Following the onset of reform in 1978, China has become the world's factory. By late February, its foreign exchange reserves had reached a total of US$853.7 billion, surpassing Japan's US$831.6 billion to become the largest in the world.
Meanwhile, the human rights of the Chinese people remain severely restricted -- as can be seen from a widely reported letter to the State Council by Li Changping (李昌平), former party secretary of a rural district of Jianli County, Hubei Province, in which he talks about the exploitation of farmers, or in Chen Guidi's (陳桂棣) and Wu Chuntao's (吳春桃) extensive A Survey of Chinese Peasants, which describes the plight of farmers.
In step with the times, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is now "globalizing" its clampdown on human rights, a process that can be roughly divided into three parts.
First, the CCP is capitalizing on the enormous business opportunities that have followed on China's internationalization to entice the international community to help it suppress human rights. Companies such as Yahoo, Google, Microsoft and Skype have agreed to install keyword software to enable the filtering out of unwanted information from their networks.
The second part consists of a clampdown on human rights by multinational companies themselves. In 2003, the US cosmetics firm Mary Kay and German carmaker Volkswagen gave in to the CCP's demands that they fire anyone practicing Falun Gong in the work place.
The Chinese government has also taken advantage of its system of labor reformation camps and prisons and laid down preferential treatment policies aimed at encouraging and attracting joint ventures. Products from these joint ventures are exported to 13 countries and regions, including the US, Canada, Australia, France, Germany, New Zealand and Southeast Asia.
The third part consists of the CCP "exporting" its suppression of human rights. This includes using hard cash to gain control of Chinese-language media around the world and turn them into CCP mouthpieces.
China even resorts to violent persecution of Falun Gong followers around the world. Some examples are the shooting of a Falun Gong practitioner in South Africa, the attack on Li Yuan (
A review of China's global clampdown on human rights turns up an endless list of such incidents.
The international community has long stood by silently and ignored China's actions, in effect providing indirect encouragement. One example is how the UN's Human Rights Commission was unable to add China's human-rights abuses to its agenda. The commission was recently abolished and replaced by a Human Rights Council, but the problem remains equally serious, as many countries with deplorable human-rights records are members of the new council.
There are, of course, improvements, as China's human-rights problems are receiving more attention. One example is how the US recently called Google, Yahoo, Microsoft and Cisco Systems to a congressional hearing to answer to suspicions that they are assisting China's human-rights abuses.
US President George W. Bush has also met with three Chinese Christians in the White House, and during a recent visit to China, German Chancellor Angela Merkel met with Chen and three other people in the German embassy in Beijing to find out more about China's agricultural problems.
Chang Ching-hsi is a professor in the department of economics at National Taiwan University.
Translated by Perry Svensson