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PS Say More: Aryeh Neier

Summary:
In last week's edition of Say More, Angus Deaton, the 2015 Nobel laureate in economics and a professor emeritus at Princeton University, discussed how to tackle America’s “deaths of despair,” suggested which philosophers every economist should read, and addressed what US voters need to know before November’s presidential election. Project Syndicate: The revival of authoritarianism in China under President Xi Jinping, to which you recently called attention, has been widely reported internationally, but also widely ignored, owing largely to China’s massive economic clout. Now, however, the consequences of China’s internal repression are going global in the form of a deadly outbreak of a new coronavirus, COVID-19, that Xi’s regime

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In last week's edition of Say More, Angus Deaton, the 2015 Nobel laureate in economics and a professor emeritus at Princeton University, discussed how to tackle America’s “deaths of despair,” suggested which philosophers every economist should read, and addressed what US voters need to know before November’s presidential election.

Project Syndicate: The revival of authoritarianism in China under President Xi Jinping, to which you recently called attention, has been widely reported internationally, but also widely ignored, owing largely to China’s massive economic clout. Now, however, the consequences of China’s internal repression are going global in the form of a deadly outbreak of a new coronavirus, COVID-19, that Xi’s regime sought to downplay, evidently putting its own reputation ahead of immediate action to contain the bug. Will this episode force the international community, or at least key players such as the European Union, to reconsider their business-first approach to Xi’s China?

Aryeh Neier: We don’t yet know whether COVID-19 will lead to a global pandemic, but the possibility is frightening. As I note in my new PS commentary, if the Chinese authorities’ initial reaction to the virus had not been to cover it up, it may have been contained. This underscores, yet again, how dangerous it is when governments suppress information and, more broadly, when they lack the public accountability that is an essential characteristic of an open society.

But governments will not reconsider how they deal with China without extensive public discussion. And, unfortunately, that level of debate is unlikely to emerge unless our worst fears of a COVID-19 pandemic are realized.

PS: Any progress would require international human-rights leadership, especially from the United States. As you’ve pointed out, that is in short supply nowadays. It seems farfetched to expect a reversal from President Donald Trump, who is ramping up immigration policies that themselves violate recognized human rights, such as the right to asylum. What steps would his successor need to take most urgently – whether beginning in 2021 or 2025 – to restore US leadership on human rights?

AN: For starters, Trump’s successor must eschew his practice of praising “strongman” leaders, such as Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro, China’s Xi Jinping, Egypt’s Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, Hungary’s Viktor Orbán, India’s Narendra Modi, the Philippines’ Rodrigo Duterte, Russia’s Vladimir Putin, Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, and the Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman. It encourages their abusive practices.

Moreover, the US can be a credible advocate of human rights internationally only if respects human rights at home. That means ensuring that immigration policy (and practice) does not discriminate on religious or racial grounds; treating migrants humanely; protecting, rather than suppressing, the votes of racial minorities; reducing the number of incarcerated people; and not celebrating US war criminals as heroes.

PS: You’ve condemned the International Criminal Court’s failure to fulfill its role as a force for transnational justice, pointing out that though it has initiated proceedings against multiple heads of state, none has been convicted. “Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir was indicted a decade ago for crimes...

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