China has no respect for international law.
May 13, 2002 1:27 PM   Subscribe

China has no respect for international law. In case you hadn't heard, China broke into the Japanese Consulate and forcibly removed five North Koreans seeking asylum. Since when can Chinese Police just waltz into the Japanese Consulate and drag people out? Not only does this demonstrate China's blatant disregard for the sovereignty of another country, it demonstrates how closely they share values with the Impregnable Fortress.
posted by zanpo (37 comments total)
 
We are hoping however that through trade and business China will soon see the wisdom of adhering to human rights. Besides, lots of people there for cheap non-union labor and great markets to sell our stuff to. We should not be overly harsh and instead gradually win them over with trade, money, business.
posted by Postroad at 2:04 PM on May 13, 2002


I dunno. As I seem to remember, I think we (the USA) did more than break into the Chinese embassy in Serbia back in '98 without much international recoil. Not to defend the actions of China, but the least the US can do is give them a Mulligan over this one!
posted by herc at 2:11 PM on May 13, 2002


I believe China has already cashed in 5 generations of "mulligans" over a little incident known as the invasion of Tibet.
posted by Pinwheel at 2:18 PM on May 13, 2002


"We should not be overly harsh and instead gradually win them over with trade, money, business."


Umm... 90% of the cheap plastic crap out there says "Made in China" on the back. They can make everything cheaper because they don't pay their citizens 1/10th of what is made from our trade, money, business.

China is the reason why you can't get a decent pair of shoes for less than $100, or anything handcrafted any more. They've put a lot of small businesses out of business here, and helped make the world a less interesting place buy flooding our markets with cheap, ugly, fake junk.

China will never see the wisdom of adhering to human rights as long as they can profit from violating them.
posted by zanpo at 2:23 PM on May 13, 2002


It's not the low wages of the workers in China that make their things cheap. It's the ridiculously high wages of the CEOs and boardmembers HERE that make them expensive.
posted by luriete at 2:27 PM on May 13, 2002


luriete, even if you removed the salaries of CEOs and boardmembers, you would only be cutting a very small percentage of actual operating costs for most major manufacturers.
posted by cell divide at 2:33 PM on May 13, 2002


Trade isn't going to make a difference. When was the last time an oppressive government did a 180 just for trade? The world has been using China's cheap labor for ages and things are more or less the same. Even Turkey can't stop killing Kurds when its trying to get into the EU.

If drastic change comes it will come from within from government reforms, upheavals, and social movements. Considering how tight China controls speech, well I wouldn't hold my breath.

Sorry Randriods but the free market isn't the solution to every problem. Its hard to even imagine how oppressive government is even remotely affected by economics. Its not like slavery was abolished through world-wide boycotts.
posted by skallas at 2:33 PM on May 13, 2002


Its not like slavery was abolished through world-wide boycotts.

Apartheid was, though.
posted by mr_roboto at 2:43 PM on May 13, 2002


gosh, guys, I am only kidding and echoing the crap arguements advanced by our congress who care more about business interests than anything else.
When a sporint shoe compnay can make a shoe for say 15 bucks and sell it at 115.00, what does that tell you? It tells me that labor costs don't matter but that profits do. If stuff is to be made by cheap labor, why can't the savings in part be passed on to American consumers? Greed.
posted by Postroad at 2:54 PM on May 13, 2002


According to Michael Ledeen, "China is not, as is invariably said, in transition from communism to a freer and more democratic state. It is, instead, something we have never seen before: a maturing fascist regime." This piece has been posted before, but I always think of it when the subject of trade and human rights in China comes up.
posted by homunculus at 3:01 PM on May 13, 2002


If you can stand the inane commentary, there's a play-by-play of this fiasco here and here.
posted by curiousg at 3:05 PM on May 13, 2002


Apartheid did not fall by boycotts alone. I don't know enough about the history to say which causes were the most important but I do know that the A.N.C. were terrorists. They used violence to advance their political agenda. Some of their leadership were communists. Nevertheless, they were right and the other side was wrong. They managed to build a large political base in South Africa under conditions of horrible oppression.

