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Asia view
China's foreign policy
Setting sail for Libya
Mar 1st 2011, 17:09 by J.M. | BEIJING
FOR a fast rising power, China remains unusually shy about military deployment beyond its shores. But its decision to dispatch four military transport aircraft to Libya and a guided-missile frigate to waters nearby suggests that it might be rethinking its posture. The Ilyushin-76 aircraft took off from the far western region of Xinjiang on February 28th bound for the Libyan city of Sabha. The ship, Xuzhou, which had been engaged in anti-piracy duties in the Gulf of Aden, set sail for the north African coast on February 24th. 
The assignments could prove little more than symbolic. Of the 30,000 Chinese estimated to have been in Libya when the unrest began there, some 29,000 are said to have already left the country. China’s defence ministry says Xuzhou will not arrive until March 2nd. It is not clear when the aircraft will reach their destination. Gabriel Collins and Andrew Erickson of China SignPost say they will have to stop for refuelling.  
The deployments are a sign that the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), which includes the air force and navy, is gaining a bit in confidence following its dispatch of a small flotilla in December 2008 to join international operations in the Gulf of Aden. That was a turning point in China’s military history: the PLA navy’s first active-duty deployment beyond East Asia. China had long been diffident about long-range engagements, fearing they might stir anxiety about China’s military ambitions while at the same time revealing frailties to its potential enemies (America being the biggest concern). 
Western powers have long been trying to cajole the PLA into playing a more dynamic role, both in UN peacekeeping (China is a big contributor of troops, but not of front-line ones) and disaster relief (the PLA did not send forces to help out after the Indian Ocean tsunami of December 2004). The PLA’s decision to get involved this time, however, is likely far more to do with domestic considerations than a desire to show solidarity with the West. A perceived failure by the PLA to show concern for Chinese lives in Libya would not have gone down well with the country’s fiery online nationalists (to whom the country’s leaders appear to pay considerable attention). 
In 1998, when riots targeting ethnic Chinese broke out in Indonesia, nationalists in China accused the government of a limp-wristed response (see this analysis of the event by Christopher Hughes of the London School of Economics). The Communist Party does not want a repeat of that, especially at a time when it is already worried about possible contagion from the pro-democracy movements in North Africa and the Middle East. Nationalism and anti-government sentiment can be a powerful cocktail in China. 
China’s propaganda machinery has been playing up the significance of the deployments. What the state-run media call the biggest operation in China’s history – which includes the dispatch of civilian aircraft—to rescue Chinese overseas is being touted as a sign of the country’s emergence as a “responsible great power” (see this dispatch, in Chinese, on the website of Guangming Daily, a Beijing newspaper). The term echoes the appeal made in 2005 by Robert Zoellick, then America’s deputy secretary of state, for China to play its part as a “responsible stakeholder”. It is one aimed at pleasing nationalists at home while trying to show the outside world that China is merely doing what is expected of it. 
China’s vote on February 26th in favour of a UN resolution imposing sanctions on Muammar Qaddafi and calling for an international war-crimes investigation will certainly be looked at with favour by the West. It too appeared to mark a shift, China having usually avoided punishing countries for behaviour within their borders (sanctions imposed on North Korea for its testing of nuclear devices being a notable recent exception). Again, the reasons for China’s actions are likely to be domestic. Mr Qaddafi’s political control appears tenuous and Chinese lives are at risk. The Communist Party does not want to appear to be propping up the man endangering them. 
China has long condemned what it describes as “interfering in other countries’ internal affairs”. Since 1989 it has been particularly fearful of setting a precedent for international action against itself should it stage another bloody crackdown on dissent such as on the Tiananmen Square protests that year. But China sees the situation in Libya as very different from that in China after Tiananmen​—​when the Chinese leadership, despite its squabbles, maintained a firm grip on power and largely kept the armed forces on side. 
A blog entry published on February 27th on the website of Caijing, a Beijing magazine, (here, in Chinese), suggested that it was time to give up the non-interference policy in the case of Libya. The article, boldly titled “Support the dispatch of American troops to Libya”, argued that “human rights come before sovereignty”. Its author, a Chinese journalist, said that when “a tyrant enslaves his country and tyrannises and massacres his citizens” talk of non-interference is “dog farts”. That, very probably, is going further than the party would like.
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OneAegis wrote:
Mar 1st 2011 5:22 GMT
We live in fascinating times.
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jouris wrote:
Mar 1st 2011 5:45 GMT
Subha seems kind of far away from the areas where Qaddafi's supporters are still holding out. Does it happen to be where most of the remaining Chinese workers in Libya are? Or is it just a symbolic but safe spot for the Chinese aircraft to land?
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Mikaeel6 wrote:
Mar 1st 2011 6:05 GMT
so what is this article saying, that the chinese are going to help kadafi
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No Mist wrote:
Mar 1st 2011 6:07 GMT
> "Its author, a Chinese journalist, said that when “a tyrant enslaves his country and tyrannises and massacres his citizens” talk of non-interference is “dog farts”. "
i am rolling over on the floor ... CCP sure has a sense of humor ... next they should try to publish that famous photo of a tank just about to crush a student during the Tiananmen massacre of 1989 with a caption stating "chinese tanks fighting with human rights abusers" ...
Big Brother redux !!!
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Ravi wrote:
Mar 1st 2011 6:14 GMT
The real reason why China voted in favour of a UN resolution imposing sanctions on Muammar Qaddafi was that it did not want to be the only country (on the UN Securtity Council) to vote against the resolution.
