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Politics & Law

Why does China have so few true friends?

Chinese President Xi Jinping, with his Tanzanian counterpart Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete.

Chinese President Xi Jinping, with his Tanzanian counterpart Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete.

On his first foreign foray as China’s new President, Xi Jinping visited Russia and then Tanzania, two countries with which China has frosty relations at best.

“China and Russia, as the biggest neighbours share many commonalities,” Xi declared in Moscow. But in truth, the two nations carry on carefully crafted civility, and that’s all.

“All of Africa is China’s friend,” Xi said in Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania.

But many Africans say they hold a different view. “China takes our primary goods and sells us manufactured ones,” Lamido Sanusi, Nigeria’s central bank governor, wrote last month. This, he scoffed, is “the essence of colonialism”.

China is earnestly striving to become a respected world power

The day could conceivably come when its economy, even its military, are larger than America’s. But its biggest problem now is the nation’s “soft power”. China appears to have very few true friends in the world.

Its belligerent, assertive stance on territorial rights in the South China Sea the last few years has driven away almost every Asian nation. Nearly all of them are now asking the US for help – even Vietnam. China’s only regional “friend” is Cambodia, a nation Beijing has almost purchased with $8 billion in aid over the last few years and another $5 billion promised. Hun Sen, Cambodia’s Prime Minister, no longer openly disparages China.

Beijing used to count Burma as its friend, but Burma’s ongoing transition toward democracy came about in large part because its rulers didn’t like being dependent on Beijing. North Korea and China routinely criticise each other, but for political reasons they stay inseparable.

China experts point to other allies: Zimbabwe, Iran, Cuba, Sudan – all authoritarian states like China. Venezuela was an ally under Hugo Chavez, but now that he’s dead, the future relationship is unknown. Syria was also friendly, but its future is even less clear.

China is sucking up to Pakistan as US relationship with that country sours. But Pakistan is likely to go with whomever offers the most lucrative aid packages. As Husain Haqqani, former Pakistani ambassador to US, said, “China will give them rifles, but they can’t give F-16 aircraft.”

Beijing solicits an alliance with Serbia, siding with it in the ongoing debate about Kosovo’s independence – even though just last week a war-crimes tribunal convicted two senior Bosnian Serbs of directing a campaign of murder and persecution during the Bosnian war 20 years ago.

China faces trust issues all over the world

What about the rest of the world? Why does China have so few friends? Put simply, China faces trust issues all over the world. Would you trust a government that tells its people: No worries: the water is clean – after more than 16,000 diseased, decomposing pigs were found in the river that supplies water for Shanghai’s 23 million people?

How trustworthy would you find a nation whose young men infiltrate the US workforce, steal industrial secrets and take them home? Recently, a federal court sentenced Chinese citizen Sixing Liu to nearly six years in prison for passing thousands of files from a military contractor to Beijing. His conviction was the latest of about 100 similar cases involving Chinese infiltrators in the past four years.

Not every problem is so grand. Late last month, according to multiple sources, Swedish car-maker Volvo complained that some of its Chinese dealerships had inflated sales figures to qualify for cash bonuses – when Volvo sales had actually declined. By now you see the pattern.

Even a senior Chinese official said that the government often fakes its national economic statistics, like the GDP, inflation and unemployment rates. He once called them “man-made”, according to a leaked US diplomatic cable.

Speaking at a university in Moscow last month, President Xi acknowledged that “no country or block of countries can again single-handedly dominate world affairs”. His unspoken target: the US and Europe. But given China’s frequent dishonest behaviour that nation won’t soon dominate world affairs, either.

Author: Joel Brinkley
Source: The New Indian Express – China a long way from gaining world trust

About Political Atheist

Living in South East Asia (Vietnam & Cambodia). At the ending/starting point of the more than 1000 year old SIlk Road.


3 thoughts on “Why does China have so few true friends?

  1. Reblogged this on Oyia Brown.


    Posted by OyiaBrown | April 7, 2013, 6:56 pm


  1. Pingback: A China Model With British Accent | China Daily Mail - November 8, 2013

  2. Pingback: Pakistan is sort-of happy with Chinese aircraft, bought under pressure from China | China Daily Mail - March 4, 2015

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