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February 23, 2004

China: Whining Victim or Great Power?


by Sascha Matuszak

In the weeks following Dr. Khan's confession, the network he used to improve Pakistan's military technology and enrich himself and his laboratory has led IAEA inspectors into a rat's nest of businessmen from Malaysia to Colorado.

Conspicuously missing from the discussions over who sold what to whom is the role of China's significant military assistance to Pakistan and North Korea, without which neither country would be able to explode or claim to have the ability to explode nuclear bombs.

China has signed on to several non-proliferation treaties including the CNTBT and the Chemical Weapons Convention as well as "agreeing to the basic tenets" if the Missile Technology Control Regime, but as the current weapons proliferation scandal continues to unravel these safeguards have proven to be absolutely meaningless.

China was pardoned once by the Clinton Administration "for a promise" never to do it again and to continue working with US companies.

And now, while supporting the recent bluster by Bush to put a stop to arms deals, the PLA greedily awaits the inevitable (and moot) decision by the EU to lift a ban on arms sales to China.

A report on arms deals published by a band of researchers back in 1994 reads like a UN convention, with China right along the Slovakia, Germany and Belgium, vying for the sweet deals.

If the trails were to be followed to their assorted ends, every nation in the world would be implicated in arms transfers and they would all find a Dr. Khan to point the finger at and then pardon for his horrible crimes.

All this arms dealing foolishness comes just before saintly Beijing plays host to the six nations charged with resolving the North Korean problem.

Whining Victim or Great Power?

In an essay last November for Foreign Affairs, Evan S. Medeiros and M. Taylor Fravel wrote of the maturity of China's international policies. One of the key points was the transition from "shou haizi xintai" (victim mentality) to "da guo xintai" (big country mentality).

This is a very slow transition indeed.

While Taiwan contemplates the democratic process, China sends gunboats into the straits to counter what it deems to be the first step towards independence. In response, Chen Shui Bian suggests demilitarizing the whole area. This referendum business has Mainlanders all worked up friends of mine morph into ogres and start talking about the destruction of the island and random PLA officers I run into assure me that the Taiwanese are going to get what's coming to them.

And the best is China's enduring loathing of all things Japanese, even if Sony destroys Lenovo even on the Mainland. With the nuke talks just a few short days away, China whines about decreased economic aid from hated Japan and revels in the stalled talks between North Korea and Japan over abductions of Japanese nationals.

Chinese international diplomacy is still laced with emotion and old animosities and has a long way to go before it can be considered as "sophisticated" as that of the Bushies and Europeans. Blown out of proportion tours by Wen and Hu do not cut the butter serious pressure on North Korea and a logical approach to Cross-Straits and Sino-Japanese ties do.

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  • Sascha Matuszak is a freelance writer living in Chengdu.

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