I'm not saying that the boycotts weren't important or that the A.N.C. leadership were evil people because they fit into the categories currently being pushed as evil. What I am saying is that apartheid didn't fall only because of boycotts and non-violent protest.
posted by rdr at 3:08 PM on May 13, 2002


luriete, even if you removed the salaries of CEOs and boardmembers, you would only be cutting a very small percentage of actual operating costs for most major manufacturers.

Ah, but there's an interesting disparity there: corporations justify the salaries paid to their chief executives by saying that they're just 'respecting the market rate': after all, if you want top quality, you have to pay for it. Strangely, that principle doesn't necessarily apply at the 'business end', to coin a phrase, where a corporation would sooner ship labour off to the lowest bidder, rather than 'respecting the market rate' of its established facilities. See, you don't get Conglomerated Incorporated recruiting its new managing director from China or eastern Europe, do you?
posted by riviera at 3:42 PM on May 13, 2002


The sad story of Li Chunmei literally worked to death in a chinese toy factory for $65 a month-before deductions. The detail about the dress just breaks your heart. Recquiescat in pacem- Li Chunmei.
posted by quercus at 3:45 PM on May 13, 2002


But wait, wouldn't forcing China to abide by international law impede its ability to pursue its own policy objectives?
posted by jjg at 3:49 PM on May 13, 2002


Riviera, I see your point, but at the same time I'm sure if Amalgamated Conglomerated, LTD. could find a suitable CEO to work for less they would do so-- a CEO must have so much more information and abilities at his fingertips, as well as the ability to communicate effectively with his subordinates, that it wouldn't make sense to get cheap CEOs from foreign countries. Not to say that someone from any part of the world couldn't become the CEO anywhere in the world, but a high degree of regional/national business knowlege would be essential.

Whereas someone punching holes in a piece of plastic is pretty much the same all over the world. And to say that companies ship their work off to the lowest bidder is not entirely accurate-- many factors come into play because you almost always get what you pay for. Factories in China or Indonesia or wherever have varying prices and quality levels.

What would help the situation would be greater consumer awareness about where their products are made/manufactured, allowing the consumer to choose items that may cost a few cents more, but are made under humane conditions.
posted by cell divide at 3:58 PM on May 13, 2002


Ironic, isn't it, that the preceding thread details America's involvement in a Venezuelan coup.. Pot calling kettle?
posted by salmacis at 4:01 PM on May 13, 2002


See, you don't get Conglomerated Incorporated recruiting its new managing director from China or eastern Europe, do you?

In fact, you do. My father was the head scientist of a major manufacturing company and was underpaid, substancially, because of his minority status. And companies like Microsoft are known to recruit from the South Asia, knowing full well that their (the minorities) salaries will be significantly less than a typical American (whatever that is). I don't see the problem here, though, because every major industrialized nation used child labor, had sweatshops, and kept women down at one point or another. To become a major market force, some sacrifices must be made for the greater good. Some of it is morally reprehensible, however, it is also a necessary evil (unless all of you bitching about horrible conditions would like to give up your cash to help them; no no wait, that's right, let's tax the rich more and give to the poor Chinese...that'll teach them how to become a developed nation.)

But wait, wouldn't forcing China to abide by international law impede its ability to pursue its own policy objectives?

When you police the world and help prop up economies, you're allowed some rule-breaking (or rule-making, as the case may be).
posted by BlueTrain at 4:09 PM on May 13, 2002


When you police the world and help prop up economies, you're allowed some rule-breaking (or rule-making, as the case may be).

Bullshit. The US hardly "polices the world" when not in its own self-interest. You might as well refer to Chinese involvement in Korea, Viet Nam, and Tibet as "police actions." As for propping up economies, American foreign aid has little to do with economics and everything to do with geopolitics; how else do you explain the 1 and 2 ranking of Israel and Egypt as recipients of American foreign aid? In those relatively rare instances where American aid has gone towards "supporting" a failing economy, it has been under the crippling and often counterproductive auspices of the IMF and the World Bank.

