The New York Times reports on Hillary Clinton’s tough human rights stance in China:
Speaking more forcefully on human rights than any American dignitary has on Chinese soil, Hillary Rodham Clinton catalogued a devastating litany of abuse that has afflicted women around the world today and criticized China for seeking to limit free and open discussion of women’s issues here.
Continuing with references to domestic violence, genital mutilation, coercive abortions and sterilizations, Mrs. Clinton told the delegates from more than 180 countries, “If there is one message that echoes forth from this conference, let it be that human rights are women’s rights and women’s rights are human rights, once and for all.”
Or at least for a dozen years. That New York Times story is from 1995. This AP report is from today:
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Friday that the debate with China over human rights, Taiwan and Tibet cannot be allowed to interfere with attempts to reach consensus on other broader issues.
Instead, she said it might be better to agree to disagree on long-standing positions and focus instead on U.S.-Chinese engagement on climate change, the global financial crisis and security threats.
Put aside the philosophical vacuum that constitutes the Clinton core (Is there any doubt that if circumstances found her secretary of state in a McCain administration, she’d have delivered a speech about the importance of not letting human rights abuses be overshadowed by immediate financial and security concerns?); China, more than any other country, has made human rights violations an integral condition of a state machinery that threatens the financial, environmental, and national security of the rest of the world. In other words, Hillary Clinton has it exactly backwards – Chinese human rights violations cannot be separated from the “broader issues.”
Financial collapse in China is so potentially threatening because substandard living conditions and a class of industrial slaves make for dangerously fertile ground in the event of cataclysmic deprivation. Stirred up nationalist sentiment in a spiraling China could lead to extreme regional destabilization.
Moreover China is able to undermine American efforts at recovery through free trade because of a dirt cheap production system that enslaves workers or loses them to on-site illness or death. It should go without saying that Chinese industrial pollution is a by-product of the same inclination to flout acceptable standards of production.
The kind of shoddy realism Hillary Clinton is passing off as “smart power” always comes back to bite the West in the end. Particularly in times of global crisis, liberal capitalist countries should remember to use their firmer footing to work from an agenda that serves our immediate interests while organically advancing our ideals. The only way to get China to make a lasting contribution to global recovery would be to tilt Beijing toward improved human rights and fair trade practices.