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US clearly in the wrong over 'human rights'

Updated: 2014-06-12 06:54
By John Ross ( China Daily)

On May 28, the US House of Representatives chose to debate a resolution expressing its concern over the issue of "human rights" in China. This makes it appropriate to make a comparison of the real records of the US and China on human rights.

This is a vital issue, as human well-being is certainly the sole goal of any correct policy. Each nation has the right to pursue its national sovereignty and national culture, which is why China's national revival and overall human progress are inseparably linked.

The attempt to reduce human rights to a Western-style political structure, as though having a parliamentary system were the most important question facing human beings, is ridiculous. The real issue was very well put by the BBC's correspondent in China, Humphrey Hawksley:

"I hear from an Iraqi wedding photographer who had lost so many friends and family members that he would gladly have exchanged his right to vote for running water, electricity and safety; from an Argentine shoemaker who bartered trainers for food because his economy had collapsed; and from the African cocoa farmer whose belief in the Western free market left him three times poorer now than he was 30 years ago."

The example of women in China and India can readily be taken to illustrate the real issues involved in human rights.

A Chinese woman's life expectancy is 77 years and literacy among Chinese women over the age of 15 is 93 percent, whereas an Indian woman has a life expectancy of 68 and the literacy rate over the age of 15 is 66 percent. India may be a parliamentary republic, but the human rights of a Chinese woman are, unfortunately, far superior to women in India.

If the real meaning of the term human rights is used, it is evident that China has the best human rights record in the world - and those words are carefully chosen.

China has lifted more than 630 million people out of poverty - more than the entire population of the EU or the continent of Latin America, and almost twice the population of the US.

China has brought social security protection to 820 million people, and healthcare to over a billion. China is responsible for 100 percent of the reduction of the number of people living in poverty in the world.

What is particularly striking is the factual contrast between what China has achieved and the laughable claim of the US to a superior human rights record. In the world outside China, the number of people living in poverty in an economic system dominated by the US has, according to the World Bank, increased in the last 30 years.

Furthermore, the facts establish clearly that the attacks on China's human rights record by the US government, and those they support, are merely hypocrisy.

China openly states its foreign policy principle - that each country has the right to choose its own form of government and whether it wants an absolute monarchy without political rights, a parliamentary republic, or socialism is not China's affair. The US, in contrast, in words claims the right to criticize other countries in the name of supposed "universal values" of Western forms of political rule.

But the reality is transparently different to this. A country such as Saudi Arabia, which is an absolute monarchy, in which political parties are banned, in which women are forbidden even to drive cars, is not subject to US campaigns over human rights.

In Russia in 1993, the US government supported Boris Yeltsin's attack on the Russian parliament, while they condemn as "anti-democratic" Putin, whom not only elections but every opinion poll shows to have the most popular support of any Russian leader in decades - the difference between the two being that Yeltsin pursued a policy subordinate to the US while Putin pursued a policy independent of it.

These facts establish beyond doubt that the problem for the US government about China is not human rights - if China were an authoritarian regime supporting the US it would not be criticized. The real problem about China for US neoconservatives and their followers is that China's national revival makes it strong.

Instead of complaining, the US House of Representatives would be well advised to pass a resolution congratulating China for its unequalled contribution to human well-being in lifting over 600 million people out of poverty, establishing an enquiry to find out why US-supported economic policies in the rest of the world have made no such contribution to human rights, and publicly apologizing for the hundreds of thousands of people it has killed in its wars - including the thousands of ordinary US soldiers.

Only when it does that will the US House of Representatives begin to understand the real issues of human rights for real people of the real world.

The author is former director of London's Economic and Business Policy and currently a senior fellow with Chongyang Institute, Renmin University of China. The article first appeared in the Global Times English edition.

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