Connect with us

East Asia

The Pot Calls Out the Kettle: US’s most recent denouncement of China

M Waqas Jan

Published

on

As many an observer of International Politics may have noted, it is not uncommon for Nation States to take steps that can only be described as something out of the ‘Theatre of the Absurd.’ While President Donald Trump’s entire tenure may as well be qualified as such, the US’s most recent denouncement of China plumbs the depths of irony with nothing short of full theatricality.

Based on widespread allegations of human rights abuses being carried out by the Chinese government in the Xinjian autonomous region; the US, while globally highlighting the situation, is considering imposing sanctions on a number of Chinese government officials. These include senior party members and key administrative officials that are alleged as leading the Chinese government’s heavy-handed crackdown against Uighur militants in the largely Muslim populated Xinjiang region.  This comes amidst reports that US lawmakers are urging the State Department to charge these officials for human rights abuses under the Global Magnitsky Act, similar to the recent sanctions imposed on Turkish ministers as part of the Gülen-Brunson affair. This comes on the heels of an escalating trade war between the US and China which in itself is widely considered as being part of a broader US policy aimed at containing China.

Beyond the rubric of escalating tensions between the US and China however, this talk of imposing the above-mentioned sanctions merits closer attention. This is because the US is practically accusing China of running a surveillance state in the name of counter-terrorism, replete with unlawful detention centers and torture. Not to mention, the allegations of Islamophobia and the curbing of religious freedoms against a key minority group comprising of 22 million Chinese Muslims.

Unless the ghosts of Guantanamo, Abu-Ghuraib and Bagram have all miraculously been expunged off of the collective conscience of US policy-makers, it makes no sense whatsoever for the US to claim the moral high-ground with respect to Human rights abuses. Especially human rights abuses in the form of state sanctioned imprisonment and torture that is carried out in the name of counter-terrorism. It’s almost as if the apparent irony and double standards, instead of being lost on US policy makers, is being celebrated and thrown back in the face of rivals such as China.

This comes at a time when it is becoming increasingly difficult for the US government to hold any credibility with regard to the values it has claimed to champion. These values were once underlined by the widespread acceptance of cultural diversity and respect for basic human dignity, free from any discrimination based on race, religion, creed or ethnicity. Instead what we see now are highly exclusionary policies being imposed by the US, both at the domestic and international levels. These include stricter immigration laws, cutbacks in financial aid and the end of various climate, trade and defense agreements as part of a general withdrawal from past commitments and alliances.

This issue is not just restricted to the US either. Many have watched with pointed horror as political discourse across large swathes of Europe has coalesced around denouncing the very values which these countries once prided themselves on. Values that were once centered on championing human rights, welfare, social inclusivity and diversity have been replaced by the politics of fear and exclusion. This is evident in the broad shift in socio-political discourse on race, religion and ethnicity across the ‘Developed West’ where the threats of terrorism and cultural assimilation have given rise to rampant xenophobia.

The much discussed ‘Rise of Islamophobia in the West’ for instance provides a salient example of how divisive politics based on these themes have influenced domestic policies regarding immigration, law enforcement and state welfare. Be it the United States of Donald Trump, the United Kingdom of Theresa May, the France being envisioned by Marine Le Pen, or Angela Merkel’s Germany holding on to the last vestiges of Europe’s Post-War unity; the West has never in recent memory appeared so divided along such pervasive fault lines.

It is by keeping this context in mind that China’s response to the above allegations can be better framed within this discussion. Particularly with respect to combating Radical Islamic extremism, China has gone to great lengths to distinguish its approach from the West’s. It has emphasized its use of training and education as a means of warding off extremism, focusing instead on societal integration and economic development. Instead of an exclusionary or discriminatory approach, China’s end goal can be better understood as fostering greater integration and unity while maintaining diversity. Its vision for greater regional integration under its massive Belt & Road Initiative is aimed at directly these aspects, in effect promoting greater connectivity at the regional and international levels, across a diverse set of people and cultures.

