We need a progressive agenda for human rights that is more than a knee-jerk response to the multinationals that are shaping post-cold war foreign policy. To protect its own profitability, business opposes economic sanctions against human rights violators. But this doesn’t neces- sarily mean we should favor sanctions.
China’s human rights abuses are in the lime- light not because they are exceptionally egre- gious but because China’s trade surplus with the United States is huge and its future as an eco- nomic power is frightening. Sanctions are pro- moted as being in the best political and economic interests of both American and third world work- ers—more human rights in poor countries sup- posedly mean more political clout for labor and hence better working conditions. Thus, political idealism and economic pragmatism operate in unison and many American progressives clamor for trade sanctions to kill two birds—China’s...
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