Posts Tagged ‘China’

Aid to China?

June 15, 2010

From da House yesterday:

Mr Tobias Ellwood (Bournemouth East) (Con): My hon. Friend mentions China and the huge steps forward that it has taken in its growing economy. Its gross domestic product now stands at about 9.5% or 9.6%-growth that compares quite favourably with ours. Is it therefore right that we continue to provide that country with Department for International Development funds to the tune of-I may stand corrected-about £30 million a year?

Jeremy Browne (Lib Dem and Foreign Office Minister): An interesting evolution in the power balance in the world is taking place, with these huge emerging countries. Although China’s GDP is slightly greater than ours, it is worth reminding ourselves that their population is 25 times higher, so their GDP per capita is very much smaller than ours. Hundreds of millions of people in China have yet to benefit from the huge advances that that country has made over the past decade or two. At the moment, we have this slightly strange situation whereby many of the emerging economies are the new powerhouses and yet still have millions of people living in absolute poverty. I think that there will be an evolutionary period in which they are apparently two slightly contradictory things simultaneously: they will require aid and assistance while becoming increasingly significant economic and political players. Over time, that balance needs to be reflected in the contributions that we make in aid.

My two cents:

1) I don’t feel comfortable with the UK giving £30 million of development funds to help alleviate absolute poverty in China when the number of super rich Chinese is ballooning. In a meagre way, aren’t we simply subsidising gross inequality in China?

2) Without wanting to get like too much of an IR realist, why the blooming heck do we want to provide assistance to a nation which is becoming a “significant economic and political” competitor? On top of its lack of democracy, its appalling human rights record and its unhelpful support for regimes such in North Korea and Burma, China recently executed a mentally ill British citizen, thus showing clear disrespect for relations with the UK.

Methinks that £30 million could be better spent elsewhere.

Big trouble with big China.

January 13, 2010

Yesterday I received an email that went something like this:

Dear Jako, 

Thank you for your email about Mr Akmal Shaikh, who was executed in China on 29 December, 2009.

The UK condemns in the strongest terms the execution of Akmal Shaikh and Ministers and officials worked tirelessly to try and prevent it. We made 27 separate high level representations to the Chinese authorities, including by the Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary who were both personally involved in this case.

We deeply regret that our concerns , and in particular those surrounding mental health issues, were not taken into consideration despite repeated calls by the Prime Minister, Government Ministers, Members of the Opposition and the European Union.

The UK respects China’s right to bring those responsible for drug smuggling to justice. But the UK is completely opposed to the use of the death penalty in all circumstances and will continue to work on its abolition worldwide.

At this time our thoughts are with Mr Shaikh’s family and friends. We continue to offer them all the support we can. 

Yours sincerely, 
 

Lynsey Hughes  

Country Casework Team

Counsular Directorate

And then one of today’s top stories has been ‘Google to end censorship in China over cyber attacks’:

Google, the world’s leading search engine, has thrown down the gauntlet to China by saying it is no longer willing to censor search results on its Chinese service.

The internet giant said the decision followed a cyber attack it believes was aimed at gathering information on Chinese human rights activists.

The move follows a clampdown on the internet in China over the last year, which has seen sites and social networking services hosted overseas blocked – including Twitter, Facebook and YouTube – and the closure of many sites at home. Chinese authorities ­criticised Google for supplying “vulgar” content in results.

Google acknowledged that the decision “may well mean” the closure of Google.cn and its offices in China.

That is an understatement, given that it had to agree to censor sensitive material – such as details of human rights groups and references to the pro-democracy protests in Tiananmen Square in 1989 – to launch Google.cn.

Whether you are a government hoping to prevent the execution of one of your citizens or a business trying to protect your intellectual property and the privacy of your clients, China is clearly problematic.

The country is too big a power now to be ignored or chastised into improving its behaviour. Britain launching unilateral sanctions against China in protest at the killing of Akmal Shaikh would probably hurt us more than it would hurt them. There is an air of impotence about the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s insistence that “Ministers and officials worked tirelessly to try and prevent it” (as well as linguistically unpleasing).  

As the world’s most populus country, China is an irresistible market opportunity. Companies will be drawn to it. Operating inside an authoritarian one-party state may raise some ‘moral issues’ but as long as the money’s flowing in then these can mostly be put to one side. Whilst I am surprised and pleased that Google is now reassessing its operations in China, it is disappointing that they had agreed to aid state censorship in the first place and only seem to be pulling out because their business integrity is threatened by (state-sanctioned?) hackers.

Stories such as these give China the image of the powerful, up-and-coming state on the international scene. It is an image the government eagerly wants to share with the people of China. Challenging Western countries and companies and refusing to conform to their sensibilities can play well with the strong nationalist sentiments held by large numbers of Chinese. 

The image, however, is a false one. The government’s continued reliance on censorship and other illiberal measures suggests that the Communist Party lacks faith in the security of its own position. The frequency of riots in China’s provinces suggests that the central government lacks the absolute control it would like to have. Playing tough with external enemies and competitors is an attempt to compensate for the internal weaknesses that make the government feel insecure.     

It is tricky to know how the outside world should deal with problematic China. A balance is needed. Countries such as Britain and companies such as Google will need to engage with this large, increasingly powerful country, but fundamental values and concerns should not be compromised for the sake of pleasing the Chinese Communist Party.

