South China Sea Disputes cont.

Chinese Coastguard vessels in the South China Sea

As discussed in an earlier post, the issue of territorial conflict in the South China Sea between China and its neighbors hasn’t solved itself; again animosity has been prompted by neighboring nations taking affront at Chinese fishing ships working and traveling through contested waters and the naturalized waters of various states. Most recently the Sino-Phillipines wrestling match over the Huangyan Islands/Panatag Shoal as they are known in China and the Philippines has witnessed angry and violent rhetoric and twin cases of dueling Chinese and Philippine public protests.

The issue, much like recent Chinese conflicts with Vietnam, Japan and South Korea arose when Chinese fishing boat captains  challenged coastguard vessels in non- Chinese or contested waters. In this situation a group of boats were seeking shelter from a storm (according the the CPC) when the Philippine coastguard found them and upon and inspection of their cargo attempted to arrest the fishermen on board for the taking of endangered species from the islands. The Chinese fishermen resisted and radioed for help, this then led to a stand off as more Chinese and Philippine coastguard and fishing ships arrived at the scene. Although the chance for further conflict has died down now, the CPC media is still responding strongly to the incident, but is mostly riled up about the Philippine’s territorial claim to the islands. In response to this issue the media has called for a permanent base on the island, has decried the US’s involvement and their enabling of the Philippines, threatened a military response to any Philippine escalation and has crowed over the how much damage China’s reaction has done to the Philippine economy. In spite of this, the CPC has also attempted to paint itself as the honest and good natured victim.

A short China Daily article written in May this year asked for the opinion of various Chinese policy wonks on the topic; their response was relatively uniform; Hong Guo Quan, a writer and director for the CCTV Military Channel said China should hoist “the national flag, establish… the monument of sovereignty, build… military bases, or… a fishery base on the island”. He went on to state that the Islands should pose as an example for “breaking the deadlock”, in all of the South China Sea disputes. Cao Xinglong a Chinese lawyer, stated that China must “win worldwide sympathy” via the use of diplomatic and economic ‘deterrents’ only, while Hu Xijin Editor-in-chief at Global Times very bluntly went a step further in stating “If the Philippines become too provocative and break(s) the peace, they can expect a punch in the face”. These views were not chosen for their differing in opinion; in effect they all make the same point; the CPC will not strike first, knows the Philippines cannot either, but it is willing to escalate the situation in other ways; namely by building a permanent testament to China’s claim on the island and through economic measures.

A China Daily article on the issue written on May 28th summarized the details of Beijing’s stance against the Philippines; stating that the issue is really about the Philippine president “trying to shift attention from his country’s domestic woes”. Further elaborating on this narrative of China’s position, the same article made the case for China’s claim to the islands. Noting that they had been “China’s undisputable territory for centuries”, they went on to argue that the Philippines “did not officially  lay rival claim over it until 1997”. However, in reality and outside of China, this claim is easily disputed; the Philippines placed a flag pole and lighthouse on the island in 1965, furthermore Spanish and American maritime maps from the 18th century back up the Philippine claim. Whereas the first concrete Chinese claim on the Islands was made back in 1935. In its defence of their claim on the islands, China seems aware of its position and the international skepticism towards it, and has rejected the Philippine’s repeated requests to take the dispute to the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea. Nonetheless it is very ready to back up its claims with belligerence, People’s Daily states that “China’s determination to defend its territorial  sovereignty will not be hindered by the “China threat theory”, and that “any country that carries out vexatious acts is doomed to be hit hard no matter if it is weak,  no matter how pitiful it pretends to be”.

The reason for this conflict surfacing now, rather than 70 years ago when the dispute began is that as far back as the 1930’s neither China nor the Philippines (which was not yet outside American, protectorate status) had the resources to secure the islands, neither did they have much reason to, the islands, and in-fact all of the contested waters in the South China Sea weren’t worth much.  China’s coastal fishery stocks are now almost depleted; directly leading to the increase in conflicts between Chinese fishermen and their neighbors. At the same time, huge oil finds are being speculated for in the region; the result is that now Chinese fishing boats and research ships from a plethora of nations are being seen in areas they haven’t before, leading to an increase in confrontations. Increases in mainland pollution and unsustainable fishing practices, as well as the high price of oil and increases in Asian demand for it implies that the issue is only set to get worse as an increasing affluent Asian population seeks out resources.

