Twofish's Blog

April 20, 2008

Cool… Another entry in the “let’s bash China contest”

Filed under: africa, china — twofish @ 7:11 am

http://chinadigitaltimes.net/2008/04/chinese-troops-are-on-the-streets-of-zimbabwean-city-witnesses-say/

Looks like China is going to be held responsible if things go bad in Zimbabwe.  You have to maintain a sense of humor about these things if you won’t want to go completely crazy or burn out.  There are people out there who see (honestly) the current Chinese government as the source of all evil in the world, and are likely to believe and report anything bad they can find.  And there is a lot of bad stuff because China is a huge country, and even more bad stuff if you let down your standards of evidence.

So once you resign yourself that China is going to be portrayed as the “bad guy” it then becomes amusing how the story is shaped so that China becomes evil.  If things go bad in Zimbabwe, then I’m expecting the editorial from Howard French talking about how China was responsible for Mugabe staying in power, ignoring the ten thousand other factors that go into Zimbabwean politics.

The big problem with this view of the world, is that it really doesn’t improve it.  What inevitably happens when you focus on trivial factors that don’t make any difference is that you get into the politics of symbol.  The argument becomes that whatever guns China sends really doesn’t may the difference, but that China needs to “send a message” at which point everything starts becoming things about sending messages rather than getting anything accomplished.

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10 Comments »

  1. Of course China will be held responsible. In fact, China, as the main sponsor of ZANU-PF and ZAPU through the 60’s and 70’s and the loudest voice in the Third World demanding that Mugabe be released from prison and condemning the previous UDI government there, China already has a few million deaths on its hands.

    Indeed, blame China.

    Comment by Peanut Butter — April 20, 2008 @ 10:11 am

  2. Hey,

    I stumbled on your blog due to a brief (good, I might add) review of Perdue’s “China Marches West”, owing to it being of the central sources for my senior project.

    (I would suggest you read James Millward if you want to know about frontier politics — but the problem in frontier studies is how inextricably tied Tibet and Xinjiang Uyghur are, despite the fact that many scholars like to focus on one to the exclusion of the other)

    Moving onto your key point, I think your “bashing” posts are quite good. While it is hard to refute the notion that the nation is devoid of guilt, it’s certain that each nation has its own crimes. In turn, the conversation becomes, “who” and “what” rather than “is”; yet with the conversation in the West stationed in the former, I believe Mainlanders feel there is a certain crushing sentiment that this is the expropriation of colonial guilt upon a developing nation. The United States finds a convinient priority in criticizing others rather than improving themselves. (My bias is that I am fairly radically into Dependency Theory’s critique of globalization, and that when I attempt to speak on behalf of the Chinese people, it is weighted on the sources I have proficiency in translating, i.e. Renmin ribao and Xinhua)

    I really think our arguments are pretty much the same in this regard. But there is an interesting I’d like to bring up. Why are Americans outraged with China’s actions, yet the executive favoring non-action? My theory is that it all has something to do with the relationship between current National Security advisor Stephen Hadley and the 1989-era advisor Brent Scowcroft. Social struggles, particularly in (vis-a-vis Neoliberalism) reform-era China seem to be regarded as growing pains by both administrations, when detente is favored in place of fighting it out (diplomatically speaking). Yet, both Bush administrations as a whole seem completely opposed to this notion of ignoring tyranny, especially in pushing for US to be a Kissenger-style arbitrator of international peace. Does this mean that liberalized (economically liberal) powers get more leeway in HR violations? Does capitalism, as an assume corollary to the democratic peace theory, mean more than political freedom? Or is this in earnest an attempt to be peaceful and attempt to see it in a context internal to China?

    Very interesting writing!

    Comment by Jonathan Reiter — April 21, 2008 @ 6:54 pm

  3. Who funded Rhodesia’s communist movements and was at the head of the mob demanding that ZANU and ZAPU achieve power?

    Oh, that’s right, CHINA.

    This situation is very much China’s fault.

    Comment by Peanut Butter — April 22, 2008 @ 9:30 am

  4. Woops, sorry for the double post, my first comment didn’t appear the first time so I posted it again, feel free to delete one of them.

    Comment by Peanut Butter — April 22, 2008 @ 9:31 am

  5. China doesn’t deserve to be bashed for what Zimbabweans do to each other, but it will bear some responsibility if Mugabe’s people commit an atrocity using Chinese weapons. It is pretty obvious in this case what any weapons they buy will be used for.

