There is an international discussion about the question of ‘human rights’ and I was asked to do an interview on this. So, this post, based on the interview, explains the real situation of why the West’s attempted definition of human rights is an absurd fraud – a mere propaganda distortion.
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I want to start by making a clear statement which I will then substantiate: China’s contribution to the improvement of human rights is the greatest of any country in the world. I will explain very clearly why.
The first decisive factor is that, on the latest World Bank data, China has taken 853 million people out of poverty by international World Bank standards. All the Western countries together, which have a much larger population than China within developing capitalist economies, took 252 million people out of poverty. China is responsible for 75% of the reduction of the number of people in living in poverty in the world. Incidentally another 3% came from socialist Vietnam. So socialist countries account for 78% of the reduction of the number of people living in poverty in the world and capitalist countries for 22%.
I also want to explain why the western conception of human right is absolutely ridiculous and a fraud. It reduces the question of human rights to whether you have a few formal political rights or not.
Let me give you an example. If you are in Africa, starving to death, and I’m afraid that in Africa there are people who face death by starvation, provided you are able to use Facebook you meet the criteria of a ‘human right’ by the Western criteria – but the fact that you are dying of starvation is not counted in the criteria of ‘human rights’! But for virtually all people, and all sensible ones, the question of whether they starve to death is much more important than the question of whether they can use Facebook or not.
Let’s take another example - the question of the comparison between China and India. Again on the latest data a Chinese woman lives on average eight years longer than does an Indian woman. Chinese literacy amongst women is 94% whereas in India, literacy among women is only 63%. That means almost forty percent of Indian women can’t read or write.
Over 700 million people in India don't have a access to a toilet - an issue which affects all such people but women even more so. But according to the Western definition if you can use Facebook you have human rights but if you don't have a toilet that is irrelevant to your human rights. But for the overwhelming majority of people who don't have one to have a toilet is a very much more fundamental issue of human rights than being able to use Facebook.
Whose human rights are really better? Are the human right of an Indian woman – an Indian woman who lives eight years less than a Chinese woman, who has an almost forty percent chance of not reading or writing, and doesn't have a toilet - better than those of a Chinese woman because she happens to live in a parliamentary republic? Any definition which claims that result, which is what the Western one does, is absolutely absurd. The human rights of a Chinese woman are clearly much better than the human rights of an Indian woman – and I say that with regret because I would like the human rights of an Indian woman to be as good as those of a Chinese woman and I hope they will become so in the future.
Let’s take another issue - the question of being alive. The most important human right in the world is to be alive. But we know that the question of poverty, and the question of economic development, contribute enormously to whether you are alive or not. This can be shown very simply. If you take the average life expectancy of somebody who lives in a low-income economy, defined by international World Bank criteria, they live almost 20 years less long than people in a high income economy – 62 years compared to 81 years. Therefore, you live 19 years longer in high income economy than a low income economy. This is your most basic human right, which is to stay alive. But this is not counted a ‘human right’ by Western criteria. Whereas for any normal human being the question of whether they are alive is very much more important than the question of whether they can use Facebook!
Interestingly this difference in life expectancy between low income and high income economies is almost exactly the same as the difference measured inside American or British cities. If life expectancy in American or British cities is measured, the people in the richest boroughs in the city live about 20 years longer than the people in the poorest ones. So, this is another question that is concerned with the issue of human rights.
The idea of reducing human rights to a few questions such as whether you can use Facebook or not is therefore absolutely ridiculous.
This is also, of course, why Western propaganda is not very effective. Because most people consider the question of how long they live? What is their standard of living? Whether they can read or write? What are the real rights of women? These are much more important for them than the questions that Western countries point to.
So therefore, I will repeat very simply what I said. The record of China, through lifting people out of poverty and through having the fastest increase in living standard of any country in the world, ensures that it is China which has made the greatest contribution to the improvement of human rights of any country in the world. The greatest increase in human rights in the world that could be made would be for other developing countries to have the same success as China.
