Week 13: China and human rights issues

Ok team! We're almost at the end of the semester! Just a little bit more, and you can begin to dream in earnest of which aspect of Sino-western relations (broadly conceived) you want to call home for next semester.

Table of Contents

Background

This week, we look at issues that you've probably heard about and that will feel familiar, but I think it behooves us to slow down and look at the language that is used, and the history that lies behind them. Don't shoot from the hip, but think through the motivations from the actors involved.

Rather than projecting the present back onto the past, use the past to see if understanding that helps us see how we got to the present. (Until we invent backward time-travel, we're stuck in the forward facing direction.) Attitudes toward China have changed significantly over the centuries, and the past forty years are no exception.

Human rights in particular tend to trigger gut reactions, and black-and-white judgements. But remember that understanding behavior does not imply at all condoning it. This is also the point where the whole notion of "history is objective" or "the historian must remain neutral" (as opposed to the false opposition of "biased") is exposed for the nonsense it really is. Historians always choose sides, even when they don't always realize it. After all, they tell stories, and story-tellers always choose sides. The decision to work on a particular topic and not another one, to privilege one source over another, to silence one voice but to lift another means the historian is not working as an objective recorder of the past, but rather as an interpreter of the past, a human who tries to make sense of past events by looking for connections and explanations and creating a coherent account of how they hang together. Without that human touch, all you get is a dry laundry list of things that happened, just "one damn thing after another" or a chronology. And even then you cannot record everything. (5.29pm. She fills the kettle for tea. A car alarm goes off outside. 5.32pm The water has boiled. 5.33pm the car alarm is still going. 5.34 she takes the milk out of the fridge... you get the gist)

Tian'anmen has been held up as symbolic of the PRC's human rights abuses. The main reason is probably the shock among Western observers after the liberalization in China' economy, because of the the general expectation that this would trigger a liberalization in the political sphere as well.

But the crackdown on the democracy movement of the spring of 1989 was and is not the only human rights abuse, and it is not the largest one either. In this week's readings, you'll also get to read the Dalai Lama's address to the Noble Committee when he received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989. Individuals who engage themselves for democracy, human rights lawyers, women rights activists, and various activists for labor rights fell victim to various human rights abuses over the past decades, including the 1980s. But with President Clinton's 1994 decision to de-couple the renewal of China's status as Most Favoured Nation (MFN) and the issue of human rights, many wonder if this was the moment when money spoke louder than the values of the free West.

Despite the dire situation for freedom of expression, people have found spaces to fight back against the state and the party. We will look briefly at those in the final week, as well as the way the state has marshalled history for its own purposes. That will set us up nicely for the second semester, so you are better aware of how to interpret some of the official historiography from present-day China about the relations between East and West, as our journey continues in the Spring 21 semester.

Readings

Basic set

Background to bring you up to speed:

  • Moïse Edwin E. Modern China: A History Third ed. Harlow, England: Pearson/Longman, 2008. (ebook Trexler):Chapters 10-11
  • Dillon, Michael. China: A Modern History. London: I.B. Tauris, 2010. (ebook Trexler): Chapter 17
  • Radio broadcast (and transcript) from Radio Beijing early on June 4 (The shortwave Radio Audio Archive)
    • This brief message in English was broadcast in the early hours of June 4, 1989. It is unclear who the announcer was, or what happened to them, or who authorized the message to be broadcast (if at all).
  • Slides (Gdrive link)

Texts for social annotation

  • “Deng Xiaoping's Explanation fo the crackdown, June 9, 1989” In The Search for Modern China: A Documentary Collection. Third ed. Edited by Janet Chen et. al. W. W. Norton & Company, 2014.
    • This was how Deng Xiaoping began the long campaign (ongoing) of the Chinese state to erase the movement towards a more democratic China. (PDF)
  • “Dalai Lama and "Ahimsa: for Tibet: The Nobel Peace Prize Lecture, December 10, 1989” In The Search for Modern China: A Documentary Collection. Third ed. Edited by Janet Chen et. al. W. W. Norton & Company, 2014.
    • Tibet has been under Chinese occupation since 1959. Forty years later, the Noble Peace Prize committee awarded the Tibetan community's leader, the Dalai Lama, its prize. It was a clear gesture against China's repressive politics, but the Tibetans have had to keep up the fight for attention from the international community ever since. (PDF)
  • “President Clinton Reevaluates Human Rights as element of China Policy, May 27, 1994” In The Search for Modern China: A Documentary Collection. Third ed. Edited by Janet Chen et. al. W. W. Norton & Company, 2014.
    • President Clinton explains why China's economic status (as Most Favored Nation) and human rights issues should be separated. (PDF)

