Join our Mailing List

"We Tibetans are looking for a legitimate and meaningful autonomy, an arrangement that would enable Tibetans to live within the framework of the People’s Republic of China."

China set to reassert clout in UN

October 29, 2010

Thalif Deen
Asia Times
October 29, 2010

NEW YORK - When a United States delegate once
confronted a Chinese diplomat about Beijing's
uncompromising support for Pakistan, the Chinese
reportedly responded with a heavily-loaded
sarcasm: "Pakistan is our Israel," he said.

Judging by China's unrelenting support for some
of its allies, including North Korea, Myanmar,
Zimbabwe and Sudan, its protective arm around
these countries is no different from the US and
Western political embrace of Israel - right or wrong.

While China is battling the West over exchange
rates, import tariffs and its territorial claims
in the South China Sea, Beijing is also lobbying
furiously to stall a Western-inspired proposal
for a commission of inquiry on possible war
crimes by the military junta in Myanmar.

"Such a commission should not be seen as a way to
punish the government, but to prevent impunity
and help prevent further abuse," says the UN
special rapporteur on Myanmar, Tomas Ojea Quintana.

But China, which in January 2007 exercised its
veto, along with Russia, to prevent Security
Council sanctions against Myanmar, has not shown
any willingness to back the proposal - even for a watered-down commission.

"Clearly," says one Asian diplomat, "China is
trying to reassert its political clout at the
United Nations as a counterweight to its
defensive stand on currency and trade issues."

The New York Times said on Tuesday the US
administration was facing a "confrontational
relationship" with an assertive China and is
trying to respond to "a surge of Chinese
triumphalism" by strengthening Washington's
relationship with Japan and South Korea.

United States President Barack Obama is planning
to visit four Asian countries next month - Japan,
Indonesia, India and South Korea - while bypassing China.

Meanwhile, secretary general Ban Ki-moon, who
needs China's support in the Security Council if
he decides to run for a second term next year, is
currently on his fourth trip to China, having
visited the country in May and July 2008, and in July 2009.

In recent months, China has prevented a Security
Council resolution against North Korea over the
sinking of a South Korean ship and also tried to
suppress a UN report alleging the use of
Chinese-made bullets in attacks on UN peacekeepers in Darfur, Sudan.

"China sees value in promoting its image as the
Security Council member defending the rights of
the developing world, and China sees value in
relying on the UN to counter US power," Linda
Jakobson, director of the program on China and
Global Security at the Stockholm International
Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), told Inter Press Service (IPS).

Jakobson, an in-house China expert at SIPRI,
points out that Beijing also sees value in
participating in UN peacekeeping operations "both
because this enhances the image of China as a
responsible power but also because it gives Chinese military experience".

Still, China relented to US and Western pressure
in supporting four Security Council resolutions
imposing sanctions against Iran, one of Beijing's
staunchest political, economic and military allies.

The fourth round of sanctions, all of them aimed
primarily at Iran's nuclear programme, was imposed in June this year.

Justifying his country's support for the
resolution, Chinese ambassador Li Baodong was
quoted as saying that Beijing wanted to make sure
that sanctions would not affect the Iranian
people or its normal overseas trade.

Jakobson told IPS that China agreed to these
sanctions after much deliberation and on the
condition that the energy sector was excluded.

"This can be seen as a compromise solution on
China's part," she said. "The exclusion of the energy sector was crucial."

Jakobson also pointed out that China wants to
protect the massive investments by Chinese energy
companies already in Iran or under negotiation
with Tehran, and China wants to ensure that its
long-term strategic plans for energy security are not threatened.

In a detailed policy paper released last month,
and titled "New Foreign Policy Actors in China",
SIPRI said the increasing sway of large
state-owned energy companies have an increasing
influence on foreign policy deliberations in China.

Jakobson, who co-authored the report with Dean
Knox, said this is one example of that sway,
though it is noteworthy that there are other
foreign policy actors who presumably were not
inclined to advocate China's support of the resolution.

On the other hand, she said, there were
presumably actors who advocated China's support
for the resolution because China supports
non-proliferation and does not want to see Iran go nuclear.

"If China had not supported the resolution, it
would reflect badly on China's image and
undermine its efforts to portray itself as a
responsible global power," Jakobson said.

She said China attaches great importance to the
United Nations and would like to see the role of
the UN strengthened - though Beijing is wary of
many proposals that want to expand Security
Council membership and/or give power to members
other than the present five permanent members,
the United States, Britain, France, Russia and China.

The SIPRI report argues that actors outside the
traditional power structure are increasingly shaping China's foreign policy.

Influential new actors on the margins include
Chinese state-owned enterprises, especially
energy companies, which, due to their widespread
international outreach, affect China's bilateral
relationships and diplomacy at large.

The others include local governments, especially
in border and coastal provinces, which seek more
lucrative trade and foreign investment opportunities.

At the same time, there is growing importance of
researchers, who serve as advisors to officials
and media, and netizens, who constitute a new
pressure group that China's leaders at times feel
compelled to take into account, not least during
international crises. The findings also point to
a fracturing of authority in foreign policy formulation.

Diversification outside China's official
decision-making apparatus - along with changes
within it - means that foreigners can no longer
expect to only deal with one government agency or
party organ but must take into account multiple
actors that have both a stake and say in the decision-making processes.
CTC National Office 1425 René-Lévesque Blvd West, 3rd Floor, Montréal, Québec, Canada, H3G 1T7
T: (514) 487-0665
Developed by plank