And it is necessary to be clear the reasons why the Western definition of human rights is a ridiculous fraud.
I was asked to give a lecture to young people in China on what China's national rejuvenation and socialist system meant not only for their country but for the whole world. This is the video of the lecture - it has been watched over one million times. It explains why, without exaggeration, China's national rejuvenation is today by far the biggest step forward that can be taken in the interest of the whole of humanity and that it will aid the whole of humanity.
It also examines the reality of Western politics and how money is channeled to favoured candidates and other methods of political control are carried out.
To see the lecture click on this link. There will be a few minutes of trailers and a short introduction in Chinese and then the lecture will start in English - it is just under one hour long.
Two articles by the distinguished US historian Bruce Cumings have been published in the Guardian newspaper in London and the London Review of Books, dealing with the history of US policy in Korea and its attacks on North Korea.
These articles, ‘A Murderous History of Korea’, in the London Review of Books, and ‘Americans once carpet-bombed North Korea. It's time to remember that past’ in the Guardian, are recommended in the strongest terms to be read in full. They deal in detail with Korean resistance against Japanese occupation, US repression in creating South Korea, US carpet bombing of North Korea - which was greater than its attacks on Germany and Japan during World War II, and the US role in creating the South Korean state. To give a flavour of the articles, and to encourage them to be read in full, excerpts from Cumings two articles are given below. They have been arranged from the two articles in chronological order of the events which Cumings describes. They therefore form a short history of the main periods of US involvement with Korea leading up to the present crisis. The first, second and fourth extracts are from the London Review of Books, the third is from the Guardian.
Cuming’s research destroys the concept that the US in Korea was motivated by ‘human rights’ or ‘democracy’. The US used Japanese collaborators and mass repression in South Korea, and ruthless bombing of the civilian population of North Korea.
Cumings is Professor of History, and former chair of the history department, at the University of Chicago and author of numerous books on Korea. His Origins of the Korean War, Vol. 1 won the John K. Fairbank Prize of the American Historical Association, and his Origins of the Korean War, Vol. 2 won the Quincy Wright Book Award of the International Studies Association.
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Professor Bruce Cumings
Korean resistance against Japanese occupation
After Japan annexed Korea in 1910, many Koreans fled across the border, among them the parents of Kim Il-sung, but it wasn’t until Japan established its puppet state of Manchukuo in March 1932 that the independence movement turned to armed resistance. Kim and his comrades launched a campaign that lasted 13 difficult years, until Japan finally relinquished control of Korea as part of the 1945 terms of surrender. This is the source of the North Korean leadership’s legitimacy in the eyes of its people: they are revolutionary nationalists who resisted their country’s coloniser; they resisted again when a massive onslaught by the US air force during the Korean War razed all their cities, driving the population to live, work and study in subterranean shelters; they have continued to resist the US ever since…
The story of Kim Il-sung’s resistance against the Japanese is surrounded by legend and exaggeration in the North, and general denial in the South. But he was recognisably a hero: he fought for a decade in the harshest winter environment imaginable, with temperatures sometimes falling to 50° below zero.
