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It is just one year since China initiated her 'one child is good' birth control campaign. Since then, over ten million couples have signed the pledge that limits their family, but also brings with it extra economic priviliges.
Shanghai, for example, recently introduced incentives for couples that marry late and put off having their single child. Men over 27 and women over 25 are entitled to extra leave for their honeymoon, the woman is entitled to extra matemity leave, and the family is allocated housing space for two children. The single child is given increased health subsidies and priority in creche and nursery school.
Those who keep their bargain with the govemment are entitled to extra retirement income, usually amounting to 70 per cent of past earnings. This is to counter the common objection to the 'one couple-one child' policy - that parents will not be cared for properly in their old age.
Each locality in China is given an annual quota of births and couples usually have to apply to local authorities to have children. In many parts of the country it is extremely difficult to obtain permission for a second child. Any couple breaking the pledge has all privileges withdrawn and must pay maternity, childcare and medical expenses.
China's most populous province, Sichuan - which has cut its population increase from 6.7 per thousand in 1979 to 4.45 per thousand in 1980 - operates a programme in its rural areas in which children surplus to the family planning programme lose their share of farmland. Parents of third and subsequent children are taxed ten work points until the children are 14, while those of single children receive extra points and the child receives a full adult grain ration. Even greater pressure is exerted in Guangxhou (Canton) municipality, which has failed to meet its target for the last four years and where the birth rate has risen sharply this year. The authorities have just launched a campaign to 'mobilise' women pregnant with their second child to have abortions.
It's not surprising that the Chinese authorities are concemed. At present the population of China is unknown, but it is believed to be around one thousand million - in a country that can only comfortably hold 650 -700 million. Whatever the true figure, the population is characterised by the large proportion of young people. Nearly one-third of the population is under 14 and 65 per cent are under the age of 32 - including 130 million of marriageable age. Between 1962 and 1972 there were more than 25 million births each year and with current efforts the rate now stands at ten million new Chinese citizens born every year.
But exhortation to limit families is ignored by many Chinese, especially those in the countryside where four-fifths of the population lives. Old traditions refuse to die here. And the most deep- rooted Chinese tradition is to have as many sons as possible. Many rural couples produce six or more children to ensure an adequate number of boys, and newspapers cite cases of husbands divorcing their wives because their single child turned out to be a girl.
Country-dwellers resent the birth control policy. They maintain that as long as they fulfil their production quotas it is up to them to decide how many children they can afford - and no business of meddling officials. Many families simply ignore the policy despite the penalties, while doctors - and unqualified people - are raking in large sums of money by illegally removing contraceptive devices from women's wombs.
It was the best of times and the worst of times. Frustrated in Vietnam, embarassed by Watergate, the US vaulted Jimmy Carter, little-known ex-Governor of Georgia, into the Presidency. Within four months he announced a new foreign policy based on promoting human rights in the Third World.
Though many govemments took Carter’s human rights admonitions with a pinch of salt, at least the rhetoric gave activists a peg on which to hang their hats. And some of the lobbying even paid off.
Now the new Reagan Administration is carefully dismantling the handiwork of its predecessor and reshaping foreign policy in a way that bluntly subverts the intentions of existing human rights legislation. ‘We are faced with an Administration dedicated to the disappearance of human rights standards in US foreign policy and the eradication of their existence in US public law’ charges Cindy Buhl, Human Rights Coordinator of the Washington-based Coalition for a New Foreign and Military Policy.
The Reaganites’ major victory so far is the repeal of the Clark Amendment, established in 1976 to prohibit US military aid to either side in the Angolan civil war. The amendment was originally established in the wake of revelations about CIA aid to the South Africa-backed UNITA guerrillas. Scrubbing the Clark Amendment is seen as a gesture of friendship to South Africa but is unlikely to win friends in black Africa.
The US has also refused to condemn South Africa’s September invasion of Angola in pursuit of SWAPO, the black nationalist group trying to free Namibia from illegal South African control. To add insult to injury, UN Ambassador Jean Kirkpatrick recently fractured a 20-year unofficial policy by meeting with South African military officials. And the first African statesman to receive Washington’s red carpet treatment was Pretoria’s Foreign Minister Pik Botha.
In Latin America too, President Reagan is bending over backwards to heal rifts with the region’s right-wing dictators. Congress has been asked to repeal the section of the Foreign Assistance Act prohibiting military aid to Argentina. And, after the defeat of his own softline nominee, Ernest Lefever, Reagan has refused to renominate anyone for head of the Human Rights bureau — rendering the ‘official’ US agency for human rights both rudderless and ineffective.
The Reagan Administration has also signalled its intent to repeal the section of the International Security Assistance and Arms Export Control Act forbidding military aid to Chile. Last August US Ambassador Kirkpatrick toured the country and announced her intention to ‘normalise relations with Chile in order to work together in a pleasant way’. This gesture of support sparked the Chilean regime to expel four leaders of the opposition two days later.