And by the way, how much "rule-breaking" does American involvement allow? Is there a chart somewhere detailing, for instance, that troops deployed to Bosnia are worth one "get out of jail free" card for toppling a democratic regime? Does the UK, for instance, get an exception from international law when it sends troops somewhere?
posted by mr_roboto at 4:32 PM on May 13, 2002


I don't see the problem here, though, because every major industrialized nation used child labor, had sweatshops, and kept women down at one point or another. To become a major market force, some sacrifices must be made for the greater good. Some of it is morally reprehensible, however, it is also a necessary evil (unless all of you bitching about horrible conditions would like to give up your cash to help them; no no wait, that's right, let's tax the rich more and give to the poor Chinese...that'll teach them how to become a developed nation.)

Swill -- but typical, impeccable, despicable greedhead logic. The rich are justified in raping the poor because it improves the lives of the wealthy. Corollary: don't give the stolen money back to the poor because then the poor will never learn to rape for themselves.

And people actually wonder why many of us seethe in our walk through modern America...

Good thing the back of my hand is well-callused.
posted by fold_and_mutilate at 5:58 PM on May 13, 2002


Say, how did we get from China's acts of war against Japan to yet another "USA SUCKS, SOCIALISM RULES' rant?
posted by darukaru at 6:09 PM on May 13, 2002


When a sporint shoe compnay can make a shoe for say 15 bucks and sell it at 115.00, what does that tell you?

That prices are determined by supply and demand and not the labor theory of value?

Or was that a rhetorical question?
posted by ljromanoff at 6:24 PM on May 13, 2002


That prices are determined by supply and demand and not the labor theory of value?

Sometimes. Shoe prices at the local payless outlet are perhaps controlled largely by supply and demand, but the $115 shoe is a premium branded item who's value is determined largely my how much the logo is worth. Imagine what a Nike shoe would be worth if the logo was replaced with the word 'generic.'

Shoes and apparel aren't just about market forces, they're about brands and it irks some people all the more to find out that some Hilfiger sweatshirt that sells for $70 US costs a dollar or two to produce thanks to low price of labor which may or may not be a function of terrible working conditions for minors and adults.

Supply and demand applies to all items to a certain extent but luxury items (as many shoes are now) are priced by what the brand is worth, not necessarily the product. There's no shortage of Nike or Hilfiger gear to explain their prices versus almost identical no-brand shoes and clothes.
posted by skallas at 6:43 PM on May 13, 2002


Imagine what a Nike shoe would be worth if the logo was replaced with the word 'generic.'

Almost certainly less, because there is a demand for the Nike name.

Supply and demand applies to all items to a certain extent but luxury items (as many shoes are now) are priced by what the brand is worth, not necessarily the product.'

It is probably true that the demand for Nikes has more to do with the name brand rather than any actual difference in quality relative to the price difference from a generic brand, however, that is really beside the point. Whether the demand results from an entirely rational choice about quality or an emotional choice like brand preference, there is a greater demand for the Nike shoe versus the generic which results in the different price.

The actual amount of material cost and labor that goes into the product is not a particularly relevant factor in its final price. I could built any number of things with a high labor and material value that would be essentially worthless as finished products. Conversely, a relatively low labor and material cost doesn't necessarily translate into a low final cost.
posted by ljromanoff at 7:06 PM on May 13, 2002


Trade with China good, trade with Cuba bad.
posted by ArkIlloid at 7:46 PM on May 13, 2002


This thread has certainly gone on a tangent.

However, before it did, people were missing a big point which the article left out - aside from the fact that this entire issue is days if not weeks old.

Yes, Chinese police have been patrolling the Consulates in Beijing and Shenyang for weeks since the first spat of North Koreans rushed into a few of them. Consulates have requested this.

