Earlier this year, Michigan politician Pete Hoekstra aired a racist, sexist ad during the Super Bowl against his opponent, Senator Debbie Stabenow. As Care2 blogger Judy Molland wrote, “the xenophobic ad portrays a young Chinese woman speaking in broken English about the growth of her country’s economy, apparently at the expense of the US.”
China and the “threat” its economy poses to the US have also been a subject in the presidential campaign. In July, Mitt Romney was reported to have invested millions in a Chinese company that was promoting itself as nothing less than an “overseas destination for outsourcing,” Care2 blogger Jeff Fecke wrote.
But while China-bashing may win brownie points (and votes) for a Romney-Ryan ticket, Peter Hays Gries, a professor of international and area studies at the University of Oklahoma and the director of its Institute for U.S.-China Issues, writes (in a New York Times op-ed) that it does the US no good:
[China-bashing] will be bad for America’s relations with China and could undermine our national security. Many Chinese are already suspicious of American intentions, and ideologically driven rhetoric from across the Pacific will only confirm their worst fears.
A look at some recent developments in China suggest it’s possible US politicians and the press are playing up (and not without racist overtones) the “menace” China poses. Five signs that China is having some (not unsignificant) struggles of its own that, due to the Communist government’s strict control on information and tendency to spin out propaganda in the names of “news,” it’s not so easy for the rest of the world to really know about.
(The photo illustrating this post, of a man with severe disabilities begging in the streets of Shanghai, gives an indication of the country’s treatment of the impoverished and disabled that warrants its own post.)
Click through for the top 5 reasons.
1. The Chinese economy is slowing down
After three decades of establishing itself as an unstoppable economic juggernaut, China’s growth has been slowing. The global recession and the ongoing European debt crisis are taking their toll, with the country’s growth slowing to 7.6 percent in the second quarter. As the New York Times reports, mountains of unsold goods are piling up as exports have “almost stopped growing” while imports have stalled.
Wu Weiqing, the manager of a faucet and sink wholesaler, reports a 30 percent decline in sales: “Inventory used to flow in and out. Now, it just sits there, and there’s more of it.”
The Chinese auto industry has grown tenfold in the past decade and become the world’s largest. But Chinese dealerships are now finding themselves with parking lots of unsold cars as manufacturers refuse to cut production.
2. China’s “Tofu Infrastructure”
On Friday, one of the longest bridges in northern China collapsed, killing three, injuring five and casting a further shadow over China’s infrastructure which has been expanding at an astronomical rate. Officials blamed overloaded trucks but questions have arisen about the materials used and the engineering work. (Photographs can be seen on a Chinese website.)
A nearly 330-foot-long section of a ramp of the eight-lane Yangmingtan Bridge (built for $300 million) in the city of Harbin reportedly fell to the ground. The entire bridge is 9.6 miles long and was built as part of China’s stimulus program in 2009 and 2010, which helped the country stay clear of the global recession.
The Yangmingtan Bridge collapse was the sixth to occur in China since July of 2011. As one user commented online on Sina Weibo (similar to Twitter, which is banned in China): “Tofu engineering work leads to a tofu bridge.”
3. The Seven-hour Show Trial of Gu Kailai
Was it the real Gu Kailai at the trial of the once prominent lawyer and wife of disgraced politician Bo Xilai? Speculation has risen that a body double appeared in court for her in online commentary about the seven hour trial that ended with Gu convicted of murdering British businessman Neil Heywood and receiving a suspended death penalty sentence.
The trial was “carefully scripted” and has drawn criticism from many quarters:
“For many people, the party was just trying to use the justice system for their own purposes, but they did it in such a way that made everyone laugh,” said Ai Weiwei, the Chinese artist provocateur who spent 81 days in extralegal detention last year for what he says was his unyielding government criticism. “It’s obvious to everyone that they came up with the sentence before the facts were known.”
Even ordinary Chinese ridiculed the decision to spare Ms. Gu’s life, saying a commoner would have been summarily executed for the murder of a foreigner. “Steal a whole country and they make you prince. Steal a fishing hook and they hang you,” read one oft-forwarded proverb.
No witnesses testified; there were inconsistencies about facts, such as when Gu met Heywood; there was no mention of an “economic dispute” behind the crime (Heywood demanding $22 million from Bo’s and Gu’s family for a failed real estate venture); Gu thanked the court for its “magnanimity” after the trial in a statement devoid of emotion.
Gu was a well-trained, high-profile lawyer who surely had to know what she was doing when she killed Heywood.
He Weifang, a law professor at Peking University, called the trial a “satire of justice” that was “more about covering up facts than revealing what really has happened.” In a blog post, Ma Jian, an exiled Chinese novelist who lives in London, compared the trial to show trials put on by Stalin in the 1930s.
4. Officials Caught in Sex Orgies
Forget about a US congressman swimming naked in the Sea of Galilee and the to-do about photos of a naked Prince Harry. More than 100 photographs posted online show three men and two or three women engaging in group sex; some people have identified the men as officials in Lujiang County, Anhui Province (which is where Gu’s trial was held), with one of the men bearing a resemblance to county party chief, Wang Minsheng.
Notes the New York Times:
The scrutiny of officials’ sex lives intensified after revelations that Liu Zhijun, a disgraced former railways minister, had 18 mistresses, according to state news organizations. Caixin, a respected investigative magazine, published a long article this month that said in February 2011, when security officers arrived to detain Mr. Liu on suspicion of corruption at a five-star hotel in Nanjing, they found him involved with two women. That report soon ran afoul of the censors; separately, another newspaper had a different account of the arrest on Wednesday, with less salacious details.
The official Chinese government word on orgies (“crowd licentiousness”) is that they are illegal. Group sex can carry a penalty of up to ten years in prison.
Wang Yu (not apparently related to Wang Minsheng) has said he was one of the three men and resigned from his post as the deputy party secretary of the Communist Youth League at Hefei University. His wife, also said to be a participant, has resigned from her post as a high school teacher.
5. China is on target to be the world’s biggest tourist destination, but…
China has tightened its rules for visitors, Business Week reports:
Travelers applying for tourist visas, must submit a letter from an “authorized tourism unit,” company or person inviting them to China, along with a photocopy of their round-trip ticket and hotel reservation, according to rules posted on the website of China’s embassy in the U.S.
The reason is that Chinese authorities have wished to scrutinize foreign visitors more and to crack down on those entering the country illegally — a sign that the Chinese government’s need to maintain control can limit and even hurt the country economically.
In 2010, China– with 55.7 million visitors — surpassed Spain to become the world’s third-largest tourist draw. Only the U.S. and France have more tourists.
In May, the Chinese government initiated a 100-day campaign to root out foreigners working or living in its borders without proper documentation. Then, on June 20, the country’s legislature, the National People’s Congress, approved a new law increasing the penalty for illegally entering or working in the country.
As Zhang Lu, a Shanghai-based analyst at Capital Securities Corp, says to Business Week, “if implemented strictly, the new requirements could have an impact on the number of foreign tourists,” not to mention travel agencies’ revenues.
Related Care2 Coverage
Photo of a man with severe physical disabilities in Shanghai by Augapfel