And in Central America— especially the ‘iron triangle’ of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador — those that saw Reagan’s election victory as a green light for an intensive clamp down on peasant organisations, trade unions and armed guerrillas have had their expectations amply confirmed.
In the midst of the summer doldrums, Washington reversed a four-year Congressional ban on the sale of weapons to General Garcia’s regime in Guatemala, branded by Amnesty as ‘the worst offender of human rights in the Western hemisphere. The State Department skirted the ban by reclassifying as ‘non-lethal’ 100 jeeps, 50 trucks and two million dollars-worth of spare parts for Huey helicopters used by the Guatemalan military.
Reagan’s decision to warm up an old acquaintance with Guatemala is part of a regional strategy to put the lid on ‘communist subversion’ wherever it occurs in Central America Honduras, for example, has been earmarked for generous military and economic assistance to support Honduran troops’ cooperation with the Salvadorean armed forces in harassing and murdering refugees from El Salvador.
Nicaragua, of course, has not been so favoured by Washington. Economic aid to the war-ravaged nation has slowed to a dribble and food aid has been completely cut off. The Sandinistas have been regularly smeared by the US as a front for Cuban/Soviet ‘adventurism’ and a main conduit for arms to guerrillas battling the dictatorship in El Salvador.
But it is the Reagan Administration’s determination to stick to its guns in El Salvador that is the clearest indication of human rights considerations being excised from America foreign policy. Indications are that Reagan will continue to cite ‘extraordinary circumstances’ as the rationale for additional military aid to Jose Napoleon Duarte’ s embattled regime.
Despite official endorsement by France and Mexico of the Democratic Revolutionary Front as a ‘representative political force’ in El Salvador, Reagan and his advisors are standing firm. The line on human rights has been drawn.
Paying for peace
The average British family spent $32 a week on arms last year. That’s quite a hefty addition to any household shopping basket. And its a bill many would rather not pay. But, because Britain’s arms bill is met from direct and indirect taxes it seems protesters have no option. We just stuff our payslips in a drawer, put on our coats and join the CND marchers.
But a leaflet just released by the Peace Tax Campaign (PTC) argues that there is an option to paying up. With the support of over 30 members of Parliament, the PTC in urging people to ‘divert’ the proportion of their taxes that would normally be spent or arms to a govemment department of their own choosing — the PTC suggest the Overseas Development Administration (ODA).
The leaflet, entitled Peace Tax Campaign*, points out that a future war is unlikely to be fought by conscripts, but with stockpiled nuclear weapons paid for out of taxes collected by the Inland Revenue. This situation has effectively removed the right, established since 1916, of conscientious objection. The campaign seeks to restore that right by making it possible for those who object to contributing towards the costs of massive war preparations to be legally exempt. There is no question of withholding taxes however — just diverting them for peaceful purposes.
None of us have control over the indirect taxes we pay — on petrol, cigarettes, washing powder and so on. And most of us —those with jobs, that is — have our direct (income) taxes deducted before we receive our wage packets. But the self-employed make their own individual contributions to the Inland Revenue; and it is they who are in the best position to be involved in PTC’s ‘send two cheques’ campaign.
The amounts are calculated as follows:
Britain’s military bill for 1981/2 is £12,668,000,000 (about $25 billion); estimated income tax revenue for 1981/2 is $28,202,000,O00 (about $56 billion). So 45 per cent of income taxes would cover Britain’s military spending during that year.
Jenny Aste, a self-employed bookbinder from York, did her sums and sent her two cheques — one made out to the Inland Revenue, and one to be forwarded by them to the ODA. At first her cheques were accepted by her local Tax Collector after noises had been made on her behalf by her M.P., Alex Lyon. But later she received a letter from Home Office regretting her inconvenience and admitting that. . . the truth of the matter is that the Board of the Inland Revenue have an obligation laid on them by Parliament to secure payment to themselves and not to any other department.
At the end of March, Ms. Aste paid up. In June she tried something else. She opened a deposit account — a Peace Tax account — and paid her 45 per cent ‘second cheque’ into that. So far there has been no response from the Inland Revenue.
Meanwhile the Central Electricity Generating Board is wondering what to do about the 1,000-odd part-paid bills they have received over the past year. The Sheffield branch of the Anti-Nuclear Campaign has calculated that 11 per cent of household electricity in England and Wales comes from nuclear power stations. So, following the example of a massive consumer campaign in West Germany in which over 10,000 people have refused to pay for nuclear-generated electricity, the Anti-Nuclear Campaign has set up a trust fund for protesters to pay in their 11 per cent.
*The leaflet is obtainable from Peace Tax Campaign, 26 Thurlow Road, Leicester LEZ 1YE, UK
High pressure, low profile
The IMF may not be a household name but its politics are of intense concern in the Third World, where the Western-dominated Fund has been roundly scolded recently for its allegedly pro-free enterprise stance.
