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Improved Human Rights in China Is Win-Win for U.S. and China

February 10, 2012


Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping’s visit to the United States next week comes at a time of increasing political, economic, and diplomatic friction between the two countries. Very clearly, it is the impact of the conflict over bilateral trade that is most deeply felt by the American people.

In his 2012 State of the Union address, President Obama correctly identified China’s unfair trade practices as a significant contributor to the current economic hardships in the United States.

But at an even more fundamental level, another fact bears highlighting: low human rights are an indispensable element in China’s unbeatable competitive power. It is low human rights that allow China to, in the words of a Chinese scholar, “push down the costs of the four key factors of production: labor, land, capital, and non-renewable resources.”

The damage of China’s low human rights to American interests is severe: an insurmountably high trade deficit, a huge loss of jobs, and a drag on economic recovery. After four decades of bilateral engagement, U.S.-China relations are at a crossroads.

As the White House prepares to receive Xi Jinping, the presumed new leader of China after the 18th Communist Party Congress later this year, it is important for American leaders to recognize the linkage between human rights in China and U.S. interests in order to chart a new direction for mutually beneficial, stable, and lasting relations with China.

“We urge the Obama Administration to demonstrate its commitment to advancing human rights and universal values in China and to make this commitment a core principle of U.S.-China relations,” said Sharon Hom, Executive Director of Human Rights in China (HRIC). “It must raise its concerns in a clear, frank, and public manner during the visit. Supporting the human rights of the people of China is a win-win for the citizens of both countries.”

HRIC urges the Obama Administration to press the Chinese government to end the crackdown on rights activists that has dramatically worsened over the past year. The Chinese authorities need to immediately stop condoning the use of extralegal means—including torture, disappearance, and illegal detentions and house arrests—to silence government critics. And as the desperation of the Tibetan people continues to manifest itself in the most extreme form of protest—self immolations—HRIC also urges American leaders to press China to address the fundamental causes of the growing protests—its failed policies in Tibet—and move towards a peaceful solution that recognizes and protects the rights of the Tibetan people.