US creation of the South Korean regime
‘US involvement in Korea began towards the end of the Second World War, when State Department planners feared that Soviet soldiers, who were entering the northern part of the peninsula, would bring with them as many as thirty thousand Korean guerrillas who had been fighting the Japanese in north-east China... It [US occupation] lasted three years. To shore up their occupation, the Americans employed every last hireling of the Japanese they could find, including former officers in the Japanese military like Park Chung Hee and Kim Chae-gyu, both of whom graduated from the American military academy in Seoul in 1946. (After a military takeover in 1961 Park became president of South Korea, lasting a decade and a half until his ex-classmate Kim, by then head of the Korean Central Intelligence Agency, shot him dead over dinner one night.) After the Americans left in 1948 the border area around the 38th parallel was under the command of Kim Sok-won, another ex-officer of the Imperial Army…
Inside the South itself – whose leaders felt insecure and conscious of the threat from what they called ‘the north wind’ – there was an orgy of state violence against anyone who might somehow be associated with the left or with communism. The historian Hun Joon Kim found that at least 300,000 people were detained and executed or simply disappeared by the South Korean government in the first few months after conventional war began. My own work and that of John Merrill indicates that somewhere between 100,000 and 200,000 people died as a result of political violence before June 1950, at the hands either of the South Korean government or the US occupation forces… In short, the Republic of Korea was one of the bloodiest dictatorships of the early Cold War period; many of the perpetrators of the massacres had served the Japanese in their dirty work – and were then put back into power by the Americans.’
The US bombing of North Korea
‘It was 64 years ago that North Koreans emerged from this war into a living nightmare, after three years of “rain and ruin” by the US Air Force. Pyongyang had been razed to the ground, with the Air Force stating in official documents that the North’s cities suffered greater damage than German and Japanese cities firebombed during World War II.
‘Just as Japan scholar Richard Minear termed Truman’s atomic attacks “exterminationist,” the great French writer and filmmaker Chris Marker wrote after a visit to the North in 1957, “Extermination crossed this land.” It was an indelible experience still drilled into the heads of every North Korean.
‘On my first visit to Pyongyang in 1981, a guide quickly brought up the bombing and said it had killed several of his family members. Wall posters depicted a wizened old woman in the midst of the bombing, declaring “American imperialists – wolves.”
‘The day after Trump’s bluster, the DPRK government stated: “The US once waged a tragic war that plunged this land into a sea of blood and fire, and has been leaving no stone unturned to obliterate the DPRK’s ideology and system century after century.”
‘There are 25 million human beings living in North Korea. They bleed like we do, they live and die like we do, they love their kin like we do. Trump’s callous and cavalier threat was perhaps the most irresponsible thing he has said since becoming president (which is really saying something), but most Americans will not know this because they know nothing about the carpet-bombing of North Korea.
US introduction of nuclear weapons into Korea
For 25 years now the world has been treated to scaremongering about North Korean nuclear weapons, but hardly anyone points out that it was the US that introduced nuclear weapons into the Korean peninsula, in 1958; hundreds were kept there until a worldwide pullback of tactical nukes occurred under George H.W. Bush. But every US administration since 1991 has challenged North Korea with frequent flights of nuclear-capable bombers in South Korean airspace, and any day of the week an Ohio-class submarine could demolish the North in a few hours.
American politicians relentlessly claim that theirs is the 'greatest country' and the 'American way' is the best way. But if so it poses a puzzling question - 'why do American's die so young'. This can be seen by looking at the facts.
Life expectancy is the most sensitive of all indicators of overall social well being. This is because it sums up in a single figure all positive social trends (high income, good health services, good education, environmental protection etc.) and all negative ones (poverty, bad education, poor health services, pollution etc.).
International data shows that the single biggest factor in a country's life expectancy is per capita GDP - this explains over 70% of differences in life expectancy. A person in a low income economy by World Bank standards lives approximately 20 years less than someone in a high income economy.
Interestingly the difference in life expectancy between poor and rich parts of Western cities is also about 20 years.
This is why poverty is a literal 'life or death' question.
If a country has a higher life expectancy that would be predicted from its per capita GDP this indicates that other social and environmental factors are better than average and adding to life expectancy, if a country's life expectancy is lower than would be predicted from is per capita GDP this indicates social and environmental factors are detracting from life expectancy.
As the US has the highest per capita GDP of any major country it would be expected that its life expectancy would be the highest of any major country. But in fact the US has a much lower life expectancy than any other major advanced economy - as shown in the chart. An average American has a life expectancy of only 78.7 years - compared to 83.8 years in Japan or 83.5 years in Italy. The US is the only G7 country with a life expectancy of less than 80. So if the 'American way' is the greatest it means that Americans chose to die young - a rather bizarre choice!