Considering this, the governments of South East Asia must feel great consternation and a very real sense of destabilization at the rise of China, despite its insistence towards a “peaceful rise”. Regardless of political alliances in the region, China sets its neighbors off balance and asks a lot of them regarding their foreign and domestic policies. Unfortunately the fact that China is willing to also be aggressive on issues like territorial disputes, human rights and diplomatic contact with the US only increases this dis-ease. In the South China Sea, Chinese coastguard vessels are still arresting Vietnamese fishermen for fishing in what they’ve known for generations as their maritime territory. In Korea, Taiwan and Japan, coastguard officers know that attempts to arrest illegal Chinese fishermen in their territories will result in vicious physical confrontations and indignant diplomatic confrontations with Beijing. For smaller nations like Brunei, the Philippines and Malaysia, they now know that holding on to the contested territories that China claims of them puts their economies at extreme risk.

China’s stance on the expanded issue of the South China Sea territorial disputes with Vietnam, Thailand, India, Taiwan, Korea and Japan, as well as the Philippines have been historically similar. The CPC has claimed that their neighbors were the aggressor and then has limited diplomatic relations or sought to punish them economically whilst maintaining a minimum credible force in the area to guard against further action. In the case of the Philippines there has been diplomatic intimidation, with the Philippines ambassador being summoned to explain himself, there is also a very real sense of disproportion in China’s response; the Philippine Navy’s only modern ships are Cold War-era US coastguard vessels. Economic sanctions took the guise of hidden trade restrictions, with the CPC citing “tightening quality controls” on Philippine fruit and purposefully slowing down inspection times, this action has ended up costing Philippine businesses $33.6 million dollars to date. At the same time the CPC has greatly discouraged Chinese tourism to the islands and has implied that Chinese nationals in the country could be attacked. Despite this the Chinese media has been wont to portray China as the one de-escalating the confrontation, Peoples Daily stated that China has adopted an attitude of restraint and has “created a peaceful atmosphere in the South China Sea”. The same article also claimed that China alone should “make rules for the development of the South China Sea area and even the whole Asia”.

The US Navy’s 7th, East Asian Fleet

There are no prizes for guessing who the CPC thinks the guilty party responsible for all of this trouble is; it is of course the United States who is claimed to be provoking their neighbors. A People’s Daily article, entitled “No storm can shake China’s composure”, stated grandly on the topic of the South China Sea that; “China has won the respect and understanding of most neighboring countries for its ability to control itself”. This statement is possibly meant to imply that China’s lack of military action against the Philippines, Vietnam, Korea, Taiwan and Japan is to be lauded as that of a very mature actor; it is a fallacy, China knows it cannot act for fear of US intervention. The article went on to state that the Chinese nation’s “restrained, calm and constructive attitude” has now been taken advantage of by actors encouraged by the US. The previously mentioned China Daily Article from May summarises Beijing’s sentiment perfectly; “with the United States as the puppeteer behind the scenes,Vietnam and the Philippines have chosen to rebuff China’s friendly intentions”. In this statement we see the real quarrel China has with the US, although they have stated they will not get involved, the US Navy doesn’t need to in order to stifle Chinese military activities. The US has forced China to take a more convoluted and less sure path to victory in the South China Sea. It has also allowed the Vietnamese, Taiwanese, Koreans and Philippines (and later if they choose to the Malays and Brunei’s as well) to contest China regarding their own territorial claims, and on a more equal playing field too. The same article states it bluntly; “the Philippines has been emboldened to run amuk… because it thinks it has the military might of the US behind it”. The fault is anyone’s but the US’s however, China’s behavior has obviously been anything but even-handed, and their flat-out refusal to seek mediation at the UN only discredits their “undisputable sovereignty” over the entire Sea further. The West is not trying to “create conflicts between China and its  neighboring countries”, as People’s daily bluntly states, the conflicts already existed and the West is trying to moderate them.

