The online CIA World Factbook contains a comparison of the “Current Account Balance” for the world’s countries. The figures “record a country’s net balance in goods and services plus net earnings from rents, interest, profits and dividends, and net transfer payments (such as pension funds and worker remittances) to and from the rest of the world.”
Current rankings place China at the top, with an annual surplus of $201.7 billion. The United States is dead last, ranked 192 with a deficit of $473.4 billion. Given that America’s current account imbalance and massive debt to China threatens U.S. security, one has to wonder why we continue to give China a free pass on everything from human rights violations to political plutocracy.
The Chinese must think we are the stupidest people in the world – our leaders keep increasing the country’s debt to them while Americans keep gobbling up Chinese manufactured goods.
Unfortunately, most Americans don’t seem to care.
Consider human rights. American presidents like to portray themselves as human rights crusaders. One of President George W. Bush’s common themes regarding the decision to invade Iraq was a need to free the Iraqi people from the dictatorship of Saddam Hussein. Likewise, President Obama has supported the recent Arab Spring uprisings, including military intervention in Libya. These uprisings have left the Middle East in near chaos and an American ambassador assassinated.
Amnesty International lists China as one of the world’s greatest human rights violators. According to Amnesty, China sanctions “… torture, execution (in which it is world leader), excessive use of force in public order policing, repression of dissent and forced repatriation of asylum seekers without recourse to a refugee determination procedure.”
Since 1999, China has brutally suppressed the spiritual movement Falun Gong, incarcerating and “re-educating” many Falun Gong members.
China has occupied Tibet, which it claims is a historically Chinese territory, since 1949. Tibetans rebelled in 1959. Subsequently, Tibet’s spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, fled to India, and its leaders formed a government in exile. That government claims that a fifth of Tibet’s population was killed during the uprising and that China systematically destroyed more than 6,000 Tibetan monasteries and other cultural structures.
While America debates pro-choice versus pro-life, China mandates forced abortions under its one-child-per-family policy. According to Mail Online, “… the policy has led to violent and forced abortions and sterilizations, as local authorities try to meet birth quotas set by Beijing.”
Much of the political discourse in the current U.S. presidential campaign centers on whether wealthy citizens pay their fair share in taxes. The debate has grown ugly, yet it barely compares to the situation in China.
In February, Bloomberg reported that, “The richest 70 members of China’s legislature added more to their wealth last year than the combined net worth of all 535 members of the U.S. Congress, the president and his Cabinet, and the nine Supreme Court justices.”
The report claims their combined net worth in 2011 was $89.8 billion. While this is probably the world’s best example of plutocracy, the term is rarely used when discussing China.
The first debate between President Obama and Mitt Romney featured extensive discussion of environmental issues ranging from green energy production to clean-coal technologies and petroleum exploration. The Chinese acknowledge the need for environmental protection, but their leaders value economic growth over environmental protection.
National Geographic reported in May 2008 on a number of serious environmental problems in China. For instance, only about 40 percent of China’s municipal wastewater is treated before being returned to streams and rivers. Approximately 300 million rural Chinese lack access to clean drinking water due to industrial and farm pollution. About 60,000 Chinese children die per year from diarrhea associated with unclean drinking water.
Science Daily reported in October 2011 that pollution was responsible for a 450 percent increase in birth defects in rural China. About 70 percent of China’s energy production comes from burning domestic coal, which is high in sulfur and heavy-metal content.
There is also the problem of forced labor in China. While American politicians debate proper minimum wage levels, Chinese leaders sanction the use of forced laborers, including children, to increase productivity and lower the cost of manufacturing.
An Al Jazeera report published in March 2011 claims China has more than 1,000 prison camps where forced labor is used to support national production.
In 2011, the U.S. Department of Labor published a booklet titled “List of Goods Produced by Child Labor or Forced Labor.” It indicates that artificial flowers, bricks, Christmas decorations, electronics, fireworks, footwear, garments, nails, textiles and toys (all products the United States imports in quantity from China) are often produced by child or forced labor.
While many of America’s problems pale in comparison to China’s, we rarely hear this mentioned by our politicians. China is simply not being held accountable.
If we are truly serious about change in America, we must become equally serious about change in China. Like it or not, America’s future is inextricably bound to China. We simply can’t afford to keep giving the Chinese regime a free pass.
Zachary Hubbard is a retired Army officer and freelance writer residing in the north Pittsburgh area.