What must America do to restore its greatness?

 

“America is great because she is good. If America ceases to be good, America will cease to be great.”  Thus wrote Alexis de Tocqueville, a prominent French historian observing America in the 1800’s. Two centuries later, in the aftermath of the recent S&P’s downgrade on the US debt, (a first in America’s history, potentially indicating a downhill spiral for this great nation), Tocqueville’s assertion reminds us what first led America to its glory.

 

Once, America was good because it was a “city on a hill,” whose light could not be hidden from the world.  Once, America was good because it would “act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with the LORD our God.” But America has since lost its way.

 

In response to a recent bi-partisan call from U.S. Senators to cease American aid to China, All Girls Allowed, a Boston-based non-profit that supports families in rural China, is urging leaders to reconsider the alarming reality of the devastating poverty in China..  The Senators wisely recommended that U.S. aid continue to support Tibetans and human rights, but made no mention of those in extreme poverty.  They call for this cut in aid to China, saying that there are more needy countries than the world's second-largest economy, which has trillions in foreign reserves.

 

The data suggests otherwise.  According to the United Nations and the World Bank, 468 million people in China live with less than $2/day.  By contrast, Sub-Saharan Africa has 556 million people who live with less than $2/day.  Despite the similar numbers in both regions, hardly any U.S. aid money goes to help the poor in China, while billions of dollars continue to pour into Sub-Saharan Africa.  For 2012, the State Department requested $8.026 billion in aid for Sub-Saharan Africa next year, compared to the much smaller sum of $0.012 billion in aid for China.

Data from U.N. Human Development Report 2009World Bank 2005, and U.S. State Department.

“Most American leaders and the general public only know China as our moneylender, and they see the many Chinese students studying in the States, sent from educated, well-off families. But the truth is that China is actually a country of two nations,” says Chai Ling, Founder of All Girls Allowed. “A nation of the ‘have nots’, the majority of people that are kept remarkably poor by the nation of the ‘haves’, the small minority who control most of China’s power and, correspondingly, its wealth.”

 

Wang Jiamei (assumed name) is an example of one of China’s ‘have nots’.  At age 22, she and her husband (left) labor hard at carrying bricks while their children stand by outside the factory.  They cannot afford childcare and only make a combined $132/month, just barely over the $2/day mark.  Every day, they load 8,000 bricks, each weighing five pounds—a total of 20 tons/day!  Wang’s labor is so intense that she cannot produce any breast milk to feed her infant daughter, forcing her to use much of her hard-earned income for baby formula, which in turn may be poisonous due to poor food safety regulations.

 

 

“Sadly, Wang’s story is a common one in China,” says Ling. “When I share stories like hers, many generous Americans I meet ask me, ‘Why doesn’t the Chinese government use its massive reserves of money to help its own people?’ We agree that the Chinese government should give abundantly to take care of its poorest citizens, but it has not. This is not a reason to disregard millions of hard-working citizens who suffer in extreme poverty. Rather, the U.S., with its rich history of defending those in need, should continue that legacy in China, where poverty abounds.”

 

Unfortunately, U.S. policymakers are not alone.  There is a global trend in decreasing ODA (Official Development Aid) to China.  Japan continues to give less, and Britain decided in 2010 to cut back, saying,"UK money should be spent helping the poorest people in the poorest countries."  China already receives less private aid than other nations.  According to the World Association of Non-Governmental Organizations, there are 3284 NGO’s operating in Africa, compared to the 63 in China.  Each NGO in Africa serves about 300,000 people, while each NGO in China serves about 30 million people.

 

Brian Lee, Executive Director of All Girls Allowed, says, “We applaud the philanthropic intentions of the U.S. and acknowledge that in this time of financial difficulty, it would be unwise and reckless to allocate new funding to provide aid for China’s poor.  Rather, we are asking the U.S. to reallocate existing aid funds based on true need—and the need is tremendous for hundreds of millions of forgotten people in China.”

 

Lee challenges the Senators to expand the provisions for U.S. aid to China: “We understand why the U.S. may cease funding road-building and other infrastructure needs in China.  But what about direct aid to the poor?  We ask our leaders to reconsider cutting the already small amount of U.S. aid to China, so the hundreds of millions of people in need are not punished for the riches of their leaders. Only when America truly restores its goodness will it restore its greatness.”

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