Alexa
  • Directory of Taiwan

China’s pariah friends worth the risk: experts

Myanmar’s top junta leader Gen. Than Shwe, center, walks to the Myanmar Pavilion at the Shanghai Expo site in Shanghai yesterday.

Myanmar’s top junta leader Gen. Than Shwe, center, walks to the Myanmar Pavilion at the Shanghai Expo site in Shanghai yesterday.

China has since June hosted the leaders of North Korea, Myanmar and Iran, showing none of the West’s reluctance to deal with pariah states when its strategic interests are at stake, experts say.
China, under increasing pressure to play a role on the global stage commensurate with its economic might, could see its image sullied by welcoming three strongmen whose regimes are under international sanctions, they say.
But close ties with Pyongyang, Tehran and the military junta in the former Burma -- whose leader Than Shwe is in China this week -- afford Beijing both access to key natural resources and a bit of diplomatic wiggle room, they add.
“Today, China is following its own path. It is integrating with the world on its own terms, while maintaining its autonomy and values,” said Xu Tiebing, a professor of international relations at the Communication University of China.
“It has decided to defend its fundamental interests without worrying too much about what the West thinks.”
China has rolled out the red carpet for the state visit by Than Shwe, calling Myanmar a “friendly neighbour” and saying its Nov. 7 election -- a contest widely derided in the West -- is an “important step” towards democracy.
Two weeks ago, North Korea’s reclusive Kim Jong-Il made his second visit to China -- the only country where he travels -- in less than four months, perhaps to win Beijing’s blessing for plans to transfer power to his son Kim Jong-Un.
In June, two days after the U.N. Security Council imposed fresh sanctions on Tehran, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad used an appearance at the World Expo in Shanghai to blast world powers for “monopolising” atomic technology.
While the firebrand leader did not come to Beijing for talks with senior leaders, China said on the day of his arrival that it “highly values relations with Iran.”
“While Beijing is aware of the potentially devastating consequences some of its close allies can have on its image, it does not want to diminish the room to manoeuvre these countries can afford it on the global stage,” said Valerie Niquet, a China expert at the Foundation for Strategic Research in Paris.
Jean-Pierre Cabestan, a professor of international studies at Hong Kong Baptist University, explained that North Korea, Myanmar and Iran all had “tricky relations with the US and its European and Japanese allies.”
As a result, the three countries are “pawns in the bipolar chess game that China is playing with the United States,” said Cabestan, who has just published a book on Chinese foreign policy.
Niquet however noted that Beijing’s strategy of being the key intermediary between its controversial allies and the West sometimes had limits.
“Washington now seems more sceptical about the positive role played by Beijing on the issue of North Korea,” which has not returned to stalled nuclear disarmament talks despite the efforts of host China, she said.
Beyond the complex diplomatic ties, China has a tangle of economic interests in the mix: Iran’s oil; major investments in Myanmar’s natural gas, teak, minerals and gems; a deal with neighbour North Korea to develop its Yellow Sea port Rajin; and arms sales to all three countries.


Updated : 2021-06-15 01:45 GMT+08:00