Dueling Rights Reports: U.S.-China Political Theater

May 26, 2012

If you are a China Daily reader and wondered about the sudden influx of articles critical on pretty much every aspect of American society, economics, law and politics, the answer lies in this report released by the U.S. State Department. This is an annual phenomenon, and much like the semi-annual Treasury Report that I wrote about earlier today, it involves a great deal of political posturing.

Here’s how it works. First, the State Department issues their annual report; the country report on China is lengthy, as usual, and covers topics such as civil liberties and Net content restrictions. The State Department has a press conference, speeches are made, the press writes the usual news articles, etc. Standard stuff.

Second, the government over here in Beijing cannot let this go without a comment, so the usual denunciations are made by officials and/or surrogates. Again, pretty much what you would expect.

However, that’s not the end of it, and if you are not a regular China watcher, this next part might surprise you. Part three of this story is the issuance of a China version of the U.S. report (available in English of course). Well, it’s not exactly the same kind of report. The China version  criticizes fewer countries. Actually, a lot fewer. To be honest, it’s only one country: the United States.

The point of the report, I suppose, is not to replicate what the U.S. did. After all, China, which officially has a “non-interference policy,” is not in the business of criticizing other countries’ domestic records. No, the point of the report is to reveal American hypocrisy. If you have nothing better to do, you can check out the report and read about U.S. problems relating to “Personal Security,” “Civil and Political Rights,” “Racial Discrimination” and other topics.

Which brings us back to the document dump in China Daily that might have disturbed some folks who were unaware of all the rest of this. You might have seen these fun stories today and thought to yourself “WTF is going on?”

US-led wars create humanitarian disasters

US conducts human experiments, sparking outcry

Quite a lot Americans have no access to healthcare

US leader in gun violence, gun deaths

Millions homeless in US: report

Ethnic minorities discriminated against in US

Poverty rate among American women, children hits record high

To be fair, I’m sure there are just as many, if not more, articles in the U.S. press on any given day that are critical of China. On the other hand, they usually aren’t all in the same publication. By the way, all of the above articles were posted to the China Daily RSS feed at the same time (i.e., I received them in one big {ahem} dump).

I point out hypocrisy a lot of the time on this blog, so I sort of do the same thing that China Daily, and the government here, is doing. On the other hand, I’m not doing it to draw attention away from my own record, and I’m definitely not trying to make some sort of equivalency argument with respect to the U.S. and China. That being said, certainly the U.S. has its own problems domestically, and a lot of what went into the China report are valid criticisms. Moreover, the U.S. doesn’t always exactly follow through with its condemnation of other nations’ records with actual foreign policy initiatives; sometimes an annual chiding is all the U.S. government is willing to do, particularly if the country in question has oil or another strategic asset. But hey, nobody’s perfect.

So if you got weirded out reading the press today, you can relax. This is all “normal” political theater. I do, however, feel bad for all the writers and editors at Xinhua, China Daily and the State Council Information Office who had to churn it all out. Honestly, a standard condemnation from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs would have been just as persuasive.