Activists Re-Assess Their “China Strategy”

China assumes the rotating presidency of the Security Council tomorrow, meaning it will have the lead role in setting the Council’s agenda for the month of October. The last time China held the Council presidency was July 2007–when it helped steer the process of authorizing a peacekeeping mission to Darfur. Since then, though, many human rights activists have been dismayed by China’s alliances with Zimbabwe, Burma, and Sudan–and have complained that China uses its influence at the Security Council to protect those regimes.

For much of the last three years, many in the activist community used the Beijing Olympics as leverage to secure China’s cooperation on Darfur and on human rights issues more broadly. Now that the Olympics are over, the Enough Project’s John Prendergast and David Sullivan argue for a new, more sustainable approach. From HuffPo:

[A] new administration in Washington and activists around the world need to focus on Beijing’s investment strategy, demonstrating how its economic interests are undermined by its present foreign policy and offering China real alternatives. A more sober examination is required in order to ascertain how the Chinese government might be motivated to become a more constructive actor in support of peace and human rights. There are two points of leverage: one positive and one negative.

On the positive side, as China increasingly integrates into the global economy, Beijing must play by the rules if it wants others to do so. China’s entry into the World Trade Organization in 2001 was based on the calculation that the economic benefits of globalization outweighed the cost of abiding by international norms. But today an emboldened China skirts the rules on everything from underage gymnasts to product safety and intellectual property rights. The U.S. should remind China that defying basic human rights, environmental and labor standards will rebound negatively on its commercial interests, particularly by using multilateral mechanisms like the W.T.O. to impose a cost on China’s errant practices.

On the negative side lurks the greatest threat to China’s long-term growth potential. By allying itself with some of the world’s worst dictators for the spoils of today’s resource grab, the bill will be paid tomorrow by rebels and opposition officials who will remember who kept their enemies in power.

Read the whole thing.