Sunday, March 30, 2014

Chinese Thinking on Crimea: “Taiwan” or “Tibet?”

New Eastern Outlook
Ulson Gunnar
March 31, 2014

China has maintained a very careful and consistent foreign policy of non-interference. It has steadfastly condemned foreign incursions into other nations under any pretext. In recent years, this has been extended to NATO’s adventures in Libya and Syria, where China has been vocal in its condemnation of foreign meddling. This is not only because China believes in national sovereignty in general as the foundation upon which it is building its global influence, but also and perhaps primarily because it fears for its own territorial integrity at home.

When Crimea voted to join the Russian Federation, the Chinese were particularly cautious in how they responded diplomatically. China even abstained from voting on a resolution submitted to the UN General Assembly backing Ukraine’s territorial integrity.

Their somewhat ambiguous statements and moves have given license to international press houses to portray China as opposing Russia. Headlines such as the Business Insider’s “China Doesn’t Back Russia’s Invasion Of Crimea — And That’s A Big Problem For Putin,” seem to describe Beijing as wholly abandoning Moscow over the ongoing Ukraine crisis.

The Business Insider even goes as far as saying, ”Russia’s Vladimir Putin has committed a grave strategic blunder by tearing up the international rule book without a green light from China. Any hope of recruiting Beijing as an ally to blunt Western sanctions looks doomed, and with it the Kremlin’s chances of a painless victory, or any worthwhile victory at all.”

Another assessment, this time from Bloomberg’s Businessweek, strikes a little closer to reality. In an article titled, “Is China Siding With Putin in the Ukraine Crisis?,” Businessweek states, ”The Chinese might naturally sympathize with Vladimir Putin, someone willing to stick it to Western leaders such as President Obama. However, China has long opposed actions that smack of interference in other countries’ internal affairs, in part to keep outsiders away from such sensitive issues as Tibet and Chinese dissidents.”