Saturday, December 03, 2005

China and Torture

I know this isn't exactly a "law career" matter, directly speaking, but I am an international trade lawyer, so I can't resist broadening my scope.

My last posting was on U.S. trade with China and how the U.S. cannot expect to unilaterally influence China's trade policy in a significant way. Facts are facts, and the U.S. needs to not buy in to the overblown rhetoric about its economic clout. Is the U.S. powerful? Yes. Powerful enough to unilaterally get China to do what it wants if the Chinese government disagrees? No.

Articles in today's Washington Post and New York Times reveal the results of a United Nations investigation into the Chinese government's "widespread" use of torture. Is that bad? Oh yes. Should the U.S. encourage China to stop this? Absolutely. But here are two points worth bearing in mind:

One: The U.S. has been leaning on China for years now in humanitarian matters, and human rights organizations like Amnesty International have been doing the same. And China has dragged its heels.

Two: When China did finally give access to inspectors, it was through the United Nations. Not the U.S., but the U.N. The lesson is that results in this area--and others of international importance--will usually come from multilateral efforts, not unilateral ones. The U.S. needs to bear that in mind and keep jingoism in check.

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