A Blind Spot for China

China-US TradeIn the wake of new reports of forced abortions in China, the specter of human suffering, and the US’s complicity in such suffering, arises anew. Why does the US remain silent, and the US population nurture a soft spot for China? It has to have something to do with the billions of dollars of imports to the US. If so, I’m wondering if low prices are worth the cost.

Reports are surfacing of a wave of forced abortions in southwest China’s Guangxi province. According to NPR (from reports provided by China Aid Association) as many as 61 women were forced to have abortions last week, some with late third-trimester pregnancies. Some were pregnant out of wedlock, some by accident, but all were in violation of China’s horrific family-planning laws.

According to China law, families are restricted to one child, and that only after securing a quota from the local FP office. As a result, abandonment, abortion, and even infanticide run rampant in China. And these are just some of the items on China’s laundry list of human rights violations. Meanwhile, if Western media outlets report the atrocities at all, America smiles and winks at China like the spoiled global child it is.

And why not? Western investments in China depend on normal trade relations, and even the “Most Favored Nation” status that the US continues to bestow on its nemesis. Any outcry might strain our relations with China, which supplied more than $243 BILLION in US imports in 2005. (The largest non-industrial import? Toys and games.) China’s capital, Beijing, even scored the 2008 Olympics, over the objections of human rights organizations, which will surely depend on the continued exploitation of its people to make it a success.

China’s bad behavior demands some kind of action, but will our love of ‘everyday low prices’ allow us to put pressure on any company doing business in China? Not hardly. That would mean, for one thing, avoiding consumer goods juggernaut Wal-Mart, which, according to Duke University professor Gary Gereffi, is a “joint venture” with China since as many as 80 percent of Wal-Mart’s global suppliers are based there.

Even some Christians have been silent or mealy-mouthed about the horrors. Chronic motormouth Pat Robertson has little to say about China’s family planning laws and their outcomes. In fact, he told CNN they are “necessary” to prevent a population explosion there. I’m sure this has nothing to do with his lucrative communications contracts in China.

What do we do? More importantly, what do I do? I’ve personally boycotted goods made in China at various times in my life, always letting my tight budget woo me back to Wal-Mart and its ilk. And even that seems inadequate to my outrage. There must be something more I can do, US churches can do.

First, I resolve to remember daily human suffering around the world. I’m convinced that the ennui of this American Christian is directly related to his spiritual myopia. The real plight of Christians around the world gives way to my longing for “my best life now” and vague wonderings about my “purpose.” The church has become increasingly compartmentalized and nationalized, particularly among evangelicals. Too many Christians pay lip service to the idea of “one holy catholic apostolic church.” (Which isn’t to say that most evangelicals know or say the Nicene Creed.)

Second, I resolve to end my silence. We cannot afford to be silent. Whether in prayer or on this blog or in my daily relationships, I want to keep the global “least of these” on my mind and in my conversations. There may be other things I can write or say, and I’ll be on the lookout for these.

Third, I resolve to stay out of Wal-Mart, even if it strains my budget. My dollars will likely not be missed, but I can put my money where my mouth is with regard to human suffering. In addition to indirect support for human rights violations abroad, Wal-Mart regularly violates the dignity (if not human rights) of its US workers. If even half of what Wake-up Wal-Mart reports is true, the real cost of its goods far exceeds its “everyday low prices.”

Fourth, I will write my Senators and congressmen, urging them to take some action to pressure China. After all, it’s not just on human rights that we should beware China. They supply weapons and materiel support to chronic offenders like Sudan and prop up state insanity in North Korea. In short, China’s like a spoiled two-year-old, throwing tantrums while his elders wring their hands or shrug indifferently. While I doubt we will rescind the “most-favoured nation” status (normal trade relations), I find it laughable that we continue to sanction and embargo Cuba while China tramples human beings underfoot– to say nothing of its human rights violations–its economy supported by normal trade relations with the US.

Finally, I will no longer nurture a blind spot for China. I will check the labels of the goods I buy, and every time I encounter “Made in China,” I will remember those 61 women–many of whom gave birth to stillborn, blackened corpses–and search for an alternative product.

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