It is China’s behavior in South East Asia that has opened the door for the US’s warm re-entry into the region, despite its bullish behaviors in the past, the US can now play the ‘good guy’ and will win the battle for hearts and minds.

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Chinese Support of Assad; duplicitous and obvious

China vetoes the latest condemnation of Syria at the UN

Echoing the tone of many opinion pieces in the Western media, I too was initially confused by China’s outspoken support of the violent Syrian regime, both in the UN and through their press. The brutal year-long crackdown on Arab Spring protestors in the country has had left the Syrian government under ever weightier pressure from the UN and in the world media. This pressure has not only emanated from the West but also from the rest of the world, to the point where, barring Syria’s three active friends; Iran, Russia and China (and the “ALBA” nations of Venezuela, Cuba, Bolivia, Ecuador and Nicaragua), the United Nations has come together to push for an official condemnation. But nothing has, or will, come of it; the international community’s efforts have been, time and again, vetoed by the small pro-Assad bloc. What is confusing to most is that China’s veto against the anti-Assad measures makes no real sense. China has no strong connections to the regime, nothing to gain from Assad by shielding it, and by supporting Syria, has very publicly isolated itself. All of this is especially confusing when it is noted that Russia was doing enough to protect the Kremlin-friendly Assad regime on its own; China had no tangible reason to get involved.

Looking through recent Chinese media discussion on the issue however, I’m no longer confused by China’s behaviour. Chinese support of Assad seems to have been tied neatly into the CPC’s diplomatic and ideological policy of opposition to the West.

Most blatantly; in papers and news sites across the country, Chinese newspapers have been wont to quote the Syrian state news agency SANA at its word while casting aspersions on other voices. Meanwhile Chinese state media has downplayed the government shelling of civilian areas, continually referred to the rebel groups as “terrorists” and cast aspersions on the credibility and ingenuousness of Western concerns. Journalists in China have not blanketed the conflict completely as they did with the opening half of the Libyan revolution; instead they are speaking out as if in chorus. Their consensus seems to be that regarding outside actors, it is the West and its allies not the Russian and Chinese led pro- Assad bloc that is to blame for the lack of a solution. Citing some nation’s propensity toward arming Syrian rebels and the US and EU’s political actions against Assad, an article from China Daily claimed that their intransigence is “only prolonging the bloodshed and making it harder to reach a peaceful solution”. The article went on to boldly claim that American condemnation of China and Russia’s pro- Assad stance was immoral, “opposing the desires of the Syrian people” and standing in the way of the nation’s stability. It comes as little surprise that the article concluded that contrary to the West, that China’s relationship and attitude towards with the Arab world was sincere, long-established, and in the Arab people’s best interests.

A similar article released late last year, this time about the end of the West’s military involvement in Libya, made the case that Western concerns in Libya amounted to little more than a smash and grab that was also intended to counter  Chinese influence in the region. The article concluded grandly that “the fall of Gaddafi is not the triumph of good over evil, but a triumph of the former colonial rulers in reshaping the African economic map”. This Bush- era conspiracy; that Western democratic altruism is always a cover for financial greed is still quite trendy in China and has been trundled out time and again to attack the Western moral character.

The strategy has also been utilised in the Chinese media to also imply Machiavellian moves by the US to reorder the balance of power in the region re Syria. Multiple Global Times articles released in early 2012 argue for the legitimacy of the Assad government by combating calls for UN intervention, despite the violent human rights abuses perpetrated. These articles claim that American behaviour in the Middle East is simply explained; “crumpling up Syria would mean cutting off an important arm of Iran”, and that China, seeing itself as a marginalised world player “now sees the need to confront it”.

