By John E. Carey
The Washington Times
September 20, 2007
On Saturday, September 15, the official communist news agencies in China were buzzing with news of a new “White Paper” from China’s government stating that China and the U.S. were having a wonderful year of comity and togetherness.
According to China’s Foreign Ministry, the relationship between China and the United States has been stable in the past year, with some “major” advances.
The next day, two newspaper items caught the eye.
The first headline is rather self explanatory: “China recalls leukemia drugs in safety scare.”
The headline “Quality control urgency” brought readers to a commentary in the Washington Times by Herbert Klein. The essay begins, “Toys, toothpaste and pet foods are only a small part of the U.S.-China trade. But the angry public reaction to the sale of contaminated products demands priority attention from both nations.”
Hardly the stuff of a smoothly sailing international relationship.
The relationship between China and the U.S. is complex and multi-faceted, certainly. But to allow the communist government and their state controlled media to distort the facts unanswered is unconscionable.
China views the world this way, according to an amassed pile of Chinese Foreign Ministry press releases and state controlled media stories during the past year:
–despite several food, toy and other product safety scandals this year, more than 90% of China’s products are safe and China continues to strive for product safety perfection.
–while the West questions China’s intent as it expands and modernizes its military, China only seeks better self defense and no nation should be alarmed.
–critics say China has a pollution problem but China is a developing nation exempt from the Kyoto treaty and other measures and China is working very hard to lesson pollution everywhere.
The facts in all these issues may be debatable. But in the view of many China watchers, international diplomats and international organizations including the United Nations, the counter arguments to China’s Foreign Ministry and state controlled media look like this:
On food and product safety, the central government in Beijing has little control over a vast and far-flung array of farms, factories, entrepreneurs, middlemen and vendors.
According to Les Lothringer, a China expert based in Shanghai who has done business in China for many years, “It is quite impossible for any Chinese official to guarantee anything in China because of the lack of control that the government has and the lack of standards we take for granted in the West.”
On the issue of China’s military build-up, China has embarked on a huge military build-up. But nobody knows how much China is spending on defense, and procurement projects are shrouded in secrecy.
Since late last year, a Chinese ship-attack submarine surfaced within sight of a U.S. aircraft carrier before being detected for the first time in history, China demonstrated an anti-satellite missile capability the first time in history, and China has continued to verbally bully Taiwan.
During this last summer, both Prime Minister John Howard of Australia and a Defense Ministry “White Paper” from Japan voiced concern about China’s defense matters.
In Australia, Mr. Howard said, “The pace and scope of its military modernization, particularly the development of new and disruptive capabilities such as the anti-satellite missile, could create misunderstandings and instability in the region.”
Japan’s paper on defense said, “There are fears about the lack of transparency concerning China’s military strength. In January this year China used ballistic missile technology to destroy one of its own satellites. There was insufficient explanation from China, sparking concern in Japan and other countries about safety in space as well as the security aspects.”
With regard to pollution, China has the worst pollution of every kind in the world.
“I wouldn’t expect a world record in the marathon in Beijing [the Beijing Olympics, Summer Games 2008],” says Marco Cardinale, a doctor who advises the British Olympic Committee. “The issue isn’t just air quality, but the combination of heat, humidity and bad air.”
Michael Mueller, a German environment ministry official said that the Chinese delegates to a U.N. environmental meeting had been “masters of deception and the art of interpretation.”
”It is a very awkward situation for the country because our greatest achievement is also our biggest burden,” says Wang Jinnan, one of China’s leading environmental researchers. ”There is pressure for change, but many people refuse to accept that we need a new approach so soon.”
China lowered its energy consumption per unit of gross domestic product by just 1.2 percent last year — against a goal of four percent — while pollution emission levels actually rose by two percent.
And meanwhile, China continues to build coal-fired power plants at a rate of more than one a week.Finally, in another example of Beijing’s lack of effective central control, U.N. inspectors found that factory managers not closely situated near Beijing generally took the attitude of, “We’ll use coal, produce more products and ignore Beijing as long as we continue to increase profits.” Beijing has told the U.N. it can significantly reduce pollution.
These differences between China’s view of itself and the views provided by less biased observers doesn’t even mention the vast gulf between China and international groups like Human Rights Watch on the issue of rampant human rights abuses in China.
In short, China is boasting of its wonderful relationship with the U.S. during this past year including some “major” advances. The U.S. should clearly set the record straight.
Mr. Carey is former president of International Defense Consultants, Inc. and a frequent contributor to the Washington Times.