China Forced to Temper Its Mercenary Approach to International Trade

China trades with authoritarian regimes, such as Burma, sells arms to human rights abusers, and exploits its own workforce. It seems determined to take the ethos of Western corporations – “ye who enter the marketplace, abandon all ethics” – to the next level. Recently though, called out for such behavior, it’s been forced to backtrack. Toronto’s Globe and Mail broke the story.

China offered huge stockpiles of weapons to Colonel Moammar Gadhafi during the final months of his regime, according to [showing] that state-controlled Chinese arms manufacturers were prepared to sell weapons and ammunition worth at least $200-million to the embattled Col. Gadhafi in late July, a violation of United Nations sanctions.

The Christian Science Monitor captures China backpedaling.

China has denied selling weapons to Muammar Qaddafi’s regime in violation of a UN embargo, but admits that Libyan officials did meet with Chinese arms manufacturers over the possibility of a sale.

China also felt compelled to withdraw from a trade agreement with Iran, which, of course, is under heavy U.S. sanctions. Reuters reports.

China has put the brakes on oil and gas investments in Iran, drawing ire from Tehran. … The slowing of China’s energy investments in Iran was prompted, at least partly, by Beijing’s efforts since late 2010 to ease tension with the Obama administration and cut the risk of Chinese oil firms being hit by U.S. sanctions that Congress has vigorously backed, said officials.

Maybe China’s recent prudence reflects a new policy. Xinhuanet reports on a white paper that the Chinese government just released. (Thanks to Bernhard of Moon of Alabama for bringing it to our attention.)

The white paper, titled “China’s Peaceful Development”, was released by the State Council Information Office. It introduces the path, objective and foreign policy of the peaceful development and elaborates on what China’s peaceful development means to the rest of the world. … The Chinese have a strong collective consciousness and sense of social responsibility. The paper says “we believe that ‘you should not do unto others what you would not have them do unto you.’”

… China has no reason to deviate from the path of peaceful development. China’s … national interests and its long-term interests — all these factors have created the innate force driving China’s peaceful development [which] has broken away from the traditional pattern where a rising power was bound to seek hegemony.

China gets a lot of mileage out of not having started any wars recently. But it’s about time it started factoring into its decisions the impact of its international trade policies on the world. China’s belief that business outranks all other considerations is extremely short-sighted, nor is it becoming of a world citizen.