Connect with:
Sunday, April 22, 2018
HomePolitics and PolicyWalker’s China Syndrome: Ignoring the human rights problem

Walker’s China Syndrome: Ignoring the human rights problem

REPUTATION OF CHINA IS SUB PAR

Gov. Bill Walker knows China has an image problem. It’s a threat to his plans for the AK-LNG project — the Alaska Gasline.

The image is well-earned: China is supporting terror, killing dissidents, and recently created a system of classifying politically acceptable citizens in a “social credit” system that will keep everyone in line. Think of it as a credit score given to you by the government that will determine if you can get work, housing, or services — or perhaps be assigned to a labor camp.

Hawkins

Ah, communism. It’s all in a day’s work.

China hasn’t developed a love of democracy, even while it becomes a major economic powerhouse. The Trump Administration, following up on the promise of Trump-the-candidate, announced steep tariffs against Chinese steel. Trump is weighing whether to penalize Chinese investments in the U.S. and impose China-specific tariffs on other imports as a way to punish the communist country for its intellectual property theft.

But if President Trump is finding China to be in need of course correction on the trade front, Gov. Walker sees opportunity for Alaska.

What better time to stand up a “reputation management campaign” for China than right now, as Walker is trying to get investment into his newly socialized gasline?

TIME TO HOLD AN UPBEAT PRESS CONFERENCE

On Monday,  Gov. Walker held a nearly content-free press conference to talk about his next trip to China with Alaska Gasline Development Corporation President Keith Meyer.
He used the event to describe the many ways that China is a great partner to Alaska. The wide-ranging topics were aspirational. Reporters, brought in to hear what was supposed to be big news, struggled to find anything to write about.
There was this: Walker is inviting Alaska business owners to go along with him and Meyer on the May trip they’re making to China; businesses can apply to be part of what is described broadly as a “trade mission,” that isn’t just focused on the AK-LNG project, although that is clearly the main topic.
The deadline for applying to participate in the trip to China is April 1, and participants will be required to pay their own way, including $3,000 in a “participation fee” that covers logistics, interpreters, and other associated costs. Participants must cover their own travel and lodging costs.
During his press conference, Walker introduced a representative from the Alaska Chinese Association, who said how pleased the Chinese community in Alaska is to have a governor interested in the relationship between China and Alaska. She put a soft focus on the country, although her relationship to the Chinese government was never explained.
Last month, Walker paid a visit to that organization and its Yen Wulin Chinese School in Anchorage.

Gov. Bill Walker and First Lady Donna Walker at the Alaska Chinese School / Xinhua Net News photo by Liu Quan

Walker also gave the new manager of the Ted Stevens International Airport a chance to talk about the aspirations the airport has to get direct flights to and from China.
Airport Manager Jim Szczesniak spoke about how there is a pilot shortage, an aircraft shortage, and a “slot problem,” a term for scheduling, which he said Anchorage is in a unique position to address.
But Szczesniak had no specifics during the press conference — he stuck to the familiar talking points that describe Anchorage’s great strategic location. His remarks were, too, aspirational.
Keith Meyer, head of the gasline office for Walker, was asked by reporters whether the steep new tariffs would impact the cost of building the gasline. Meyer gave no specifics but said the tariffs would have a negligible effect on the $0-60 billion project. He reiterated that the gasline is an important piece of the puzzle in addressing the U.S.-China trade imbalance.
Meyer said that Trump’s tougher stance on trade with China was actually a good thing for the Alaska gasline and really harmonious with our mission.”

CHINA BUYS ALASKA SEAFOOD, TOURISM COULD FOLLOW

China is Alaska’s largest trade customer, accounting for  30 percent of the state’s seafood exports.  Alaska has also exported mineral and timber, but in spite of that is at the bottom of the states with overall business with China.

Visit Anchorage CEO Julie Saupe was invited to speak during the press conference and cited anecdotal stories about China’s increased interest in Alaska as a tourism destination. She, too, spoke of Alaska’s aspirations to drive more Chinese tourists this way.