The scapegoating and denigration of the US is a time-honoured practice for the CPC harking back to the days of the Cultural Revolution, though originally it was implied most often on an East Asian scale. As China’s ambitions grow, it is natural that the CPC narrative has the West plotting not just against Chinese people, but now all non Western people’s across the world. Never mind that the actors on the ground most recently in Syria (and previously in Libya) had openly stated that peace with each other was (and should be) unpalatable, making intervention necessary to protect civilians. Forget also that further atrocities have been committed and encouraged while Russian and Chinese political action protected these authoritarian regimes and that US governmental and corporate assistance was vital in keeping Egypt’s recent revolution relatively bloodless. Perhaps there is some truth in Chinese allegations of Western hypocrisy however; the US has supported its fair share of dictators and still does in Saudi Arabia, Jordan and other African and Middle Eastern nations. Credibility issues crop up with China’s world view when they claim that Western intervention against dictatorships is wholly calculated though; the moral indignation felt in the West against repressive regimes is certainly real. It can also be argued that political support for authoritarianism after Bush jr. has certainly waned in the West as the political realism that marked the Cold War is slowly being replaced by ‘the peace of democracies’.

Assad and Ahmadinejad

China meanwhile, for all it’s talk of supporting the oppressed people of the world has many close relationships with authoritarian regimes and is one itself, a fact that prompts China to relentlessly ‘square the circle’; it sells itself and its authoritarian friends as nice guy alternatives to the West. The Chinese media has no problem for example implying that Iran’s political system is less repressive and nicer than America’s, or in echoing Tehran’s propaganda; that the Arab Spring protests (which the Iranians ruthlessly crushed in their own country) were inspired by the Ayatollah. The Global Times even argued recently that Western concerns about the obvious corruption and bullying at the vote this year in the Russian elections “is a way for the West to bring about splits in Russian society” and that Putin’s re-election reflected the will of the Russian people.

The PRC has a right to oppose the US through diplomatic channels and through other apparatuses of its soft power base, but it needs to be honest about itself and its complaints against Western hegemony first. Paranoid conspiracies, scapegoating others and obvious acts of duplicity will not win it the morality arm-wrestling match it has engaged in with the West… publicly supporting murderous and callous despots does not help either.

CPC alternatives to censorship

Overn the last decade internet use has spiked in China, from just over half a million users in the mid to late 90’s to over 500 million  now. This huge multitude of people online has no doubt caused Beijing a great deal of anxiety. As a source of public dissent and promulgation of unsanctioned ideas the internet is a real threat to their hegemony. Because of this China has seen a number of solutions to fix the problem of ‘internet freedom’ over the years; in 1997 the CPC first started to regulate the use of the internet, the next year the ‘Golden Shield’ (Great Firewall) project was conceived and completed in 2006/2008. While in 2009 the ‘Green Dam” programme, which called for the mandatory inclusion of surveillance microchips in all new computers almost passed into law.

These solutions all had their limitations; the 1997 regulations only gave China the framework of laws and their prosecution, not the methods for action, the Great Firewall can be circumvented by proxy servers, subverted ideologically through subtlety and sarcasm and served as a focus point for more criticism. Meanwhile, the Green Dam project was a disaster; it was unwieldy and ineffective in many of its parameters, obviously and poorly plagiarised, a potentially huge security risk and poorly disguised an ‘anti-pornography measure’, as such it was unpopular and was scrapped during the testing phase.

The subtleties of the internet seemed to stifle complete control, but at some point, shortly before Green Dam, Beijing stumbled upon the best answer so far and it had nothing to do with new coding or programmes. Beijing’s solution involved the adding of a social element to the equation. In 2004 the Publicity Department of Changsa city, seemingly of their own volition, hired China’s first ‘anonymous internet commentators’; a group whose job was to surreptitiously post positive comments and discredit complaints. Over the next three years this method proved so effective in stifling online dissent that it grew exponentially, organically spreading to different parts of the country and through the different channels of the CPC’s body politic. From every regional and city council to news sites, forums, chat rooms and social networking sites, CPC commentators are now commonly found on foreign news sites too.