The reality is of course the opposite. The reality is that the data shows that the combined effects of the US private health care system, US pollution, US poverty and its interlinked racism, US civic violence etc. means that Americans die far younger than would be expected from the country's per capita GDP.
Far from the 'American way' being 'the greatest' it literally subtracts from the life of Americans. Americans, in short, are victims of the 'American system' - just as much as those in other countries which the US has attacked.
Americans don't want to die young. They are like everyone else - they would like to live as long as possible. It is just that the 'American system' prevents them doing so.
The violent movement by US fascists, seen in the death and violence in Charlottesville, is immediately due to the encouragement to them given by the policies of the Trump administration and its links with the alt-Right.
But behind that lies the destabilisation of US politics by economic neo-liberalism ever since Reagan.
To understand the roots of the path from Reagan to the strengthening of the US extreme right please see my 'The ‘Anglo-Saxon’ Political Crisis - from Reagan & Thatcher to Trump & Brexit'
American's who want to bomb North Korea - despite the fact they don't know where it is! (Video interviews)
A scary insight into how propaganda for war is spread in the US.
The leading US magazine Foreign Policy published an important article showing conclusively that it was the entry of the Soviet Union into the Pacific War that was the decisive event that caused Japan to surrender, not the atomic bomb.
This fact has been known for a long time to serious historians. But its publication in a major article in a foreign policy magazine was a new step forward in the truth reaching a wider audience.
As with the fact that it was the Soviet Union's defeat of Nazi Germany at Moscow, Stalingrad and Kursk that crushed Nazi Germany, not D-Day which came when Hitler's defeat was already inevitable, the truth about World War II against Japan is also gradually being admitted - even if it took 70 years to do it.
It is strongly recommended to read the whole article crucial passages are below.
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'On Aug. 8, Foreign Minister Togo Shigenori went to Premier Suzuki Kantaro and asked that the Supreme Council be convened to discuss the bombing of Hiroshima, but its members declined. So the crisis didn’t grow day by day until it finally burst into full bloom on Aug. 9. Any explanation of the actions of Japan’s leaders that relies on the “shock” of the bombing of Hiroshima has to account for the fact that they considered a meeting to discuss the bombing on Aug. 8, made a judgment that it was too unimportant, and then suddenly decided to meet to discuss surrender the very next day. Either they succumbed to some sort of group schizophrenia, or some other event was the real motivation to discuss surrender...
'[Previously] Although the Supreme Council discussed the importance of the Soviet Union remaining neutral, they didn’t have a full-dress discussion about the impact of city bombing. In the records that have been preserved, city bombing doesn’t even get mentioned during Supreme Council discussions except on two occasions: once in passing in May 1945 and once during the wide-ranging discussion on the night of Aug. 9. Based on the evidence, it is difficult to make a case that Japan’s leaders thought that city bombing — compared to the other pressing matters involved in running a war — had much significance at all.
'Gen. Anami on Aug. 13 remarked that the atomic bombings were no more menacing than the fire-bombing that Japan had endured for months. If Hiroshima and Nagasaki were no worse than the fire bombings, and if Japan’s leaders did not consider them important enough to discuss in depth, how can Hiroshima and Nagasaki have coerced them to surrender?
If the Japanese were not concerned with city bombing in general or the atomic bombing of Hiroshima in particular, what were they concerned with? The answer is simple: the Soviet Union...