Human rights activists inside China are trying to change their country for the better. Even if the Western states cannot be crusading liberal imperialists who come to their aid, they must avoid making life harder for them. The question of how Western democracies and businesses work constructively with China is amongst the most pressing of our time.

Daily Mail celebrates the execution of Akmal Shaikh.

December 29, 2009

Remember how the Daily Mail provoked a storm of fury when they published an article by weirdo bigot Jan Moir speculating about Stephen Gately’s death only a few days after the singer kicked the bucket?

Well, they’ve stooped to a similar level, if not even lower. Akmal Shaikh was executed less than 12 hours ago but today’s Daily Mail contains an article by Leo McKinstry entitled ‘Sorry not to join the liberal wailing: heroin traffickers deserve to die’.

It is full of the usual Daily Mail gibberish about “the human rights brigade” being responsible for crime and describes Akmal Shaikh as “amoral, selfish, and irresponsible”. Because laying the boot into someone killed earlier today is the moral, selfless, and responsible thing to do, eh Leo?

This being the Daily Mail, it’s impossible for the article to gain the editor’s approval without any references to celebrities. It is therefore accompanied by a big picture of Kate Moss and McKinstry predictably rants about drug-abusing celebs not being given meaningful punishments. Will McKinstry next be calling for Moss, Doherty, Winehouse and Michael to face a firing squad as punishment for their indiscretions? Surely that would act as a deterrent, following his logic!

On a more serious note: McKinstry’s argument (if it can be called that) would work better if there was evidence that China’s killing of drug traffickers was actually helping to stop people using heroin there. He can’t provide any – I certainly can’t find any. Even if I could, I don’t think we should trust any data coming out of a country run by a single party dictatorship. It is bizzare that McKinstry pours so much bile on our liberal, human rights-respecting legal system and is instead so enthusiastic about an authoritarian Communist state’s approach to dispensing justice. 

As for McKinstry’s boring claim that the death penalty lowers crime rates, well, zzzzz. Correlation does not equal causation. McKinstry writes that there were fewer murders and crimes in the 1950s when Britain still had the death penalty. Aside from improvements over time in police data-keeping and recording crime (which means of course the numbers will go up), McKinstry can’t back-up his argument that abolishing the death penalty led to more crimes being committed. You could just as well posit that mass ownership of televisions in the 1960s messed with people’s minds and increased criminality.

It would also help McKinstry’s rant if countries with the death penalty (such as China and the USA) had lower crime rates than Britain and if the safest, most crime-free countries weren’t ones where the death penalty has been abolished (places like New Zealand, Finland, Denmark).

McKinstry’s article is so outrageous and stupid I find it hard to believe he genuinely believes in what he’s writing. Perhaps he instead felt he needed to raise his profile a bit. I hadn’t heard of him previously. Similarly, I wasn’t aware of Jan Moir existence before her controversial piece – maybe McKinstry’s trying to repeat the trick? Daily Mail columnists often like to lecture everyone about morality but their primary motive is almost certainly a greedy craving for attention and the extra cash that can bring their way.

As FCO Minister Ivan Lewis said today: “Anybody with a modicum of compassion will be horrified” by Akmal Shaikh’s execution.

Clearly that does not apply to Leo McKinistry and the rest of the scum at the Daily Mail.

The internet can bring humanity together. Or it shows that there are morons all over the world.

December 24, 2009

There is a Facebook group called ‘STOP THE EXECUTION OF AKMAL SHAIKH’. It is raising awareness of Akmal Shaikh’s plight and encouraging people to send emails to the UK government and to the Chinese embassy. All very good.

Some Chinese Facebook users, however, have joined the group and are acting like total shits. Apparently any criticism of China’s sick enthusiasm for executing people is “Western arrogance” and all of those trying to save Akmal Shaikh’s life are “white racists”.

I remember similar attitudes being displayed by Chinese Facebookers during the 2008 riots in Tibet. Facebook groups calling for a peaceful resolution to the situation and condemning China’s occupation of the country would soon be filled up with Chinese people calling all the other members racists, imperialists, etc.

The blind loyalty of these young, well-educated, English-speaking Chinese to their authoritarian government is very depressing. Any criticism of China’s human rights record is interpreted as a hostile Western conspiracy aimed at stopping their country’s rising power – even though the primary victims of the Chinese regime are the Chinese people themselves.

The nationalistic instinct to think ‘my country, right or wrong’ clearly pollutes minds everywhere. What a pity.

Save Akmal Shaikh

December 23, 2009

As inconvenient as it must be for Downing Street officials and Foreign Office types to be working hard over the Christmas period, I hope everything possible is being done to prevent the execution of Akmal Shaikh.

Akmal Shaikh is a Briton apparently caught trafficking heroin in China. The Chinese authorities have neglected to take into account his history of mental illness and plan to execute him on 29th December.

Even if he was indeed smuggling a shedload of smack and is actually as sane as a plank of wood it is appalling that he faces state-sanctioned murder in the name of ‘justice’. The British government is firmly opposed to the death penalty and must make clear to the Chinese authorities that killing this British citizen would be totally unacceptable.

Nearly a million Britons got involved in the Facebook campaign to get Rage Against the Machine to the Christmas No 1 spot. Wouldn’t it be great if even half that number of people did something to try to help save Akmal Shaikh’s life?

Human rights campaigners at Reprieve have got a suggested message you can send to Gordon Brown and the Chinese ambassador via email. It will only take a couple of minutes of your time.