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The Arrogance of the Asian Tiger

When Will<br>Enough Be Enough?

Beryl P. Wajsman

21 October 2004

“Whoever has not felt the danger of the times has not penetrated  the forge of destiny.

~ José Ortega y Gasset

Just two weeks after the announcement that China would make it’s biggest foreign acquisition ever in the proposed takeover of Canada’s Noranda Mines and Falconbridge Nickel, Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing made it clear that this was just the beginning. Despite concerns expressed in the political and corporate worlds of the negative effect of feeding a tyrannical regime strategic resources it admittedly needs to strengthen itself, and giving that regime control over our resource sector, the Chinese have staked a further claim on the future.

In an exclusive interview with The Globe and Mail in Beijing this week, the Chinese Foreign Minister made it plain that the controversial $7-billion takeover of Noranda Inc. is just a small element in a much more ambitious strategy of investment in Canada's resources sector to feed China's voracious appetite for raw materials.  "No matter how plentiful our natural resources, when you divide them by our population of 1.3 billion, the figure will be very small," he said.

As Globe and Mail reporter Geoffrey York put it, “China’s Communist rulers have a blunt message for anyone who frets about the planned takeover of Canada’s biggest mining company: Get ready for more to come.” The Noranda takeover has sparked serious questions on human-rights concerns both as regards to the dictatorial nature of China’s regime as well as specific reports that China Minmetals, the acquiring state entity, has been linked to the use of forced labour in the Chinese prison gulag.

Li’s response to these concerns was predictable. He told the Globe reporter that," You can tell your readers that they needn't worry at all about China's development. In the international arena, we act in accordance with international law and international practice. We will act in accordance with the rules of the World Trade Organization, as a member of WTO."

He then astoundingly insisted that human rights are fully protected by the Chinese constitution, and then had the temerity to argue that China's human-rights situation is not too different from that of Canada. In a display of nerve remarkable even for tyrants he said that "On human rights, I believe, our two peoples have a lot in common," he said.

Li flippantly concluded that "Liberty, democracy, freedom and whatever (italics are mine), we share a lot. What is democracy? Democracy is a way in which people enjoy their rights according to law. If the Chinese people and government are working in accordance with our constitution and law, why do people in Canada worry about this? "

Despite concerns in the West and in Asia about China’s fast-growing military budget, its expanding nationalist movement and its territorial disputes with some of its neighbours, Li said, in tones reflective of an Asian economic “lebensraum”, that "China's development will not threaten anybody or compromise their interests. China's peaceful development serves not only the maximum interests of its people but also the common interests of people around the world." Even as China becomes a global economic powerhouse, Mr. Li insists that it is merely a "developing country" with a "weak economic foundation."

These incredibly arrogant remarks will soon be read by an incredibly gullible Canadian public. Mr. Li asks why people in Canada should worry about China. It’s time to tell him.

China has never complied with even the minimal standards set by the World Trade Organization. Those standards themselves are nothing to write home about as they have institutionalized a global underclass in the Third World built on slave wages that is constantly exploited by western businesses at the expense of higher-paying western jobs. No one suggests that China’s labor standards approach the West’s, but this Asian Tiger is even undercutting other regional labor markets such as Malaysia and Pakistan.

Nothing in China’s constitution even approaches recognition of individual liberties and human rights. To compare Chinese legislation with Canada’s Charter makes a mockery of the concept of justice. Everything in China is based on the rights of the collective including the forfeiture of one’s life. Criminal prosecutions are routinely carried out in star chamber proceedings and over 20,000 prisoners were killed last year alone. One can argue that this is an improvement over the 20,000,000 killed in the years of the Communist Revolution between 1948-1950 and the millions more killed during the “Cultural Revolution” of the late 1960’s.

Li’s definition of democracy being the way “…people enjoy their rights according to law…” highlights the chasm between a totalitarian regime and a free society. Democracy is the way  a free people exercise their sovereignty over their democratically elected government. It is not about laws for the sake of law without a basis in liberty and equity. For though western nations are societies of laws and not of men, when bad men make bad laws or unprincipled officials compromise good ones, free peoples have the power to stop governments from staggering drunkenly from wrong to wrong merely to perpetuate their own immortality. No such freedom exists in China and despite world pressure since Tienamin Square, no democratic reforms of any significance have been instituted.

From those who would buy a stake in free societies and open economies we have a right to demand adherence to basic standards of equity and equality. Canada already subsidizes almost 50% of every dollar China spends in this country through grants and credits from entities such as our Export Development Corporation. Successive  Canadian governments have argued the worth of these policies because trade will bring political liberalization. Yet we have seen nothing.

Too many in  our public life contend that defense of principle is unsustainable in view of what they characterize as the momentum of inevitable domination by this Asian power. They are wrong. As were those who claimed that England was indefensible in the face of Nazi might; that Berlin  was untenable in the face of Soviet  threat and that Israel should negotiate itself out of existence in the face of theocratic bloodlust. If history has taught us anything it is that national weight never matters as much as national will.

A world without justice is indefensible. Existence without conscience is untenable. The dry, brittle remnant of surrendered spirit is unsustainable. Man’s incontestable march from barbarism to civilization has been testament to that. Just twenty-nine years ago concerted western pressure resulted in the Helsinki Accords that forced the Soviet Union to tolerate dissent. Though we can only hope for that profile in courage today, we would urge that in our engagement with China our political elite remains mindful of the words of George Bernard Shaw that  Liberty means responsibility. That is why most men dread it.”


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