China is a land of elephants. There are at least five elephants: pollution, dumping, democracy, currency, and human rights.
I have seen only three days of blue sky in six weeks. People say it is fog but the evidence is on the floor of my apartment. There is a thin coat of black soot on the floor. No matter how many times I clean there is this black film. If I spill water, even a drop, a black spot appears on the floor. I quote Shakespeare everyday. “Be gone oh dam spot!”
Just recently China has loaned 25 billion dollars to the solar panel industry. The Chinese have copied the technology developed in California and are flooding the world market with solar cells. This is in clear violation of the WTO. There is no way American companies can compete against these prices. This happens in several industries.
I was in China during the Tiananmen incident in 1989. I secretly met with students who were determined to establish democracy in their generation. They were willing to wait 20 to 40 years. It did not matter. Freedom was too important. Today some of these students are in prison and others are part of a secret cabal inside the Central Committee.
A vicious battle is going on among the leadership as a new premier will be named in 2012. Surprisingly the strongest voice is former Premier Hu who was associated with two significant supporters of the 1989 demonstration. In August he gave an open speech about the need of China to adhere to the Constitution and the rule of law.
Right now the dollar has dropped to a 15 year low against the yen. I am not an economist but I am told that Chinese currency may be undervalued by as much as 40%. This has created an enormous trade imbalance. Exports amount to about a third of the American economy. This amounts to stealing about 12% of our economy. It amounts to about 3.5 trillion dollars. This is more money than what we spent on the Iraq War. In effect we have been engaged in an economic war.
Human Rights is a subjective issue. One person’s human right is another person’s crime. There still is not universal consensus on how to interpret these rights. Take “freedom of speech.” Every nation has restrictions on speech. You cannot yell fire in a theater, you cannot incite people to riot, or practice hate speech. Even in the United States there are limitations. Certain speech will trigger cultural sensitivities in one culture but not another. To impose one societies interpretation of a human right on another is ethically dangerous and we should be careful about being judgmental.