I was bemused by John Key’s statements on China’s ‘competitive edge’ yesterday, during an interview with Guyon Espiner on Q+A.
When asked about what he actually says to Chinese leadership when he brings up human rights, Key replied:
You know at a leader level I go in there and say: “Look, New Zealand has a proud record in human rights, it’s an area where we want to continue to have dialogue with you and exchange views and exchange ideas, because we have strong views in that area.” Now should we get down to an individual level? I think that’s really not what’s necessary, unless there’s a specific thing that we’re concerned about, and at this point you know that’s not something we take up at a leader level.
As we all know, China doesn’t have the greatest record on human rights. While John Key was in China Amnesty International called on the Chinese government to halt harassment and censorship of HIV/AIDS activists.
This is but one example of the plethora of crimes against human rights perpetrated by the Chinese government.
GUYON: Just finally, do you get a sense from China that it wants to move towards democracy?
JOHN: I don’t think they do actually in the very short term, that’s not the sense I get. Look I think they’ve got a model that’s actually working here which is they have a lot of people, they’ve got a very planned and staged strategy of how to bring this country into an economic powerhouse. It’s not easy to manage some of the issues that they actually have.
… In fact, I think they see their current structure as the competitive edge over India where there is democracy… Now will it change over time? History tells you most cultures have, but in China’s case they’re very focused on getting these people into the 21st century of economic wealth, providing for their people, and probably increasing the reach and the influence of China. And you’ve gotta say over the last 20 years they’ve done a pretty good job.
Note my emphasis added.
John Key seems almost adoring of the way in which China can get things done. Why can they get things done so fast? Could it be the total authoritarian control that the government exercises? The imprisonment and execution of dissenters? The subjugation of free speech, freedom of association and human rights in general? Yeah. That has something to do with it, John.
Calling the lack of human rights a competitive advantage is somewhat worrying. One almost wonders if we’ll see a National Party policy along these lines in the lead up for the next election.
Do you, like John Key, think that the Chinese system of growth at all costs is where we should be headed?