Recent calls by Gordon Brown for a cricket boycott against Zimbabwe are at face value justifiable — after all no one can disagree about the brutal kleptocracy of Robert Mugabe; but think about it less superficially, and it seems to be characteristic of the hypocritical sanctimony of the West.
Let’s leave the implications of the unlawful occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq to one side and limit our focus initially to Brown’s and his Foreign Secretary’s David Miliband’s recent visits to Beijing. For what happened in both instances was well … absolutely nothing.
Neither mentioned the denial of freedom of expression that have seen the likes of Hu Jia jailed for no more than merely writing a blog or Liu Jie sent for re-education through a labour camp for the crime of complaining about the demolitions aimed at clearing up the city in advance of the Olympic Games. They said nothing about the detention, the forced disappearances and the routine torture of academics, Buddhist clergy, journalists, human rights lawyers and trade unionists.
Nor did they deal with the compulsory abortions, the forced sterilisations, the illegal land seizures, the largest involuntary resettlement programmes in the world, the prevalence of child labour and the estimated 5 000 to 12 000 people executed a year.
Brown said instead, “We want Britain to be the number one destination of choice for Chinese business as it invests in the rest of the world”. Miliband, on the other hand, was adamant about Britain’s opposition to Taiwan’s membership of the United Nations and any call for a boycott of the Olympics. With a bit of Jesuitical anti-logic he opined, “We do not believe that issues of human rights should be restricted to the Olympic year … Those universal values … are an issue for every year”
But both have been very clear about Zimbabwe. Contrast Miliband’s confused argument above with his definite disquiet over Zimbabwe’s upcoming cricket tour next year, “The situation … is obviously deeply concerning. I think that bilateral cricket tours at the moment don’t send the right message about our concern”.
So while British athletes are being forced to sign a contract prohibiting them from commenting on China’s “politically sensitive issues” — a commitment that would even extend to the blogs and private e-mails that they write home; Messrs Brown & Miliband are standing on their soapbox sonorously condemning Robert Mugabe.
The reason of course is obvious: Money is an “ethicide” — to use John Berger’s brilliant neologism — an agent that kills ethics. If Zimbabwe could offer Britain even half of China’s capital then Bob could have Morgan Tsvangari’s head on plate if he wanted to. Money is the amoral globalistion of self-interest. Listen carefully to Brown again and you can hear him in orgasmic anticipation: “I believe by 2010 we will see 100 new Chinese companies investing in the UK, we will see 100 partnerships between our universities and Chinese universities and we will double the number of firms listed on the London Stock Exchange and thousands of jobs will be created”.
One is reminded here of the moral perspicacity of Karl Marx who realised how money transforms all our failings into their contrary: “I am bad, dishonest, unscrupulous, stupid; but money is honoured, and hence its possessor”.
China is of course the shadow of the West’s projections: Its consumptive greed; its endemic surveillance; its externalisation of cost onto the environment; its extraordinary renditions and its Google and Microsoft. It is also the most chronic test of our commitment to human rights — for however one defines ethics it means nothing if it can’t be consistently, if not universally, applied.
By way of a somewhat tangential postscript I wish in conclusion to suggest the rehabilitation of an already existing alternative. Should one state wish to pursue on its own behalf, or as a class, a course of action against another state — it should present its case to the International Court Of Justice for arbitration and consideration on the basis of international law.
If to quote Immanuel Kant we are to “act only according to that maxim whereby you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law” we must be prepared to place all parties on an equal footing — a Saddam Hussein or a Slobodan Milosevic should be treated no differently to a Tony Blair or an Ariel Sharon; or apropos our discussion, China should be held to the same scrutiny as Zimbabwe.
I do of course realise that the United States has regularly demeaned this court, having been found guilty by it in 1986 of the unlawful use of force against Nicaragua. America simply ignored the ruling and its demand for substantial reparations. The then secretary of state George Schultz rubbished those who advocate “utopian legalistic means like outside mediation, the United Nations, the World Court while ignoring the power element of the equation”.
Today — be it in Afghanistan or Iraq, or in the appeasement of the empire of tomorrow — we should be well aware that that power has no probity whatsoever.