China Hand has a great post today about the notably muddled-looking role that China’s been playing on the Iran sanctions issue.
CH notes that while it’s understandable (given the exigencies of U.S. politics, the big role of AIPAC, etc) why Hillary Clinton came down like a ton of bricks against the Turkey/Brazil deal, what is far less comprehensible is the apparently clear support that China gave to Hillary’s rushed announcement of the new round of sanctions that Washington has been pushing for.
CH notes that subsequent to the release of a first statement that announced the endorsement that China and the rest of the P5+1 group gave to the new sanctions arrangement– and that also justified China’s role in those P5+1 negotiations– Beijing did try to walk its position back a bit, including by giving more props to the efforts of Turkey and Brazil.
The justifications given in the earlier article do, however, give an interesting window into the thinking/argumentation of China’s rulers on this matter and perhaps many other issues in world affairs.
As CH translates them, they cover the following four points:
- Point 1:
China acts on principle. It is opposed to nuclear proliferation and the possession of nuclear weapons by Iran.
“At the same time” China affirmed the dual track strategy and “the discussion of the draft of the six nations [i.e., the P5+1] concerning sanctions should not affect the peace and stability or influence the recovery of the international economy.
China’s important interests are maintained. China’s important interests are…in the matters of Iran’s energy, trade, and financial sectors. China believes that normal economics and trade should not be punished because of the Iran question nor should those countries that maintain normal, legal economic relations with Iran be punished…Through negotiations, this point was satisfied, doing a relatively good job of upholding China’s…important interests.
Maintaining China’s image as a responsible great power…China has repeatedly emphasized although the six nations are discussing sanctions in New York, diplomatic efforts should be completely unaffected. The door to diplomatic efforts has not been closed…China’s consistently positive and constructive attitude has gained the favorable comment of the concerned nations.
China has energetically tended to good relations with the various parties…During the course of discussions we have maintained good communications with the various parties, including Iran. We have reported relevant circumstances to the concerned party Iran in a timely manner. We have encouraged and supported Iran’s expansion of cooperation with international society. The most recent conclusion of an agreement of Brazil and Turkey with Iran for the swap of nuclear fuel was also the result of China supporting diplomatic efforts and creating the space and time for diplomatic efforts. This also includes obtaining precious time for the Brazilian and Turkish leaders to go to iran to engage in diplomatic efforts and achieve a positive result. Therefore, the representatives of both Brazil and Turkey have in various venues and through different channels expressed thanks to China. At the same time, Iran has also indicated that this is also the result of the work done by China’s leadership on the Iran side, actively urging and promoting discussions.
I think maybe point 3’s mention of China’s “image as a responsible great power” is the key. It wants to maintain its role in the world economy, as well as its access to natural resources from Iran and elsewhere– all without rocking the boat too much in its relations with Washington?
Well, I guess I can see that that position might have some, very China-centered, logic to it…. over the short term, at least. But it would have been nice to have seen Beijing less ready to be stampeded by the manipulators in Hillary’s State Department (and their very good friends in AIPAC.) It would have been nice to see China a little more ready to embrace the cause of the mid-size nations whose weight in world affairs derives from their soft power rather than their possession of nuclear weapons.