Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Earthquake in China Has Stoked Nationalism and Freed the Olympics from Criticism

I asked a couple of weeks ago what the effect of the Sichuan earthquake would be. The main focus of the article was a possible rise in nationalism. As TIME Magazine points out in an article linked below, that forecast definitely was realized. But there was another geopolitical consequence: sympathy for China from the rest of the world after weeks of China-bashing. The earthquake, in the long run, probably came at the best of times for the government in Beijing.

Time: China: Roused by Disaster

"We Chinese people are growing closer and closer together," says Wu Xiangping, 28, who took a leave from his job at a Beijing advertising firm to join the relief effort. "And because of that, the country's morality is rising too.


But from a monstrous humanitarian crisis has come a new self-awareness, a recognition of the Chinese people's sympathy and generosity of spirit.


In turn, some of China's most xenophobic bloggers have expressed astonishment at the sympathy shown for China by the rest of the world, the donations of cash and goods and the dispatch of foreign search-and-rescue teams, doctors and other personnel. The outpouring of international goodwill "has changed everything," says a senior Western diplomat based in Beijing. "Now many people will be cheering for the Chinese and hoping they pull off a good show at the Olympics. That will be pivotal for China's self-confidence and its perception of its place in the world."

Monday, May 26, 2008

U.S, Iran, Neighbors Meet Over Iraq

Reuters: U.S., Iran and Arab neighbors to meet on Iraq

This will be the first time Iranian and American negotiators will (publicly) be in the same room since talks over Iraqi security have been suspended. The U.S. should take this chance to publicly say:
1. That a peaceful Iraq will not be possible without Iran
2. Iran should stop arming Shiite militias
3. A stable Iraq is in the interests of Iran and the Sunni countries of the region

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Monday, May 12, 2008

Will the Earthquake in China Stoke Nationalism? How can the West use it?

chinese earthquake

CNN: Quake kills thousands, traps hundreds

This year’s Beijing Olympics, as any good wonks knows, was supposed to be a coming out party for the new China. To say it isn’t going well is an understatement. First came the Darfur activists. Darfur activists, in particular Amnesty International, had been preparing massive protests and boycotts for the 2008 Olympics because of China’s support for the government of Sudan. That was before protests in Tibet. Protests in Lhasa and the harsh crackdown that followed inspired a new group of protesters that wanted greater autonomy and freedom, if not independence, for Tibet. Even more recently, there have been calls for China to disassociate itself from the government in Myanmar after the disastrous cyclone there.

These protests have created a backlash in China and around the world. Chinese nationalism has been stoked. But as The Economist warns in the previously linked article, new nationalism is also a danger to the current Chinese regime. “Popular anger, once roused, can easily switch targets,” the magazine editors write. “[P]rotests at perceived slights against China's dignity could turn against a government accused of not doing enough to safeguard it.”

In the same way 9/11 increased patriotism in America, so will these quakes in China. That much is certain. What is questionable is which route this patriotism will take: will it be let out on the Communist government, or on foreign countries?

It depends on how the governments of the world respond. Will Hu Jintao’s administration fail miserably at natural disaster response, or will it shine? Will they cover up the extent of the disaster? How will Western media portray the disaster? Will Western governments send disaster relief? How much? These questions will only be answered by time.

How we can respond
Of course, instability in the world’s largest production factory is not what any Western politician wants right now. Therefore, suggesting backing for Chinese dissidents (for example) may not be politically feasible.

We’ve also got to keep in mind: this is a humanitarian catastrophe, not just an event to be used politically. We definitely can and should send aid.

However, that does not mean we can’t leverage the Chinese government for whatever we can get.