The reported remark by Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Wang Wenbin at the just concluded 47th session of the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council, calling on Western countries to reflect deeply on their own human rights abuse, has again brought to our consciousness the troubling realty that despite the widening strides by pro-democracy advocates to advertise the virtues and attributes of democracy over other forms of government, the balance of power within the last decades appears to be shifting.
The Envoy said in parts; I want to stress that it is these Western countries that are using human rights as an excuse to exert pressure and interfere in other countries’ internal affairs based on political motivation, false information, lies and rumors. It is these Western countries that proclaim themselves to be ‘judges’, pointing fingers at and humiliating the human rights situation in developing countries, which violates the purposes and principles of the UN Charter,”
That was not the only discomforting word from Wang Wenbin.
Again, listen to him; ‘They claimed welcoming criticism from outside. However, when China and other developing countries express reasonable concerns about their human rights problems, they appear to be extremely uncomfortable or even unacceptable, adding that their claim that China engaged in “microphone diplomacy” and “interference in internal affairs” were typical double standard behavior and fully reflected their deep-rooted arrogance, prejudice and hypocrisy. He finally urged the West to take effective measures to solve their serious human rights problems at home.
Clear enough! The above position becomes easy to admit when one remembers that China was recently described by a report as a nation that just experienced a period of economic growth, the likes of which the world had never before seen. There also exists growing insistence that China’s model of development is superior to that of the west. China’s model, the piece submitted, blazes a new trial for other developing countries to achieve modernization and offers a new option for other countries and nations who want to speed up their development while preserving their independence, as western talk about democracy, is simply a pretext for robbing poorer countries of their sovereignty and economic potentials.
However, beyond this praise, there exist in the opinion of this piece, ingrained paradoxes that is not only newsy but characterizes as a revolving door this latest outburst by China
Separate from the realism that China was in the past reputed for receiving such accusations of human right abuses from the Western countries, many commentators/reports are uniformly laced with similar judgments.
One of such report stated; China, ‘interestingly’, is ruled, increasingly dictatorially by an unelected communist party that puts people in prison for their convictions and limits all forms of free expressions and associations. Apart from being ruled, ‘increasingly dictatorially, it essentially noted that Europe’s biggest powers- Germany, France and the United Kingdom-along with Poland, Spain and the Scandinavian countries, maintain/ believe that China is undermining human rights, democratic ethos, rules and standards. The country’s fundamental obstacles- are its government’s reluctance to appreciate development plans and reform programs from a rights-based perspective.
Directly and indirectly, it adversely affects the infusion of human rights principles of participation, accountability, transparency and non-discrimination towards the attainment of equity and justice in development initiatives. As clarified by the United Nations Independent Expert on the Right to Development, for a programme to be tagged development, it must require a particular process that allows the realization of economic, social and cultural rights, as well as civil and political rights, and all fundamental freedoms, by expanding the capabilities and choices of the individual.
In the same style, while writing on the well considered topic; The Old World and The Middle Kingdom-Europe Wakes Up to China’s rise, Julianne Smith and Torrey Taussig noted that Chinese president xi Jinping’s consolidation of power has shaken Germany’s confidence in China’s future political stability. They explained that in the name of national security, the Chinese government detained over one million Muslim Uighurs in the western province of Xinjiang in “reeducation camp.”
To many in Germany and across Europe, these developments raise troubling questions over what a Chinese-led world would look like.
Just before you hastily conclude, wait till cast a glance at the next paragraph that says something new and different.
German industry, the report added, is growing concern about Chinese technological progress. German business leaders who have long supported deeper economic ties with China are now apprehensive about China’s state-led quest for technological supremacy at the expense of German companies. The Federation of German Industries released a widely cited report cautioning companies to reduce their dependence on the Chinese market. Then there is the long-standing issue of Chinese hackers stealing foreign industrial and technological secrets.
The heightened frequency of Chinese hacking led the German government’s cyber security agency to warn German companies about the growing risk of Chinese cyber-espionage. That came on top of a 2017 case in which German intelligence agencies accused China of creating fake LinkedIn accounts to connect with more than 10,000 German citizens, including lawmakers and government officials, in order to gain information, recruit sources, and infiltrate the Bundestag and government.
Germany, it says, is not alone in its awakening.
French president Emmanuel Macron, recently declared an end to ‘‘European naivete’’ on China. Macron also invited Merkel and jean-Claude junker, the president of the European commission, to join his meetings with Xi in order to present a united front. The message was clear: Europe will resist China’s attempts to divide it.
Many European countries are experiencing what one senior EU official described as “China fatigue,” the report noted. These grievances are having a mounting effect on German policy toward China. Merkel, now refers to China as a “systemic competitor,”
Similarly, Several European countries have tightened up their screening of Chinese investments. In 2018, the German government, citing national security, blocked a Chinese investor from buying Leifeld Metal, a leading German producer of metals for the automobile, space, and nuclear industries. It was the first time that the German government had voted a Chinese takeover.
The move was followed by a new law giving the government power to block a non-european investor from buying a ten percent or higher stake (down from 25 percent) in a German business. The law includes media companies, a sign that Germany is worried about Chinese information influence.
Some European countries have grown disenchanted with china’s behaviour; they have started to push for a more coherent EU wide strategy. A recent EU white paper on china labeled Beijing a “systemic rival promoting alternative models of governance” and called on the EU to pursue a more reciprocal relationship with china and to strengthen its own industrial base.It concluded.
As the debate rages, two things stand out.
Western countries must provide answers to questions raised by the Chinese government. They are in this order; “Why do they(Western Countries) turn a blind eye to issues in Western countries such as the systematic discrimination against ethnic minorities including those from Asian and African descent, infringement on the rights of indigenous people, large-scale human rights violations in immigration detention centers, killing civilians in overseas military operations, military intervention resulting in a large number of civilian casualties and displacement and unilateral coercion measures that seriously damage human rights Why do they never criticize their partners for this on the UN Human Rights Council? Why do they turn a deaf ear to the criticism of the international community?
For its part, China must recognize that ‘authoritarianism may do well in the short term, but experience clearly shows that only democracy produces good government over a long haul’.
Utomi is the Programme Coordinator (Media and Policy), Social and Economic Justice Advocacy (SEJA), Lagos. He could be reached via;email@example.com/