CHINA: POLITICAL REPRESSION ON THE RISE

If softening China’s image with Alaskans was the goal of the press conference, Walker succeeded with the press corps, as reporters didn’t ask him about his views on the nation’s human rights violations and whether that is a problem for Alaska.

China executes more people, including political dissidents, than any other country, practices forced abortion, operates slave labor factories, and covertly has supported rogue countries like North Korea and Iran.

Dissent is being quashed, with censors now banning the phrase “personality cult,” “emperor” and “Winnie the Pooh” — a phrase that has been used to mock President Xi Jinping.

Maya Wang of  Human Rights Watch describes the current repression as the worst since 1989’s bloody crackdown on pro-democracy protests centred on Beijing’s Tiananmen Square.

“We feel we haven’t hit bottom yet,” she said in an interview with the South China Morning Post.

President Xi is being granted increased powers that include an unlimited term of office by China’s People’s Congress, which convened this week. Not since Mao Tse Tung has the country’s leader been able to serve for more than 10 years.

As dictator for life, Xi is consolidating power, and at 64 years old he could retain power for another 20 years or more.

Gov. Walker’s focus on China legitimizes the highly authoritarian, Communist one-party system that is crushing dissent and criticism. With China’s increased interest in the Arctic, Walker may be creating a relationship with China that Alaskans will have more questions about than the few that were asked by the press corps on Monday.
Must Read Alaska readers are invited to pose their questions below.
Donations Welcome
Written by

Suzanne Downing had careers in business and journalism before serving as the Director of Faith and Community-based Initiatives for Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and returning to Alaska to serve as speechwriter for Gov. Sean Parnell. Born on the Oregon coast, she moved to Alaska in 1969.

Latest comments

  • Walker is a whore. The cost is now 60 bil for the gasline? That number sounds familiar. About the value of “The Fund?”

  • Walker’s idolization of China’s way of governing will only become a concern IF he gets a second term and chances of that to not seem immense.

  • Would you prefer Equifax with that?
    The Social Credit system integrates information by regulating data exchanges and information sharing between different regions and departments, with much of it made public. That doesn’t mean that the information will somehow be crafted into a unified score: that wouldn’t be very useful to anyone.

    Information on natural persons’ religious faith, genetics, fingerprints, blood type, illnesses or medical history must NOT be collected as either public or market credit information.The government may have some of this information on file for its citizens, but it is not to be considered in evaluating ‘credit’ no matter how useful it is for predicting compliance with legal obligations.

    The Social Credit system’s most significant aspects are:

    1. It’s essentially an Amazon Review of everyone by everyone they’ve ever dealt with. It’s exactly like the ‘reviews’ we give friends (behind their backs?), constantly updated in the same ways.

    2. It ranks not only every citizen who chooses to participate, but every government official, cop, judge, department, corporation and shoeshine. It’s truly universal. There’s no privileged, hidden operator that’s spared, and no-one pulling the strings.

    3. It’s a popular initiative as much as a government initiative: the Chinese are the most trusting people on earth and they’re tired of being scammed online for billions each year. They’re especially trusting of their government which 86% of people say works for everybody and not just for a fortunate few.

    4. It’s not just for citizens. Government departments, officials, cops, corporations, Supreme Court justices, Congresspeople–everyone gets social credit if they want it (participation is voluntary). Doesn’t this sound better than our system, where private corporations rate us and sell the information to other private corporations and government agencies without our permission and with limited access–but offer no reciprocity? Ask TRW for a vendor rating and see how far you get.

    5. It’s 90% carrot and 10% stick: the higher your score the easier your life becomes. Japan and the Netherlands, for example, now offer expedited visa processing for Chinese travelers with scores above 750. Landlords waive deposits if you’re over 800…and so on.

    6. It’s part of China’s 2,000-year-old plan to create a datong society in which (to be brief) everybody is taken care of and nobody needs to lock their doors at night–a goal that every Chinese supports and which the government hopes to deliver by 2049. That means they have to hustle.

    In short, our media are interpreting yet another Chinese policy in Western terms. China is nothing like us. Nothing. It’s a different civilization and it does things differently.