Wednesday, October 28, 2009

International Relations: Chinese media rheoric - first India now Russia

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In my article of October 15,2009, titled "Chinese Media Revert to Pre-Deng Rhetoric on India" I had stated as follows: "The more hawkish line adopted by the Chinese Foreign Ministry and the party media indicate that the hawks in the PLA and the party have started influencing the policy towards India. "

2. An article under the bye-line Li Hongmei under the title 'How to respond to Russia's "Ambiguous Diplomacy"?' carried by the Chinese Communist Party's "People's Daily" on October 21,2009, (annexed) indicates that the newly-evident hawkish line in foreign policy matters reflecting some of the arguments, characterisations and rhetoric of the pre-Deng Xiaoping era has been directed not only against India, but also against Russia.

3. The article carries intriguing references to Russia as a fair-weather friend and as practising an ambiguous diplomacy. There has been targeted criticism of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin for some of his economic decisions affecting China and Chinese illegal traders in Russian territory.A comparison of the criticism of India, which has been accused of nursing hegemonistic aspirations, with the criticism of Russia indicates different motivating factors.

4. The motivating factor of the criticism of India is with reference to its foreign policy ---particularly its relations with the US ---, its aspirations of emerging as an important power and the border dispute. Economic factors do not appear to be behind the criticism of India.

5. In the case of Russia, economic factors seem to be mainly behind the criticism. The Chinese disappointment that Moscow did not give preference to China in respect of the award of the contract for the Far Eastern Oil pipeline project is writ large in the article. The article says:"Chauvinism and double-dealing tactics, which set the basic formula for making foreign policies in its Soviet time, can still be found in today's Russian diplomacy. This can be clearly illustrated by the 10-year-long competition between China and Japan for Russia's Far East oil pipeline project. The usual economic considerations inherent in a strictly commercial competition do not apply in this case. Instead, geopolitical considerations far outweigh any and all commercial considerations.Within the context, Russia had been cast in the role of exploiting the China-Japan rivalry. By waiting for the highest bid, Russia was fascinated by its triumph in converting the pipeline courtship into the pipeline diplomacy, in which Russia benefited from both sides while manipulating from behind the scenes."

6.There is also ill-concealed bitterness over the June 29,2009, decision of Putin to put down the illegal trading activities of Chinese immigrants in Russian territory by closing down the Cherkizovsky Market, Europe's largest marketplace, located in the Izmaylovo District of Moscow. Putin had ordered it to be closed down on grounds of violations of regulations and illegal activities. The market, which was owned by a Turkish group, had thousands of traders from China and the Central Asian Republics. Illegal traders from China constituted the majority in the market.

7. The need to pursue and enforce core Chinese interests----against India on the border issue and against Russia on economic issues---- has been the underlying themes of the two recent articles on India and Russia. While the emphasis on the enforcement of core Chinese interests is understandable, the use of pre-1979 rhetoric and arguments indicates the growing assertiveness of "China first" hawkish elements in the party and the PLA, who have no use for the reconcilatory language of the Deng era. What they are indicating is that the time has come for China to start using its military, diplomatic and economic muscles for enforcing its core interests.

8. What support these elements have in the party and the Government? It is difficult to answer this question,but the fact that the "People's Daily" has found it necessary to give voice to them in its columns shows that these elements are not insignificant. ( 27-10-09)

The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. He is also associated with the Chennai Centre For China Studies.

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