    Imagine a similar situation: America supplies arms to Tibetan separatists who then use them to commit terrorist acts against Han Chinese (not that there is any sign yet that this is going to happen). Would any Chinese then accept an argument that America is not responsible?

    Comment by Peter — April 22, 2008 @ 11:59 pm

  6. That has already happened in 59 Peter, the American CIA funded Tibetan Separatists with cash and weapons to wage an insurgency war against China.

    Comment by Bob — April 24, 2008 @ 2:19 am

  7. > Why are Americans outraged with China’s actions, yet the executive favoring non-action?

    I’m not sure to what degree Americans in general are outraged with China’s actions. Anti-China sentiment makes the news, but I don’t get the sense that it is very widespread among the US public. China isn’t the nation with the best image, but its hardly widely seen as the “enemy of America.”

    One thing that makes China’s situation very different from the situation of say Iran is that most Americans are not that far removed from China. They know someone from China or know someone who has been there. This means that media portrayals of China have less impact since people get a lot of their information from people they known. This is in contrast to Iran or even Japan in the 1980’s.

    > Yet, both Bush administrations as a whole seem completely opposed to this notion of ignoring tyranny, especially in pushing for US to be a Kissenger-style arbitrator of international peace.

    Bush II started out very strong fighting tyranny and spreading democracy. However, the people in Bush II that were most vocal at trying to fight tyranny were the people that got the US into Iraq, which has been a complete disaster. The neo-conservatives were basically completely removed at the start of Bush’s second term.

    My personal view is that I would strongly prefer if the US *not* try to fight tyranny in China, because the US has made a mess of things when it does try to fight tyranny. Thanks to misguided US policies, “democracy” and “freedom” are now dirty words in large parts of the world.

    > Does this mean that liberalized (economically liberal) powers get more leeway in HR violations? Does capitalism, as an assume corollary to the democratic peace theory, mean more than political freedom? Or is this in earnest an attempt to be peaceful and attempt to see it in a context internal to China?

    It’s part of two realizations:

    1) there is a limit to what the US can do in China

    2) most people in the US really don’t care about human rights. They care about jobs and national security, and in order to make people care about human rights, you have to connect it to jobs and national security. Unfortunately in connecting human rights to the preservation of US jobs and national security, one often makes a hash of the situation.

    One point here is that although I’m not a fan of Tibetan nationalism, one area I feel very sad is that I think that the direction that the US government and their Western supporters are pushing the Tibetan movement in is going to be devastating to their aspirations for self-rule and cultural perservation in the long run.

    Comment by Twofish — April 24, 2008 @ 6:04 am

  8. That has already happened in 59 Peter, the American CIA funded Tibetan Separatists with cash and weapons to wage an insurgency war against China.

    Yes I’m aware of that. The US certainly deserves its share of blame for what it has done in the name of realpolitik, and like China is doing now they also sometimes accuse their critics of bashing. I think they are both wrong. Not everyone who criticises America is anti-American and not everyone who criticises China is a China hater.

    Reading the comments on blogs by Chinese posters I get the impression that there is an idea going around: at the moment China is still developing so Westerners don’t respect it but once China is really powerful, Westerners won’t “dare” point the finger anymore. I don’t think they can be more wrong. At the moment, America cops most of the blame for the problems in the world, rightly or wrongly. If and when China overtakes America, China will take on that role. By that time, China better have thicker skin than it has now.

    If Chinese people really don’t like their country being criticised, they should aim to be about as powerful as the EU instead of America. They’ll have nearly all the benefits of being a superpower, without turning into the country everyone loves to hate.

    Comment by Peter — April 26, 2008 @ 4:01 am

  9. Well, there are demonstrators outside of Carefour and there is this thing about “freedom fries.”

    However I do agree with the your point. A lot of the emotion against China is because China is a rising power, and as China grows more powerful one should expect *more* anti-China emotion. The fact that China *is* powerful is why people notice it. I’ve noticed that there are very few people protesting Nepal’s treatment of Tibetans at demonstrations.

    Comment by twofish — April 26, 2008 @ 5:01 am

  10. Of course we Indians love to bash China.

    They deserve that.
    If I start pointing..then my list might end up on the moon.

    Comment by Chakraborty — October 13, 2009 @ 9:58 pm


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