Can U.S. Lawmakers Take It As Much As They Dish It Out?

By Jorge and Paola Guajardo

During President Hu Jintao´s visit to Washington last week, U.S. lawmakers engaged in a game of one-upmanship to see who could point out more faults with China´s record on human rights, whether it pertains to its one-child policy, Tibet, or Liu Xiaobo.  This kind of grilling of foreign heads of state, particularly those from developing countries, has become expected, as congressmen try to assure their constituents that they are not afraid to stand up for the cherished American values of democracy and freedom.

Which would be fine, if only these critics of China´s policies were willing to accept similar questioning when it came their way.  When Mexican President Felipe Calderón was in the U.S. for his state visit in 2010, he addressed a joint session of Congress and took the opportunity to talk about the effect of U.S. gun laws on the daily lives of Mexicans.  (More than 80% of the arms confiscated from the drug cartels have been traced to gun shops in the U.S. and there is a direct correlation between the expiration of the assault-weapons ban in 2004 and the marked increase in drug-related violence in Mexico.)  He also urged Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform and condemned the Arizona immigration law.

Calderón's speech was met with indignation by congressmen who thought he was overstepping and daring to interfere with U.S. internal affairs. They invoked the sacrosanct nature of the Second Amendment, which, as Senator John Cornyn put it, "is not a subject open for diplomatic negotiation, with Mexico or any other nation."  Which sounds a lot like what the Chinese government would say about criticism of what they consider to be strictly domestic matters.