Optional extras

If you want to read more about these topics

  • Lim, Louisa. The People's Republic of Amnesia : The Tiananmen Revisited. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, USA, 2014.
    • While any of the chapters can be read as a stand-alone chapter, I recommend the chapter "Student": it is about a young man who is a college student in the early 2010s, and his experience comes probably closest to yours, in that he has no living memory of the events of June 4, 1989, and is a college student. Some of the other chapters contain descriptions of violence and torture. Sorry, the CCP is not nice to its opponents and dissidents. (ebook Trexler)
  • “The Joint Agreement by Britain and China Defining the Future of Hong Kong, September 26, 1985” In The Search for Modern China: A Documentary Collection. Third ed. Edited by Janet Chen et. al. W. W. Norton & Company, 2014.
    • If you are curious about the official language that was used to set in motion the handover process, this is the document to read! (PDF)

Assignments

Reminder: Feedback on blog post week 12

2 points, due by Tuesday, Nov. 17, 11.59pm

How do your colleagues see Deng's impact on China? Was the economic progress worth all the sacrifices that were made? Was Deng the shrewd planner or was he just lucky that everything aligned for him?

  • Post 1:
  • Post 2:
  • Post 3:

Leave feedback, questions, thoughts, insights about the contents of the posts of your fellow students using Hypothes.is group HST439. You can ask for clarifications, point out similarities and differences with the material you covered, or with your interpretation. This should encourage you to nose around in the other materials you did not read in the first round.

Use the “Architect’s Model” of giving feedback, and engage with concrete issues. Go beyond “Yeah, I agree,” “I like” or “I think the same”, and instead explain why you have that reaction, or if you disagree, you can try to persuade the original poster of your idea or interpretation.

Remember that Hypothes.is allows for hyperlinks, e.g. to materials that support your argument, or you can include pictures (memes! [yes, there she is again]), videos etc. that help the original poster to learn more.

When you've commented on three posts, read this declaration carefully, and then fill out the Canvas quiz to collect your points.

Declaration
I commented on three fellow students' posts on the readings from Week 13 (Deng Xiaoping and the opening up of China) using the Hypothes.is group HST439.
I made sure to leave substantial comments that move the discussion forward and help to create better insights, and go beyond "nice" or "great".
I left comments that I would like to receive myself: thoughtful, helpful, kind, but also pointing out errors so they can be fixed.

Social annotation

3 points, due by Wednesday, Nov. 18, 11.59pm

  • Annotate the materials listed for this activity in the readings
    • PDF, use Hypothesis: Deng Xiaoping's explanation, Dalai Lama's lecture, and Clinton's Reevaluation.
  • Do you have questions? Post them as annotations there! Did you have to look something up? Share the definition or the information you found: chances are you are not alone!
  • Respond to comments from others: do you have a similar idea or can you shed a different light on an interpretation?

Remember that these comment sessions replace to a large degree our in-class discussion. You must take part to demonstrate your participation in the Learning Community. It's ok not to know things, but I do request that you try a quick search, maybe using the links in the resources page.

You may also start up a discussion in the Cloud Lounge (preferably in our group HST439 to keep the space tidy).

When you're done commenting, read this declaration carefully, and then fill out the Canvas quiz to collect your points.

Declaration
- After reading through all the assigned texts, I commented on all the assigned texts in the Hypothes.is group HST439.
- I made sure my comments were meaningful, either by clarifying points of potential confusion, or by responding to comments to help the discussion move forward.

Blog post

5 points, due by Friday, Nov. 20, 11.59PM

  • Blog post of 400-500 words (more info on format and possibilities)
    • Possible questions to ponder: How to write about the history of relations between China and the West in the times of an economic boom, but also during a time of increasing awareness of the human rights issues? What was the big divide between China and the West about human rights, and could it be bridged, and if so, how? And above all: how can the history you now know about China's relations with the west help you understand China's point of view that it doesn't want interference? (in other words: should a US President have a China historian on speed dial?)
  • Please indicate which texts you refer to and add your little list of works at the end. There is a lot of choice so let's make sure we can all find the sources back if we want to follow up.
  • Keep creating connections with previous weeks' materials, and keep thinking about the factors influencing the way these stories were reported. As we move closer to the present day, we may be tempted to draw more parallels with the present, but be careful: there are still major differences.
  • Include in the title the words Human rights, add the tag week13 and add the post to the category HST439.
  • Include the bibliographic references for the materials you choose, so we know which ones you picked.
    • Top tip: copy-paste from the list, they are (hopefully) correctly formatted in bibliography format for Chicago Notes and Bibliography style. No need to include (PDF) or (ebook Trexler), those are just there to help you.
  • Add an image, with a caption to credit the source. Use hyperlinks if you refer to online materials: make it easy for your reader to find those sources.

When you're done, read this declaration carefully, and then fill out the Canvas quiz to collect your points.

