By Carolina Bell Meoño - International Relations Student
Have you ever posted an opinion about anything in social media? What would you think if your country decides to block your freedom of speech despite you feeling censored? This is the reality of China in 2021. China, as an economic power, represents and personifies what a developing country should seek for the accommodation and sustainability of its population; but at the same time, China is also an amalgam of contrasts by jeopardizing the access to fundamental human rights for all generations.
As an authoritarian government, China is ruled under a one-party system and, as such, their establishment has historically valued state sovereignty over human rights since the system depends on repression to maintain power. With the arrival of President Xi Jinping in 2013, China has emerged as a world power in terms of economics by trading natural resources with high-end technology, negotiation, and raw materials provision. Conversely, China also began to implement changes threatening human rights under the standard of developing the country. In this way, censorship of religion, discrimination against minorities, and freedom of expression, creating an ambivalence between development and oppression.
Internal vs external perceptions
Contrary to external perception, most Chinese people’s perception is somehow in line with the censorship barriers and that is because they do believe their country is experiencing the best period in terms of economic growth, independence, access to technology alongside a strong sense of nationalism. Take for example the censorship accessing common tools such as Google, Twitter and Facebook: “Accustomed to the homegrown apps and online services, many appear uninterested in knowing what has been censored online, allowing Beijing to build an alternative value system that competes with Western liberal democracy” (Yuan, 2018). This means adults and young adults are so accustomed to using their own “marketplace” that outside options do not seen to catch their interest.
Economics, although crucial for any country in a developing process, goes hand in hand with the first three generations of human rights: without economic sustainability there would not be access to housing, food, employment, health care and other human rights. I believe that the sympathy Dambisa Moyo expresses for the Chinese model of development is more associated to an economical trend. She makes emphasis on three key drivers that China is working on to address the demand of commodities in the future: population increase, wealth, and urbanization including but not limited to water conflict (due to scarcity), arable land (due to urbanization), and energy consumption (DLD Conference, 2013).
China’s strategy to erase poverty since 1980, for example, provides government measurements to give the population resources and tools, but also keep track of their economic status through weekly inspections (Bradsher, 2020). This is important as the former goes hand in hand with human rights to promote self-development, and to own property which ultimately benefits the population. Unfortunately, these benefits come with the condition of human rights fragmentation. Take for example the persecution of journalists, writers, and anyone who dares to publicly criticize the government: this violates the freedom of expression and speech.
To establish relationships and agreements between developing countries is imperative. Whereas China blocks platforms and scrutinizes online conversations to maintain control over its population, it violates the right to privacy without giving people any other choice. This model now is being exported and sold to other countries such as Russia that falsely believe human rights are a roadblock for the sake of maintaining power. In summary, I do agree China’s approach could work for other countries in order to boost economies and eradicate poverty: these two measurements might guarantee the economic stability of the country. At the same time, however, China needs to make some adjustments and eradicate their violent practices of persecution, censorship, and even allow citizens their access to privacy and information in order to guaranty that human rights are not a façade but a reality for the Chinese population.
MOXIE es el Canal de ULACIT (www.ulacit.ac.cr), producido por y para los estudiantes universitarios, en alianza con el medio periodístico independiente Delfino.cr, con el propósito de brindarles un espacio para generar y difundir sus ideas. Se llama Moxie - que en inglés urbano significa tener la capacidad de enfrentar las dificultades con inteligencia, audacia y valentía - en honor a nuestros alumnos, cuyo “moxie” los caracteriza.
Bradsher, K. (2020, December 31). Jobs, Houses and Cows: China’s Costly Drive to Erase Extreme Poverty. The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/12/31/world/asia/china-poverty-xi-jinping.html?searchResultPosition=1
DLD Conference. (2013, February 22). Winner Take All [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JqoA90DMO_k&t=23s
Yuan, L. (2018, August 6). A Generation Grows Up in China Without Google, Facebook or Twitter. The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/08/06/technology/china-generation-blocked-internet.html