'Once the Soviet Union had declared war, Stalin could no longer act as a mediator — he was now a belligerent. So the diplomatic option was wiped out by the Soviet move. The effect on the military situation was equally dramatic. Most of Japan’s best troops had been shifted to the southern part of the home islands. Japan’s military had correctly guessed that the likely first target of an American invasion would be the southernmost island of Kyushu. The once proud Kwangtung army in Manchuria, for example, was a shell of its former self because its best units had been shifted away to defend Japan itself. When the Russians invaded Manchuria, they sliced through what had once been an elite army and many Russian units only stopped when they ran out of gas. The Soviet 16th Army — 100,000 strong — launched an invasion of the southern half of Sakhalin Island. 'Their orders were to mop up Japanese resistance there, and then — within 10 to 14 days — be prepared to invade Hokkaido, the northernmost of Japan’s home islands. The Japanese force tasked with defending Hokkaido, the 5th Area Army, was under strength at two divisions and two brigades, and was in fortified positions on the east side of the island. 'The Soviet plan of attack called for an invasion of Hokkaido from the west. It didn’t take a military genius to see that, while it might be possible to fight a decisive battle against one great power invading from one direction, it would not be possible to fight off two great powers attacking from two different directions. The Soviet invasion invalidated the military’s decisive battle strategy, just as it invalidated the diplomatic strategy. At a single stroke, all of Japan’s options evaporated. The Soviet invasion was strategically decisive — it foreclosed both of Japan’s options — while the bombing of Hiroshima (which foreclosed neither) was not.
'The Soviet declaration of war also changed the calculation of how much time was left for maneuver. Japanese intelligence was predicting that U.S. forces might not invade for months. Soviet forces, on the other hand, could be in Japan proper in as little as 10 days. The Soviet invasion made a decision on ending the war extremely time sensitive.
'And Japan’s leaders had reached this conclusion some months earlier. In a meeting of the Supreme Council in June 1945, they said that Soviet entry into the war “would determine the fate of the Empire.” Army 'Deputy Chief of Staff Kawabe said, in that same meeting, “The absolute maintenance of peace in our relations with the Soviet Union is imperative for the continuation of the war.”'
The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) has forecast a dramatic slowdown in China's economy: 'Growth will slow to 4.8% a year on average in 2018-19.'
This is despite the higher growth projections in China's current Five Year Plan, President Xi Jinping saying growth should average at least 6.5% until 2020, and even the IMF projecting 6.1% average growth in 2016-2021.
It will be easy to see that the EIU's forecast was inaccurate as time unfolds.
The EIU's can be added to the list of inaccurate forecasts on China - the Learning from China website has already done so.
China successfully uses capital controls to rebuild foreign exchange reserves & block any threat to economic stability
On 7 August the Financial Times carried an accurate front page headline 'Beijing hails success in battle against capital flight'.
The article noted: 'Data released on Monday indicate that Beijing’s support for the renminbi and a crackdown on foreign dealmaking and other outflow channels have largely succeeded in curtailing capital flight.... At the same time, forex reserves rose for a sixth straight month in July, according to separate data out on Monday. This marks the longest run of increases since 2014, when reserves touched a record high of $3.99tn. Forex reserves were up $24bn from a month earlier and $80bn from January’s five-year low.'
This data had already been noted as soon as it appeared on this website - where a chart of the trend can be found.
The FT rightly noted that China had used capital controls to prevent any run on its currency and threat from this angle to its domestic economic stability. 'Data released on Monday indicate that Beijing’s support for the renminbi and a crackdown on foreign dealmaking and other outflow channels have largely succeeded in curtailing capital flight...
'In a sign that the government remains vigilant despite the improvements, regulators have imposed new measures in recent weeks to prevent capital flight.
'Last week, the foreign exchange regulator named and shamed nine banks for violating forex rules. The agency is also requiring lenders to issue daily reports on all foreign bank card purchases by customers worth more than Rmb1,000 ($149) beginning later this month.'
China's use of capital controls therefore prevents it suffering any risk of the type of capital flight that produced the 1997/98 Asian debt crisis. This recent episode therefore confirms for other countries that capital controls are an effective and vital instrument of economic policy.
