As the People’s Republic of China celebrates its 50th anniversary Oct. 1, the Chinese economy prospers and business leaders around the world are clamoring to rub elbows with Politburo leaders while thousands of political and religious dissidents remain in prisons, viciously persecuted by the government.
In a display of biting hypocrisy, more than 200 of the most successful capitalists – chairmen, presidents and CEOs of the most powerful multinational businesses across the globe – will join the Chinese Communist Politburo in celebrating Mao Zedong’s military victory and formation of the People’s Republic.
Executives from American giants such as Boeing, Calvin Klein and CNN will descend upon Shanghai Sept. 27-29 for an economic forum. The meeting, sponsored by Fortune magazine, will have as its keynote speaker President Jiang Zemin. Then the business leaders will travel to Beijing to attend the national festivities. No demonstrations will take place because public protests in China are illegal.
American business and government leaders have ignored the ethical questions involved in dealing with a country that routinely oppresses political and religious dissidents. U.S. business executives seem determined to ignore the issue of democracy in China, blinded by the burgeoning economic market in the country of more than one billion people. So the American government should transcend business interests by tying human rights issues to trade agreements.
Before China is allowed entry into the World Trade Organization, which would help break trade barriers, the Chinese government must agree to a higher standard of human rights, with tough consequences for violations. Just a decade after the Tiananmen Square massacre, is America sure that an event similar could not happen now? No.
Until the Chinese Politburo shows that it respects human rights, the U.S. government cannot divorce economic issues from social implications with Mao’s republic.