China and UK £1.4 Billion Trade Deal – Just Don’t Mention Chinese Democracy

Today the British government signed a trade deal with China worth it is said £1.4bn to British businesses.

The two respective leaders David Cameron and Wen Jiabao made the expected speeches about their country benefiting from the others prosperity and ever closer relationships, if mercantile ones.

Human Rights was raised and the Chinese Premier did his usual dance ‘that things were getting better’ without giving any examples to support this. The UK Prime Minister stated that human rights were not ‘off limits’ though again it was not clear what if any issues were raised between them.

The Chinese premier said ‘On human rights, China and the UK should respect each other, respect the facts, treat each other as equals, engage in more co-operation than finger-pointing.’ Treat each other as equals – the gall!

The elephant in the room of course is that the Chinese Premier is an unelected leader. I don’t believe you can have human rights without democracy which is not to say that democracy itself guarantees a human rights paradise. But it does provide a foundation and framework, rights of appeal and transparent processes.

To expect respect for human rights from a tyrant is absurd – wherever you may rate them on the scale of malign dictator to benign autocrat.

If China was a small and impoverished nation with the same democratic framework one can but imagine the vitriol and campaigning against it. But because of its size and ever-increasing economic power our democratic leaders couch their opposition to China’s human rights violations and lack of democracy in the most asinine diplomatic language as clearly for them money matters most.

If any Country did speak out too vocally against China they would be cut off from its huge growing teat – so all is silence. Our own Prime Minister to his credit did write last year that economic development must be underscored by democratic development – but rhetoric is never enough.

Which of our Global democracies will speak out against China? Not the UK, not Europe, not the USA, no-one?