Thus, while China may still be far from serving as a model of freedom and openness, its recent actions with respect to the BRI still place it far above the United States in terms of promoting international peace and development. There is no denying the fact that Islamophobia, rooted in terrorist threats from Radical Islamists, continues to make the lives of millions of Muslims around the world increasingly difficult. However, for the US to accuse China of fanning such sentiments is at its best an attempt at misdirecting global focus away from its own heavy-handedness in the Middle East. And at its worst, an attempt at fanning anti-Chinese sentiments amongst those same Radical Islamists, which the US itself has played a key role in unleashing on the world.

Considering the fact that all of this is directed under the garb of protecting Human Rights, there is little if any recourse left than to simply consider this,  as merely one of the many absurdities of our times.

Research Associate and Program Coordinator for the China Study & Information Centre (CS & IC) at the Strategic Vision Institute, a non-partisan think tank based out of Islamabad. He can be reached at waqas[at]thesvi.org

Continue Reading
Comments

East Asia

How China is helping Iran skirt US sanctions

Published

on

Shortly after the Trump administration reimposed sweeping sanctions on Iran, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said eight countries, most notable China, would be exempted from the draconian sanctions on buying Iranian crude oil.

Shortly after the Trump administration reimposed sweeping sanctions on the Islamic Republic of Iran, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made an important announcement. It was a calculated move to avoid a major embarrassment. The hawks in the power corridors of Washington had anticipated the backlash of sanctions on US foreign policy with many global powers rebuffing Trump’s foolhardy move.

Pompeo said eight countries would be exempted from the draconian sanctions on buying Iranian crude oil due to special circumstances. The countries included China, India, Italy, Greece, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, and Turkey.

Many of these countries had quite clearly indicated that they would not be cutting oil imports from Iran under the US pressure, most importantly China, Turkey, and India – three of Iran’s largest oil customers.

While India has its own strategic interests in maintaining good relations with Tehran, for instance, the Chabahar port project in Sistan-Baluchistan, Turkey’s relations with Washington have hit a new low following sanctions and trade tariffs imposed by the US.

China, which has emerged as a viable counterweight to US hegemony in the world and a protagonist of new international economic policy, has unambiguously reaffirmed its commitment to keep alive the Iran nuclear deal and stand by the Islamic Republic of Iran.

On November 5, when the petroleum-related sanctions came into effect, Chinese foreign ministry said it will continue to “hold a fair, objective and responsible attitude” and “resolutely safeguard its legitimate rights”, while reiterating its opposition to the unilateral US sanctions.

“China feels sorry for the US’ decision and we noticed that the international world as a whole opposes the practice of such unilateral sanctions,” foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said at a press briefing.

She said Iran has been seriously fulfilling its obligations under the JCPOA and its efforts have been recognized by the International Atomic Energy Agency dozen times. She also affirmed that China will firmly safeguard its lawful rights while continuing to adhere to JCPOA and urged relevant parties to stand on the “right side of history”.

China has maintained that implementing the Iranian nuclear deal is akin to safeguarding the authority of UN Security Council, basic norms of international law, international non-proliferation treaty and peace and stability in the Middle East.

As one of the remaining signatories of the JCPOA, along with European Union countries who are exploring options to circumvent the US sanctions, Beijing wants to keep the deal alive. China, believe experts, is in a better position compared to other Asian countries as it is not subservient to US interests and is already embroiled in a bitter trade war with Washington.

For all parties of the JCPOA, Iranian crude oil is the main commodity of interest, particularly for Beijing. In 2017, one-third of Iran’s oil was supplied to China, which underlines the significance of oil trade between the two countries. China’s commitment to continue importing oil from Iran is very likely to deal a body blow to US ploy of reducing Iranian oil imports to zero and ‘starving’ the Iranian nation.

Hu Xijin, chief editor of the influential Chinese daily Global Times, told Tehran Times that there was no possibility of Washington reducing the Iranian oil exports to zero, “because Washington lacks righteousness to do so, therefore it can’t have the full support of the international community”.

