban equality.
9. Freedom of association.
10. Freedom of assembly.
11. Freedom of expression.
12. Freedom of religion.
13. Civic education.
14. Protection of private property.
15. Financial and tax reform.
16. Social security.
17. Protection of the environment.
18. A federated republic.
19. Truth in reconciliation.

About Tibet, CSN has demanded that Beijing “stop the killing, release the prisoners, and talk to the Dalai Lama.”

Beijing should likewise reverse its 2009 crackdown against Uighur Muslims in East Turkestan, which it calls Xinjiang province.

The taboo against discussing 1989’s Tiananmen massacre must be lifted. The government must provide a full accounting to the families of victims, and the perpetrators must be brought to justice. All remaining Tiananmen-era prisoners must be freed, together with Wang Bingzhang, Gao Zhisheng, and co-founders of the China Democracy Party. China should also release any jailed journalists and bloggers, religious practitioners, and prisoners of conscience of any kind (including the ethnic minority “separatists”).

—–

As I consider advice for Washington, I’d note that for all the many crises and problems that are now faced by the Obama administration, that those are known quantities. Between Washington and Beijing, Beijing is standing on more egg shells, or faces a more daunting minefield of challenges.

Beijing was looking forward to playing a new hand of cards, perhaps thinking that the United States was crippled by its crises while China enjoys rising stature in the world. They tipped that hand, or they played those cards too soon. Beijing cannot withstand a shoving match with the United States at this time.

Hence, my advice to Washington is, stand strong. Support the demands above, and be willing to sanction China for currency manipulation and slave labor, both of which amount to “economic dirty pool,” a way in which Beijing has taken advantage of Washington’s largesse.

Support the Global Online Freedom Act, and feel free to sell Taiwan the F-16s that it wants to replace older fighters. Meet with Chinese dissidents and [Uighur leader] Rebiya Kadeer, not just the Dalai Lama. Get ready for a second Cold War, because even if we don’t have that with China, we will need that with Iran. Remember that free trade is for the free world. Cut out the communists, dictators, tyrants, and thugs.

Word from here.

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