Wednesday, May 31, 2006

China and the Arab nations

This is a thoughtful comment about China's evolving relationship to the Arab world, framed by a marriage metaphor:  The Arabs Take a Chinese Wife: Sino-Arab Relations in the Decade to Come by Chas Freeman, Jr., USFS (Ret.) 05/07/06.  Freeman says:

What do the Arabs and Chinese see in each other? Quite a bit.

The Arabs see a partner who will buy their oil without demanding that they accept a foreign ideology, abandon their way of life, or make other choices they'd rather avoid. They see a country that is far away and has no imperial agenda in their region but which is internationally influential and likely in time to be militarily powerful. They see a place to exchange their portraits of little green dead Americans for things they can unwrap and enjoy. They see a country that unreservedly welcomes their investments and is grateful for the jobs these create. They see a major civilization that seems determined to build a partnership with them, does not insult their religion or their way of life, values its reputation as a reliable supplier too much to engage in the promiscuous application of sanctions or other coercive measures, and has no habit of bombing or invading other countries to whose policies it objects.   [Tibetans or Vietnamese might quibble on that point, however.]

In short, the Arabs see the Chinese as pretty much like Americans - that is, Americans as we used to be before we decided to experiment with diplomacy-free foreign policy, hit-and-run democratization, compassionate - can't make out the word - colonialism, - "compassionate colonialism," that's it - and other "neocon" conceits of the age. And they see a chance to rebalance their international relationships to offset their longstanding overdependence on the United States. They know that they can't divorce us, even if they wished to do so. They are as addicted to our money as we are to their oil. We are locked in a Catholic marriage. But they are Muslims and they don't have to divorce us to take a second wife. Hence their romances with China and India. And these romances are taking place when international polls routinely show that, outside of Germany and our own country, China is now far more admired and trusted than theUnited States.  (my emphasis)

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