This appears in the comments of NYT’s recent report “President Obama in China”, and I find it worth quotation here:
“Americans honestly do not care about the well-being of the Chinese people. Witness the constant prattle about human rights and ‘universal freedoms’ in both Africa and Asia, where until recently people were dying of starvation and malnutrition (and, in some places, still are). While there are serious issues with human rights in China today, a distinction should be made between the true need for reform in that nation, and the cudgel of human rights that America cynically deploys for selfish geopolitical gain.
For a country which experienced 1,828 famines in a little over 2,000 years of recorded history (culminating in the disastrous famine following Mao’s stupendously idiotic Great Leap Forward), today’s relative measure of prosperity following Deng Xiaoping’s capitalist reforms is unprecedented, both in its sheer scale and in the extent to which it has touched the lives of ordinary individuals. China’s technocratic leaders are not beggaring their people like the North Korean government, and so attacks must approach from a different direction.
Thus, the distinctly self-interested attacks recently. Arguments that a devalued currency is harming America’s economy, even though that devaluation is enabled in part by profligate government spending. Arguments that Chinese military spending is worrying, even though it is still dwarfed by American military expenditures. Arguments that Chinese investment in Africa is imperialist and neo-colonialist, even though not a single Chinese soldier is deployed on African soil on any sort of unilateral mission to coerce or threaten an established African government. Arguments that Chinese hegemony threatens Asia, even though China has settled 17 of 24 outstanding border disputes (many of which predated the PRC) through negotiation, conceding on average more than half the contested land in question, even though China has not waged a remotely aggressive war in more than 25 years, and even though Americans feel they have a God-given right to extend their military hegemony right up to the coastline of China (and probably further inland, if they could say so without appearing churlish).
One final word, about Tibet. It is true that terrible atrocities were committed in Tibet, that autonomy deserves consideration (to whatever degree), and that the PRC’s attacks on the Dalai Lama are more or less unwarranted. And Americans and Europeans should criticize these. But the sanctimonious moralizing which seeks to dehumanize the entirety of the Chinese population (not to mention their culture and government) is especially galling in light of their own sordid records on the issue. But then again, if the Chinese had truly treated the Tibetans like the way the people of the United States treated native Americans, or like the way British settlers treated the indigenous people of Australia, there would certainly be far fewer of them alive to cry out and cause such a ruckus today.”