December 4, 2007
Written by C.N.
As we all know by now, China has been in the news recently mainly because of a rash of consumer recalls involving products made in China that were unsafe and potentially toxic. However, before these particular concerns became front page news, you might remember that China had been in the news because of recurring allegations of spying and espionage. Well, as CBS News notes, a new report recently brought this issue back into the spotlight:
The U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission also said in its annual report to Congress that small and medium manufacturers, which represent more than half the manufacturing jobs in America, “face the full brunt of China’s unfair trade practices, including currency manipulation and illegal subsidies for Chinese exports.”. . .
The report comes about a year before U.S. presidential and congressional elections, and candidates have been critical of what they see as China’s failure to live up to its responsibilities as an emerging superpower. China often is singled out for its flood of goods into the United States; for building a massive, secretive military; for abusing its citizens’ rights; and for befriending rogue nations to secure sources of energy.
U.S. officials also recognize that the U.S. needs China, a veto-holding 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. . . .
The commission also faulted China for keeping its currency artificially low. American manufacturers have long complained that Beijing’s low currency makes Chinese goods cheaper in the United States and American products more expensive in China. . . .
The report also described what it said was China’s tight control over information distribution, not only to manipulate its own people but to influence its perception in the U.S. That could endanger U.S. citizens if reports on food and product safety and disease outbreaks are affected.
It looks like China-bashers have another reason to cry foul and to blast China.
As I’ve said in the past, it is certainly true that in many ways, China needs to clean up its act, literally and figuratively. Its record of human rights abuses is well known, as are its continuing difficulties and issues in regard to censorship, environmental protection, and trade practices — all of which the new report confirms. Therefore, I am not necessarily disputing the specific points of contention in this report.
Instead, as a sociologist, I would like point to the larger socio-cultural context of reports and criticisms like this. Specifically, as other observers will probably tell you, China is not the only country in the world in the world who artificially undervalues its currency, or has problems addressing its environmental impact (we don’t need to look any further than our own country for that), or engages in human rights abuses.
China’s distinction, and the reason why it gets disproportionately more criticism than other countries, is because the U.S. increasingly sees China as a threat — politically, militarily, and economically. And whenever anyone, or any country, feels threatened, instinctively they lash out at the perceived threat. So what happens on the individual level can also happen on the international level.
We should all expect these kinds of criticisms and tensions between China and the U.S. to get worse before they get better.
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Suggested reference: Le, C.N. . "New Report on Spying by China" Asian-Nation: The Landscape of Asian America. <http://www.asian-nation.org/headlines/2007/12/new-report-on-spying-by-china/> ().
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