Yes, Chinese police, for the first time, did enter the Japanese consulate and remove someone. The Chinese state that a member of the Japanese consulate thanked them for taking care of the problem - I'm looking at both Hong Kong papers (only one of which is Beijing-controlled). In addition, there are reports that consulate staff made no attempt to stop the police from removing the refugee seekers. If the Japanese consulate initially had no problems with it, there was no violation of International Law and the headline of this thread is a typical, gross American overreactionary statement of a Japanese/Chinese problem. I question the depth that CNN investigated what it wrote.

The article also fails to mention that China, in its treaties to North Korea, is required to arrest and return any and all North Koreans that are illegally in mainland China. China and North Korea are allies and will continue to be for the foreseeable future. Understandably, China doesn't want a democracy on its border (because democracy does spread) and is willing to do a lot to keep North Korea on its side.

Oh, one more thing for bad reporting: 4 of the people never made it inside the Consulate gate, therefore never on sovereign Japanese territory. Therefore only 1 person was "forcibly removed".

I find it amazing that everything something remotely controversial in China happens, it's International headlines whereas anytime China does something good, it is quietly swept under the carpet.
posted by pooldemon at 8:12 PM on May 13, 2002


Whether the demand results from an entirely rational choice about quality or an emotional choice like brand preference, there is a greater demand for the Nike shoe versus the generic which results in the different price.


Actually I'm certain no-brand shoes outsell Nike by a wide margin the same way Hanes outsells Hilfiger in the t-shirt department. There is x demand for Nike but like I wrote earlier its only one piece of the equation that determines its price and it certainly isn't purely a demand vs. supply equation. After x amount of months the newest bestest $100 shoe will be in the bargain bin and the newest fashionable offering will be on the shelf. Nike can easily supply everyone who wants a pair of shoes at that price.
posted by skallas at 8:23 PM on May 13, 2002


There is x demand for Nike but like I wrote earlier its only one piece of the equation that determines its price and it certainly isn't purely a demand vs. supply equation.

More on point is that it's not even remotely a purely labor value equation.
posted by ljromanoff at 8:32 PM on May 13, 2002


Good point, pooldemon. It has been reported in at least one Japanese magazine that the reason these attempts by North Koreans to enter embassies are videotaped -- and they are always videotaped -- is because embassy/consulate officials would, in many cases, otherwise happily call for the Chinese police and have them quietly removed. Embassy officials regard it as a major pain in the ass to have a bunch of refugees suddenly on their hands (whether that's right or not is not my point, by the way).

I tend to believe China's statement that they were requested by the Japanese officials to remove the North Koreans. Japan only disputed the statement once they were aware that the incident had been taped and was being shown repeatedly by the mass media in Japan. On top of that, there's the fact that even though the embassy was contacted the day before and alerted that some refugees would be entering the following morning (another thing that's always done), embassy officials were reported not to have noticed the North Koreans, nor to have reacted right away to their shouts for help. In short, they were complicit in the arrest of these refugees, and now that everyone in Japan knows about it, it has become a huge embarrassment for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
posted by Bixby23 at 10:33 PM on May 13, 2002


Completely agree: I've just seen the tape, and it didn't look as if Japanese consular staff were doing much to defend their sovereign territory. Quite the opposite, in fact. Shitstorm in Japan right now, yes?
posted by riviera at 6:53 AM on May 14, 2002


Turns out, the American Embassy is right next door. Oops! Wrong address! They should have come to us.

-z
posted by zanpo at 10:15 AM on May 14, 2002


Japan accepts 20 refugees a year. Those people are lucky. They didn't have a hope in hell anyway.
posted by dydecker at 10:18 AM on May 14, 2002


The article also fails to mention that China, in its treaties to North Korea, is required to arrest and return any and all North Koreans that are illegally in mainland China.

I guess you didn't read the part that says "...forcing it to choose between an obligation to its impoverished communist ally North Korea..." Or is that not close enough to saying "It's not their fault, they're forced to do it!"

So what about the tens of thousands of other North Korean illegals on the Chinese border? Or do they not exist in your China?

What we have here is a family trying to escape tyranny to live free lives. Sure, they're also trying to excape poverty and maybe even starvation, but don't overcomplicate the issue too much.

