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July 27 "China’s Society: Is a Civil Society Developing?" with Carol Hamrin, Chinese Affairs Specialist, Department of State (Retired)

Carol Hamrin addressed the dynamic topic of state-society relations in China. Dr. Hamrin began by discussing the question of why human rights improvements do not necessarily coincide with economic and other improvements in China. She stated that progress in China comes as a cycle of regression and progression. While current trends in China are away from state dependence, we still see many human and civil rights abuses because rule-of-law in China is relatively weak. The state is trying to retain a certain degree of power, but society is outgrowing socialism. Dr. Hamrin then went on to discuss how to point this changing society toward a positive future. She spoke of the increasing influence of the “third sector,?composed of NGO’s and non-profits. Dr. Hamrin claims that third sector groups are gaining influence because local governments, especially at the township and village level, need outside help since they are often ignored by the national bureaucracy. Dr. Hamrin examined additional factors that will be instrumental in sustaining momentum for positive social and political change in China, including Taiwan/Hong Kong, entrance into the WTO, and the 2008 Olympic Games. Finally, Dr. Hamrin proposed how the United States can pursue a more productive human rights policy towards China. She closed by stating that the United States must realize that things will get much worse before they get better, and that once things do change a democratic China will not look like the America. For U.S. efforts to improve human rights in China to be effective, Dr. Hamrin believes initiative must be made from both the grassroots and international diplomatic levels.
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