The ethics impact on Sino-U.S. relation when Apple lost its value


Traditional ethics theory of international relation concerned much more moral significance in acts of state and diplomatic policy, its core is the relationship between the moral and interest.  At present, the scope and impact of ethics in international affairs are constantly expanding. Specification of the values of human rights, democracy, humanitarian intervention, distributive justice is undergoing a significant evolution. If the traditional focus on international order, the ethics of international relations have increasingly embraced international justice into their own research agenda. Just as these years, the two countries criticized each other human rights issues, which are a structural political problem, and also an ethics controversy. Under the prerequisite of understanding and respecting the other side’s ethical tradition, as the Confucian ethics saying, seek common ground while reserving differences.

During Cold War period, The United States maintain alliance relationship with dictatorship like Spain, Portugal, and South Korea. At that time, these countries are in dictatorship or warlords ruled, the Government's rights are not given by the local people. This is contrary to the spirit of American founding philosophy which is liberty and democracy. However, in order to counter the Soviet Union, the United States admitted these countries, and supported these regimes.

As a result, the ethics of democracy there was a big contradiction with the national safety and interests. On the one hand The United States are always pursuing the spirit of freedom and democracy which had been deeply rooted into the American minds. On the other hand, surrounded by the Soviet Union and the red communist, the United States had to joint those authoritarian countries together. For example, signed in 1953 in Seoul, valid indefinitely "US-ROK Mutual Defense Treaty”. In 1954, United States signed the “US-Taiwan Mutual Defense Treaty” with the Taiwan authorities. And in 1951, “US-Philippine defense treaty” signed in Washington. 

But with the collapse of the bipolar structure, the world politics gradually move towards democratization, Spain, Portugal, South Korea, and even Indonesia transformed into democratic political regimes. There is less and less challenge for the ethical diplomacy of the US, in another word, the ethics has more implication on the international affairs, while, the ethics is more likely to be used as a pretense for those countries which over interfering the inner issue of other country.



Although the ethics gradually play an important role in international affairs, some contradictions are still out there. We use Taiwan as an example to illustrate what actually the ethics bring to Sino-U.S. relation.  

Since 1949 as the United States cannot stop interfering in Taiwan, the Taiwan issue will continue to seriously disturb Sino—U.S. relations. But with the 30-years fast development of China, the US has been getting more and more economic benefit from the mutual trade and direct investment. After entering the 21st century, the economic cooperation promoted the connection between two countries. On the one hand, the United States has kept relative peace in the Taiwan Strait as one of the important connotations of its strategy toward China. This means that the conflict on the Taiwan issue between the United States and China has eased to some extent. It is a generally acknowledge that the two sides more clearly recognize that maintaining relatively stable Sino—U.S. relations and developing broader Sino—U.S. cooperation are in accordance with the interests of both sides during the past 30 years and in the long run.  On the other hand, while interfering in the Taiwan issue, the aim of maintaining democracy and independence in Taiwan is still the core ethical value of American foreign policy. In historical tradition, Washington supports the independence of Taiwan which can be proven by “Mutual Defense Treaty” and “Laws of Relation with Taiwan”, signed in the year of 1954 and 1979. These used to be explained by US government for an ethical reason that arms sales to Taiwan can prevent mainland force threat and protect their democratic regime. Democracy is a good thing, as long as it doesn’t threaten the benefit of the Unite State.     So the consideration in ethical side and benefit in economical side has leaded the US into a dilemma situation. The Taiwan issue in Sino—U.S. relations may be entering a new phase of more complex but eased conflict.       

From the view of Chinese side, by ethical channel, the US hopes to shape Taiwan into a “model of democracy”, so as to maintain influence and pressure on the Chinese mainland. In other word, in addition to the U.S. Pacific strategy and practical interests, the Unite State believes that Taiwan is a democratic forces and the mainland is controlled by communist regime. It is a good way to use Taiwan to penetration values of freedom and democracy, and further promote democratization of mainland through the political, economic and cultural fields, ultimately, prompting “peaceful evolution”. Actually the impact has been reflected. In the students around, someone dreams to settle in Taiwan, and many students strive for the opportunity to exchange to the university in Taiwan. Especially China economy is in transition period. The call for society reform is urgent, while heavy resistance makes it unable to move. In the inner structure, China is facing with the Middle-income trap. Since the democratic political system still needs to be improved, the upward flow channel for young people is blocking, those hard-working, talented young people become more and more pessimistic, even self-serving realist.