Declaration
- I wrote a post of 400-500 words in response to the readings and the discussion comments.
- I included the bibliographic references for the materials I used for my post.
- I included an image, I provided a caption and credit (source) for the image.
- I use the words Human rights in the title, added the tag week13, and added the post to category hst439

Feedback on blogpost week 13

2 points, due by Tuesday, Dec.1, 11.59pm

Do your colleagues bring good arguments to the debate about how we can understand these issues through the historical perspective differently? How can they sharpen them?

  • Post 1:
  • Post 2:
  • Post 3:

Leave feedback, questions, thoughts, insights about the contents of the posts of your fellow students using Hypothes.is group HST439. You can ask for clarifications, point out similarities and differences with the material you covered, or with your interpretation. This should encourage you to nose around in the other materials you did not read in the first round.

Use the “Architect’s Model” of giving feedback, and engage with concrete issues. Go beyond “Yeah, I agree,” “I like” or “I think the same”, and instead explain why you have that reaction, or if you disagree, you can try to persuade the original poster of your idea or interpretation.

Remember that Hypothes.is allows for hyperlinks, e.g. to materials that support your argument, or you can include pictures (memes! [yes, there she is again]), videos etc. that help the original poster to learn more.

When you've commented on three posts, read this declaration carefully, and then fill out the Canvas quiz to collect your points.

Declaration
I commented on three fellow students' posts on the readings from Week 13 (human rights and economic progress) using the Hypothes.is group HST439.
I made sure to leave substantial comments that move the discussion forward and help to create better insights, and go beyond "nice" or "great".
I left comments that I would like to receive myself: thoughtful, helpful, kind, but also pointing out errors so they can be fixed.

Ongoing: Contributing to the Zotero Group Library

This assignment is part of the Assignment Group "Contributing to the Resource Base"

This task is an ongoing project throughout the semester, but now is a good time to start setting up your Zotero account, download the app and install the browser extension. Check out all the details on the dedicated webpage. Thanks to the students who already set up their accounts!

Once you're set up, please let me know what your email address or Zotero user name is so I can invite you to the group library. Please note: You might want to use a non-Muhlenberg email that will stay with you after you graduate.

I hope to see you adding contributions to the Group Library shortly! Research is a collective activity, and the scholarly community is constantly sharing sources and reading lists to help find the best materials for particular projects.

Ongoing: Contributing to the Resource Base

This assignment is part of the Assignment Group "Contributing to the Resource Base" (syllabus link)

Please see details on the dedicated webpage for the kinds of contributions to make in the form of two blog posts.

If you have questions or want to suggest additional resources to list, let me know!

Annotated bibliography

More info coming soon, but preview in the syllabus

Heads up: Third Reflection coming soon

Final concluding reflection will allow you to reflect on the entire semester's worth of growth, and on your consultation with the Career Center. (Make sure to plan your appointment!)

Extra credit Tasks

EC 13-1: Follow that footnote!

3 points, due by Sunday, Nov 22, 11.59pm.

Read the instructions on this separate webpage , incl. the link there to the declaration quiz.

EC 13-2: Extra commenting

2 points, due by Sunday Nov. 22, 11.59pm.

Do you like reading your colleagues’ work? Do you like helping them out by identifying ways to make their posts better? Here’s some good news! You can earn extra credit by doing extra commenting! This assignment will be available regularly throughout the semester.

  • Go to the Blog Stream of the Class under Student Posts on the website
  • Pick a post that piques your curiosity and that you have not yet commented on
  • Use Hypothes.is group HST439, and leave feedback as we practiced with the Architects’s model
  • Pick 2 additional posts (a total of 3 for this task): they can come from other students in the blog stream, or if you like the writer, you can stay with them and comment more.
  • The only conditions are:
    • that you do not comment on blog posts you already commented on before, as part of your regular weekly “Exploration” tasks.
    • that the post is actually written for HST439, and not some other class. Check the category, and the content :upside down smiley:
  • Add the tag extra to the comment (this helps me to keep track of how many people use this option.)

When you’re done, please read this declaration carefully and collect your points with the Canvas Declaration Quiz.

Declaration
I selected three blogs I have not yet commented on before, from our class’ blog stream, and I used the Hypothes.is group HST439 to comment.
I made sure to leave substantial comments that help the writer to improve the post, or to identify their strengths.
I added the tag extra to my Hypothes.is comments.
I left comments that I would like to receive myself: thoughtful, helpful, kind, but also pointing out errors so they can be fixed.

Where to ask questions

Remember that it is highly likely that you are not the only one with that question. Save me time, and help your fellow students by asking questions where others can see them. If you know the answer to a question, jump in! I can't be everywhere all the time.

Missing link? Wrong information? Email me! "See something? Say something!"