The present author had accurately analysed the issues involved and China's response in 2014 in 'The Limits of RMB Internationalisation' which is available on this website. This also analyses the forces determining the real structure of the present international monetary system. This was used to comment on the FT's analysis. My comment is shown in full below - I hope readers will read the original article as its analysis is strongly confirmed by recent events.
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The issue of the way China has dealt with capital flight and the fall in its foreign exchange reserves is one of the most important in China's recent economic history. It reveals clearly the priorities in China's economic policy - to maintain stability and growth of its domestic economy, not to proceed to destabilising alternatives such as premature liberalisation of the capital account. Forced to chose between maintaining economic stability, through imposing capital controls, and slowing capital account liberalisation China decisively chose to reinforce capital controls. This confirms yet again that any media and analysts projections of early liberalisation of China's capital account were wrong.
But to prevent similar misjudgements by analysts in future it is necessary to understand not only the most recent events but the fundamental forces operating. I analysed these, predicting current trends, in 2014 in 'The Limits of RMB Internationalisation' As this analysis was confirmed it is worth repeating its key points
'RMB internationalization is one of the most important questions for China’s economy. But it is also one where developments will go more slowly than media speculation imagines, due to the real factors affecting it…
'As it is impossible, for a prolonged period, to replace the dollar as the dominant international currency, and therefore the dollar remains the dominant unit people wish to hold, the inevitable result of global capital account liberalization since the 1970s was not a multilateral flow between currencies but merely a net inflow into dollars. This strengthened the dollar’s international position, allowing the U.S. to finance its huge balance of payments deficits.
'Countries which ignored these economic fundamentals, and mistakenly believed international capital account liberalization was a multilateral system, rather than one to allow funds to flow into dollars, were hit by economic crisis. For example, South East Asian countries, which had mistakenly imagined that they could benefit from capital account liberalization, were taught a devastating lesson in the crisis of 1997 that the only large scale net flows which the global payments system permits are into the dollar.
'This current international monetary system is certainly unjust. Gold was produced internationally, therefore could not be controlled by a single country, and was a multilateral unit against which all currencies were measured. In contrast the “dollar standard” means one country’s currency is the unit in which all others are measured, giving the United States a type of “monetary monopoly” – with many consequent advantages in the international monetary system. But there is nothing that can be done about this until another unit can replace the dollar as setting international prices. Until then international crises, even those originating in the United States, as in 2008, do not weaken the dollar’s position. As Eswar Prasad comprehensively documented in The Dollar Trap: “Global financial crisis has strengthened the dollar’s prominence in global finance.”…
'as leading Chinese economist Yu Yongding put it:
'“China has to maintain its capital controls in the foreseeable future. If China were to lose control over its cross-border capital flows it could lead to panic and so capital outflows would turn into an avalanche and eventually bring down the whole financial system.”
'China therefore can, undoubtedly, develop limited RMB internationalization within a global monetary system continuing to be dominated by the dollar – particularly for trade. But any idea that the RMB can challenge the dollar’s position, or escape the dangers of liberalization of the capital account, is an illusion and at worst could seriously damage China’s economy.
'It is worth adding that the role played by Yu Yongding, former member of the policy committee of China's Central Bank, in arguing against liberalisation of the capital account. was of key importance - publishing a book and numerous articles on the issue. Few economists directly affect world capital markets, but Yu Yongding did. It was a serious error in sections of the media that excessive reports were given to views of Western commentators compared to the key debates taking place in China itself.
China's foreign exchange reserves, already the world's largest, rose to $3,081 billion in July from $3,057 billion in June of 2017. This exceeds the expected rise to $3,070 billion.
This is the 6th successive month China's foreign exchange reserves have risen. The total rise since January 2017 has been $83 billion.
This increase, of course, refutes another of the myths of the 'China hard landing' fallacy - that China was going to run out of foreign exchange reserves.
It also confirms the correctness of China's decision to tighten capital controls.
Data from Trading Economics.