rn: Znet: Right/Wrong reasons for opposing China’s entry into WTO


Jan Slakov

Dear RN,

Perhaps you remember me wondering who has been sending us some very
interesting postings all of a sudden from this CyberBrook
<•••@••.•••> address?

Turns out this is someone Richard met up with while he has been working and
fomenting revolution :-) in California. 

Good to hear from you, Dan, and vicariously from Ricahrd too.

all the best, Jan
Date: Sun, 27 Feb 2000 14:41:25 -0800
From: CyberBrook <•••@••.•••>
Subject: California & Chomsky

RKM signed me up for this list recently, after we had the good sense and
fortune to meet earlier this month, so I'm new to RN. I'm more of a
forwarder than a writer these days, but I try to do both. Between the kids
in my classes and my own 3 yr old kid at home, I'm both busy and
distracted. I'm a contingent worker teaching sociology at the University of
California in Davis, where I earned my Ph.D. They've been kind enough to
keep me on while I've been unsuccessfully looking for a more secure
teaching job. Not wanting to bore anyone, I'll post further details only
upon request.---Dan
Date: Sun, 27 Feb 2000 20:49:44 -0800
From: CyberBrook <•••@••.•••>
Subject: Opposing China's Entry into the WTO

The Right and Wrong Reasons for
Opposing China's Entry into the WTO
                by Robin Hahnel  

www.zmag.org (the very useful ZNet Site)

(here's how to sign up, donate, and get a commentary like this one 
every day, while supporting an important alternative media outlet)

For the past seven years the Clinton Administration has asked 
Congress to extend China Normal Trading Relations (NTR) status 
for a year at a time. Opponents have argued that China does not 
deserve such status because the Chinese government denies its 
citizens basic democratic political and human rights. The 
Administration has argued that while partly true, the behavior of the 
Chinese government is improving, and a policy of "engagement" is 
more likely to advance the cause of democracy and human rights 
in China than a hostile policy of trying to isolate China from the 
civilized world community. After a great deal of demagogic and 
hypocritical posturing on both sides, Congress has always voted to 
extend China NTR status for yet another year. This year the 
Administration is asking Congress to grant China permanent NTR 
status because unless Congress does so, US businesses will not 
be able to take advantage of the deal the Clinton Administration 
recently negotiated with the Chinese government for its entry into 
the WTO, while foreign businesses will.  

There are those in the US who oppose China's entry into the WTO 
because they always oppose anything they deem to be in the 
interest of "Communist" China and contrary to the interest of the 
government in Taiwan. They oppose China's entry into the WTO for 
the same reason right wing Cuban Americans oppose lifting the US 
blockade against Cuba - they think the more belligerent the US 
government is toward a government they have always sought to 
bring down, the sooner that government will fall. These are the 
people who have made greatest use of the annual debate in the US 
Congress over whether or not to extend China NTR status. They 
have used the debate as yet another forum to denounce godless, 
totalitarian Communism. Since these are the same people who 
supported Pinochet, Mobutu, and Suharto until the bitter ends of 
their bloody regimes, and who voted not to join the international 
boycott against the Apartheid regime in South Africa, it is clear 
they have no sincere interest in democracy or human rights. They 
are hypocrites, pure and simple.  

There are also those who oppose China's entry into the WTO 
because they sincerely support democracy and human rights and 
think US trade policy should be used to punish governments who 
violate political and human rights. In other words, they believe in 
"linkage" and denounce the Clinton Administration as hypocritical 
for its failure to reconcile its economic and human rights policies 
toward China. Some who take this position on China and the WTO 
are on unimpeachable moral ground. But there are a number of 
problems with this position:  

First, who is the US government to sit in judgment of the human 
rights records of other governments?  

(1)     The US government is the most serious abuser of human rights 
outside its own borders of any government in the world.  

(2)     While the US government does not violate the human rights of 
anyone inside the US according to the US State Department, I'm 

sure the Foreign Ministries of China and Iraq say the same for 
themselves. If we consult an external source such as Amnesty 
International the US government stands accused of numerous 
human rights violations within its own borders.  

