many countries are developing as swiftly as China. After 50 years
of foolishness, despair and acute poverty, the 1980s and '90s came
as a thunderbolt for most Chinese. As a result, the development
is most uneven, with the latest Benz honking furiously at peasant-pulled
vegetable-laden go-carts in the middle of a somewhat-paved garbage-strewn
thoroughfare. Indeed, most new skyscrapers are dilapidated before
they are finished and mass ignorance of the outside world is very
prevalent. I was asked if I was Thai the other day and I'm quite
the expectations of many Chinese are of a New China capable of doling
out punishment to any nation foolhardy enough to spy off the coast
of Hainan; of a New China in which world travel, luxury, perfect
English and international acclaim are commonplace and peasants are
fast becoming extinct.
these expectations are what drive the Communist Party to pour billions
into hosting the Olympics, millions into Bora the Wondercoach's
pocket and millions into the Three Tenors' concert. These expectations
demand WTO membership and a football team powerful enough to defeat
longtime nemesis Japan in Japan. Fireworks and parades and drums
and streamers lined the streets in many Chinese cities after China
squeaked by mighty Oman 1-0 Sunday night a declaration/celebration
month APEC members will be meeting in Shanghai to discuss China's
WTO membership, shiitake mushrooms, the impact of war and other
vital issues. Just another sign of China's imminent greatness
greatness that may have to be proven in fields other than economics,
entertainment and sports.
war is pivotal for China, although the CCP's involvement is currently
less than insignificant, in terms of money, weapons and diplomacy.
China's stance has not changed since 9/11:
against any and all forms of terrorism
2) against the killing of innocents
3) in support of a strong UN role
and if all things go nicely, the stance will not have to change
Pakistan, China's good friend here in the East, is being marked
by the US as the guardian of the "new government" in Afghanistan
after the Taliban are swiftly pounded into the sand. Now, Pakistan
has little real international clout. Yes, Pakistan has nuclear missiles,
but the ability of Pakistan to control and/or guide a government
in Afghanistan with the exiled King as the figurehead is very questionable
especially with an irate and jealous India and good ol' Kashmir
keeping it busy. Don't forget the Muslims (Pakistan was created
for them, ya know) who are none too pleased with the current turn
of events and Musharraf's quick and eager kowtow to the US and crew.
else could fill those shoes left vacant by batwing B1 bombs? Russia?
Let's see. Russia is still reeling from 1991 and Chechnya and is
busy getting itself together. And we are talking about Afghanistan
here. If Afghans have rebellion against foreign-installed leaders
in their blood as Robert
Fisk writes, then what must flow in those veins concerning their
most recent foreign enemy, Russia?
Afghan-Russian hatred for one another carry into the Shanghai Cooperation
Organization? Perhaps. Another member of the SCO, Uzbekistan, has
welcomed US and British troops with open arms and wide grins. And
the Northern Alliance has a significant number of Uzbeks toting
no telling what Pashtuns and defeated Taliban sympathizers will
think of a Russian and/or SCO supported Northern Alliance government
with an exiled "foreign" king as symbolic head.
the only country to establish diplomatic relations with the Taliban
is the safe bet. So who will prop up cash-strapped, refugee laden,
border-war fighting, Muslim insurgent fighting Pakistan when the
Afghans start acting up?
China. This, for China, is the only option. But the implications
of a Chinese hand in Central Asian politics are not at all pretty
may have heard of Xinjiang and the Uighers by now. The Uighers are
supposedly being trained by the Taliban and if that's not true then
they at least have contact. The Taliban reached out to China this
year but were rebuffed. The negotiations dealt primarily with UN
vetoes and support for Muslim insurgents in Xinjiang. Apparently,
not much progress was made. So how will Uighers and Afghans react
to a Chinese hand, indirect of course, in their affairs? How much
military hardware will have to be moved to the region to insure
peace and stability? How many investment opportunities are there
in Kabul these days?
with a possible dibs on Central Asian oil (already being secured
by the peaceful, rather apolitical, SCO) China gains nothing from
a hand in Central Asian politics but a new Muslim headache and a
drain on resources.
consider the alternatives, from China's perspective: US and NATO
troops fortified in the West. It might not seem like much to the
rest of us, but the fact that Japan offered "logistic behind
the lines" support (manpower) for the campaign worries Chinese
if a power vacuum is created in Central Asia, China had best fill
it. Its own national security demands it. If China is aspiring to
be a superpower, an international player, a rival as many Chinese
hope and expect: filling the Taliban's shoes may be the CCP's next
unsavory item in the Grand Voyage Toward Greatness.
of course, hinges on the Taliban's defeat, which is far from clear.
We may just see a protracted war in Afghanistan which is the worst
possible scenario for all, especially China. Refugees, terrorists,
pissed-off Muslims everywhere, Abrams, Marines, Apaches you name
it. Could get ugly.
printable version of this article
is a teacher living and working in China. His articles have appeared
in the South China Morning Post, the Minnesota Daily,
and elsewhere. His exclusive Antiwar.com column appears Tuesdays.
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