Is Trade A Tool For Pressuring China To Improve Human Rights?

Is Trade A Tool For Pressuring China To Improve Human Rights?

China’s human rights violations in Hong Kong, Taiwan and against Uyghur have drawn criticism. Trade may be a tool to force China’s hand.

Anjali Krishnan
Anjali Krishnan

In 1989, the Chinese government violently crushed the student-led protest and pro-democracy movement at Tiananmen Square. To date, there is no consensus on how many hundreds or thousands lost their lives when the Peoples’ Liberation Army turned its assault rifles and tanks on its citizens, mostly students.

Today, China is the world’s fastest-growing and largest economy. It is a leading manufacturer and global trader, and holds vast foreign exchange reserves. The Chinese government is aggressively pursuing a largely hegemonic agenda intent on being a superpower.

Rampant Human Rights Violations

But, below its spectacular economic success and brash political ambitions, little has changed. Freedoms remain on paper. China’s human rights report card leaves much to be desired. The international community watches warily as China brazenly curtails freedoms of the ethnic minorities on the mainland and that of residents in the “special status” territories.

Beijing imposed the “National Security Law” on the autonomous region of Hong Kong, blatantly ignoring the people’s protests. Attempts to replace Mongolian with Mandarin Chinese in Inner Mongolia schools led to protests on the streets. Access to Tibet Autonomous Region remains restricted. The Chinese regime has been systematically wiping out ethnic cultures and promoting political indoctrination.

Beijing continues to muzzle calls for democracy, genuine autonomy, and independence from Hong Kong and Taiwan.

Despite the country’s attempts to thwart journalists and international media, reports of gross human rights violations in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region against its Uyghur Muslim population, have surfaced repeatedly. There are accounts of Uyghurs being subjected to forced labor and mass surveillance, and state-run detention camps. The U.S. and other countries have condemned China’s treatment of these minority people, going as far as to call it genocide.

The curbs on freedom are not restricted to the minorities. The world was shocked to learn that Dr. Li Wenliang, who first called attention to the Covid-19 outbreak was termed a ‘whistleblower’ and admonished by the administration.

Journalists and activists are routinely harassed. Human rights defenders are persecuted, intimidated, and imprisoned.  The country has an iron grip over its internet. The regime cracks down on protests and displays of dissent. Censorship of the media is rampant.

What’s Dear To China?

China continues to deny and brush off these charges and allegations. International censure may not yield any result unless its hit where it hurts – trade and commerce.

The U.S. and China have colossal bilateral trade relations. The country is America’s biggest source of imports and the third-largest export market. Trade between the two was valued at around $560 billion in 2020, compared to $538 billion for Mexico, and $526 billion for Canada. China’s economic growth and domination plans rely heavily on international trade.

U.S. - China Trade 1991-2020

Americans On Human Rights Issues And Trade

The late May TIPP Poll shows that Americans are aware of China’s dismal human rights track record and are willing to leverage trade to improve the situation.

More than half are in favor of using trade as a tool to compel China to improve its human rights policies. Just above a quarter of Americans think that trade and human rights policies should be kept separate. The data reads:

  • 51% - Demand that China improve its human rights policies if the country wants to continue its current trade status with the U.S.
  • 28% - Maintain good trade relations with China, despite disagreements on human rights policies.
  • 21% - Not sure
American's Opinion on Trade With China And Human Rights - Chart

Further analysis along political leanings and political ideology reveals that Americans in general support trade sops irrespective of political affiliations.

50% of Democrats, 64% of Republicans, and 47% of Independents favor using trade relations to compel China to better its human rights position. There is far less support for maintaining the current scenario among these parties - 34% of Democrats, 21% of Republicans, and 28% of Independents.

Meanwhile, 58% of Conservatives, 48% of Moderates, and 55% of Liberals are willing to use trade to force China to do better when it comes to human rights. Only about a third of them are keen to maintain the trade status quo and turn a blind eye to its dismal human rights record.

Human Rights And Trade Along with American Political Parties and Ideologies - Chart

Despite constant censure from other nations, the situation has deteriorated so far that UN Special Procedure mandate-holders issued a statement calling for “renewed attention on the human rights situation in the country” and “the creation of an international mechanism to address rights violations in China.”

Thirty-two years after the Tiananmen Square massacre, Beijing expressly banned any commemoration or vigil from marking the tragic day, not just on the Chinese mainland but in the autonomous regions of Hong Kong and Taiwan.

