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Monday, April 22, 2013

MUGA Day #28: China--On the Matter of Human Rights

As today is Earth Day, Planet Earth and Humanity would normally have focused on the environment.  However, China Daily today spent several pages on the matter of human rights, so let me therefore concentrate on Humanity.

It must have been forty years ago when I participated in an energy workshop near Spokane, Washington, not that far from the Hanford nuclear storage site.  Just talking to the representatives from the nearby area was eye-opening, for everyone thought that nuclear energy was terrific and there was absolutely no danger to waste storage.  Then, I learned that this is what they're taught in schools and at home, so this attitude was programmed since their youth.

So here in China, of course the propaganda is pro-China and sort of anti-American.  My first knee-jerk reaction to these articles about the United States being hypocritical and selectively myopic about human rights was, sure, what else is new.  Then, when I began to read the details, it occurred to me that, perhaps my attitude, too, was skewed  by my upbringing.  Maybe there is something to what China is saying that is worthy of a deeper analysis.

On this note, as this is Earth Day, it would be most appropriate to re-run Pogo's:

Although for the purposes of this posting, there is an obvious analogy of the environment to humanity and attitudes.

I urge you to read:  Hyprocrisy and Selective Myopia, an editorial page statement by Shan Chu, Beijing-based scholar in international relations.  Following on the next two full pages was China's report on the Human Rights Record of the United States in 2012.  Much of what is included is not particularly new, but the difference is one of perspective.  Understanding can be distorted because of our personal filters. Here is Chu's summary:

  1.  Western countries use human rights as a political tool.  He sites the Dulles Plan (not John Foster, but Allen, CIA chief) as effective in essentially destroying the moral values of the Soviet Union, leading to their subsequent demise.  You wonder if our Military-Industrial Complex also has a similar doctrine for China.

  2.  The U.S. and other Western countries don't sufficiently appreciate their own woeful human rights records.  There is serious racial discrimination, for example, and cited is the Washington Post indicating that the U.S. is lying to itself when it calls itself the land of the free.  From  Iraq to Kosovo to the Arab Spring, humanitarian intervention led to justification of military action.  The primary result was more suffering, not joy.

  3.  If a country is an ally of the U.S., no matter how undemocratic it is and how severe the human rights abuses are, the U.S. will mostly ignore them and generally support the regime.  Since the Declaration on the Right to Development was adopted by the United Nations more than half a century ago, the U.S. has generally ignored it.  The U.S. has in the past boycotted the UN Human Rights Council.  Worse, in 2001, the U.S. was voted off this Commission.

Chu could have added that the U.S. is by the far the biggest military spender, 39% of the $1.75 trillion/year, four times as much as China and seven times that of Russia.  The U.S. and NATO accounted for $1 trillion.  Interesting that the U.S. ranks 17th in the world on education, 25th on infant mortality and 37th on life expectancy and overall health.  That Lockheed Martin F-35, which is a dud, could well eventually cost $1.5 trillion.  To fight who or what?  Said this article (watch this clip):

President Dwight Eisenhower put it well in an address before the American Society of Newspaper Editors 60 years ago: “Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. . . .  This world in arms is not spending money alone; it is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. . . . This is not a way of life at all in any true sense. Under the clouds of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron.”

SO WHAT'S THE SOLUTION????  Well, in this same China Daily edition today, an announcement was made on an international scholarship for peace.  Tsinghua University will launch an international postgraduate program to train potential global leaders aimed at better understanding China.  Called the Schwarzman Scholars program, 200 students will be supported each year to attend a one-year program in Beijing.  Ninety Americans, 20 from China and 90 from the rest of the world will will be the country mix.  Stephen Schwarzman, founder of the Blackstone Group, contributed $100 million of this $300 million endowment.  Forbes indicates that he is worth $6.5 billion.  Remarked President Xi Jinping;

Education can help youths understand the world, make great changes and create a better future... It is important to improve exchange and communication among students from different countries.

When I was working for U.S. Senator Spark Matsunaga in D.C. a third of a century ago, as we are preparing our future leaders for war in our national military academies, he proposed a U.S. Peace Academy to train our best minds for peace.  He had earned a Purple Heart and still carried a piece of shrapnel in his knee from his service in the European theater during World War II.  Mind you, there is an Institute for Peace at the University of Hawaii, as part of a national and international program, and their budget for this year is a significant $39 million.  However, imagine a Peace Academy on the order of West Point or Annapolis, with 500 faculty and 5000 students.  Each of  these current military academies run a budget of around $150 million.  I wonder where the world would be today if Matsunaga had succeeded.

What drives countries to war?  Individuals to kill?  Why doesn't China just call a summit of Asian nations to share those islands of contention?  Perhaps the Schwarzman Scholars will someday lead to such a solution.  The end of the Cold War was a pivotal point for Humanity.  We seem to be losing that moment.

But let me end more positively, for Martin Dempsey, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff in Beijing met today with Fang Fenghui, chief General Staff of the People's Liberation Army, and agreed to conduct a combined humanitarian disaster-relief exercise this year and have our two navies partner on an anti-piracy exercise in the Gulf of Aden next year.  Hopeful progress, indeed.


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