Monday, January 18, 2010

189) China's Foreign Policy - The Economist

For China, it is always about China
The Economist, January 18th 20102

DOES China have any plans to be helpful on Iran's nuclear programme? It is a three-dimensional jigsaw puzzle of a question, but I heard something new today that caught my attention, and might amount to a piece in that puzzle. I am in Stockholm, at the latest gathering of a group of Chinese, American and European officials, academics and analysts who have been meeting twice a year for a few years now to chew over the triangular relationship between those three powers. Iran came up, and China's seeming reluctance to endorse tougher sanctions if the authorities there refuse to halt or open up their suspected nuclear weapons programme.

These gatherings are off the record, but I think I can tell you that the signals are not cheering for those who hope that China, as a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, will endorse new measures at the UN level on Iran. Specifically, some from the Chinese side signal that they see their own domestic interests at stake, first and foremost, as China seeks to avoid falling out with the wider Muslim world over the fate of minority Uighurs in the far western region of Xinjiang.

After the murderous ethnic riots in Xinjiang last summer which left almost 200 people dead, only two countries condemned China for its crackdown, it is said. One was Turkey (which has long felt a bond with the Uighurs, a Turkic people). The other was Iran. The unrest in Xinjiang was followed by a range of tough measures announced in public, including the execution of nine people on charges of murder and arson, most of whom are believed to have been Uighur. Privately, it is explained, China took these reactions seriously. Diplomatically, for instance, China decided to step back from its (modest) engagement in the wider Middle East, in a bid to avoid further strains and complications in its relations with the Muslim world.

Now, I should say that nobody from China is making this link officially. It is also the case that some veteran China hands from the west are a bit sceptical about this Iran-Xinjiang linkage, which they recall first hearing from Chinese interlocutors about a decade ago.

Nor does any of this exclude the possibility that China may feel its interests are served by a different policy at some future date. But it is a reminder that attempts to understand China's foreign policy should always begin at home.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Comments are useful, provided that they refer exactly to the subject of the post, and present some relevant argument.
Comentários são bem-vindos, desde que relativos ao tema do post e apresentando argumentos substantivos.