China’s take on the U.S.

Perhaps the most refreshing yearly exercise undertaken by the U.S. government (and some years, nearly the only refreshing exercise) is an annual Human Rights Report put out by the State Department. The State Department began publishing the reports during the Carter years, and no one since – not even Reagan, and not even the younger Bush, at least so far – has had the courage to pull the plug on it.

The report is subject to all kinds of political pressure, and so is predictably harder on America’s foes than its friends. (For examples, Human Rights Watch provides a helpful critique of the report each year, shortly after it’s been released). But reality – with a little help from strenuous lobbying by groups like Human Right Watch – imposes real constraints on how far the report can stray from the truth. In the end, the report comes close enough to the truth to enrage allies, and that’s part of what makes refreshing, even if it receives scant attention from the U.S. media.

Even less heed is paid to international criticism of the report by countries angered by such attention from a country they often consider flawed itself. And so this counter-report by the Chinese government was predicably overlooked. I’ve only had a chance to skim it, but it makes for some interesting reading.

China, of course, has a disgusting record of human rights violations, and is itself in an awkward position to be throwing around criticism on the same matter. But this kind of mutual scrutiny is healthy for all.