(3)     The US government has a long history of denouncing human 
rights records only of regimes we deem unfriendly and overlooking 
the most heinous crimes of regimes provided they support US 
policies. As a matter of fact, sometimes the same regime, with the 
same policies, changes overnight from being described as a 
government in good moral standing to being demonized as a "new 
Hitler" or drug pusher merely because it opposed a US government 
foreign policy objective - as happened with Sadam Hussein in Iraq 
and Manuel Noriega in Panama.  

Second, is the Chinese government a worse violator of human 
rights than many other governments already within the WTO? If so, 
is someone opposed to admitting China also demanding that other 
human rights violators be expelled? The lobby pressuring Congress 
to grant China permanent NTR status reads like a Who's Who of 
major US corporations, banks and insurance companies who have 
already spent billions of dollars because they know they stand to 
gain hundreds of billions (see Hahnel, "China and the WTO" in the 
January issue of Z). This business lobby bought the Clinton 
Administration years ago, which is why the Administration excuses 
Chinese government human rights violations, pretends the 
violations are on the wane, and argues illogically that engagement 
is more effective than isolation in the case of China, while isolation 
is more effective than engagement in the case of Cuba. 
Administration critics are completely right to point out that Clinton's 
China policy is yet another reminder, if one were needed, that his 
proclaimed devotion to human rights is opportunistic, hollow, and 

In sum, the annual debates over NTR status for China have been 
among the political low points for a Congress and Administration 
with a great many low points to choose from. Which poses a 
serious dilemma for those of us in the movement opposed to 
corporate sponsored globalization as this year's China debate 

Mike Dolan of Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch was quoted on 
the front page of the Wall Street Journal on December 6, 1999 right 
after the victory in Seattle saying "China. We're coming atcha. 
There's no question about it. The next issue is China."  

Jeff Faux, President of EPI, a liberal economic think-tank, was 
quoted in the same article to the effect that it would be impossible 
to get labor and environmental standards included with China in the 
WTO because China is a dictatorship and too big to push around.  

Rob Scott, also of EPI, wrote in the last issue of Working USA in 
1999 that China should not be allowed in the WTO, among other 
reasons, because it engages in "market distorting government 
policies, including requirements for technology transfer to domestic 
firms, local content and offset requirements."  

John Sweeney denounced the Clinton Administration China deal as 
soon as it was announced, and AFL-CIO spokeswoman Denise 
Mitchell announced: "The China vote is going to become a proxy 
for all of our concerns about globalization."  

But Marty Hart-Landsberg, writing in the progressive economists 
network [PEN_L] is one of many thoughtful left economists who 
have expressed concerns: "What I worry about is rather than 
capitalism, or even MNCs, or even the WTO as the enemy, we now 
suddenly find that China is the enemy and that we need to keep it 
out of the WTO so that we can preserve the potential for reform [of 
the WTO]. Very scary."  

And Alexander Cockburn lashed out at Dolan, Faux, Scott, and the 
AFL-CIO in his column in the January 3 issue of The Nation saying 
he does not "feel comfortable at the sight of Western progressives 
execrating China," and he does not think "we should be trying to 
keep China out [of the WTO.]" In the February 14 issue of The 
Nation Cockburn elaborated: "By all means boycott prison-made 
commodities from China. But everything? China's credentials for 
the WTO are just as good as those of the US, so the arguments for 
keeping China out seem pretty rickety and hypocritical to me."  

Like Dolan, Faux, Scott, Sweeney, and unlike Hart-Landsberg and 
Cockburn, I think the movement against corporate sponsored 
globalization should oppose China's entry into the WTO. But it is 
very important to do so for the right, not the wrong reasons.  

