why china gets away with things

China gets away with a lot in the international arena. This includes the way the United States behaves towards the country as well as individual actors, other countries, and international organizations. Some examples are when Greta Thunberg did not target China as a top polluter or when the US has been criticized for pollution instead of China (using a per capita rather than total pollution matrix to take advantage of the country’s large population). China has gotten away with numerous human rights abuses as well as artificially devaluing its currency, allowing atrocious labor conditions, blaming outside actors for the coronavirus, and criticizing the United States.

Recent News

Beijing officials reprimanded the US government at the high-level meeting in Anchorage, Alaska. Mr. Yang, the Chinese Communist Party foreign affairs chief, went on for more than 15 minutes criticizing American democracy, its treatment of minorities, and foreign and trade policies. They probably would not have acted that way if Trump were in office. Trump claims that if they had, he “would have doubled the tariffs”. 

Criticism of “China Virus”

Biden has publicly criticized Trump for labeling the coronavirus a foreign virus. He has called Trump xenophobic, though the virus did originate outside of the country. Biden also criticized Trump’s travel ban. 

The international arena has yet to hold China accountable for the virus. China did not allow Wuhan citizens to travel outside of Wuhan within China. However, these same people were allowed to travel internationally. Clearly, the Chinese government did not care about spreading the virus to other countries. The government claimed that the virus was not easily transmissible from person to person, while essentially locking down the city. 

The Chinese government has claimed that the virus did not originate in the Wuhan Virology Institute, though people within the lab had coronavirus symptoms. The WHO, who found this out, were quick to downplay the information. WHO investigator Peter Daszak claimed that “it was flu season”. The WHO basically accepted the claim that the virus came from outside of Wuhan, claiming that a lab leak was “extremely unlikely” and that transmission of the virus from bats to humans, with another animal in between, was the most likely scenario.

Environment

china environmental impact

Greta Thunberg, in her famous speech, criticized Argentina, France, Germany, and Turkey for not reaching their climate goals. She did not criticize China, the world’s top CO2 polluter. Instead, she protested in New York and gave then-president Donald Trump a hard time. She did not protest in China. Her actions reflect those of a lot of climate activists, who give the US a hard time but not China. This can be seen in any environmental science course, aquarium, or other environmental venue. The US is the bad guy, but not China.

Devaluation of Currency and Labor Rights

China has devalued its currency through the exchange rate to artificially increase competitiveness against the US. This means that Chinese goods and services can be sold at cheaper rates. Another problem in the strife for economic competition with China is the labor standards in the country. Though the Communist Party claims to champion labor rights, it has sone nothing but make workers suffer. Much of the economy is based on manual labor and workers work excessive hours, some examples are women manning sewing machines for 13 plus hours a day 7 days a week. 

So… Why?

In the first example, Chinese officials are unafraid of the Biden administration. He is not so set on the “America First” policy of raising tariffs towards enemy governments. Chinese officials sense weakness in Biden. Biden’s son Hunter also has investments with a Chinese firm, Bohai Harvest RST Equity Investment Fund Management Co. based in Shanghai. 

Biden has also declined to blame China for the coronavirus. He called Trump xenophobic. Trump never intended to be racist or against Chinese US citizens. He was simply reminding the public that the virus came from China. Democrats use these tactics of racism and emotional appeal to try to argue their policies. It takes the focus away from the actual policy itself (travel bans and punishing China for the spread of the virus) to something else, a distraction, a character flaw.

china virus spreads

The WHO investigation was flawed. The Chinese government tightly controlled the investigation. Peter Daszak, one of the investigators, also has professional and financial ties to the Wuhan Institute of Virology. He has worked with them for many years on bat coronavirus research and denied that a lab accident was possible before the investigation even began. He represents the only American on the team, though he was not even selected by the US government. The WHO rejected three officials Trump proposed. The WHO has been accused of some level of bias towards China, as the investigation has not been thorough. Taiwan has been blocked as a member due to China’s involvement. It is unclear whether it is financial incentive (contributions have grown in recent years) or fear of putting China on the defensive and making their government less willing to share information that gets the WHO to act more favorably towards China.

In the environment, the easiest answer is that China is a command economy and activism would not influence the government or corporations to act accordingly.

As far as economic incentives like devaluation and labor rights, Trump raised tariffs on China, and Biden has kept them so far. Unfortunately, due to sovereignty and international norms, not much can be done about labor rights. China is a strong, autocratic regime that is unlikely to change any time soon.

Written by: Miranda Smith