This should be the global response from the streets of Mumbai to New York to Tokyo for this disgrace. Tell the Chinese leadership we’re sick and tired of them coddling the worst of the worst.
Christopher Hitchens captures the dynamics of the growing disgust:
Meanwhile, everybody is getting ready for the lovely time they will have at the Beijing Olympics. If there could be a single demand that would fuse almost all the human rights demands of the contemporary world into one, it would be the call to boycott or cancel this disgusting celebration.
I am well aware of the informed arguments of those who believe China’s influence is less than believed on the junta.
I humbly disagree. The great majority of the junta’s trade and cash flow comes from Chinese sources (all the natural resources they’re robbing the country of like teak and petrol) or Chinese-approved activities (drug money laundering), the far majority of their weapons and training comes from China and though the junta is xenophobic and nationalistic, I somehow doubt most of the military leaders believe they could defy Chinese wishes for very long without serious, perhaps, fatal, consequences.
How, in the words of the esteemed Thomas PM Barnett, is China acting like a strategic partner? He’s a very visionary thinker, but am I the only one who feels he needs to back this up at this time.
It sure as hell appears that China (and to a lesser extent India and America) does not consider this a priority and has done little to prevent the tragedy that has taken place thus far. How does that help the situation? How does this promote harmony and prosperity for the Asia of the 21st Century?
Where are the much-vaunted Chinese diplomats on the ground? Where’s the Chinese pressure? Where’s the Chinese concern for their global image? They look like what they are and will continue to be for seemingly another generation: the world’s foremost friend of the worst dictators and mass murderers. Worse yet, they’re direct enablers of such appalling and threatening behavior.
How is China a good neighbor to Thailand and the other ASEAN nations who have to put up with the hundreds of thousands of Burmese refugees? The flood of drugs from Burma? The flow of AIDS?
What has China done yet?
As much as the next person, I want China to be a strategic partner for the US. It can be, and it should, on matters like Afghanistan and Africa, but it certainly hasn’t yet. The disgraceful behavior continues.
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Larry Jagan provides a perspective on intra-junta rivalries that augur well for potential mischief by outsiders to exploit. Friends of Burma would do well to spread the word that the removal of hardliners by moderates would put the new leadership on the fast track to removal of sanctions and substantial international aid, tied to reasonable goals of release of political prisoners and some semblance of represenative government.
Jagan’s portrait of a fluid situtation in the military leadership is joined by Ralph Peters offering a realistic appraisal of China’s long-term interests in Burma informed by his lengthy visit to Burma in 1996 on a counter-drug mission for the US Army.
Peters portrays Burma as integral to China’s security and interests:
“Myanmar offers 1,200 miles of coastline on the Bay of Bengal and Andaman Sea, bordering the Indian Ocean. And those waters are a strategic lifeline for China, carrying trade westward and bringing back desperately needed oil from the Middle East and Africa.
Myanmar offers the promise of its own oil and gas deposits, while its magnificent hardwood forests are being clear-cut to feed China’s industrial appetites. (The ecological devastation is stunning.) And Beijing sets the terms of trade.
The advent of a pro-Western government in Myanmar would mean that, in wartime, China would have no direct access to the Greater Indian Ocean. The equivalent would be for the United States to lose access to the Caribbean – or worse.”
Given all this, Peters writes there is little America can do to influence Beijing to pressure the junta that would be successful.
Knocking American policy and strategic attention for being focused on one issue: that of the democracy campaign of “The Lady”, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, he captures the horror of misrule and exploitation in one effective sum-up:
“but the undocumented ravages of AIDS up on the Chinese border, the ecological devastation of a unique environment, the junta’s cultural genocide and Beijing’s economic imperialism happen to be a great deal more important than the agenda of the country’s urban intellectuals.”
Considering all the excellent writing on the issue in the past week, I’ve identified several wild cards we have to take into account from here on out.
Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. Peters writes: “The only way that Beijing would swing its support behind the pro-democracy movement would be if The Lady cut a back-room deal guaranteeing China’s continued presence, influence and access.”
Junta #2 in command General Maung Aye. According to Larry Jagan, some diplomats and aid workers in country depict him as at odds with the junta leader Than Shwe, leading to curious incidents of military discipline breaking down amid orders to shoot monks and restrict access to Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. Should the two continue to be at an impasse over how to move on in the aftermath of the protests, how willing is Maung Aye to risk his neck in a coup and cut his own deal with the Chinese. After all a compliant satellite is better for the Chinese than the festering cesspool of failure Burma currently is.
Junta leader Than Shwe. Will he compromise on anything of substance in the aftermath? Will his firm stance render his position of power brittle? Another article by Richard Ehrlich and Shawn Crispin even suggests in his xenophobic, isolationist worldview, he considers Burma joining ASEAN to be a mistake and is considering withdrawing Burma’s membership.