An internet commentator conference broadcast on Chinese Television

Originally paid 0.50 Yuan a post, the writers are now popularly (and derisively) known as the “50 Cent Party”, and their goal, according to the head of Guangzhou’s City Inspectors Committee Li Yangui,  is to “track and analyze… public opinion, prevent the spread of undesirable information” and ultimately provide “positive guidance of public opinion”. Highlighting their importance to China’s internet policy, three years after the germination of the concept in 2007 Premier Hu Jintao called for the proliferation of this method at a major politburo conference. CPC support of this method undoubtedly lies in its ability to effectively direct online opinion towards any narrative end almost anonymously. This use of anonymity, rather than just deleting or blocking offensive material, serves to effectively remove the spectre of CPC heavy-handedness and tricks users into thinking the pro-party talking points they’re reading are the unbiased opinions of regular netizens. In a widely circulated, leaked communiqué that says much about the ‘scapegoating’ culture of the CPC, the stated true objective of the ‘50 Centers’ was revealed; to undermine the influence of “Taiwanese democracy”; as if China’s societal problems stemmed from anything Taiwan has done. Included in the supposed missive was also this incredible list of guidelines:

  1.   To the extent possible make America the target of criticism. Play down the existence of Taiwan.
  2. Do not directly confront [the idea of] democracy; rather, frame the argument in terms of “what kind of system can truly implement democracy.”
  3.  To the extent possible, choose various examples in Western countries of violence and unreasonable circumstances to explain how democracy is not well-suited to capitalism.
  4. Use America’s and other countries’ interference in international affairs to explain how Western democracy is actually an invasion of other countries and [how the West] is forcibly pushing [on other countries] Western values.
  5.  Use the bloody and tear-stained history of a [once] weak people [i.e., China] to stir up pro-Party and patriotic emotions.
  6. Increase the exposure that positive developments inside China receive; further accommodate the work of maintaining [social] stability.

Estimations by some experts range anywhere from tens to hundreds of thousands of full and part-time anonymous commentators working in China, according to local Chinese news media some large cities and regions openly employ hundreds of writers. On the other hand, some government and media sources deny the existence of paid commentators. In an interview with the Global Times, a former employee of the Public Security Bureau, Mrs Wang, implied that the 50 Cent Party was really an unorganised collection of pro-party citizens working outside of the state. Contradicting herself, Wang then went on to state that paid commentators are a real phenomenon; “It is necessary to have the commentators because sometimes truth may hurt social stability”.

Despite the occasional denials, the existence of the 50 Cent Party  is considered a well known fact, and the proliferation of the concept seems to imply that it is successful and here to stay. The concept does have its detractors and debateable weaknesses however; Hu Yong in an article by The Global Times argues that the commentators, because they are anonymous, dilute the veracity of their personas and that their very existence only makes “the public more aware of them”. On platforms like Twitter, he says, their anonymity means that “they can’t work if nobody follows them” and if they weren’t anonymous and people knew they are ‘50 Centers’ no one would. He concludes by saying that the ‘50 Cent Party’ has actually damaged the practice of ‘opinion guidance’ in China; it now “carries the stigma of immorality… commentators were only doing it for the money.” Furthermore, awareness of the ‘50 cent’ concept has damaged the reputation of China internationally, suspiciously pro-CPC comments by anonymous commentators are now often met with derision on Western news sites. As Zhang Shengjun, a politics professor complained in an article on the Global Times; the 50 Cent tag “has become a baton waved towards all Chinese patriots”. These are the eventual and obvious consequences of being duplicitous, no one will trust you.

Meanwhile the Chinese people have to live with the worry that their government are distorting and manipulating the news even in the commentary sections of their favourite websites.

Chinese worries at the end of Gadaffi

With the capture of Tripoli, as well as recent news reports indicating that much of his family is now in Algeria and that he himself may have fled to Niger, Col. Gadaffi’s regime’ in Libya seems to be well and truly ended and the aftermath looks anything but positive for the PRC.

