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"Canada can, within a positive friendly atmosphere, ask the Chinese government to resolve the Tibetan situation."

China's dark ties go beyond Tibet

April 21, 2008

China's dark ties go beyond Tibet
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Joel Brinkley
San Francisco Chronicle
Sunday, April 20, 2008

Thousands of protesters have mobbed the Olympic torch - as it makes it
way around the world - to protest China's violent repression of
demonstrators in Tibet - turning the 21-city torch tour into a
public-relations fiasco for Beijing.

Despicable as China's actions in Tibet may be, I would argue that
protesters should take a larger view. They should realize that China has
become the chief patron of the vilest regimes in the world -
undercutting at almost every turn, and every place, the West's efforts
to promote human rights.

How can the United States, Europe and the United Nations effectively
isolate rogue states when China is more than willing to loan them money,
buy their oil, sell them arms and offer warm relations to most anyone
who asks, no matter how murderous or corrupt?

China manages all of this with a foreign-policy trope that at first
seems perfectly benign. As Jiang Yu, spokesman for China's Foreign
Ministry, put it recently, "China always adopts a policy of
noninterference."

Actually, this policy has proved to be perfectly pernicious. China
chooses not to pass judgment on other nations' behavior. No matter how
dangerous or malevolent a state may be, China stands ready to make a
deal. The noninterference policy also offers a corollary benefit: China
says no one has any right to judge how China behaves - even when it
shoots demonstrators in Tibet.

Nowhere is this more visible than in Sudan. China is the chief
benefactor for Sudan's genocidal leaders. In violation of a U.N. arms
embargo, Beijing provides the weapons and ammunition that President Omar
el-Bashir uses to arm the militias that have slaughtered more than
200,000 people in Darfur. China buys 90 percent of Sudan's oil exports
and has given the regime more than $1 billion in so-called
"concessional" loans.

They come with low interest - or none at all, and China has been quick
to forgive them altogether. All of this for a state that the rest of the
world regards as a pariah.

You'd hardly think el-Bashir needs the extra money. After all, at $100 a
barrel, his oil earns about $28 million a day. But then, Transparency
International's world corruption index rates only six nations out of 179
more corrupt than Sudan.

Sudan is hardly the only questionable benefactor of Chinese largess.
China remains Burma's most important ally. You may recall that Burma's
military rulers ordered troops to shoot and kill dozens of Buddhist
monks during pro-democracy demonstrations last fall. Once again, China
buys oil and natural gas from Burma and sells weaponry to the junta.

And then there's Iran. In 2004, a few months after the United Nations
found that Iran was secretly processing nuclear fuel that could,
eventually, be enriched for use in nuclear weapons, China signed a $100
billion deal to import natural gas from Iran over the next 25 years.
What is more, China provided much of the equipment Iran first used to
process nuclear fuel - and trained Iran's nuclear technicians.

In recent years, China has voted in favor of several U.N. Security
Council sanctions against Iran. But, working with Russia, Beijing has
blocked more expansive sanctions that might have proved effective,
arguing that they were not convinced Iran was pursuing nuclear weapons.

But then earlier this month, Iran announced that it is tripling the
number of centrifuges used to enrich uranium, while once again
disavowing any interest in nuclear weapons. As Javier Solana, the
European Union's foreign policy chief, noted last month: "To construct a
nuclear power plant takes 10 years. So why enrich uranium now, when
there is no place to use it?"

In recent years, China has struck energy deals with Hugo Chavez in
Venezuela. The Chinese have begun oil exploration in Cuba. They made a
mineral-exploration deal with Robert Mugabe, the president of Zimbabwe,
who now appears to be stealing the presidential election there.

Meantime, China remains North Korea's closest friend and protector.
China provides about 70 percent of the renegade state's food and nearly
80 percent of its fuel.

Who's left? Last year, the Bush administration imposed economic
sanctions on three Chinese companies for selling missiles and weaponry
to Syria. Last summer, China gave Daniel Ortega, Nicaragua's president,
$30 million to build a power plant. And Belarus, the last barbarous
dictatorship in Central Europe, celebrates its warm ties with Beijing.

What has all of this gained China? Short-term energy security. But in
many of these nations, when the dictators and zealots fall from power,
the governments that replace them are likely to regard China with
distrust, resentment, anger - or worse.

Joel Brinkley is a professor of journalism at Stanford University and a
former New York Times foreign policy correspondent. E-mail him at
insight@sfchronicle.com.
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