China, the people's choice

We cannot stop China, we can only hope to contain it

Published September 13, 2006 4:25PM (EDT)

A pair of poll results to think about:

A March 2006 survey conducted by the Chinese newspaper Global Times found that nearly 60 percent of urban-dwelling Chinese think the U.S. is trying to contain China. (Thanks to Jerry Stryker's "Chinastuff" newsletter for the link.)

The opinion can hardly be attributed to government propaganda. There is solid evidence that the U.S. is trying to do precisely that. Just this morning, a reader forwarded a note from the Economist reporting that U.S. sanctions had forced the shutdown of Great Wall Airlines, a cargo airline joint venture between two Singaporean and Chinese companies, in late August. The U.S. government says that the Chinese side of the joint venture, Great Wall Industry Corporation, has been supplying missile technology to Iran. The sanctions mean that Boeing cannot provide technical assistance to the airline, thus grounding its two Boeing jets.

China denies the charges. Great Wall Industry Corporation just happens to be China's premier aerospace firm, operator of the Long March satellite launch service, and as deeply embedded into China's military-industrial complex as it is possible to be. Viewed in realpolitik terms, the Iran-missile allegations could be a convenient excuse for the primary goal, circumscribing Great Wall's access to advanced techology.

Fine. China's citizens think the U.S. is trying to contain China, and they're right. But what about another poll result -- a two year old BBC survey of 23,000 people in 22 countries that found 48 percent considered China "a positive global influence," as compared to 38 percent thinking the same about the U.S.

That's some pretty bad public relations management by the United States government. China routinely jails human rights activists and journalists, operates state censorship on a more massive scale than any other country on earth, suffers from devastating pollution and vast (and growing) inequality, props up some of the worst governments in the world, and allows ruthless exploitation of its workers by foreign companies to depress wages for everyone else around the world. And it still comes off smelling like a rose compared to the U.S. Wacky.

By Andrew Leonard

Andrew Leonard is a staff writer at Salon. On Twitter, @koxinga21.

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China Globalization How The World Works Iran Middle East