To continue oil trade in different currencies other than dollar, Iran has been in talks with key allies, including China. On September 29, Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said Tehran would circumvent sanctions by conducting trade in all currencies to avoid using the US dollar. “You can use your own currency. Sell stuff in your own currency, buy stuff in the other country’s currency, and at the end of a specific period, balance it out in a non-dollar currency. It’s quite possible and may even be profitable,”

China, which is the largest oil importer in the world with around nine million barrels imports every day, has been making concerted efforts to reshape the global oil market with increased usage of its currency in oil trading. If Chinese currency manages to replace the US dollar, it will be a masterstroke.

US has been rendered friendless and isolated in its quest to tear up the Iran deal and force countries to cut oil imports from Iran. European Union has already refused to back down on the Iran deal, exploring ways to develop payment channels to facilitate payments related to Iran’s exports. The goal, according to a statement issued by EU, “is to protect the freedom of other economic operators to pursue legitimate business with Iran”.

Beijing has expressed its full support to the EU’s proposal to set up a “special payments system” to facilitate trade with Iran and safeguard the Iranian nuclear deal, which experts believe will significantly reduce reliance on the US dollar in the global oil trade. That will be a game-changer.

First published in our partner MNA

Continue Reading

East Asia

The Implication of China’s Diplomacy in APEC and ASEAN

Published

on

It is truly unusual that the Chinese President Xi Jinping and its Premier Li Keqiang are visiting the same area during nearly the same time: Xi’s visit to APEC from15th to 21st November and Li’s visit to ASEAN on 15th November. Yet, if we look into China’s foreign policy towards this area over the past years since President Xi took power, it is not difficult to understand both Xi’s and Li’s official visits to the “larger Pacific” and the meaning beyond.

As we know, President Xi has reiterated that the Pacific is large enough for the countries involved to share the prosperity with each other. In order to achieve the inclusive rather than exclusive benefits for all, China’s diplomacy aims to reject any kind of unilateralism, trade protectionism and anti-globalization. Given this, Xi’s at APEC and Li’s at AEASN is defined as a signal of China’s diplomacy to further reform and bold openness.

As a rising great country, China is surely eager to expand its investment and trade with the south Pacific area, and Papua New Guinea (PNG) is the first country visited by Chinese president. What is more, PNG joined the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) early 2018 and then became the first state of Pacific islands to sign the MoU on “The Belt and Road Initiative” construction. As the theme “Harnessing Inclusive Opportunities, Embracing the Digital Future,” the APEC summit will focus on Regional economic integration, digital economy, connectivity, sustainable and inclusive growth and so forth.

Also during Premier Li’s visit to the ASEAN, he highlighted the necessity of the collaboration and mutual benefit among the countries involved on the 21st China-ASEAN leaders meeting. This is also the 21st ASEAN Plus Three Summit (10+3) and the 13th East Asia Summit (EAS).

Quite understandable, since the 1960s, the center of world economy has shifted from North Atlantic to Asia-Pacific, its dynamic growth in the region create countless jobs and push the development of world economy. This is the reason that Asia-Pacific region has the most trade agreements and the most complicated economic architecture around world. APEC and ASEAN, as two institutions that possess most member states, are the very pillars of the tumbledown regional economic architecture. APEC was launched by Australia and later included 21 member states in the region, amongst are United States, China, Japan, the economic giant three of the world economy. ASEAN is an institution that consist of ten small and middle states. Though they are not strong enough to meet the challenges from the power politics alone, ASEAN is a core force that firmly facilitate the economic integration of the whole region of East Asia and the Pacific. No matter what the way they embrace, they are the de facto basic regionalism of Asia-Pacific. The withdrawing of United States from Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and hard-achieved Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) once brought the regional economic architecture a fig leave and strengthened the impact of APEC and ASEAN.