Eighteen months ago spokesmen from 20 developing nations denounced the IMF’s tactics in a document called the Arusha Initiative(see Update, NI No. 92). They were especially scathing about IMF ‘conditionality’ — the strict rules countries must abide by if they want help with balance-of-payments problems.
More recently the Fund has been trying to sooth a disgruntled developing world with fulsome promises to relax its more stringent conditions. But, as the global economy continues to nosedive, figures released in Washington imply that the IMF is trying to wriggle out of its new leniency.
Since the 1979-80 oil price hikes about 75 per cent of IMF lending has been tagged with hard-line conditions — usually including exchange rate devaluations and tough economic ‘performance tests’ every three months. If a country fails the tests six months running the Fund can blithely pull the plug. And if the IMF pulls out, every private banker worth his salt will follow suit.
At the same time total IMF loans have soared. In the first six months of this year the Fund gave out more than in the whole of 1980. Much of the increase is due to the Fund pedalling hard to re-cycle a new mountain of petrodollars from the 1979/80 OPEC increases. Multinational commercial banks, which were responsible for nearly all re-cycling during the 1970s, are less enthusiastic today. And with good reason. Much of the Third World is loaded to the gunwales with debt, so the big banks are stepping softly. Instead they are content to leave the centre-stage to the IMF and World Bank.
And the IMF is no demure debutante. It has stepped into the breach with a vengeance, increasing its capital base 50 per cent last year and nearly tripling its lending capacity. All this indicates the Fund is likely to veer even further from its traditional ‘last resort’ role for balance-of-pay¬ments deficits.
While this may be good news for international bankers and their multinational buddies, it’s a body blow for those few developing countries still trying to forge an alternate development based on increasing living standards of the poor.
Compounding the problem, countries like Brazil and India have recently administered their own IMF-style medicine: Brazil in the hope it will forestall having to approach the Fund, and India in preparation for an all-time record $5.7 billion loan in November. Meanwhile, the new free-enterprise Jamaican government has willingly accepted IMF conditions in return for a heady injection of US private capital and government aid.
Others may not be so fortunate. Especially countries whose policies favour public ownership, controls on foreign investment and higher prices for primary exports.
But the clearest message to emerge from IMF figures released in Washington is that vocal Third World critics are badly outflanked. A lack of effective leadership together with powerlessness brought on by deepening global recession have combined to give the IMF the upper hand. And that does not bode well for Third World governments trying to break out of the mould of dependent development.
Big Brother bother
Coyly, but not reluctantly, New Zealand’s Prime Minister Robert Muldoon let the world’s press know in October that he had a dossier on Commonwealth members’ human rights records. Speaking at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Melbourne, Australia, he didn’t mention whether the dossier included an inward look at New Zealand itself.
Yet in Melbourne during the CHOGM were two people — one Maori, one caucasian — to rebut Muldoon’s claim that New Zealand has a human rights record ‘second to none’.
The Maori, Josie Keelan, was there to publicise a report entitled Human rights and racism in New Zealand just released by the all-white Auckland Committee on Racism and Discrimination. The caucasian, David Cuthbert, was in town on behalf of Halt All Racist Tours (HART), the New Zealand anti-apartheid movement which played the leading role in efforts to stop the South African Springboks’ rugby tour of New Zealand this summer.
Cuthbert revealed that a new law currently before Parliament in Wellington could make it illegal for him to continue HART’s campaign outside New Zealand. The proposed amendment is to the Crimes Act of 1961 and the operative words are: ‘Everyone is liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 14 years who... communicates information. . . to a country or organisation outside New Zealand... if the communication . . . is likely to prejudice the . . . international relations of New Zealand’. An alarmed government is telling its citizens to keep New Zealand’s dirty linen out of the international laundry.
About the same time as Cuthbert and Keelan were seeking media contact in Melbourne, the CHOGM Secretariat — safely tucked behind heavy Australian security screens — received a telex from the capital of Australia’s Deep North, Brisbane. It was from the Foundation for Aboriginal and Island Research Action. FAIRA was trying to bring Commonwealth members’ attention to a similar piece of restrictive legislation in Queensland, host to next year’s Commonwealth Games.
To keep anti-racist protestors in line during the Games, the Queensland State Government, led by New Zealand-born Johannes Bjelke-Petersen, plans a Commonwealth Games Security Act Among its powers will be authority for police to enter the homes of known political protestors, seize property, detain people thought to be troublemakers and distribute photographs of suspected people. Immediate arrest and heavy penalties will face anyone who resists.
FAIRA sees the legislation as more than just a move to ensure a quiet, smoothly-running Games. Its telex to CHOGM pointed out that ‘Many Queenslanders believe the government is merely creating a political climate favourable to overseas investments.’
Organised political protest without advance police permission is already illegal in Queensland, whose majority white government is unlikely to topple from office for many years to come.
At least in New Zealand, with a general election due on November 28th, there is some hope that the new government will take a second look at the dangerous legislation which is being proposed for a nation which prides itself on its democratic heritage.