Another example is Apple. Since 2008, Apple marketing in China with great success, but its Chinese suppliers has been suffering in the issue of environmental protection, labor rights and other NGOs condemned, and Apple's attitude is resistant to change. It was called “poison apple”. From the main supplier Foxconn bad and inhuman working environment and the chain of suicide to many environmental organizations protest excessive pollution emissions by these plants. It is true that Apple is a company without social responsibility because of the slow response to the protest and being involved in the supply chain where plants kept secret. But at that time, Chinese government didn’t criticize or punish. Only one of the leaders of the Green Choice Initiative (Green Choice Alliance), which is a coalition of 36 non-profit organizations, tracked the pollution foreign-funded enterprises in China.

However, recently, the People's Daily and CCTV join forces to combat apple. Apple is widely used in China's political, economic elite, the reason must be to bring life to enjoy modern technological civilization, the pleasure of the heart. Apple has become a kind of emotional sustenance; far more than the general practical function meet. For the double standards of after-sales service, the damage is far from so serious. The standard of products and services that U.S. consumers enjoy is the world's most complete and intimate. China's consumer services, can reach 70% of that of the United States, Chinese consumers has become a true God. Some Users on the internet taunt that: "We all eat the waste oil, no problem! Everyone drinking tainted milk, no problem! Drinking water with dead pigs floating in, no problem! But we cannot accept that you replace the back cover of the phone for foreigners but not do this for us." As for why the CCTV and other national media sights in the apple above, this is an inconvenience speech topic. Some people say that most of Apple's server is not in China, the government is unable to implement the usual review of restrictions. Domestic monopoly powers wish to undermine the dominance of Apple in the Chinese market so that people can think of the benefit of domestic brands. Because these local enterprises has been thrown in back far from their competitors such as Apple. After half a month's siege by the Chinese central media, the world's most valuable company finally succumbed. On April 1, Apple CEO Tim Cook stated in an autographed open letter to Chinese consumers. He expressed "sincere apologies" and stressed "great respect" towards China.

It doesn’t make sense for ethical reason anymore. The company choose to apologize for groundless criticize instead of taking the responsibility for the real mistake. The reason why Apple has different attitudes in these two things is that the large benefit is very tempting and can’t refuse. In 2010-2011, the turnover increased by 600% in Greater China region, and revenue in Greater China has reached $ 8.8 billion in the first quarter of 2011 fiscal year.

 In America, Apple is not only a successful manufacturer, but also a dream maker. When it comes to China, it has changed into a Chinese vision that is no longer a star on the front, a instigator of challenge to authority, but a non-ethics business institution. How did it happen? I think it depend on the surrounding where it survive. "Rebel" in China is not a good gimmick, here; the Dalai Lama is the Enemy of the State. Let alone buy the state-run television advertising slots to satirize the Information Purification Order. 10 years ago, Apple really a peddle their set of "whimsy" concept in Chin, but soon failed. About three years ago, Apple began to continue to focus on opening the Chinese market. As COO Cook words, "We want to understand the market, understand how to operate." The result is that the image of Apple in China is not a rebel, but luxury. Actually it succeed, meanwhile it lost its core original value.



In the world all ruling party need themselves foundation in the moral aspects in either international or domestic front. Chinese people have created a powerful bureaucratic state since the Qin Dynasty unified China in 221BC without democratic accountability and the rule of law ever. Many Chinese people lost faith in our own system which had existed for two thousand years should be replaced with the western democratic republic when last feudal dynasty demised in 1911. However, in fact communists practicing socialism revolution got a success. So American cannot apply a set of democracy ethical theory efficient in their system to Chinese social network. But it doesn’t mean The US is unable to concern about China’s human rights issues; social contradictions even air pollution “PM2.5”. Even the egg tastes good; you cannot take it run into stone. Don’t be trapped into thinking inertia but to fully understand what moral foundation the contemporary China’s top place them self in. The situation is that internally central government is forming a top-down universally shared value, but also shapes the external image of a responsible big country in order to gain more international recognition. As a result, Chinese government supports the revival of Confucianism and sets up Confucius institute instead of Marxism institute around the world.


Under the impact of this ethical foundation, China's act is no longer based on the Maoist thinking of the kind of radical, meaning form distinct ethical principle, because doing like this will put an end to the freedom which the last generation fought for. When the United States speculates on China’s practice, they should know China endorsed freedom and democracy as one part of Confucian doctrine, at the same time to avoid falling into the narrow nationalism. With holding this manner, China can better deal foreign affairs with United States. And this is the mainly effect of ethics in Chinese sides. When China speculates on American practice, they should know that maintaining democracy is the basic position where all American always stand.

[Author 1: Lu Wang]

[University of International Business and Economics]

Nationality: [China]

[Author 2: Jiale Zhang]

[Carnege Mellon University]

Nationality: [United State]


Views: 650

Tags: #ConnectedWorld, Apple, Taiwan, democracy, moral


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