Archive for April 19th, 2010

Monday, April 19, 2010

Searchwords: Why a Weak Yuan?

Why a Weak Yuan?

Why a Weak Yuan?

That‘s why.

JR’s Beautiful Blog. The World’s Reference Point.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Development, beyond the Blame Game

The Leaders and the Lead

An article like this one by Germany’s weekly Der Spiegel, about The Arrogance of China’s Leadership, would have been unthinkable two years ago. And the way Beijing reacts to sovereign decisions of other countries like Japan suggests that business with China isn’t simply business. Neither the Dalai Lama nor Rebiya Kadeer are travelling from China – America and India respectively let them travel, and Japan allows them in. It is a matter between India, Japan, and the United States. To believe that Beijing would stop anywhere when it comes to control global politics is naive. Their claim to control our governments’ visa policies doesn’t stem from their worries in Tibet or Xinjiang. People in China would actually be less aware of Tibet’s or Xinjiang’s figureheads in exile if the foreign ministry stopped making a fuss of them. Control and prestige are the issues, not harmony at home.
When dealing with China’s dictators, and with companies under their rule, everything is political. Therefore, awareness outside China is good, and therefore, news articles which help to raise awareness are often helpful.

But they aren’t good enough. What we will need in addition, and based on the awareness, is a public debate about our relations with a totalitarian government, and a new public debate about the relations between ourselves and our elites at home – in Europe, in America, in Africa, and elsewhere.

On Saturday, an elder statesman made a case for that matter. On the basis of its WTO membership, Taiwan could discuss free-trade agreements with countries other than China, former president Lee Teng-hui told a group of students in Taipei County. He expressed regret that corporations “rushed to China to make money”, closing factories in Taiwan, causing income inequalities which made the Taiwanese “unable to stand together”.

And not only the Taiwanese. Too many people elsewhere in the world are taking it for granted that democracy will inevitably take root in countries like China, and – worse – too many people are taking it for granted that democracy will last where it has become an established form of government. It is easy to forget that democracy was struggled and fought for here, too, and that it is still far out of reach for many people elsewhere. Where democracy is a form of government, it was hard to achieve, brave men and women made huge sacrifices for it, and it won’t stay around if we simply take it for granted.

Some of the criticism of Ma Ying-jeou‘s government from abroad is fairly cheap. The BBC‘s Stephen Sackur demonstrated in 2006 just how cheap it can be.

Sackur: Let me put it this way: we know that China is suppressing freedom of speech.
Ma: Yes.
Sackur: They are closing down newspapers, they don’t allow, for example, BBC Online to be seen inside China, we know that, according to Amnesty International, dozens of people are still in prison as a result of the events in Tian An Men Square, over fifteen, sixteen years ago. We know also that in August 2005, one journalist working in China was arrested, now faces charges of spying for — Taiwan! Amnesty International express deep concern about that. Are you telling me that China, and the Chinese authorities, are people that you can do business with?
Ma: Well, I think Great Britain also do business with China. Could you do business with China when they do all these human rights violations?
Sackur: But with due respect, we don’t have 780 missiles pointed at our island!
Ma: No matter if they are hostile to you or not, they are having some human rights violations you disagree with. But Great Britain still trade with them, and recognise them. They don’t recognise Taiwan.

Ma’s valid points back then – made before he formally decided to run for Taiwan’s presidency – shouldn’t be an excuse for either a wrong policy by his government on China now, or for a failure to explain it plausibly to a wary public. But Taiwan is only the most striking case study for a democratically elected government’s questionable efforts to “engage China”. Most countries – and not only Western countries – could find a sustainable policy on China from a much more comfortable position than Taiwan.

The willingness of our elites to do business with Beijing at the CCP’s terms stems from a good portion of dullness, and callousness. After all, a CEO isn’t there to save the world – he needs to provide convincing quarterly figures. And quite a number of his constituency in terms of operating profit are shareholders from the middle or lower class who applaud wary news articles, but who still won’t settle with anything less than what the corporations can possibly obtain – in whichever market.

But there is also something that should divide some of our elite, and the “common people”. While making money is certainly in everyone’s interest, business or political leaders’ love for the virtues of decisive authoritarianism over shilly-shallying democratic debate is only in the interest of a few.

Every Country is a Developing Country

There is homework for us to do, far beyond the homelike (even if sometimes useful) practise of criticising China. The “Chinese model” – in fact the model of a ruling minority and a frequently manipulated or cowed Chinese majority – won’t be quite the threat to democratically-minded people, if they, as Lee Teng-hui has put it,  “stand together”, or, to put it less defensively, if we cherish and practise what we have. And if we, including Taiwan, don’t allow Beijing to intimidate us.

There is no statistic about how many Germans, for example, are wary about China’s economic success, rather than about its political system. Such statistics would be pretty useless anyway. Imgaine the questionnaires:

1) Do you love your country’s business with China? (Y) (N)
2) If you don’t, is it
a) because you are concerned about adding to the clout of its political system?
b) because we will have to work harder once again to remain competitive?

Don’t hold your breath for honest answers yet. They will require the understanding that we must continue to educate ourselves.

A public that educates itself – and controls its own leaders efficiently – doesn’t need to fear Chinese evils. It doesn’t even have to fear Chinese virtues – their industriousness, for example. An informed public can find appropriate ways that would neither give in to China on manipulated terms, nor try to deny the country its rightful place – a place no different from any other country – in the global economy.

We could prove that last point in the ways we do business ourselves, with countries which are in a more vulnerable position than our own. With Ghana, for example. Its oil reserves have raised both hopes and fears among the Ghanaians – hopes to profit from it, and fears to become nigerianized.

The right offer at the right time can do much more than all kinds of  development aid. We are all developing countries.

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Related
Why Taiwan must back PRC dissidents, Taiwan News, April 19, 2010
What helps – or hurts – Development, April 8, 2010
Democracy: the Insecure Sovereign, January 21, 2010

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