Sunday, March 14, 2010

The Chinese Hurdle to Stop Iranian Nuclear Ambition

British Foreign Secretary David Miliband visits China from Sunday, March 14. Further sanction against Iranian nuclear project is the top agenda on this trip. Secretary Miliband meets Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi and Prime Minister Wen Jiabao. Oil hungry China is reluctant to impose more sanctions proposed by the United States and EU3. Meanwhile, US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates traveled Gulf States to ask their support for tougher sanctions against Iran, in order to overcome Russian and Chinese opposition (“Britain says China won't risk isolation over Iran”; Reuters; March 12, 2010).

Prior to Secretary Miliband’s visit to China, Kerry Brown, Senior Fellow at Chatham House, talked of Iranian oil in the Chinese economy at the interview on February 22. See the Video below. Brown says that China is in a unique position because it keeps friendly relations with all nations in the Middle East including Iran, as a good customer of oil. However, he says that it is not China’s interest to confront the United States and its European allies over Iran. On the other hand, China is behaving increasingly assertive these days, which makes it harder to reconcile Chinese and Western interests.

In his latest article, Brown explores Chinese standpoint between energy resource and nuclear non-proliferation. Currently, economic prosperity is the top priority for China, and the Communist Party will lose legitimacy if it fails to achieve high growth rate continually. This is an important point mentioned by Brown, and it is the vital reason why China is eager to reach oil import deals so voraciously, regardless of the reputation of exporters. As shown in the Copenhagen COP negotiation, China is obsessed with its economic growth, and gives little consideration to the environment. It blames the West for denying growth opportunities for rising economies like China. Quoting a data of US State Department, Brown points out that a quarter of the air pollution in California comes from China.

It is not only these irresponsible behaviors that hurdles non-proliferation efforts. China is at odds with the United States on arms sale to Taiwan and Dalai Lama’s visit to Washington. Current US-Chinese relations are in a gloomy atmosphere.

Despite hunger for oil and unfavorable relations with the United States, China regards non-proliferation as a vital national interest. However reluctantly, China will support to strengthen sanctions, according to Brown. But Kerry Brown asks a critical question, “And most worrying of all, how long will it be before countries like Iran start looking towards China not just for economic backing, but for diplomatic support, in their clashes with the US?”, at the end of this article(”China, Iran and the United States”; World Today; March 2010). Recent growth of self assertive nationalism in China could provoke this country to stand against the West, at all costs. A possible axis of outsiders of the liberal world order between authoritarian China and theocratic Iran will be a substantial threat to free nations.

The Iran case is a critical test whether China will be a qualified stakeholder to manage the globe or not. President Barack Obama remarked that he would welcome the rise of China at the Singapore APEC Summit. This was too hasty. What China has in mind is just to maintain current repressive regime under the Communist Party rule, and impose its narrow sighted national interests, without serious consideration to global public interest.

A troublesome China, along with Russia, is a product of the Clintonian dream which is the end of nation state clashes after the Cold War. If Foreign Secretary Miliband does not reach a meaningful agreement on sanctions against Iran during his visit to China, we need to think of nation state conflicts in the era of “The Return of History and the End of Dreams”. Nationalism in China and Russia makes both country increasingly dangerous.