I find it amazing that everything something remotely controversial in China happens, it's International headlines whereas anytime China does something good, it is quietly swept under the carpet.

Really? I find that fact somewhat remarkable about the United States, but not at all amazing about China. After all, the good is fairly miniscule in comparison with the sheer evil of its totalitarianistic government.
posted by norm29 at 10:35 AM on May 14, 2002


"After all, the good is fairly miniscule in comparison with the sheer evil of its totalitarianistic government."

really, I thought sheer evil was good at keeping totalitarianism miniscule in it's fair comparison.
posted by clavdivs at 10:43 AM on May 14, 2002


Abuse of human rights in China predates its acquisition of the 'Most Favoured Nation' status in USA. Tibet is o course a constant reminder. I saw this movie 'Farewell,my concubine' fresh out of school and could never get the images of their 'cultural revolution' out of my mind.

Economic Boycott on its own rarely if ever overthrows a regime. (though if boycott is backed by homegrown movements supported by external entities, it can certainly weaken the position of the ruling party/dictator). Just consider Burma / Myanmar for example. Myanmar today is pretty much a closed society - but I dont think the ruling junta has suffered. They are quite comfortable on the strength of smuggled timber to the East Asian countries. What we tend to forget is that just as globalization/technical, social developments have given more power to the masses, it has also provided more sophisticated methods and technologies to the states to control the masses. It is now a lot more difficult for the people in a totalitarian country to overthrow a government without active external support.

Cheap labour has no doubt allowed China to become an economic powerhouse that it is today. (Profits and Perils in China, Inc. by Kenichi Ohmae is an eye opener on the subject. Its long. But if you dont get rattled by his implied advise to Western governments to ignore China's human rights abuses, its great reportage). But it is simlistic to correlate the marginalization of small businesses in USA with the availability of cheap labour in China. Businesses have almost always sought out cheaper modes of production. - outsourcing to markets with cheaper labour happens to be one of them. If that wasnt available, corporations would have sunk money in developing sophisticated automation processes. Fifty years back, production would have gotten outsourced to countries like Singapore, Malaysia etc. Now, with the increase in GDP, the cost of production has shot up in those economies and the jobs have migrated to markets like China and probably Vietnam in near future.
posted by justlooking at 12:52 PM on May 14, 2002


Really? I find that fact somewhat remarkable about the United States, but not at all amazing about China. After all, the good is fairly miniscule in comparison with the sheer evil of its totalitarianistic government.

With all due respect, have you ever been to China (and I'm not talking tourist) and experienced this sheer evil? The American public freely eats up a lot of bullshit that the media gets from the White House and the history books (written by, duh, Americans) without giving it a second thought. Spend a month in China and then tell me that China is sheer evil. You don't know what really goes on in China unless you live in it or near it.

So what about the tens of thousands of other North Korean illegals on the Chinese border? Or do they not exist in your China?

Until recently, China turned a blind eye but with all this consulate shit, they're sending people back.
posted by pooldemon at 9:16 AM on May 15, 2002


To answer your question about shitstorm in Japan, riviera, I'd have to say it's pretty close, but in typical J-style, no protests are arranged, and instead some TV personalities are organized to form a panel where they interrogate a couple of Ministry bureaucrats on behalf of the Japanese people -- in short, turning a serious incident into informative entertainment for all to enjoy. Yeesh...

But the day of the incident -- I'm talking like three hours afterward -- that video was being broadcast and rebroadcast on every network in Japan. The NPOs who help plan these consulate "break-ins" are clearly very well organized. Another interesting thing was that typically, morning news in Japan constantly has some kind of background music playing -- they even had something dramatic for the 9/11 crashes. There was no sound played to this video -- a reflection, I think, of Japan's absolute fear of North Korea and a solemn knowledge of the fate that awaited these people if they were ever to be sent back home. Fortunately, doesn't look like that's going to happen.
posted by Bixby23 at 9:54 PM on May 15, 2002


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