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Reliable Ally or what?

Written by S. M. Hali  •  May 2011 PDF Print E-mail

The twenty first century is the century of Asia while China, an established Asian leader and on its way to becoming a world leader, rules the roost. China’s progress and quantum leaps towards modernization are a marvel to observe but a source of concern for its detractors in the west. The driving force behind China’s dramatic rise is the prudent planning of the Communist Party of China (CPC), founded on July 1, 1921 in Shanghai. After 28 years of struggle, the CPC finally attained victory under its “new democratic revolution” and founded the People’s Republic of China in 1949. The CPC, the ruling party of mainland China, is founded mainly on ideology and politics and derives its ideas and policies from the people’s concentrated will and then turns that will into State laws and decisions which are passed by the National People’s Congress of China through the State’s legal procedures. In the nearly 90 years since its inception, the party has won over many admirers as well as detractors over the world. However, its success lies in the fact that it has steered the people of China from a sleepy nation, once labeled as “Opium eaters” into a vibrant and dynamic nation, rearing to take its rightful place in the comity of nations.

Prudent planning and astute preparations have been the contributing factors to China’s success. Since the mid-1990s, China began to accelerate its integration with the world economy, thus exposing itself to the impact of the changing international economic situation. It has withstood at least two major external impacts: One was the 1997-98 Asian financial crisis and the other was the 2008-09 international financial crisis. The former crippled China’s export growth to 0.5 percent and foreign direct investment (FDI) growth to 0.4 percent in 1998. The latter resulted in a negative growth rate for China’s export sector for the first time in the nation’s history. It also caused a drop in FDI. But the 2008-09 financial crisis was global, rocking China and the whole of Asia. Yet, as seen from the internal system, the aftermath looked much better than 10 years ago and has provided favorable conditions for resisting external impacts. The resistance to external factors is the result of major achievements in China’s reform and opening up over the past three decades. Sound political leadership combined with the continuity of thought process is the major factor behind this quantum leap by China in the last three decades.

A striking feature of China’s approach towards the rest of the world has been its reaching out to other countries. The Occident construes it as fishing in troubled waters, but let us examine the case of its relations with three countries, Iran, Korea and Pakistan. Iran is considered as an international pariah, because it refuses to give up its pursuit of nuclear capability, which is aimed at peaceful purposes but the U.S. and the west insist that Iran is pursuing a nuclear weapons program. This smacks of double standards, since the U.S. is well aware of Israel’s nuclear weapons program while India is a declared nuclear weapons-equipped state. However, instead of sanctioning them, the U.S. has strategic ties with them providing them assistance and support. What is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander and Iran, a signatory to the NPT, should have been permitted to pursue its peaceful goals of acquiring nuclear energy, instead UN sanctions were imposed on it. China has gone along with the sanctions but maintains its economic relations with Iran, much to the chagrin of the west. The possible reason may not be double standards but a genuine sympathy for Iran’s predicament as well as business considerations.

Now a brief look at the relations between North Korea and China. One of the biggest benefactors in trade, commerce, supply of essential food, arms and fuel has been China. In recent years there has been growing concern in China over North Korea’s nuclear weapons program, their alleged sinking of the ROKS Cheonan and their bombardment of Yeonpyeong. After North Korea conducted its first nuclear test in 2006, the Chinese government stated that they were “resolutely opposed to it” and voted for United Nations sanctions on North Korea. In November 2010, The Guardian published details of Chinese communications to the United States in which North Korea was referred to as a “spoiled child” and their nuclear program as “a threat to the whole world’s security.” Such evidence does not merit the label of dual standards in South Korea-China relations.
As far as Pakistan-China relations are concerned, they have been described in poetic superlatives but it is a fact that their ties are time-tested. China has proved to be more than an ally for Pakistan, having stood by it when the world imposed sanctions and virtually isolated Pakistan or when natural calamities struck the country. The U.S. has entered into an agreement with Pakistan’s arch rival India for providing it civil nuclear energy but has denied the same facility to Pakistan despite it being a frontline ally of the U.S. in the war against terror. Here again China stepped in and under IAEA safeguards, offered two nuclear plants to Pakistan in its pursuit of civil nuclear energy. Initially the U.S. opposed the deal tooth and nail but has now acquiesced.

China is a major benefactor for the U.S. too. Although the U.S. is wary of China’s economic growth, yet the PRC and the United States are major trade partners and have common interests in the prevention and suppression of terrorism and nuclear proliferation. China and the U.S. are the largest mutual trading partners, excluding the European Union. China is also the largest foreign creditor for the United States. It would be advisable for the America to drop its efforts to prop up India as a bulwark to China and instigating Japan, Taiwan and South Korea into forming an alliance against China and instead turn China’s strength into its own power potential to bring peace and tranquility into the world.  


Group Captain (R) Sultan M. Hali, now a practicing journalist, writes for print media, produces documentaries and hosts a TV talk show. He is currently based in Islamabad.

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