A People’s Daily Op-Ed by James M. Dorsley on August 30th makes the case that not only in Libya, but also in the rest of the Middle East, that the PRC’s pro Gadaffi cum “neutral” policies have endangered Chinese contracts and relations. Particularly further afield in a destabilised and potentially post- Bashir Syria, as well as in the minds of Arabs, many of whom have been following the revolution in detail; the PRC has come off as a supporter of the “dictator’s status quo”. Citing comments from sources within the Libyan Rebel movement, Dorsley argues that Chinese assets and business dealings in Libya, despite rebel promises to honour existing contracts are also in jeopardy because of the nation’s political approach to the rebellion. Under the guise of investigating past corrupt business dealings (the majority of all business in Gadaffi’s Libya being corrupt) the rebel council is threatening Chinese interests, the article also goes onto to imply that Chinese refusals to recognise the rebel council’s legitimacy, as well as PRC media condemnations of NATO airstrikes, have shut China out. It goes on to argue that if the same happens in Syria, the outcome will look very much the same if not worse, as unlike with Libya, the PRC “cannot point to having done anything to stop the Syrian crackdown… nor can they point to any public contact with Assad’s opponents”.

Sensing the recent, none-too-subtle hints from the Libyan rebels, the PRC has attempted to paint their own picture of the political dynamics at the same time as it hoped to gain assurances of goodwill from the rebels. First, in an article from the Global Times on September 4th, the PRC assured that it’s “principle of no interference” in foreign nation’s internal affairs was actually beneficial to independence and freedom in the region. It implied that Chinese development and investment programmes, which do not discriminate against nations based on their politics, would assist Arab society in creating jobs, reducing poverty and in ushering in stability. This parallels Western nations, who have begun in earnest a policy of advocating non-support of violent or corrupt regimes. Indeed in Libya and Syria, Chinese investment programmes have notably resulted in jobs for Chinese workers (who later had to be evacuated in their thousands from Libya) as well as Arabs connected to Gadaffi’s and Bashir’s regimes, if nothing else, strengthening the dictators.

Another article, insisting on the benefits of Chinese “non interference” came out earlier on August 31st via the Global Times, it argued that in order to avert “Chinese losses” in the region, it should take a down to “earth approach”; being neither too for or against Western intentions. The article went on however to state plainly that breaking with China’s traditional policy of non interference would make the resulting “diplomatic uncertainties… unbearable”, and hence China would most likely not make too many waves, despite worries about being outflanked in the region by the pro-reform West.

Finally though, months into the revolution, the PRC has made some meaningful and pragmatic moves and came in behind the rebels after previous tacit support of Gadaffi, but only at the very last minute. On the 12th of September, weeks after UN Veto-partner Russia and long after NATO countries and much of the rest of the developed world gave their support and recognition to the Libyan Rebel Council, China has come to recognise the rebels. In a deceptively saccharine article titled “China respects Libyan people’s choice” the Chinese foreign ministry was quoted as congratulating the PRC for its policies of non interference while the bloody revolution took place and also in subtly reminding the Libyans of their obligations toward Chinese business contracts “uphold all agreements signed with Beijing before the overthrow of Moammar Gaddafi”.

Further complicating relations between the new Libya and the PRC, the Chinese media has sought ways to denigrate Western nations involved in the conflict, despite their successes in both unseating Gadaffi, stopping missile attacks and in avoiding civilian deaths. Notably the argument that NATO nations only invaded Libya because of its’ oil wealth is still prevalent in PRC media, as well as unsavory claims that the rebel movement owes it’s allegiance and is subservient to the West. For example, on the second of September, China Daily used the “Fox News” method of airing un-cited ‘opinions’ in order to introduce and validate ‘talking point’ opinions that correspond with propaganda objectives. The editorial, titled, “Libyan People first”, citing the recent “Friends of Libya” conference in France argued that the NATO countries scrambling’s “to grab a share of the dividends of war has caused many to question the true intentions of the military intervention in Libya”.