We should not oppose China's entry on grounds of human rights 
violations. Don't get me wrong. Unlike the Clinton Administration, I 
do not excuse nor make light of Chinese human rights violations. 
The Chinese government denies its citizens the right of free 
speech, the right to organize politically, the right to organize 
independent unions, the right to strike, the right to a fair trial, and 
the right to privacy. The Post-Mao government has routinely 
resorted to arbitrary arrests to suppress dissent, and has not 
hesitated to imprison millions and kill tens of thousands to 
maintain its monopoly on political power. And these abuses, along 
with others, are more than enough reason to give Chinese citizens 
"the right to rebel," in Mao's words, and replace totalitarian 
Communist rule with a system of political democracy that protects 
human rights and civil liberties. But all these violations of political, 
labor, and human rights do not distinguish the Chinese government 
from many of the 135 governments who are presently members of 
the WTO in good standing. If someone wants to draw up a list of 
minimal political, labor, and human rights countries must observe 
to be WTO members; if someone wants to design a fair arbitration 
process for judging when governments are in violation; if someone 
wants to review the status of present WTO members according to 
the same standards applied to all applicants, not just China; I 
would consider supporting such a reform proposal. But until that is 
what is proposed, it is hypocritical to oppose China's entry 
because of violations of political and human rights. Nor should we 

oppose her entry on grounds that China engages in "market 
distorting policies." Some of those so-called market distorting 
policies are among the best policies of a Chinese government that 
all too often badly serves the economic interests of its citizens and 
increasingly fails to promote economic development that is 
environmentally sustainable and egalitarian. Progressive opponents 
of corporate sponsored globalization should never permit 
themselves to be seduced into defending the position that fair trade 
can only take place between countries whose governments never 
intervene in the market place. Our position should be support for 
greater intervention in the marketplace, until such time as markets 
and the economics of competition and greed they embody can be 
replaced altogether with a non-market system of equitable 
cooperation. Instead, US opponents of corporate sponsored 
globalization should oppose China's entry into the WTO on grounds 
that it will adversely affect the lives of the great majority of Chinese 
as well as the lives of a majority of Americans.  

In the January issue of Z I evaluated the deal struck by the current 
leadership of the Chinese Communist Party and the Clinton 
Administration in great detail. It is a deal that serves the interests 
of important segments of the ruling elite in each country. But it is a 
deal that sacrifices the interests of an overwhelming majority of 
Chinese peasants and workers to the interests of some in the old 
Party elite and many in the newly educated elite -- just as it 
sacrifices the interests of most Americans to the interests of 
powerful segments of the US business community. This is not 
China vs. America. This is not a deal that is detrimental to the 
interests of a majority of Americans but in the interest of the 
majority of Chinese - as Alexander Cockburn erroneously asserts. 
This is a deal that enhances the economic prospects of a small 
minority who are already better off in both countries while 
significantly diminishing the economic prospects of the majority in 
both countries. Which means it is a no-brainer -- if Alex would only 
resist the temptation to bash a few US liberals and take the time to 
analyze the predictable consequences of the deal inside China.  

Radical opponents of corporate sponsored globalization can 
oppose China's entry into the WTO in good conscience - as long 
as we do so for the right reason: China's entry is detrimental to the 
interests of the vast majority of Chinese as well as the majority of 
Americans. Only because Chinese peasants and workers are kept 
less informed and more repressed than US workers and 
environmentalists do we hear fewer voices from inside China 
echoing our own cries for an end to corporate sponsored 
globalization. It is not the movement against corporate sponsored 
globalization that usurps the sovereign right of the Chinese 
citizenry to determine their own destiny when we oppose China's 
entry into the WTO on the terms negotiated by the Chinese 
government. An undemocratic, self-serving Chinese government did 
that when they negotiated the deal, just as the corporate 
globalizers with the help of their political and intellectual 
handmaidens have usurped the right of economic self-management 
of the global majority over the past two decades. There is no 
reason not to extend our shout "Ya Basta!" to ensnaring the 
Chinese masses into a corporate dominated global system that 
enriches a wealthy few particularly at the expense of the most 
wretched of the earth, which is where the vast majority of Chinese 
will sink even further if the deal goes through.