Japan. Anger over the murder of a Japanese journalist and an evolving foreign policy lead Younghusband at Coming Anarchy to ponder Japan’s potential role. The potential for Japan to make Burma the test case for its more democracy/human rights affirmative worldview is there if Japanese public opinion is spurred by further developments (i.e. some form of confirmation for the (believable) claims of thousands of dead monks and protesters) and Japan could further develop useful ties between ASEAN and Japan for one.
China. If Peters is right that China cares more about its long-term presence in Burma than the tainting of its Olympics (a position I tend to agree with) by revelations of terrible slaughter and a worsening situation in Burma, then other avenues need to be explored with China by Western nations. This brings up a point from Robert Kaplan’s 2006 article about the Kim Family Regime and the post KFR North Korea where it was reported that Beijing had a cadre of well-trained North Korean exiles ready to assume control.
Building on this last wildcard, why not the same for Burma?
A future Burma and North Korea with competent leaders who ran satellite states with China-style economies would be better than the disasters the respective populaces are stuck with right now. Such states are more realistic bets than failed states convulsed by revolution reborn into democracies. The chances for influence in such states for Western and democratic nations like India and ASEAN would obviously be less, but which wins and losses matter more?
Aung Naing Oo , a former student leader in Burma who was involved in the 1988 uprising and who now lives in exile in the UK, believes the junta cannot stop the 2007 protesters. “Nobody knew what was happening in 1988,” he told the Today programme on BBC Radio Four.
“There was only very little information about the killings. Now with the internet and the whole world watching I think its a totally different story now and I think the other important difference is that in 1988 it was the students that were leading the demonstrations, but now it is the monks. Monks are highly revered in the country.”
Anger is growing among the protesters in Rangoon over the treatment of the monks, the BBC’s South East Asia correspondent, Jonathan Head, reports.
Here we go…..Only one dead so far. How many by the end of the week?
Is Aung Naing Oo correct in predicting a different outcome because of the widespread media coverage?
How much chaos and bloodshed will China tolerate before fear over linkage to the junta’s behavior with Beijing’s close support and aid and the 2008 Beijing Olympics colors their reaction?
What concrete steps are available to activists within the USG and in civil society to effect real pressure on Beijing over this? Boycotts would seem out of the question, as would protests (they occur all the time over Tibet and religious freedom).
A campaign in the media that plays off a theme similar to the modestly effective “Genocide Olympics” effort earlier this year?
Hearings on Capitol Hill over the interesting tidbits Pepe Escobar takes note of with China’s military and economic ties with the junta?
Does private pressure work on Chinese leaders? Are there interested parties making such calls with suggestions or warnings?
Where is Speaker Pelosi going to be on this? She’s been a China hawk from the left for a long time, will a violent end to these protests provoke her fury?
She’s been relatively calm on the China front, showing her occasional insensibilities with a disgraceful position on the Colombian free trade agreement (she cites union opposition to the deal, i.e. homegrown Colombian opposition, but this seems to be false, as most private sector Colombian unions support and greatly desire such an agreement).
The increased use of satellite imagery would be helpful at this point in the cities and around the temples. Publicizing that as well would be useful. Remind the generals the world is watching. And pray like hell that somehow that could matter to them at this point, or at least to the Chinese.
Rather typical of Pres. Bush to offer a pathetic condemnation followed up by weak-kneed sanctions that have zero effect and merely offer an illusion of effort.
More effective perhaps would have been a public request for China, India and others to confer with him at the UN over the issue, and hammer out a joint resolution which begins to lay the groundwork for what should be the inevitable ending; a UN or ASEAN intervention force on the ground to prepare the ground for a new government in Burma.
That would too greatly threaten too many interests for too many parties at this point though, so it remains a daydream.
As would Speaker Pelosi threatening to make America’s participation in the Olympics an issue if China is seen as having blood on its hands. (Obviously this is a stupid idea in practice, but as a threat and attention-generator for how serious this crisis is, quite effective).
Pepe Escobar’s take is illuminating. He talks of Chinese pipelines, joint-survelliance projects, Indian natural gas deals, vast drug-money laundering that effectively acts as Burma’s revenue, European energy interests, etc. Translation: the Burmese people are going to be let down again, and the only question is how many will rot in prison and work camps and how many will die?
Great closer though:
So this seems to be the trillion-yuan question: Will Chinese President Hu Jintao sanction a Tiananmen remix – with Buddhist subtitles – less than one year before the Olympics that will signal to the whole world the renewed power and glory of the Middle Kingdom? If only the Buddha would contemplate direct intervention.