In the rush to China over the past decade, many of us thought that our mere presence -- not to mention our dollars and euros -- would be enough to encourage the type of change that creates additional freedoms for those who live within its borders. But has it? Torbjörn Thorsen recently authored a post titled Should Ethics Play a Part in Global Sourcing? That got me thinking. In it, he suggests that since Tiananmen Square, three key rights are still not respected by the Chinese government: human rights issues, freedom of speech and censorship.
Supporting Torbjörn's premise, a recent piece on NPR revealed that many high school aged children in China read and learned about the massacre at Tiananmen Square for the first time when the Chinese Government temporarily suspended internet censorship during the Olympics. But I also know a number of people in China who have harshly criticized the US government under Bush for trampling on human rights as well (in some cases, justifiably so).
The real issue for me regarding China and ethics is one of business direction and orientation. Someone we work with closely in China confided in us on one trip over that he wished he had worked in government rather than in business. After seeing many bribes to officials over the years and the general compensation package for government employees at his level, he decided for himself that he could make more money (or at least support a better lifestyle) in government versus outside of it. Combined with the other abuses outlined above, this is particularly scary since many other countries are guilty of creating similar disconnects when it comes to career choice.
After all, when government has such a central role and the hardest working and best and brightest want to go into it to enjoy a better lifestyle, the central authority will always seek to protect itself and those associated with it, prolonging the cycle of other abuses to defend the contrived benefits that those in power enjoy. Until this changes, it's unlikely that we'll see any significant changes in the underlying issues that Torbjörn suggests.