As a result, the two visits of Chinese top leaders to the same region at the same time definitely attract worldwide attention, because they not only represent China’s recent diplomatic focus but also mark the fact that Asia-Pacific region has become one of the vital fields where China’s diplomacy will be actively conducting in terms of the Belt and Road Initiative, and carry on the good-neighbor policy. Since China has argued for creating a peaceful development milieu, to enhance economic transformation and upgrading oversea markets and partners in Asia-Pacific region.

Consider these facets, China, as the second largest economy, aims to promote its well-articulated stance on multilateralism and inclusiveness and globalization. As both President Xi and Premier Li have strongly said that China is ready to work with Pacific island countries to endeavor together and sail for a better future for bilateral relations. For the sake of that goal, China always believes that as long as all the countries involved have firm confidence in each other’s development, cooperation and the future of East Asia, and work closely together and forge ahead, all sides would achieve more and reach a higher level in the next 15 years.

For sure, China belongs to the part of a larger Asia-Pacific family, and the Chinese government defines its goal as the shared prosperity of this region. Therefore, China will continue to work hard and constructively to promote the overall development of impoverished but promising Pacific island countries under the Belt and Road Initiative.

Continue Reading

East Asia

An uncertain step in moving China-Japan relations

Published

on

Authors: Meshach Ampwera  & Luo Xinghuan

On October 26, Chinese President Xi Jinping met Japanese PM Shinzo Abe and praised that both China and Japan have pledged to strengthen bilateral ties amid continuous efforts made by the two nations. Xi said, “Bilateral relations have returned to the right track and gained positive momentum, which is something the two sides should cherish.” As the two largest economies in Asia, China and Japan are also the vital players in Asian security and the global development.

In addition, since this is the first official visit to China by a Japanese PM in a seven-year “Cold Peace” period, it is widely assumed that Abe’s visit symbolizes the resumption of high-level visits and will be followed by an increasing rapprochement between China and Japan. True, the leaders of the two economic giants witnessed a wide range of agreements, including a 30 billion US dollar worth of currency swap pact, the establishment of a maritime and air liaison mechanism, and enhancing people-to-people exchanges.

Yet, three factors have to be considered seriously in looking into Japanese foreign policy given the current changing geopolitical landscape regionally and globally. First, Japan has still regarded itself as a “defeated” state during the WWII. Since then, Japan’s postwar posture has frequently described as a new pacifism; yet in fact it is considerably more complex. As Henry Kissinger put it: “Japan had acquiesced in the U.S. predominance and followed the strategic landscape and the imperatives of Japan’s survival and long-term success.” This means that the governing elites in Tokyo used to hold the constitution drafted by U.S. occupying authorities with its stringent prohibition on military action, and adapted to their long-term strategic purposes. As a result, Japan was transformed from the pacific aspects of the postwar order (that prohibited military action) into a nation that has focused on other key elements of national strategy, particularly using economic leverage regionally and globally, though not uncontroversial.

Second, in a recently-released paper written by the former US Secretary of Defense Ash Carter, he maintained that “Japan is a close ally of the U.S. and a rising military power, too, because of legal and constitutional changes of great significance championed by Prime Minister Abe.” In practice, the Japanese administration has engineered an expansion to enable its military to operate regionally and even globally in response to the rise of China, violent extremist activity in Asia, and the alleged North Korean belligerence.

Actually in 2013, Japanese Government White Paper revealed a desire to become a “normal country” with an active alliance policy. In a searching for a new role in the Asia-pacific region, Japan aims to act as an “anchor” of the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) concluded in 2018 after the withdrawal of the United States. Now it involves 11 countries and representing 13.4% of global GDP ($ 13.5tri.). As the largest economy of the CPTPP, Japan has been active in moving it forward. Early this year when the British government stated it is exploring becoming a member of the CPTPP to stimulate exports after Brexit in 2019, Abe stated that the United Kingdom would be welcomed to join the partnership. It is said that even the U.S. reconsiders possibly rejoining the CPTPP if it were a “substantially new deal” for the United States.

