On May 10, 2011, Secretary of state Clinton, in a high profile interview, condemned China for human rights violation. (“Hillary Clinton: China crackdown 'a fool's errand'” (US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has criticised China's crackdown on dissent as "a fool's errand", saying Beijing is trying to halt history.) BBC MAY 10, 2011. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-13353199) This is the second time she has done so. The first time was in January of 2010, over the Google incident.
While I agree with Secretary Clinton that given US’s strong and unwavering commitment to human rights, US has a reason to be concern. But I also think that in doing so the Secretary should realize (reflect on) what she is doing in the larger context of things (that is what we pay Secretary of Sate for); the US has just started a cultural – civilization war with China, with grave consequences and lasting impact, for America, for the world, for human kind.
To start with, this is not a war that the Secretary would like to start, given Bush’s attack of Iraq (killing thousands) for no reason and now Obama’s invasion of Pakistan killing a defenseless terrorists in violation of International conventions.
Nor, do I suspect, that the US would prevail, anytime soon. Cultural war is so wrapped up with a nation's identity, sense and sensitivity, such that winning means the obliteration of another culture. For US to win, China must be Americanized or Westernized. (Shirt and tie, any one?)
I caution the Secretary because:
The universalization of US values (human rights included), by extension, Western values, subjugates, more so than liberates, non-western civilization. If human rights mean anything, it is about autonomous choice. Each person/culture should be entitled to pursue their own dreams, not live that of others.
Big country like China or small nation like Singapore, rich people like Japanese or poor people like Pakistani, should have the right to decide for themselves what is good or bad for themselves.
In the US wearing nothing is liberating. In Japan wearing kimono is dignifying. In the US NFL players put on full gear to kill each other, for fun and money. In Japan, karate fighters will be disqualified for drawing blood, due to sense of dignity and pride. In the US might make right. In China right make for might.
Much that I respect what Secretary Clinton has to say about China’s human rights record, the Secretary would be much more persuasive, and in time effective, if she has understand China, past, present and future.
This can be achieved by studying Chinese language, culture and history, instead of law at Yale. For that matter, I wonder how many lives would have been saved, if the US soldiers have learned the language and culture, ways and means of the Iraq, now Pakistan? I wonder also whether Bush would have gone to war, if he has studied up on Lawrence of Arabia? How can one attack another country/people/culture, without knowing something about them. When UK ruled Hong Kong, many of her high officials know Chinese (e.g., Deputy Police Magistrate Caldwell) (The problem with US, time and again, is that it knows (provincialism) and love (narcissism) too much of self, than has knowledge about and empathy for others.)
Understanding other country is the true mark of a cultured friend. Persecuting other country is the trademark of a legal adversary.
Reasoning not belligerence is the way to change people/nation/culture. “A call to arms” is not the way to make friend and influence people.
That is why Secretary of State and with it US is destined to fail with China, in spite of admirable goals and good intentions.