Obama State Department Official Kowtows to China on Human Rights

015monks_468x286In a significant diplomatic victory for the Chinese “communist” regime, the State Department’s leading human rights official, Michael Posner, conceded that human rights is a relative issue not a universal one.

In order to curry favor with the Chinese officials Posner suggested that our treatment of Muslims or the recent law passed in Arizona on illegal immigration was the rough equivalent of the kind of human rights problems found in China. While misguided and likely unconstitutional, to suggest that what is happening in Arizona is morally or logically equivalent to the brutality the Chinese mete out against their ethnic minorities is appalling. Posner also told the Chinese that just like in China the US lacks sufficient resources to insure worker safety and health. While there are (serious) problems in the US in this area there is nothing close to the problems that Chinese workers face. In China there are no unions, there is no independent health and safety agency and workers suffer terrible injuries and death in the workplace everyday.

Relativism has been the major intellectual argument used by the Chinese in their offensive in international agencies like the ILO and elsewhere over the last decade. I examine this issue in detail in my recent book, From Che to China. The argument comes in two forms: either, one, regimes like China, Cuba, North Korea and Venezuela will argue that what we do here in the US to minorities (or labor, women, the poor) is as bad as what they do in their countries; or, two, westerners just do not understand the cultural context in which the alleged abuse takes place – if they did, they would realize it is actually a good thing!

Of course, sadly, Posner is only following the path laid out by his boss, the President, who shocked the international human rights community last year by sending his aide Valerie Jarrett to India to ask the Dalai Lama not to come to the United States for a meeting with the President and then refused to meet with the Dalai Lama when he showed up in DC anyway. China’s occupation of Tibet is only the most visible example of the way that it treats ethnic minorities.

Posner, along with the State Department’s Harold Koh and Sarah Cleveland, the White House’s Samantha Power and Defense Department’s Rosa Brooks, is part of what some have called a Human Rights Dream Team. Yet they have clearly disappointed many. Koh recently defended unmanned drones used to assassinate American citizens as a valid act of self defense.

The Posner concession to China is also a setback for efforts by American labor to support independent unions in China by supporting groups like the China Labour Bulletin in Hong Kong led by Tienanmen Square veteran Han Dongfang. One of the AFL-CIO’s top international officials, Barbara Shailor, was recently appointed to head up the labor rights effort at the State Department under Posner. Historically, Shailor has stood fast in support of independent unions and the universal norms of human rights that make genuine trade unions possible. Her impact is surely now compromised and one hopes she may reconsider accepting the appointment as should the AFL-CIO itself consider registering a protest over Posner’s attempt at “constructive engagement” on human and labor rights with China.

Briefing on the U.S.-China Human Rights Dialogue.

Google Gagged?

The role of internet companies in aiding and abetting the repression of human rights in China is an old story that does not get nearly enough attention here in Silicon Valley.

The late Congressman Tom Lantos, though, gave Yahoo! a well deserved tongue lashing for their role in providing the regime information that led to arrests of activists.

Now Google appears to have been pushed too far by Beijing and is threatening to leave China altogether.  This is an important blow against the theory of “constructive engagement” which suggests that the West can influence China by handing them our jobs and money.

Sadly, the Obama Administration seems enamored of this approach and its distancing of the Dalai Lama recently was a clear sign of how it has put human rights second to its relationship to Beijing. Its about time they look at the Google experience and re-think their approach.

As they say over at the Googleplex: Don’t be evil.

E-Mail Breach Has Google Threatening to Leave China – NYTimes.com.

China: Creditor or Investor in the United States?

For this we dissed the Dalai Lama?

The pro-Obama media machinery is excusing the lame trip of Obama to Asia, particularly China, as reflecting the weakness of America relative to a rising Asia led by Communists in Beijing.

But is China a lender to the US, as Brad Setser of the Council on Foreign Relations and others claim?

Not really. China is, in fact, an investor in the United States.

It links the value of its currency to the dollar so that it can continually earn US consumer dollars no matter how the dollar’s value fluctuates.

As the most powerful economy in the world it is only American consumers that can afford to expand consumption. That is because America’s powerful education system feeds a giant productivity machine that we can afford to borrow against. Actually, despite the huge absolute numbers, relative to our GDP we actually borrow less than it appears.

Chinese exporters then take the dollars they earn from US consumers and buy US capital goods (e.g., high end machinery) and intellectual property (e.g., software). What is left over of those dollars is exchanged with the Chinese banking system for Chinese currency to buy local supplies and hire Chinese labor.

Then the state controlled Chinese banks together with the monetary authorities in China invest those dollars in US treasuries. That investment is their rational decision that the US remains the most attractive place to put those dollars.

