Fri, May 24, 2002 - Page 12 News List

China missing the diplomacy boat

By Paul Lin 林保華

China recently mounted a large-scale springtime diplomatic offensive. Jiang Zemin (江澤民), Li Peng (李鵬), Zhu Rongji (朱鎔基), Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) and Zeng Qinghong (曾慶紅) have all taken trips abroad. But with the exception of Hu's visit, during which he was courteously received in the US, China scored no major diplomatic successes. The US, Japan, and perhaps Germany could be considered "big countries," but none of the other countries visited had that distinction, and some were even "rogue states."

China's most important adversary among the big countries, the US, has adopted a relatively uncompromising attitude toward China ever since US President George W. Bush came into office, leaving his counterpart, Jiang, with no choice but to soften his posture to conceal his losses. So when the US welcomed Hu, and especially when he was allowed to enter the Pentagon and meet with the US military, Hu was quite excited.

Although China has recently conducted military exercises in the East China Sea, the Chinese authorities reportedly do not want the media to make a big deal of the exercises. Obviously, they don't want to create an impression of opposing the US just for the sake of opposing the US. Over the question of Taiwan's WHO entry, however, China's representative, Sha Zukang (沙祖康), provoked US representative Tommy Thompson, and the two men nearly exchanged blows. Clearly, China's enmity toward the US is instinctive and subconscious.

China also frequently plays the "Russia card" to counter the US. It also imports large volumes of Russian weapons as a thinly veiled way of buying support. But all such efforts have failed to prevent Russia and the US from growing closer. A major breakthrough has just been achieved in negotiations between Russia and the US to cut back on nuclear weapons. The two countries even want to cooperate over the creation of a missile defense system, causing China to feel left out. NATO and Russia have also reached a historic agreement to create the NATO-Russia Council, in which Russia will sit as an equal with NATO members.

NATO was established as a North American-European military alliance designed to defend its members from Russia. Now that it is increasingly taking the form of a military alliance with Russia, apart from dealing with terrorism and rogue states, naturally NATO will target China. Jiang has been trying to curry favor with Russia, but Russia has rejected its blandishments.

Also, a noteworthy change has taken place recently in China's relationship with Japan, a country which plays a pivotal role in both the global and Asian economies. This significant change occurred when Chinese police burst into Japan's consulate in Shenyang, China, seizing North Korean asylum seekers. Beijing is not only passive in its foreign relations, but is also notorious for trampling on human rights. Its action at the Japanese embassy not only infuriated the Japanese public, but also caused South Korean nationalistic sentiments to run high.

Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi hadn't initially intended to allow the event to affect Sino-Japanese relations, but under pressure from domestic media and other political forces, Japan adopted a tough line, calling for China's apology. Japan moreover immediately came out to announce its support for Taiwan's bid for observer status at the WHO. Trumpeting support for Taiwan is rare for Japan, which has always been fearful of offending China. This could be an indication that Japan's policy toward Taiwan and China could be about to change. It is apparent that whatever progress was made during Li and Zeng's April visit to Japan has dissipated.

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