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Saying no to gunboat diplomacy

The Chinese veto at the Security Council was not a passing fancy influenced by Russia, but the fruit of a long and painful experience. It was primarily motivated by the desire to uphold the norms of international law. Professor Li Qingsi places this concern in its immediate historical context (regime changes orchestrated in North Africa) and within a longer-term perspective (China’s occupation by the West and the thorny Sino-US relations).

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After Russia and China vetoed a UN Security Council resolution on Syria on Feb 4, the UN General Assembly approved a resolution condemning the violence in Syria on Feb 16. Though non-binding, the newly passed resolution will put more pressure on the Syrian government and might prove to be the beginning of future outside intervention.

Sectarian conflicts, geopolitical factors, and particularly the West’s “divide and conquer” involvement have given rise to the intense and sharp contradictions in the Arab World, and Syria’s internal clashes have provided an excuse for the West to get involved.

The current Syrian crisis is not an issue purely concerning human rights protection as the West alleges. The West wants to topple the Syrian government and replace it with a pro-western one. Syria is considered a problem in the West’s Middle East strategy because of its close relations with Iran and Lebanon, which are hostile to the United States.

In order to play a part in the Middle East, the Arab League is willing to charge into the West’s Middle East strategy. After solving the Syrian issue in a non-peaceful way, the West’s next target, no doubt, will be Iran.

China’s veto does not mean that Beijing takes sides with the Syrian government, or that it is turning a blind eye to the bloody clashes, it means it does not want Syria to end up on the same disastrous road as Libya, which finally ended in a fullscale civil war.

As a permanent member of the UN Security Council, China has the responsibility and obligation to defend the UN Charter, international justice and code of conduct, and so must reject any resolutions that are in violation of the UN Charter and purposes.

If China knows that a resolution is likely to endanger state sovereignty and go against justice and it does nothing, it will be serious malpractice.

The West’s furious response to the vetoes by China and Russia shows the vetoes have exposed the West’s true purpose of trying to dominate the Middle East and monopolize UN affairs, which they had sought to veil behind their lofty claims of protecting human rights in Syria.

The world has witnessed too many invasions of sovereign states and the killing of innocent civilians in the name of humanitarian intervention. The military interventions since the end of the Cold War show that the West, while holding high the banner of human rights protection is in reality seeking its own global or regional strategic interests.

Whether in the countries invaded after the Sept 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the US, or in some Muslim states that underwent “color revolutions” last year, the fact of the matter is, instead of protecting human rights the invasions and “revolutions” have caused domestic stability and humanitarian situation to deteriorate.

Experience shows that, since the Cold War, Western countries, no matter how great their quarrels are, will join hands when in conflict with non-western countries. Even in this era of globalization, there is still a clear dividing line between the West and non-western world.

For historical and practical reasons, the balance of power between the West, especially the US, and non-western world is uneven. As absolute power without supervision and restriction results in corruption inside a state, a power without a counterweight in the international community also will become imperious and ruthless, which, threatens the stability of the whole world.

After the Cold War, the US managed to “have a firm hold over the UN to oppress the international community” while small and medium-sized countries dared not voice their discontent.

The US’ hysterical reaction to China’s veto shows it has not adapted to China’s change. At a time when gunboat policy has been revived in a new guise, a modest, self-disciplined diplomatic approach seems ill timed.

If China and the US can peacefully coexist, it will be an unprecedented, pioneering undertaking. But the history of China-us contacts indicates such cooperation cannot be attained through compromise or requests, nor should expect any cooperation for win-win by our own wishful thinking. Struggle without breaking relations should not be the bottom line of the Chinese attitude to the US, only when we are ready to pay the price for splitting will we manage to attain the struggle without splitting.

No matter how difficult the external situation is, China won’t stop developing. Not until the diplomats stop appealing for “heart- to-heart” thinking. Not until the 1.3 billion Chinese people’s feelings are no longer easy to hurt, and not until China is able to defend the UN charters and norms and the world peace and justice with actions instead of just words.

As a permanent member of the UN Security Council, China should shoulder the great responsibility of safeguarding world peace. In order to maintain unity, China has been restrained in the use of its veto.

As one member of the international community, China is aware that it cannot realize its own interests without cooperation with the outside world. But China will also be alert to those Western countries that push too far. Having been invaded by Western powers, China understands the suffering that results. So a rising China will not repeat the errors of others, because the Chinese people believe that what you do not want done to yourself, you do not impose on others.

Source
China Daily

Li Qingsi

Professor at the School of International Studies, Renmin University of China.

 
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