Saturday, September 02, 2006

The Red and Yellow

Good piece in the NYTimes on China stretching its foreign diplomacy muscles.

Too much detail on the mannerisms of the Chinese ambassador and the venue of their discussions, but if you bypass that, you get some real nuggets of gold.

From the article:

Actually, in an earlier era Chinese nationals would not have served in an observer mission in Lebanon, and the People’s Republic would have taken a pass on the whole subject. But China now aspires to play an active role on the global stage, which is why it sends skilled diplomats like Wang Guangya to the U.N. That’s the good news. The bad news is that China’s view of “the international order” is very different from that of the United States, or of the West, and has led it to frustrate much of the agenda that makes the U.N. worth caring about. The People’s Republic has used its position as a permanent, veto-bearing member of the Security Council to protect abusive regimes with which it is on friendly terms, including those of Sudan, Zimbabwe, Eritrea, Myanmar and North Korea. And in the showdown with Iran that is now consuming the Security Council, and indeed the West itself, China is prepared to play the role of spoiler, blocking attempts to levy sanctions against the intransigent regime in Tehran...

The great issue that divides the U.N. is no longer Communism versus capitalism, as it once was; it is sovereignty. Ever since the catastrophes of Bosnia and Rwanda, and increasingly in recent years, the Security Council has been asked to defend individuals against an abusive state. When critics in the West deride the U.N. as a failed institution, they almost always mean that the Security Council cannot find the will to do so, whether through intervention, sanctions or merely opprobrium. But this failing is a Western preoccupation: most developing nations, with their history of colonial rule and often their wish to abuse their own citizens without interference, object to all such inroads on sovereign rights. And in China, where memory of “the century of humiliation” at the hands of Western imperialists runs deep — and where the state’s right to abuse its own citizens is not to be questioned — sovereignty has long been a fighting word. During the 90’s, the Chinese abstained on, or publicly criticized, key resolutions authorizing the use of force to dislodge Saddam Hussein from Kuwait and establishing or fortifying peacekeeping missions in Somalia, Bosnia, Rwanda and Haiti. China is now more flexible in practice, but the doctrine of absolute sovereign rights remains central to its foreign policy.

As long as the stated National Strategic Vision is to disallow any country in the world from reaching peer status to the United States, China will continue to play the sovereignty 3rd world card. For now China lays low and its mercantilist style has not aroused anti-Chinese feeling around the globe. America has foolishly stolen the limelight there. But that tide will begin to turn against China, where they will likely be seen as economic exploiters.

As the article repeatedly states, China is not Russia. Russia has an imperial past mindset--hence its attempts to thwart the Orange Revolution. China wants security around the world and markets. Its historic insularity as the Middle Kingdom still runs strong even in lateral relations.
The only way the US will dislodge China from support of dictators--and the generation of Chinese leadership that will be open to the idea is still a party cycle (at least/roughly a decade) away)--will be a fundamental re-thinking of our stated strategy and its pernicious influence in the Pentagon (spending billions of tax dollars to prepare for a war with China, missile defense, etc.).

As the number of deaths continues to increase daily in Iraq and America becomes more and more isolated politically, the most important way forward in the Middle East/SW Asia seems a longer range view, more economic connection, shrewder diplomacy, and targeted military operations combined with a massive security-reconstruction-aid efforts.

The Chinese are crucial to this vision. As long as interventions, er occupations, are on the order of Iraq, no one will be on board. Which is a self-destructive cycle, for nothing spells disaster in any future intervention than a US-only presence. I'm skeptical that the UN is the body for this force. Maybe something more along the lines of the G12 (8 + BRIC, Brazil, India, Russia, China).

I stress the intervention versus occupation language because technically the only occupation in the Middle East, prior to Iraq, was the Israeli occupation of the West Bank. Whether legitimate or illegimate in the reader's mind, an occupation of the WB it is. So the US calling the Iraq mission an occupation--over a peacekeeping force a la Bosnia--aroused visions of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict throughout the Muslim world. (Hat Tip to Former Ambd. James Dobbins for pointing that out.)


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