Tuesday, June 25, 2013
Renewal of China MOU in Diplomatic Trouble?
China's refusal to extradite Edward Snowden, who has been charged with espionage for his leaking of sensitive information gained while working as a contractor for the NSA, raises the question whether the US State Department Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and its Cultural Heritage Center should renew the current MOU with China. This particular MOU is probably the most dubious of any of them. Given China's own huge internal market in Chinese artifacts of the sort restricted under the current agreement, its net effect has only been to give Chinese commercial interests a leg up on their foreign, particularly American competition. American archaeologists and museums may conduct useful collaborative efforts with their Chinese counterparts, but these will presumably continue without any MOU based on their own merits. Import restrictions on the ability of Americans to import cultural goods are only supposed to be imposed with due regard for the significant procedural and substantive constraints found in the Convention on Cultural Property Implementation Act. To the extent these statutory constraints have been ignored as a diplomatic gesture to China, China's own actions suggest that the US should reevaluate this MOU and other forms of diplomatic cooperation. In short, if China won't repatriate Snowden to the US, why should the US repatriate undocumented Chinese artifacts to China?