Which Way?

Reports today (e.g., this one from Wired http://blog.wired.com/business/2009/03/google-tries-to.html indicate that China is blocking YouTube. Problem could be some video which purports to show riots in Tibet or something else. Does China have the right to block YouTube? Yep. Have other countries done it? Yep. And I suspect this is seen as a small gesture by the regulators of the media in China. However, it is just the kind of thing that adds strength to the negative perception of China in the US, precisely because it seems so petty to most Americans. And, I suspect that after several days or weeks go by, the ban on YouTube will be lifted, but the negative image it leaves behind here will remain.

On the same day we hear of the YouTube ban, the NYT http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/25/world/asia/25china.html reports that the China Daily had an article exposing abuses in China’s criminal detention centers. The article goes on to note that in response to public outcry in China over controversial deaths in detention centers, the National People’s Congress of China earlier this month established a committee to investigate these centers. The article says that the committee has been undertaking surprise inspections of some centers. For those who like to think that China’s political processes are frozen it is good to keep in mind that reporting on detention center abuses and convening of a legislative committee to investigate are things that would have been unthinkable not so long ago. I’m not suggesting the problem will be solved in a short timeframe, but public awareness/complaint and legislative concern is certainly a concrete step in the right direction.

So, which direction is China moving in? Less freedom in the form of increased internet restrictions? Yes in certain circumstances. Increased public concern, journalistic criticism, and legislative investigation of some human rights abuses? Yes in certain circumstances.

When former Secretary of State Colin Powell was asked to use one word to describe the US-China relationship (competitor? partner? friend? rival?) he would often reply that the relationship was just too complex to describe in one catch phrase. I think the same can be said of the status of political reform and human rights in China.

Explore posts in the same categories: China, Human Rights

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