August 15, 2007
Written by C.N.
As almost everyone knows by know, China has been in the news a lot recently, for many different reasons — unsafe goods imported into the U.S., continuing economic growth and competition with the U.S., and its upcoming hosting of the 2008 Summer Olympics, to name just a few. Not surprisingly, within this context, such issues involving China have become hot political topics as well. As the Associated Press/Salon.com reports, all of the Presidential candidates are staking out their positions on what to do about China:
Candidates have been raising, in debates and campaign stops, what they see as China’s failure to live up to its duties as an emerging global superpower. But they also recognize that the U.S. needs China, a veto-wielding member of the U.N. Security Council, to secure punishment for Iran’s nuclear program and to persuade North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons. . . .
Many of the comments, however, have been complaints, as candidates work to connect with voters increasingly worried about China’s huge military buildup, its flood of goods into the U.S., its ability to influence violence in Sudan’s Darfur region, its repression of minorities, dissidents and journalists.
Michael Green, President Bush’s former chief adviser on Asia, said that regardless of any harsh words candidates direct toward China, the next president will likely embrace the same measured U.S. policies endorsed by past administrations. Bashing China might win votes, the reasoning goes, but newly elected presidents soon realize that a more careful tone is needed to deal with the complex U.S.-China relationship.
As I’ve written before in my previous posts about the various political, economic, and cultural issues surrounding China, the Chinese government certainly deserves much of the blame regarding their record on human rights abuses, censorship and lack of individual liberties, unsafe food and other products, etc. China may still be in the process of modernizing and industrializing, but if it claims to be an emerging superpower, these very public failings should not be such an embarrassing issue for them.
On the other hand, my fear is that this “China bashing” is going to be a repeat of the “Japan bashing” days of the 1980s, when it was socially and politically trendy for the American public in general, but politicians in particular, to blast Japan for its perceived economic “invasion” of the U.S. This Japan-bashing episode set the stage for some Americans to act on their racial prejudices against Japanese and Japanese Americans — and by implication Asian Americans, with the murder of Vincent Chin being one of the most tragic examples.
With that in mind, I am not keen on seeing this type of episode repeated against Chinese, Chinese Americans, or Asian Americans. The political and economic framework is eerily similar in both cases — an imminent changing of presidential administrations, volatile economic times, middle class families struggling to make ends meet, the U.S. economy being challenged by an Asian upstart, etc.
I hope all the Presidential candidates, and the American public as well, will keep the lessons of recent history in mind and be fair about their criticisms of China but also understand that what they say and how they act has an influence over how many Americans of Chinese and Asian ancestry are ultimately treated inside the U.S.
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Suggested reference: Le, C.N. . "China as a Political Issue" Asian-Nation: The Landscape of Asian America. <http://www.asian-nation.org/headlines/2007/08/china-as-a-political-issue/> ().
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