Is China Undermining Human Rights Efforts in Burma and Sudan?

October 31, 2007 09:10 AM
by findingDulcinea Staff
The Chinese government resists international calls to exert pressure on Burma’s military government, prompting questions about Beijing’s economic and political support of authoritarian regimes.

30-Second Summary

On Oct. 25, 2007, the United Nations envoy on Burma concluded talks with China, having failed to convince Beijing to take a stricter line on the Burmese military government.

The fact that the UN is petitioning China to aid its humanitarian efforts is a good indication of how Western influence over the troubled Southeast Asian country has waned over the last decade.

In a Time magazine article titled “The Human Rights Vacuum,” Samantha Power likens Washington’s lack of leverage, and resultant reliance on Chinese policy in Burma, to the situation in Sudan.

Power argues that as U.S. sanctions have severed Western ties to Burma and Sudan over the past decade, China has emerged to fill the void.

China is one of Burma’s most powerful trading partners, exporting $657 million worth of heavy machinery, equipment and construction materials to the country during the first five months of 2007.

It is also the leading importer of Sudanese oil, with state-owned oil company China National holding oil reserves and pipelines in Sudan.

Even as critics accuse the People’s Republic of using its veto power on the United Nations Security Council to block human rights assistance to both nations—on Jan. 12, 2007 China and Russia jointly vetoed a resolution ordering an end to human rights abuses in Burma—there are some who argue that the nation is being unfairly vilified.

In an article published July 23, 2007, in The Boston Globe, Harvard University fellows Jason Qian and Anne Wu argue that China’s role in Darfur is one of “of humanitarian and development aid plus influence without interference, in contrast to the West's coercive approach of sanctions plus military intervention.”

Headline Link: China rejects sanctions on Burma

Background: Chinese connections to Burma and Sudan


Historical Context: China develops trade relations

Opinion & Analysis: Is China supporting authoritarian regimes?


Reference Material: Chinese trade figures and the UN Security Council

The UN Security Council

Related Topics: Japan’s connection to Burma, Yahoo and China’s rights record, and the 2008 Olympics


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