The Morality of Lifting Restrictions on Cuba: The China Question, The China Lesson

Pro Cuba-travel and anti-embargo enthusiasts in Congress and elsewhere maintain that it's contradictory to restrict trade relations and travel by US citizens to Cuba while according China a most favorite nation treatment. No one seriously doubts that China does not respect human rights and mercilessly crushes dissidents, except of course, the Chinese government. The BBC recently published a story about the Chinese government contending that a video presumably showing Tibetans being beaten up by Chinese police, was a fabrication by the Dalai Lama. You can see the video below.

While Castro does not deny Chinese brutality, he recently reportedly said that dissidents in China should not go unpunished, suggesting of course that Cuban dissidents can expect the same.

Prior to Richard Nixon's 1971 ping pong initiative to normalize relations with China there was hardly any trade between both countries. Why did Nixon, a crusading anti-communist want to change things? For moral reasons? Obviously not. He was surely aware that China's communist dictatorship repressed dissidents and unabashedly embraced values contrary to the US Bill of Rights. Nixon was undoubtedly motivated by the cheap labor and increased profitability China could provide US manufacturers and assumed that the US would forever wield the upper hand. No one can seriously argue that the US president ever intended to morally convert China to the ethics cherished by a primarily Christian US citizenry. The moral question of strengthening an egregious violator of human rights was either addressed superficially or not at all. We'll convert them with capitalism. That was the idea then with China as it is now with Cuba.

In 1979, just 8 years after Nixon began his diplomatic effort, trade between both nations grew to $2.4 billion. By 1994 it was $48 billion and by 2000 China had become the US' fourth largest supplier with total trade reaching $116 billion: $100 billion imported by the U.S. and only $16 billion exported. Between 2000 and 2008 US imports from China almost tripled to $338 billion, while exports reached only $71 billion. In addition, China is now the US' largest creditor and as of January 2009, it held $739 billion in US treasury bonds.

Thus 38 years after Nixon's strictly economic decision, it's evident that China has the upper hand providing both capital for the US Government and goods for its people.

However, their human rights abuses remain undeterred. Indeed, now they argue that their accusers have confused right with wrong.
"The U.S. claim is totally inaccurate and confuses right and wrong and is unacceptable to China,"
was the explanation when they recently harassed a US ship in international waters. The Dalai lama got no better treatment:
"The Dalai Lama clique is confusing right and wrong," said Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu.
responding to the Dalai Lama's quest for Tibetan cultural autonomy.

Thusly the moral question has popped right back in, the one the US never addressed in 1971, but now China is the one raising it.

Yet economic considerations continue to trump all moral ones for some people in the U.S. It's questionable that even as the nation finds itself near the edge of a precipice sufficient Americans believe that the morality of a foreign policy decision has any impact on its destiny, just like they failed to in 1971 when Nixon initiated his ping pong diplomacy.

Hopefully this will change very soon. However, in yesterday's Freedom to Travel to Cuba Press Conference, the first moral issue mentioned by the Congressmen was that a US citizen's 'right' to travel to Cuba to ride a bike had been violated by the US government. Apparently that was the extent of what was morally at stake for them, or as much as they wanted to address on the moral front. Omit this and omit that about Cuba; otherwise this bill will never pass. The conference ended with the infantile suggestion that the US should just try something 'different' in Cuba and for these Congressmen that apparently means sending a couple of million of US tourists helplessly hoping that somehow they will bring about respect for human rights.

Travel to Cuba. Champagne bottles are being chilled and the media is in a frenzy.

Yes that is China and that other one is Cuba and so what: this is Rome.

The video is also available at the BBC site here

As expected, China has blocked YouTube.


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