China Bashing Is All The Rage, From Mitt Romney To French Leftists

"Those were our jobs...!" Inside a Shanghai plant of steel giant Baosteel.
"Those were our jobs...!" Inside a Shanghai plant of steel giant Baosteel.
François Bougon

PARIS - In the United States, "China bashing" is in full swing. Denigrating China has been a mainstay of the American presidential campaign, in a time of economic one-upmanship between Washington and Beijing.

During the final televised debate, devoted to foreign policy, Republican candidate Mitt Romney once again accused Beijing of manipulating its currency and violating trade rules - behavior that has resulted in layoffs and bankruptcies in the world's top economic power.

“They're stealing our intellectual property, our patents, our designs, our technology, hacking into our computers, counterfeiting our goods," said Mr. Romney, citing as an example one American manufacturer whose products were counterfeited in China and sold on the American market.

Meanwhile, across the Atlantic, after sporting a French striped sailor top to promote “Made in France” products, Industry Minister Arnaud Montebourg, spoke of catastrophic consequences after China's integration into the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 2001.

"China was allowed to enter the WTO without anything in exchange," he proclaimed, deploring the hundreds of thousands of French people who have lost their jobs because of "unfair competition" and because of "scandalous unfair globalization."

There is surely some truth in these allegations, notably in regards to the need to better protect intellectual property and the need for China and Japan to open up their markets.

Populism and patriotism

Still, populist rhetoric and electoral arguments are not enough to hide a few truths about the West's responsibilities. Globalization has certainly not only benefited the emerging economies of Asia, of which China is at the forefront, it has allowed European (and American) companies to export to the most dynamic markets in the world.

In his crusade for economic patriotism, Montebourg also brought up the free trade agreement between the European Union (EU) and South Korea, which he says allowed automobile manufacturers to strengthen their position on the European continent.

However, as the European Commission reminded him, the agreement allowed the EU to increase its exports to South Korea by 20%. Also, it underlined that "a large part of Kia and Hyundai cars are produced in Europe."

Is it wise for a crisis-ridden Europe to fight Asian investors, when those same investors are the ones creating the jobs? The euro zone wants to reindustrialize; however, as the Robert-Schuman Foundation highlighted, it is a "victim of political unwillingness to reorganize Europe's economy, in particular national industry," in a way that would see them become more integrated yet more diverse. That's where the necessity lies - in "inventing new political, economic and industrial tools." Could this signify a new battle for Mr. Montebourg?

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What It Means When The Jews Of Germany No Longer Feel Safe

A neo-Nazi has been buried in the former grave of a Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender – not an oversight, but a deliberate provocation. This is just one more example of antisemitism on the rise in Germany, and society's inability to respond.

At a protest against antisemitism in Berlin

Eva Marie Kogel


BERLIN — If you want to check the state of your society, there's a simple test: as the U.S. High Commissioner for Germany, John Jay McCloy, said in 1949, the touchstone for a democracy is the well-being of Jews. This litmus test is still relevant today. And it seems Germany would not pass.

Incidents are piling up. Most recently, groups of neo-Nazis from across the country traveled to a church near Berlin for the funeral of a well-known far-right figure. He was buried in the former grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender, a gravesite chosen deliberately by the right-wing extremists.

The incident at the cemetery

They intentionally chose a Jewish grave as an act of provocation, trying to gain maximum publicity for this act of desecration. And the cemetery authorities at the graveyard in Stahnsdorf fell for it. The church issued an immediate apology, calling it a "terrible mistake" and saying they "must immediately see whether and what we can undo."

There are so many incidents that get little to no media attention.

It's unfathomable that this burial was allowed to take place at all, but now the cemetery authorities need to make a decision quickly about how to put things right. Otherwise, the grave may well become a pilgrimage site for Holocaust deniers and antisemites.

The incident has garnered attention in the international press and it will live long in the memory. Like the case of singer-songwriter Gil Ofarim, who recently claimed he was subjected to antisemitic abuse at a hotel in Leipzig. Details of the crime are still being investigated. But there are so many other incidents that get little to no media attention.

Photo of the grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender

The grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender

Jens Kalaene/dpa/ZUMA

Crimes against Jews are rising

Across all parts of society, antisemitism is on the rise. Until a few years ago, Jewish life was seen as an accepted part of German society. Since the attack on the synagogue in Halle in 2019, the picture has changed: it was a bitter reminder that right-wing terror against Jewish people has a long, unbroken history in Germany.

Stories have abounded about the coronavirus crisis being a Jewish conspiracy; meanwhile, Muslim antisemitism is becoming louder and more forceful. The anti-Israel boycott movement BDS rears its head in every debate on antisemitism, just as left-wing or post-colonial thinking are part of every discussion.

Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.

Since 2015, the number of antisemitic crimes recorded has risen by about a third, to 2,350. But victims only report around 20% of cases. Some choose not to because they've had bad experiences with the police, others because they're afraid of the perpetrators, and still others because they just want to put it behind them. Victims clearly hold out little hope of useful reaction from the state – so crimes go unreported.

And the reality of Jewish life in Germany is a dark one. Sociologists say that Jewish children are living out their "identity under siege." What impact does it have on them when they can only go to nursery under police protection? Or when they hear Holocaust jokes at school?

Germany needs to take its antisemitism seriously

This shows that the country of commemorative services and "stumbling blocks" placed in sidewalks as a memorial to victims of the Nazis has lost its moral compass. To make it point true north again, antisemitism needs to be documented from the perspective of those affected, making it visible to the non-Jewish population. And Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.

That is the first thing. The second is that we need to talk about specifically German forms of antisemitism. For example, the fact that in no other EU country are Jewish people so often confronted about the Israeli government's policies (according to a survey, 41% of German Jews have experienced this, while the EU average is 28%). Projecting the old antisemitism onto the state of Israel offers people a more comfortable target for their arguments.

Our society needs to have more conversations about antisemitism. The test of German democracy, as McCloy called it, starts with taking these concerns seriously and talking about them. We need to have these conversations because it affects all of us. It's about saving our democracy. Before it's too late.

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