Billions in trade gap, pennies for workers in China’s Special Economic Zone

December 5, 2006

Richard Nixon noted, “[In 1994] China’s economic power makes US lectures about human rights imprudent. Within a decade it will make them irrelevant. Within two decades it will make them laughable (Huntington 1997:195).” Rural norther women (2006) in southern SEZ, earn pennies. Profits shared by retailers, Tianjin, Klein, Nautica, Chaps, Feniger

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Challenges of Human Rights within a Geopolitics of Exclusion

Originally presented as part of: Flynn, Burhoe, M. 2004. “Human Rights Comprehensive,” Carleton University, Ottawa, ON.

 

The 1993 Vienna Human Rights Conference revealed the ideological schism between the Western bloc of liberal democracies embodied in European and North American countries and diverse ideologies of fifty non-Western countries[1] which the West lumped together as Asian-Islamic. In spite of this, cultural relativism was rejected in favour of the universality of human rights. At this same conference Islamic and Chinese delegates emphatically stated that the universality of human rights was not questioned. But as China’s economic clout increases so does the demand for a shift in the dominant western-centred human rights lexicon to include Asian values (Falk 2000:8). See also Ignatieff.

The rapid dramatic economic, industrial and technological growth of China’s Special Economic Zones has situated China as a formidable trade partner in the global economy attracting foreign investors particularly the US and Japan. This has a profound effect on Human Rights debates which became visibly apparently in 1994 with Clinton was forced to retract threats to impose sanctions on China for its human rights abuses. It is the hope of the Western world that China’s need for trade partners will lead to greater transparency but in the unpredictable shifts of power dynamics, economic forces alone will not compel China to adopt western values. As China’s international market strength gathers momentum human rights concerns conveyed by even the more vocal dissenters, Tibet and Taiwan are set aside.

At a recent conference on Governance Self-Government and Legal Pluralism (2003) Premier Okalik[2] defined traditional knowledge as a collective means of re-interpreting a rapidly changing world. Falk suggested an “alternative to the false universalism of globalization in the form of an intercivilizational world order that combines the ecological and biological conditions of unity with the civilizational[3] realities of difference and self-definition (Falk 2000b:161). This radical shift recognizes the emergence of civilizational identities which challenges the dominant statist identities (2000b:147). Another term that is used to describe this geopolitics of inclusion is multi-civilizational dialogical relationship. An international globalization research centre, Institute for Global Peace and Policy Research (TODA) is developing a multi-civilizational conceptual framework focusing on the unity and variety of conditions and institutions for global democracy in an age of globalization and regionalization (TODA 2000).

The end of the cold war, ideological passivity of China, spread of market liberalism set the stage for a new period in human rights. The new western political ideology claimed that only democratic forms of governance are legitimate and promote human rights (Falk 2000a:47).

 


[1](including Communist Cuba, Buddhist Myanmar, Confucian Singapore, Vietnam, North Korea, China, Muslim Malaysia, Indonesia, Pakistan, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Sudan and Libya)

[2] At a recent conference on Governance Self-Government and Legal Pluralism Premier Okalik acknowledged the challenges of transforming a society afflicted with inherited social wrongs. Governance for the new territory is based on traditional Inuit values respected for the full weight of the history it reflects, as a proactive means engaging the transition. Inuit culture remained intact until relatively recently unlike other indigenous peoples in North America. Okalik described one of the pivotal values of Inuit governance resides in unique form of communication based on listening to others while never losing one’s own horizon in a process that is as complex in execution as it is simple in expressing. In this way Nunavut governance evolved using the best of the Westminster style of government but with unique Inuit traits that reflect Inuit culture and knowledge Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit. The application of IQ is contemporary and continues to evolve although it is steeped in tradition (Okalik 2003).

[3] Falk traced the roots of the civilizational explorations to Braudel (Braudel 1949[1969]) and Toynbee (1961). Elitist and ethnocentric art historian Erwin Panofsky (1939) measured all art history in relation to highpoints of Western civilization, particularly Gothic France and Renaissance Italy (1984; Holly 1997). In education both Hutchins (1936) and Allan Bloom (1987) in his Great Books series assumed the primacy of western civilization over all others. Lord Kenneth Clark’s (1970) televised popular mini-series Civilisation (Alter 1999) spanned eleven countries and sixteen centuries claiming achievements in the name of western civilization through art, architecture, philosophy and history.

