presumably watched in awe and surprise as the Taliban was dispatched
rather quickly. I remember hearing schoolgirls and businessmen alike
exclaim over the defeat of the much-heralded Taliban. Perhaps the
Chinese government felt a tinge of awe mixed with surprise as well
as Afghanistan fell to the US-led Force of Righteousness.
a little fear and regret was mixed into those feelings as well.
The quick fall of the Taliban and the power vacuum that has yet
to be filled by a united and determined all-Afghan regime has "necessitated"
the presence of Western (US/UK) troops and military hardware. The
Western powers could scarcely afford another war a few years down
the road in order to secure the pipeline route through Afghanistan
and Pakistan into the sea. This time, security and stability in
the region will be ensured.
could have had a say in the new stability of Central Asia, (besides
the vague and useless parrotings of Zhang Qiyue, of the Foreign
Ministry). But that chance is now gone forever.
so determined to be a world power and so proud of its newly minted
WTO membership badge, is still content to whisper about the UN's
role and the opinions of the "international community."
The superpower limelight is hogged by the US and, to a lesser extent
Russia, with the EU, UK and Japan standing slightly off to the side,
while China stands waiting in the wings. China feels comfortable
battling over shiitake mushrooms with Japan, but will not match
Japan's eagerness to get involved in Central Asia.
China did gain out of the most recent war is not international standing,
but a license to kill (which they didn't really need) in Xinjiang,
home of Uighur Muslims. China can now count on most of the Western
governments to keep their mouths shut about human rights and to
duly ignore those who still speak out about the situation.
Bush and Rumsfeld recently informed Russian President Putin that,
yes, the ABM treaty will be scrapped in order to make room for a
national missile defense system. It seems 9/11 has given governments
the right to push policy through that might not have made it had
there not been a war on.
answered that the scrapping of the treaty would result in an arms
race in which Russia would happily participate. Talk of multiple
warheads and Cold War levels was tossed around by Russian Generals,
as American Generals scoffed at the ability of cash-strapped Russia
to engage in an arms race.
have taken note of the reports and express our concern over them,"
said Zhang Qiyue, the foreign ministry spokeswoman, at a regularly
scheduled news briefing today. "It is of crucial importance
to maintain the international disarmament and arms control efforts."
powerful words. Of course, there is not much China can actually
do to dissuade the US from proceeding with the oh-so-successful
NMD program, but for a nation that is expected to reign in East
Asia soon, this response is much too weak.
foreign policy seems to be wracked with internal doubt and possibly
conflict. Beijing cracks down on cable companies providing foreign
programming because it "disrupts national security, economic
order and the dignity of state law," but China is rejoicing
over entry into the WTO, which will bring about waves of disruption,
especially in the telecommunications sector, when that sector eventually
opens up. At the same time that Beijing is cracking down, Guangdong
is actively courting cable providers from abroad and Hong Kong.
I can get Star and ESPN in most hotels in Chongqing, so the crackdown
isn't really a serious move to eradicate foreign television. But
it's the message that counts. China is acting to protect itself
from the foreign invasion that is imminent and needed.
By being overly cautious in foreign affairs, China hopes to keep
itself out of entangling political commitments while advancing its
economic agenda. Our
first President might agree with some of China's policy. Unfortunately,
Washington's advice was meant for the very country that declared
"with us or against us."
the domestic front, China's Strike Hard campaign, persecution of
Uighurs, Falun Gong practitioners and imprisonment of hapless, outspoken
village heads and corrupt politicians sends a different message
to the Chinese: Don't use this new era as an excuse to start voicing
grievances. Last time the government allowed "flowers to bloom,"
the overwhelming response of the people led to an overwhelming and
less pleasant response from the Party.
is wrestling with its role in the world right now and has not yet
found the leader that will lead them in one direction or the other.
China has been traditionally passive towards international affairs
and in a world built by George Washington perhaps this political
indifference towards another country's affairs would work just fine.
But in our current era, indifference can lead quickly to dependence
as others move forward and stake claims in your backyard. This has
happened to China in the past and it may happen again in the
future, because as China scours the domestic landscape for threats
to its survival, the international community begins to take shape
of "sailing toward world significance," the Communist
Party may find it has missed the boat.
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 (usually) appears
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