Freedom, real freedom, remains a distant dream for many. As the most populous nation, and aspiring superpower, China has long ways to go before its people enjoy rights at par with the world’s leading nations.

Raghavan Mayur helped write and edit this story.

TIPP Takes

Aung San Suu Kyi: Trial Of Ousted Myanmar Leader Begins

Myanmar President Aung San Suu Kyi
Myanmar President Aung San Suu Kyi

The trial got under way four months after a military coup removed the elected government from office. She is charged with owning unlicensed walkie-talkies and violating Covid restrictions.

Ms. Suu Kyi, 75, has been held under house arrest since the 1st February coup in Myanmar (also called Burma), and little has been seen or heard of her apart from her brief court appearances.

Another trial will begin on 15th June over sedition charges. If convicted of that charge alone, she faces up to 14 years in prison.

She is accused of:

  • Corruption which carries a maximum jail term of 15 years and violating the official secrets act, which carries a maximum jail term of 14 years
  • Violating import-export laws by illegally importing walkie-talkies, which carries a maximum jail term of three years
  • Two charges of violating a natural disaster law, carrying a maximum jail term of three years each, and
  • Inciting public unrest, which carries a maximum jail term of three years

Heading Towards A Big Union State: Why Does Russia Really Need Donetsk And Luhansk

Russian Occupied Ukrainian Provinces Of Luhansk And Donetsk
Russian Occupied Ukrainian Provinces Of Luhansk And Donetsk

The Russian project of the Big Union State directly affects the fate of the territories of eastern Ukraine occupied by Russia.

Russia is trying to achieve several goals, which can be divided into three groups.

The first is domestic goals, which are:

  • To receive the required number of correct votes, which will strengthen the position of the ruling party - United Russia
  • To gauge the support level from citizens who fought in the war in eastern Ukraine and create the illusion of their importance.

The second group is international goals related to existing negotiation formats on conflict settlement:

  • To gain recognition for the occupied territories of Donetsk and Luhansk, thereby masking Russia’s role in the conflict.
  • To create an additional range of challenges for the Ukrainian side within the existing negotiation formats, i.e., raising the issue of recognition of Russian passports for the residents of the occupied territories of eastern Ukraine by the Ukrainian side.

The third group is goals related to occupied territories themselves:

  • To partially extinguish the dissatisfaction with the uncertainty that is felt today by the residents of the occupied territories of eastern Ukraine.
  • To distract the occupied territories' population from the reality that Russia is not coping with its obligations as an occupying party.

China’s Loan Agreements With Philippines Skewed In Beijing’s Favor, Contracts Show

Chico River Pump Irrigation Project Protestors
Chico River Pump Irrigation Project Protestors

The Philippines is one of few Southeast Asian countries to make such agreements public, analysts say.

Two Chinese debt contracts with the Philippines contain dispute arbitration and asset seizure clauses that unduly favor Beijing, according to analysts, and loan agreements recently digitized and published by a U.S. think-tank, Center for Global Development.

Clauses in the two contracts give China power over the settlement of disputes. Further, disputes are to be arbitrated by the Beijing-based China International Economic and Trade Arbitration Commission (CEITEC).

Agreements to fund the 12.2 billion pesos (U.S. $255 million) Kaliwa Dam and 4.3 billion pesos ($90 million) Chico River Pump Irrigation Project were two of 100 Chinese debt contracts published and analyzed by the authors of "How China Lends."

The Philippine contracts were the only ones from Southeast Asia included in the research.

One of the report's authors said the data likely points to similar concerning clauses in Indonesian, Cambodian, Malaysian, or Laotian deals.

Man With 39 Wives Dies In India

Zionnghaka Chana And Family
Zionnghaka Chana 

A polygamist and sect leader with 39 wives and at least 127 children and grandchildren has died in northeastern India aged 76, officials have said.

Zionnghaka Chana, who lived in the northeastern state of Mizoram as the patriarch of what is believed to be one of the world's largest families, suffered from diabetes and hypertension.

The sect, founded by Mr. Chana's grandfather in the 1930s, has some 1,700 members, including four generations of the Chana family, many of whom carve wooden furniture and make pottery items.

Its philosophy is based on Christian teachings, although leaders from the Presbyterian Church, the main faith in the state, reject Mr. Chana's embrace of polygamy.


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