kidnapping and swift release last week of seven Chinese citizens brings
to light China's relationship with Iraq.
The Chinese were released to a local association of
Islamic clerics within 36 hours without having been
harmed, threatened or televised. A local Chinese
businessman, Chen Xian Zhong, reported to domestic
media that the seven were safe and in the care of the
When compared with the week-long ordeal the Japanese hostages went through
– complete with footage of a knife held to a man's neck – the Chinese
were very lucky.
The seven Fujianese were on their way from Amman,
Jordan to Baghdad – but for what no one seems to know.
The embassy in Jordan labeled them as "civilians" who
drove to Baghdad on their own without notifying the
embassy. If one takes into account the former
hostages' hometown – poor and tiny Pingtan county – it
is safe to assume they were laborers for some Chinese
reconstruction project in Iraq.
Jordan has been the staging point for a revival of economic ties between Iraq
and China: ZTE, a telecommunications company from Shenzhen, landed
a contract in February just before the Chinese Embassy in Baghdad was reopened
for business. Chinese businessmen were reportedly "shuffling back and forth"
between Amman and Baghdad before the re-opening, maintaining relationships and
The US Government has been imposing sanctions
on Chinese companies and individuals doing business with Iran and/or Iraq since
the end of the first Gulf War. The machinery and technology sold by the Chinese
companies in question were seen by the US to be of a greater threat to world
stability and safety than the billions of dollars of arms sold to Iraq by the
US in the past two decades.
As with Sino-Pak
arms deals, the real issue here is not arms proliferation per se, but who
gets to proliferate. The double standard inherent in the US righteous approach
to arms deals and business in "rogue countries" in general is yet
another indictment of the foreign policy that has gained the Bush Administration
nothing but enemies.
The difference between American and Chinese business
deals with Iraq lies in Beijing's reluctance to use
politics, sanctions, and outright war to prevent other
countries from "helping to reconstruct" Iraq.
Instead, China worked with James Baker and the CPA to negotiate debt-forgiveness
in order to "revive Iraq's economy." Ironically, Baker's world tour
to forgive debt was just a ploy to free up Iraqi money for American companies.
Now those same countries that are considering debt-forgiveness face a hostile,
American-dominated CPA hell-bent on keeping everybody but Halliburton and Friends
out of Iraq.
Now after waltzing in and commandeering all
construction projects in sight – US companies have to
defend their integrity and the lives of their workers.
Chinese companies, as with the example of ZTE, are preferred by the Iraqis
over such giants as Lucent Technologies. It's a guangxi
thing – something Americans understand only as bribes if they understand it
So while Americans are burned, mutilated, shot at, cursed and reviled in Iraq
– all for the benefit of a rabid cabal of warmongers and their business
associates – Chinese businessmen scurry back and forth between Amman and
Baghdad securing tiny but crucial deals. China was one of prewar Iraq's largest
trading partners, behind India, France and Russia – if the dust ever clears
and the US finds itself with an Iraq that they never imagined would exist, Chinese
workers from the Fujianese countryside will still be welcome - along with the
companies that employ them.
In related news, "China
basks in the glory of yet another Human Rights victory."