Media pundits and senior Liberals share goofy talking points.
According to Michael Ignatief, John Manley and TorStar’s James Travers (with several other pundits nodding agreement) China’s human rights record is equivalent to the U.S. record in Guantanamo Bay. This was the line they took during interviews on CBC’s ‘Politics’ show on Nov 16th when they were invited to critique Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s performance on the ‘China file’. That they would all conclude Harper was inept is hardly surprising. But to all adopt the same patently goofy (some would say offensive) notion to make their case strongly suggests they had been synchronizing talking points. So, you say - what’s new? Nothing, but here’s the scenario and commentary anyway.
This week the media hyped the ‘story’ about an on-again, off-again meeting between PM Harper and the Chinese President at the APEC meeting in Hanoi. Harper is accused of botching the job by daring to suggest that he would be raising human rights issues with his Chinese counterpart. Since this was thought to be potentially damaging to China/Canada trade Harper had obviously goofed on the world stage - he was not being appropriately subtle. Dealings with China had to be more ‘nuanced’.
But not only was Harper insufficiently ‘nuanced’, Ignatief, Manley and Travers all tried to paint him as a hypocrite. To criticize China on human rights when he hadn’t criticized the Bush administration for its Gitmo operation was clearly inconsistent. Comparing Gitmo with the Chinese record is, of course, ludicrous. There is no equivalence whatever between the two countries’ records on human rights.
On the one hand China is a brutal totalitarian dictatorship with Mao’s many atrocities and Tienamen Square on its record. More recently it stands accused of imprisoning (and worse) Falun Gong adherents for their religious beliefs. China is also strongly suspected of harvesting the organs of executed prisoners for a burgeoning transplant business.
On the other hand the U.S. is democratic, open society with a government subject to the intense scrutiny of a hyper-critical media, a swarm of political opponents, congress and a supreme court. So its handling of enemy combatants captured during a war that is still being fought hardly compares with the Chinese human rights situation. And it bears pointing out that Gitmo prisoners are being treated with kid gloves - handled with ridiculously extreme deference to their supposed Islamic sensibilities. They’re being treated better than any captive enemy in history.
On the general point of the need for subtly in dealing with China, maybe they’re right (the Libs and pundits, that is). What do I know? But it seems to me that China needs our business as much or more than we need theirs - so we're negotiating from a position of strength. Maybe we should be suggesting that trade with Canada is contingent on progress on the human rights front.