If the Chinese authorities rationally thought the US was a bad place to invest they would delink their currency from the dollar and that would interrupt the flow of dollars back into US treasury notes. There has, in fact, been a very small shift in this direction but nothing on a scale that would suggest a fundamental loss of faith.

The US then has recovered the dollars it originally used to buy Chinese exports. The Federal Reserve then decides whether to use its open market operations to expand the supply of dollars by purchasing those securities available to expand domestic consumption and investment by US consumers and companies.

In other words, there is a joint decision by the Chinese and the US financial system that gives US businesses and consumers access to surplus dollars that had originally flowed into China.

That hardly suggests to me US weakness as against China. It seems clear China is as dependent on us as we are on them.

If we really want to change this system we should be advocating a limit on the ability of US companies to exploit sweatshop Chinese labor and that China should recognize the right of Chinese workers to form truly independent unions. This would force the regime to rebalance the Chinese economy to favor domestic consumption as opposed to dependence on an unstable export economy.

It is hard, then, to understand the propaganda being put out there by the Obama machinery. US power relative to China has not shifted just because Obama won the presidential election. This hardly seems a reason to have, for example, insulted the new Asian human rights movement led by buddhists like the Dalai Lama and Vietnam’s Thich Nhat Hanh.

China: Creditor to the Rich – Council on Foreign Relations.

SEIU’s Andy Stern 22, Dalai Lama 0

Did the Beijing-friendly Andy Stern, head of the low wage immigrant workers based union SEIU, green light the Obama Administration’s new “constructive engagement” policy with China?

Stern has been a frequent visitor to China in recent years advocating closer ties between the Chinese Communists’ state controlled labor organization, the ACFTU, and the US trade union movement.  Stern has ignored or patronized independent labor activists in Hong Kong during these visits. Perhaps the only seat of government Stern has visited more often than that of Beijing is the Obama White House.

Stern’s overtures to the Chinese may have led the White House to believe that organized labor would not complain if human rights and labor rights took a back seat in the US-China relationship. Sadly, that calculus appears to have been correct as labor’s voice on China has been nearly silent in recent months.

No wonder the Nobel Peace Prize winning Dalai Lama was told by the White House’s Valerie Jarrett to stay home until Obama had time to check in with his new partners in Beijing next month.

SEIU’s Stern Tops White House Visitor List – Washington Wire – WSJ.

See my debate with China-friendly labor intellectuals here.

Obama gets the Nobel – human rights movement gets the boot

Norwegians must not be reading the papers these days.  Consider Obama’s recent record:

images51) Sending Valerie Jarrett to Dharamshala to tell the fellow Nobel Prize winner Dalai Lama that he was not welcome in Washington D.C. until after the visit of Obama to Beijing later this month.  To the Dalai Lama’s credit he came anyway. The Dalai Lama, together with Vietnamese buddhist leader Thich Nhat Hanh, is the symbolic representative of a massive Asian buddhist movement for peace and democracy particularly in countries like Tibet, Burma and Vietnam.

Thich Nhat Hanh was nominated for the Nobel Peace prize by Nobelist Martin Luther King. images-21Thich Nhat Hanh remains at age 83 a leading figure in what is known as the “engaged” Buddhist movement and his followers continue their support for freedom and human rights inside Vietnam today despite the opposition of the “communist” regime.

2) The Iranian Human Rights Documentation Center, a widely respected human rights NGO based in New Haven, CT, has lost its multi million dollar grant from the US State Department, as Obama presses his case to talk to the Iranian mullahs. The Center is widely seen as one of the few independent western voices that keeps an eye on human rights violations in Iran, particularly important in the wake of the repression of the mass uprising there recently.

Continue reading Obama gets the Nobel – human rights movement gets the boot

Obama tells Dalai Lama to sit in the back of the bus

dalailamaIn perhaps the most cynical move of his young Administration to date, Barack Obama is refusing to welcome the Dalai Lama to the White House this week, a courtesy the United States has extended to this symbol of peace and human rights for nearly two decades.

Obama’s argument is that it is more important for the United States to throw a bone to his new partner in international relations, the authoritarian Chinese “communist” regime, than signal his support of movements for democracy and human rights in Burma, Vietnam, Tibet and elsewhere throughout Asia.

The news is a significant setback not just to the Tibetan national liberation movement but to human rights on a global scale. While the Chinese communist regime, and their lackeys in Western academia, attacks the Tibetan monks led by the Dalai Lama as a “feudal” institution, in fact, Asian buddhists have been at the forefront of movements for peace, democracy and human rights for nearly fifty years.

Perhaps unknown to Barack Obama, the Asian buddhist movement had a significant influence on the American civil rights and anti-war activist Martin Luther King.  As is well known King delivered a speech in New York in 1967 announcing his, then quite controversial, opposition to the U.S. war against Vietnam.

Continue reading Obama tells Dalai Lama to sit in the back of the bus