Twofish's Blog

November 1, 2006

China and international responsibility

Filed under: china, human rights, politics — twofish @ 7:34 pm

It shows out totally out of touch people in Washington DC are that the Chinese Security Review Commission would attempt to lecture China on being a responsible international citizen.  After the utter contempt the US has shown the international community and after the total mess in Iraq, this is just funny.  It’s funny now rather than scary because unlike two years ago, I can’t see these people doing much damage.  Two years ago, I was worried that people like that would lead to a confrontation between the US and China over Taiwan.  That’s less and less likely to happen now.  (Thank you Chen Shui-Bian for being totally incompetent, completely self-destructing, and for not getting anyone killed in the process.  George W. Bush also deserves an incompetence prize, but since people have gotten killed, it’s sad rather than funny.)

Now as far as Chinese actions in Africa.

The road to hell is paved with good intentions.

It’s not clear to me that Chinese policies and activities in Africa is going to make the situation worse than some of the efforts of people with “good intentions.” In some ways, Chinese policy is refreshingly non-colonial (i.e. here’s the money for natural resources, you guys figure what to do with it). Given all of the bad things that have happened with well-intentioned foreign aid to Africa, it’s not clear to me that the Chinese approach is going to lead to a worse outcome.

This is particularly important since a lot of the people who want China to economically isolate the “bad guys” were the same people that wanted to economically isolate China, ten to fifteen years ago, and I don’t think the world would have been a better place if that had happened.  I don’t know anything about Zambian politics, but I know enough about the disconnect between news reports of China and facts on the ground that I’m not going to take up arms in response to a news article.
In Zimbabwe, China is dealing with a corrupt idiot. However, China would deal with them the same way if he were a democratic saint. China invests in Mynamar. It also invests in Canada. If China starts using its money and power to support the “good guys” and try to take out the “bad guys” what will happen is that this power will get mixed into domestic Chinese politics, and I’m not sure that you’ll get a better outcome.

My note about “crunchy granola types” not understanding power. Other people’s human rights are always low on people’s priorities and if you start using human rights as an excuse to play with domestic politics, what *will* happen is that you’ll find youself captured by more powerful interests.  If China starts trying to select which dictators and democrats in Africa it does business with, then it will end up with the same sorts of domestic constituencies that create weird US policy toward Nicaragua and Cuba.  If you are a human rights activist *you will be used* by people whose main interest isn’t human rights, and whose main interest is maximizing their own money and power.  Nothing wrong with that, as long as you do it with your eyes open.

Note that there is a NYT article about how Chinese money is turning Khartoum into a boom town.

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