Another article published after Tripoli had been fallen, by An Huihou on People’s Daily; in little over 500 words casts Western nations involved in the bombing campaign as immoral, inhumane, rude, brutal and selfish. Seemingly sourcing “tens of thousands of…civilian… casualties” whose deaths are attributable to NATO’s “enlarging of the civil war” rather than Gadaffi’s rockets and soldiers, An Huihou goes on to state that NATO’s hastening of the end of the same war makes them immoral for extending past the boundaries of the UNSC backed no fly-zone. Unsurprisingly,
these attacks on NATO airpower, the results of which have drastically shortened the war and bolstered the rebels, have garnered the PRC no new friends in Libya.                                                                           

Chinese attempts at spin doctoring events in Libya and denigrating NATO; as transparent as they seem in West are equally so in the Middle East and have been picked up by news organisations like Al Jazeera. As such, they could prove more damaging as Arab interest and goodwill toward the rebels is more prevalent than in the nations of the West. Further enflaming relations, recent reports that Chinese arms companies were at the very least, considering supplying the Gadaffi regime’ with rockets and rifles, caused outrage amongst the rebels who openly charged the PRC of defying UN arms sanctions. In reply China has promised a review of its practices and has argued that the discussions, leading only to the issuing of invoices to Gaddaffi respresentitaves, were done behind its’ back.

Unlike with Libya, after the Sudanese civil war and referendum, wherein Sudan broke down into two nations, the PRC were still able to maintain favourable trade relations and goodwill with both parties. This, despite previous PRC support of the status quo in the UN via Vetoing any and all actions regarding the genocide and unrest in Darfur. In many ways, the events in Darfur seem to mirror those in Libya, at least politically, but it seems that with Libya, the West had won out and the Chinese have overplayed their hand, and if noises from the Libyan rebels and Arabs on the streets are anything to go by, they are now about to feel the consequences.

CPC Media highlights ideological struggles with the West

In the last couple of months the Chinese media has noticeably ramped up their coverage of Chinese outreach programmes and a pattern of CPC support of non-democratic and designated “rogue” states has arisen. Recent news reports ranging from Chinese support of the governments of Iran and Sudan to articles on exponential trade growth between China and countries under Western sanctions subtly signals Chinese willingness to counterbalance Western political goals. This development, when coupled with China’s recent emphasis on ‘peaceful solutions’ in the Middle East and the media’s stern attacks on NATO indicates a new CPC missive to the world: China is now the number 1 ideological foil to challenge the West.

CPC support of foreign nations is founded on the country’s desire to advance its own strategic interests, particularly regarding trade and in securing natural resources. But the PRC media’s recent emphasis on Chinese contact with countries that have longstanding conflicts with Western democracies is particularly telling. Both Fiji, Sudan, Gaddaffi’s Libya, Sri Lanka and Iran have been feted in the last 3 months and the nature of China’s relationship with the country lauded; often placing Beijing directly at odds with the West.

On the 18th of April and later on the 1st of June, two Xinhua news stories discussed economic relationships with Fiji and the results of a Chinese trade and investment delegation to the island dictatorship. The first article in April directly quotes Fiji’s military commander (misquoted as “Prime Minister”) as naming China “a true friend of Fiji” and that ‘new Chinese infrastructure projects’ allow Fijian communities to “rid themselves of the old ways of thinking”. Meanwhile correlatory trade and investment figures quoted in June from Xinhua cited an almost 400% increase in Chinese investment from 2009 to 2010, during the same period that Australia and New Zealand increased diplomatic and economic pressure on the country. A second People’s Daily article from June also stressed the strength of Chinese relationships, his time with  the fractured African nation of Sudan. Central to the article was a quote from the Sudanese Vice President thanking China for its position in the UN “over problems related to Sudan for a long time” as well as sources citing Chinese economic assistance and trade. The article also cited several government officials discussing Chinese support of the Sudanese government on the conflict in Darfur without specifically stating it; “China respected the choice of the Sudanese people”. Later in the month, marking the 40th anniversary of the establishment of relations between China and Iran, the Chinese President was quoted in Xinhua as pushing for further economic and political cooperation with Iran “to promote peace and stability”. The article also made reference to the countries common interests, “friendly relationship” and diplomatic exchanges and sought to cast Iran as an international player in the world despite the country’s ‘rogue state’ and ‘Axis of Evil’ monikers.

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