China and Russia tend to hide behind each other when it comes to voting on UN resolutions.
It would be interesting to see how the Chinese government deals with the future protests in China.
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Swedane wrote:
Mar 1st 2011 6:50 GMT
OneAegis, yes we really do live in fascinating times. But....
30.000 Chinese in Libya? What were they doing there?
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JoeSolaris wrote:
Mar 1st 2011 7:02 GMT
telecommunications, building trades, oil.
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Swedane wrote:
Mar 1st 2011 7:28 GMT
@Joe Solaris
....and the Libyans, can't they do that themselves? But 30.000....?
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newphilo wrote:
Mar 1st 2011 7:35 GMT
Article:"China has long condemned what it describes as “interfering in other countries’ internal affairs”."
well, they forgot to add "... unless those countries produce significant quanities of oil."
The move is simple: let China build warm ties with the next gvt. of Libya.
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ewakorn wrote:
Mar 1st 2011 7:36 GMT
Most likely Beijing got mad at Gaddafi when he justififed his crackdown in Triploi by citing the precedent of Tiananmen Incident (and other similar incidents by Russia and U.S.) in his televised speech.
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Ed (Brazil) wrote:
Mar 1st 2011 7:41 GMT
China's Objectives:
1-) To be placed among the "civilized" countries that defend freedom, humanity and mankind. What an hupocrisy ? that also helps distract the world of the huge protests going on in China (they are even beating foreign journalists)
2-) Lybia's Oil.
But fear not. The battle between the Chinese Governement and the Internet (where protests are organized) will eventually end, as the net is much bigger, much more powerfull.
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shibakoen wrote:
Mar 1st 2011 7:55 GMT
So that explains the smell coming from Zhongnanhai.
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Terrantr wrote:
Mar 1st 2011 8:38 GMT
@No Mist:
"...that famous photo of a tank just about to crush a student..."
It's actually the student managed to stop the march of the tanks. The tank tried to get around without hitting anything but failed, and then the student climbed up the tank, knocking on the hatch and tried to talk to its crew. The whole video can be found on youtube.
And by the way, a tank can only crash with its tracks. The hull is usually high, wide and smooth enough that a normal shape person can go under it without any harm. So if a tank is about to crush you, try to be right in front of it, just like the student did.
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Tamim Nahar al-Refai wrote:
Mar 1st 2011 8:42 GMT
Why would China be an exception to the rest of the global powers? I believe the “media” ought to address the rise of China with a better sense of responsibility and understanding.
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Ohio wrote:
Mar 1st 2011 9:40 GMT
"dog farts"? really? that's a correct translation? That's just rude. Don't Chinese people expect a higher level of discourse from their journalists?
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Claus Rasmussen wrote:
Mar 1st 2011 10:36 GMT
>> "dog farts"? really? that's a correct translation?
The correct translation is probably "Bullshit", but "Dog Farts" is funnier.
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Liorpari wrote:
Mar 1st 2011 10:39 GMT
Good piece. As time goes by, China will get more comfortable with its military ability, because not only it is getting stronger, others are getting weaker. The biggest military threat to China is the U.S, whose army is vast and by far the strongest. But, the U.S is having serious economic problems, and it is reluctant to send its forces overseas (in Libya, just the lost of oil will cause the U.S losses of millions of dollars, and perhaps sending the military could have saved the situation).
I have recently written an interesting article about this topic: laowaiblog.com/china-as-a-role-model
I invite everyone to read and to comment
Thank you!
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lesterliu wrote:
Mar 1st 2011 10:46 GMT
Just want to add that the same journalist in caijing also said:
which translate into: "From a human rights perspective,I fully support USA's operation in invading Iraq and throttling Sadam". I feel enlightened
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gocanucks wrote:
Mar 1st 2011 10:54 GMT
I think it's worth mentioning that China is also helping other countries like Vietnam and Bangladesh to evacuate their citizens from Libya.
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bismarck111 wrote:
Mar 1st 2011 11:05 GMT
China not abstaining on Libya I think it has to do with three reasons, the first two was in the Chinese statement to the Security Council on why they supported the UN sanctions
1) The fact that all the Arab countries and the Libyan delegations were calling for sanctions swayed both Russia and China to join.
2) The concern for Chinese citizens.
3) The Chinese knew where the wind is blowing in the Arab world, and it would not look good for them (ie future contracts) if they opposed the sanctions. Had Libya revolted first before Egypt and Tunisia, the Chinese would most likely have abstained.
Domestic opinion in such matters is tertiary. For any one who is familiar with the Chinese press, Guangming and Caijing are "liberal" press catering for the educated Chinese. The vast majority of Chinese don't read them, and definitely not the nationalist crowd.
As for the policy of non-intervention its a policy, and not a principle. The purpose of the policy is two fold
1) To ensure that others do not interfere in the internal affairs of China.
2) But also to ensure that China does not interfere in the affairs of other country. In the past it was intrepretated China won't interfere in the affairs of other states to further her foreign policy goals or for an ulterior motive. It was in contrast to the imperialistic powers like the US or Russia.
As for the 1998 incident.
The thing is China recently has been emphasizing 1) rather than 2) as she did in the past. For China, if all the Arab world wanted sanctions and the Libyan delegation wanted sanctions then I don't think she contradicts her non-intervention policy if look at it from point 2)
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