From Overseas Press

Cameron should not lecture China on human rights

Updated: 2011-06-30 17:14
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British Prime Minister David Cameron should not lecture China on human rights as he attempts to win over the emerging power in a bid to get Britain's economy back on track, says Hamish McRae in an op-ed piece in The Independent on June 29, 2011.

Britain's economic relationships with China are hugely important both as an inward investor and as an exporter, notes McRae, associate editor of The Independent. But he also points out that there are may be other relationships that are just as important. "There are more students from China in Britain than in any other country, more even than the United States. We have the historic link with China through Hong Kong, which became a model for the Chinese mainland free trade and enterprise zones, which in turn triggered the country's astounding economic take-off."

Additionally, all experience of Chinese economic relations reflects that politics is not allowed to intervene in economics, McRae opines. The Chinese will pursue what they believe is their self-interest. "So it is not really a question of our damaging trade relations with them; it is more a question of our still not quite grasping the scale of what is happening in China – or how unimportant our views are to the Chinese."

As China's economic growth is becoming more generally appreciated, two things are worthy of attention, says the piece. One has been "the gradual, relentless overhauling of the West by China, passing France, Britain, Germany and last year, Japan in economic size". The other has been "the way the recession has speeded up the shift". China kept growing, its banks did not need rescuing and its living standards kept on rising. And now as the West stumbles out of recession, China's debts are lower than those of any G7 economy.

Actually, Western views on human rights might be inconsistent, according to McRae. Colonel Gaddafi was once feted by, among other countries, Britain, and now is reviled. And they are also seen as patronizing in their relationship with Africa, with African leaders telling Chinese investors that they find it much easier to deal with them, the Chinese, than with the coordinators of Western aid programs.

The relative economic failure has diminished the political influence of the West, believes McRae. "It does not matter what we say or think, not so much because we might lose trade opportunities if we speak our mind, but because we are not respected any more. The West's judgment on how to run economies has been proved wrong, so why should anyone listen to our judgment on how to run societies?"