I had a very excited phone call from a family friend. She wanted to tell me about a wonderful opportunity.
A new organization was offering to send Australian students to China to stay with families and help their children learn English. The organizer would pay airfares and all other trip costs. The first batch of 20 students already has headed over.
Our friend was planning to send her daughter and wondered if ours would like to go too. The publicity material said it was a great way to experience Chinese culture. And let’s not forget China is the future. You could say China is the present and the future. Everywhere you look, you see Chinese investment.
So what did I decide to do?
What would you do?
NOT JUST ABOUT BUSINESS
I decided to stop and think. I’m old enough to remember Tiananmen Square, the tanks rolling in and the student massacre. I can still see the Australian prime minister at the time, Bob Hawke, at the memorial service breaking down and sobbing over the horror.
I then thought of Ethan Gutmann. He’s an investigative writer and human-rights defender. I interviewed him last year on Australian Broadcasting Corp. Radio. He was nominated for the 2017 Nobel Peace prize for his work exposing state-sanctioned organ harvesting from Chinese prisoners, most of whom are in prison for their religious beliefs.
And what about the family situation in China? In 1979, Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping decided to limit population growth with the one-child policy. A new two-child policy came into effect last year. So, a family is likely to have one child, most likely male. Today, due to Deng’s decision, there’s a giant gender imbalance.
There will be 24 million more men than women of marrying age by 2020, according to the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. And you have to wonder: What happened to all those female babies? The laws of nature tell you around 24 million weren’t born or were killed.
Another unintended consequence of a communist dictatorship forcing families to have one child is creation of “The Little Emperor.” We’d call it “Spoiled Brat Syndrome.” Many of these children have been lavished with material goods and pushed to achieve educationally. There are four grandparents and two parents doting on one child.
Now let’s turn our attention to the wider issue of human rights in China. When I was growing up, there was a massacre in Sharpeville in South Africa. In 1960, 69 unarmed protestors were shot dead by South African police. It gave rise to the anti-apartheid movement and subsequent economic and sports boycott.
In 1979, Russia invaded Afghanistan and suffered a boycott too. The United States took the lead. At the 1980 Moscow Olympic Games, 65 nations stayed away and 80 went. Australia was one of the strongest United States allies in calling for the boycott. But in the end, Australia did send athletes to the games, though many refused to go.
In 1975, Indonesia invaded East Timor. Over the years, more than 100,000 died or starved at the hands of the Indonesian military. In 1991, the massacre of at least 250 students in Dili prompted world outrage. Both the US and Australian governments cut military ties. Eventually, East Timor gained independence in 1999. Australia even sent troops as part of a United Nations peacekeeping force to oversee the transition to hard-fought freedom.
China has slaughtered its students and invaded Tibet. Yet it’s been rewarded by a conga line of business and political leaders kowtowing to a brutal dictatorship.
I think we know the answer.
Just follow the money.
Take the example of former Australian Trade Minister Andrew Robb. He left Parliament and took an $880,000-a-year job with a billionaire closely linked to the Chinese Communist Party. Robb, when he was in office, was the architect of the China Free Trade Agreement. The man he works for, Ye Cheng, is the owner of Landbridge, the company which bought a 99-year lease on the Port of Darwin in Australia.
Back in 1997, I covered the Hong Kong handover from the United Kingdom to China for the Australian Broadcasting Corp. As part of my research, I met many business people based in South Australia’s Chinatown who were in “friendship” associations. One told me one night after drinking a sizeable quantity of Johnny Walker Blue Label that he was a member of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference. That’s the advisory body that upholds the Chinese Communist Party. He said, “We had to kill the students in Tiananmen Square to send a strong message.” He had no problem with what had happened.
China leads the world in executions with 46 crimes eligible for the death penalty. If you advocate for human rights, you’ll end up behind bars. One activist recently got 19 years; another who promoted non-violent civil disobedience was sentenced to five years. You couldn’t write or read this in China.
So what do you think I should do? Would you send your daughter to China? TJ