A Chinese Foreign Ministry official declared today that China will not engage in peacemaking efforts in South Asia. The conflict between Pakistan and India is an affair that should and will be resolved by the two longtime enemies and all China can do is offer "moral persuasion."
The official, Ms. Fu Ying, emphasized the vital roles of the international community and China's traditional position of neutrality concerning disputes of this nature. Coming on the heels of the New and Quick War in Afghanistan, China's official position should come as no surprise.
Throughout the bombing of Afghanistan, China remained aloof while stamping down on any uppity Uighers. Even as Chinese companies were coming under criticism for doing business in Kabul, Teheran and Islamabad – havens of terrorism in the eyes of the US government – the CCP was calm and stoic. China even quietly requested the return of any Chinese nationals found amidst the remains of Al Qaeda and/or Taliban fighters.
So intent are Chinese leaders on domestic affairs that the rapid destruction of the only stable force on their western border and the threat of nuclear war to the south produce naught but the same vapid references to the "international community" of which China is a very new (and not so welcome) member. Will China ever cast eyes away from the Taiwan issue and help establish peace and stability in its own backyard?
NEW LEADERS, NEW TASKS The South China Morning Post reported today that the succession is complete in all but ceremony. Jiang ZeMin, Li Peng and Zhu Rongji are all slated to step back into the shadows reserved for old mumbling ex-leaders while their handpicked protйgйs carry on the legacy. How powerful the Old Guard's influence over the new leaders will be remains to be seen.
With the National Congress ready to meet and ratify the new appointments this year, perhaps the leaders deemed it unwise to get involved in international disputes, wars, conflicts and/or shouting matches no matter where they take place. In fact, 2001 was a year of crackdowns on the domestic front: netbars, migrant workers, corrupt politicians, counterfeiters, Uighers all felt the soft hand of Chinese justice. This isn't a new phenomenon, but the Strike Hard campaign also came as China entered the WTO – a certain catalyst for labor unrest.
China is busy getting rich and getting organized. With new faces set to grace CCTV's "the leader went here" programs and new huge tasks (adhering to WTO regulations while keeping everyone happy) China has no time to be flexing across borders, so it seems.
THE KEY TO STABILITY There are interesting twists to the Pakistan-Kashmir-India and China-Taiwan problems.
China and Pakistan have a rather healthy and long-standing military and economic relationship. Reports emerged last week that Taiwan and India had secret arms deals going on. The US supports and supplies arms to Taiwan. The US was also an ally of Pakistan, throughout the Cold War and New War – and presumably is Pakistan's ally even now. If Pakistan were to unleash nuclear hell upon India, they would use American F-16s to deliver the bombs.…
Both China and India see no compromise in their disputes with their smaller, thorny neighbors and both want closer ties to the US even as they resent the US support Taiwan and Pakistan both enjoy. Neither India nor China have shown any inclination to change the current hard-line policy toward Taiwan, Pakistan and each other.
Even so, an interesting scenario, brought up by Asia Times columnist Francesco Sisci, is an alliance of the two largest nations in East Asia. China would be able to rein in Pakistan and India might be inclined to lean on Taiwan and both of them might minimize US influence between them. Hell, they could squash the Maoist insurgency in Nepal while they're at it.
In Sisci's view, China's economic growth, huge population and traditional neutral stance make it the key to stability in the region, more important than India or even Japan. China, if ever persuaded to act, could play the peacemaker role it claims it does not want.
BUT WHAT WOULD THEY DO? The only example of a full time "peacemaker" that this world has is the United States. If there is a problem somewhere that involves blood and guts, you can bet the US will be there someday, trying to make the peace.
So lets take a look at the favorite methods employed by the SuperPeacemaker:
Bomb the Hell out of Serbia to save the Albanians from genocide Send TOW missiles into Somali buildings to root out all warlords Give tons of money to Israel; a fraction to Palestine Train people to torture Bomb the Hell out of the Taliban to save the Afghans (and the world) from destruction China's lack of bombers, missiles and money could be another explanation for its reluctance to jump into peacekeeping operations, aside from the need to quell domestic tensions. So what is it China can do that may help countries stop killing each other? Nothing, and that's why China stays out of it all, right?
BUT In 1999 when Pakistan and India were on the brink of war, both Heads of State visited China within days of each other. At the very outset of the present conflict, Musharraf visited Beijing and asked for China to help defuse the situation. Zhu Rongji is making a South Asian tour this week and will be in India soon.
Perhaps what the Chinese government says and what it does do not entirely mesh.