Friday, August 1, 2008

A Lengthy Analysis of China: How China Should Deal with Foreign Pressure

Post 10 of an 11 part essay on how the recent unrest in Tibet is a barometer of the various internal issues and the international pressure that China is struggling to deal with.

In determining its response to the current pressure, China will have to carefully weigh its interests and its pride as well as the consequences of compliance or defiance of international demands. Cooperating with the rest of the world would likely make other countries more comfortable about associating with Chinese businesses and policies, and it would surely make China itself more credible to other nations, perhaps leading them to more readily acknowledge China’s viability. China has clearly taken some steps in this direction, agreeing to some concessions with regards to Taiwan (not invading it, allowing it to govern itself) and wooing the international community so as to become the host country of the upcoming 2008 Summer Olympics, the event that China hopes will signal its return to world prominence.

The government has become obsessed with performing well in the games, going so far as to order the Houston Rockets of the NBA to sideline star Chinese center Yao Ming for the season after his injury so that he would be well in time to play for Team China at the Olympics.[1] The government has been equally obsessed with ensuring that the rest of the world takes part in the Olympics, trying to act carefully so as not to alienate other nations and prompt them to boycott the games in retaliation. This may partially explain why the Chinese police initially hesitated to quell the Tibetan riots.[2] In addition, the government has taken drastic measures to embellish Beijing and the overall Olympic environment for the upcoming athletes. Among other things, in Beijing the government has closed several factories and prevented several streets from being driven on in a desperate attempt to limit the appalling amount of pollution hovering over the capital,[3] and in one extreme case the government walled off several houses so as to beautify the square for the upcoming games.[4]

While some cooperation is undoubtedly good, complying too much with international demands could cause unwanted interference in China’s domestic issues (although they do have international effects) and could hurt the aims of China given that their stances on certain situations, such as those regarding Taiwan and Africa, differ markedly from international stances on them. Equally critical, agreeing too much to international wishes would recall the dreadful memories of European imperialist control and Japanese occupation that China never wants to remotely experience again. Although the past European and Japanese incursions humbled the Chinese into dealing with the rest of the world, they did not cause the Chinese to relinquish their proud attitude. True to such pride, China wants to deal with its issues its way.

Ever since China was finally reunified under Communist rule, China has leaned far more towards defiance than compliance with the rest of the world. It countered the Americans during the Korean War, occupied part of disputed Kashmir, checked the power of and even skirmished with the Soviet Union, threatened Taiwan, and fought a border war with Vietnam, among other things, clearly demonstrating its willingness to use aggressive foreign policy actions with only secondary regard to the views of other countries. Such a trend has continued to the present day, with China increasingly undercutting American diplomatic actions towards Darfur and Iran and also selling arms to regimes such as those in Zimbabwe and Sudan whose actions are denounced by most of the rest of the world, to name a few examples.

Moreover, China continues to largely ignore the rest of the world when acting on its core issues, as the response to the latest Tibetan unrest shows. Even with outside influence at its zenith with the Olympics nearing, ultimately China did not hesitate to brutally suppress the unrest, sending a clear message that its internal issues, like Tibet, are more important than international aims or acceptance.

It may not be altogether wise, though, for China to take such a unilateral, defiant stance towards the rest of the world. Even as China affects the outside world, so do other countries influence China as well. China’s technological and weaponry deprivation due to the U.S. and European embargoes is a clear example of the direct impact that the outside world can have on China’s development and power. In addition, as dynamic as China’s economy is, it does rely heavily on foreign markets for the sale of its low cost products and the importation of several necessary resources, like oil, and it would not be inconceivable if countries like the United States stopped importing Chinese goods or if resource-rich countries stopped exporting their raw materials. Although this would have a recoil effect on the acting countries, it nevertheless is a possibility the Chinese would do well to be aware of. As international pressure continues to mount, China must seek to balance independence and cooperation, interests and pride, and the eventual formula may very well end up defining China’s role as a world power.

[1] http://shakedownsports.com/2008/02/27/yao-mings-stress-fracture-conspiracy/
[2] http://www.nytimes.com/2008/03/24/world/asia/24tibet.html?_r=2&oref=slogin&oref=slogin
[3] http://www.nytimes.com/2008/08/01/sports/olympics/01china.html?hp
[4] http://www.nytimes.com/2008/07/29/sports/olympics/29beijing.html?partner=rssnyt&emc=rss

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