 

The end of the cold war, ideological passivity of China, spread of market liberalism set the stage for a new period in human rights. The new western political ideology claims that only democratic forms of governance are legitimate and promote human rights (Falk 2000:47). In 1989 China cracked down on pro-democracy activists in Beijing‘s Tiananmen Square. This was denounced by Clinton when he was campaigning for the US Presidency. However ever since China initiated its more market-friendly policies in its Special Economic Zones, its GNP has risen dramatically. Currently its economy is second only to the United States. Unlike many other late comers to development, China strategically developed its own technical expertise with rapidity thereby limiting China’s dependency on the United States. This has profound effect on Human Rights debates which became official in 1994 with Clinton was forced to retract threats to impose sanctions on China for its human rights abuses. China is attracting foreign investors particularly the US and Japan. It is the hope of the Western world that China’s need for trade partners will lead to greater transparency such as is beginning in the Special Economic Zone. (See the timeline of events that led to the shift.)

Flynn-Burhoe, Maureen. 2004. “Challenges of Human Rights within a Geopolitics of Exclusion,” “Overview of the Context, Content, Conceptual Framework and Outcomes of Designing and Teaching a Human Rights Course in Iqaluit, Nunavut,” Comprehensive Exam II, submitted to PhD committee members Professors Rob Shields, Phillip Thurtle, Donna Patrick. May 21, 2004 in partial requirement for a PhD in Sociology/Anthropology at Carleton University, Ottawa, ON.  Creative Commons license applies.

 

Selected Bibliography

Axworthy, Lloyd. 1995. “Statement.” in World Summit for Social Development. Copenhagen, Denmark.

Braudel, Fernand. 1949[1969]. La Méditerranée et le monde méditerranéen à l’époque de Philippe II, vol. 1. Paris, FR: Flammarion. http://www.armand-colin.com/cgi-bin/bookf.pl?is=2200372248

Brittan, Sir Samuel. 1996. “Review of Charles K. Rowley’s “The Political Economy of the Minimal State”.” The Times Literary Supplement. http://www.thelockeinstitute.org/books/politicaleconomy_review1.html

Falk, Richard A. 2000. Human Rights Horizons: The Pursuit of Justice in a Globalizing World. New York: Routledge.

Gadamer, Hans-Georg. 1960 [1975]. Truth and Method. New York: Crossroad Publishing Company.

Habermas, Jurgen. 1981. “The Theory of Communicative Action.” vol. 2.

Hutchins, Robert. 1936. The Higher Education in America. Chicago.

Leary, Virginia A. 1998. “Globalization and Human Rights.” Pp. 265-276 in Human Rights: New Dimensions and Challenges: Manual on Human Rights, edited by Janusz Symonides. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate Dartmouth Publishing Company Ltd. / UNESCO Publishing. hum/sym/hum

Lyons, Oron R. 1992. “The American Indian in the Past.” in Exiled in the Land of the Free: Democracy, Indian Nations and the U.S.Constitution, edited by Oron R. Lyons and John C. Mohawk. Santa Fe, New Mexico: Clearlight Press.

Okalik, Paul. 2003. “The Naujaat Challenge: Working Together.” in To the Conference on Governance Self-Government and Legal Pluralism. Hull, Quebec. http://www.gov.nu.ca/Nunavut/English/premier/press/cgsglp.shtml

Powless, Irving Jr. 2000. “Treaty Making.” Pp. 115-126 in Treaty of Canandaigua 1794: 200 Years of Treaty Relations between Iroquois Confederacy and the United States, edited by G. Peter Jemison and Anna M. Schein. Santa Fe: Clearlight Press.

Rikard, Jolene. 2002. “After Essay – Indigenous is the Local.” Pp. 115-126 in On Aboriginal Representation in the Gallery, edited by Lynda Jessup and Shannon Bagg. Gatineau, PQ: Canadian Museum of Civilization.

Ryan, Alan. 1997. “Pragmatism, Social Identity, Patriotism, and Self-Criticism.” The National Humanities Center. http://www.nhc.rtp.nc.us:8080/publications/hongkong/ryan.htm

Symonides, Janusz. 1998. Human Rights: New Dimensions and Challenges: Manual on Human Rights. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate Dartmouth Publishing Company Ltd. / UNESCO Publishing. hum/sym/hum

Taylor, Charles. 1989. Sources of the Self: The Making of the Modern Identity: Cambridge University Press. http://www.philosophers.co.uk/cafe/phil_may2003.htm

TODA. 2000. Annual Report 2000. University of Hawaii: Toda Institute for Global Peace and Policy Research, Globalization Research Center. http://www.toda.org/annual_reports/2000.html

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