Japan’s ardent involvement into the US-led strategy in Asia has also been endorsed to expand steadily as a normal power regionally and globally. For example, the Asia-Africa Growth Corridor (AAGC) is the result of the joint declaration issued by the India and Japan in 2016. Although it is premised on four pillars of development and cooperation, it is self-evident that the AAGC reflects a growing special “strategic and global partnership between India and Japan” in which both sides have viewed China’s growing, pragmatic and successful presence in Africa as a menace. There is no question that AAGC is a well-crafted vision and agenda of both India and Japan, linking with their own development priorities. But with increasing pressure from Washington and Brussels, Japan and India are in effect driven by the option for the AAGC to rebalance China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

From the inception of the BRI, they have more than ever before been concerned with being isolated in Africa by Beijing’s initiative. But, as Ampwera Meshach, a researcher at Jilin University put it, “Africa is on the growth trend and offers potential markets and raw materials. For this reason, Africa largely needs pragmatic and scientific, technological and development- oriented initiatives and these are clearly reflected in China’s BRI.” In light of this, the AAGC does neither reflect a novel nor pragmatic approach on how it fits within the African agenda. Instead, AAGC’s foundational pillars seem more inclined to the Western cooperation approaches that have for decades not been translated into development.

Controversially, two days before Abe’s visit to Beijing, Japan had decided to scrap official development assistance (ODA) to China, which is a program where Japan provides aids to developing countries starting back in 1954. Even though some people argue that Japan’s ODA is reasonably cancelled because China’s GDP is even 2.5 times larger than that of Japan, yet, it is necessary for Chinese to be aware of the reality that Japan is a longstanding ally of the United States. As Japan has long been an economic power, its impressive military capabilities would not be confined to a strict policy of territorial defense—no projection of Japanese power or the U.S.-Japan alliance to the region as a whole.

It is during the Abe’s administration which has recognized an environment of growing Chinese assertiveness, violent extremist activity in Asia, and North Korean hostility, and therefore, Japan has eagerly participated in Asian security, including training and exercising with other nations, beyond a purely passive, home-island defense role. This makes it an increasingly important player serving the US strategy in Asia but challenging the rise of China globally.

It is true that Abe tweeted about the trip — while recognizing the challenges in moving bilateral relations forward, he said that he would still work to “push Sino-Japan relations to the next level”. Given the two countries’ economic links, it is only understandable that there is a need for the two sides to come closer. Moreover, Japanese businesses has been an extremely active force behind the government’s shift of attitude on the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

Yet, all in all, we should never ignore that Japan’s ambitious foreign policy has gone beyond the economic goal.

Continue Reading

Latest

Newsdesk1 hour ago

Breaking down barriers for recycling industries

Standardization, awareness-raising, and regional cooperation – these were just some of the solutions to the many challenges faced by recycling...

East Asia3 hours ago

How China is helping Iran skirt US sanctions

Shortly after the Trump administration reimposed sweeping sanctions on Iran, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said eight countries, most notable...

Americas4 hours ago

Quiet Does Not Flow This Don: A Week Of the ‘Pathetic Inadequate’

That the current U.S. president places a premium on loyalty has been evident from the start —  loyalty not to...

Tech12 hours ago

Deloitte Unveils 2018 North America Technology Fast 500™ Rankings

Deloitte today released the “2018 North America Technology Fast 500,” an annual ranking of the fastest-growing North American companies in...

Culture14 hours ago

Culture – the “X Factor” for Building Back Better after Conflict and Disasters

Culture is the foundation upon which cities are built.  Cities are not just a collection of buildings but are people,...

Reports14 hours ago

Despite increasing trade tensions business confidence in Asia Pacific remains high

Business leaders across Asia Pacific remain confident that their companies revenues will grow over the next 12 months despite increasing...

Green Planet15 hours ago

Why This Planet Is Becoming Uninhabitable

There are now overt indications that this planet is becoming uninhabitable. Not only are increasing numbers of humans migrating from...

Trending

Copyright © 2018 Modern Diplomacy