Saturday, October 6, 2007

False Contrition

Despite China's supposed attempt to reign in bad business practices, a recent report found that some of the merchandise for the upcoming 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing has been produced under such deplorable practices as child labor, forced overtime, and extremely low wages. Along with other recent problems such as lead paint in childrens' toys and poisonous contamination of pet food, it is difficult to argue that a sufficient regulatory industry exists for products made in China.

This sort of behavior is accepted as normal in the global economy and does not bring much outcry. The entire business of hosting the Women's World Cup and then the Olympics in totalitarian state that abuses its people is disheartening at best and a crime against humanity itself at worst. I fail to understand how we can justify such close ties with such a despicable and deplorable regime. If it didn't have as much capital or as large of a consumer base, there is no way we would be as involved with it (see Myanmar, Syria, North Korea). The fact that companies and countries are willing to make condolences and refrain from criticizing Chinese policies is one of the largest failings of public morality of our time. The money we invest in China is used daily to repress and create fear within an already troubled country. While we see photos of the massive amount of development and consumerism in the ports and cities, we don't see the rampant extreme poverty experienced by those in the rural areas. While engagement with all forms of government is important in the international system, such unquestioning patronage to China is dangerous and provides no carrots or sticks (international relations terms for rewards or punishments, respectively) for them to move toward democracy or more adequate worker protections for their wide range of businesses. The brutal repression of democracy movements in China continues and companies like Google continue to uphold the abhorrent "Great Firewall" while still claiming some level of ethical business. It will be interesting to look back and see how these facilitators of oppression are viewed when the history of this time is written.

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