So in the meanwhile, it’s become kind of fashionable to blame Beijing for the mess in “Myanmar”. Sure, Russia and India have gotten some of the blame for failing to rein in Burma’s ruthless junta. ASEAN has also been put to shame for its impotence in handling Burma, and even Singapore’s conservative Straits Times (subscription required) has begun to wonder aloud if it’s not the right time to suspend Burma’s membership in ASEAN, admitting that the “1997 Asean decision to admit Myanmar under the current military leadership without any conditionality was a mistake”.
But none of those players are getting it like China is. Ralph Peters of the New York Post says the argument that “Western corporations flying under the radar screen do more to prop up the junta than Beijing does” is “absolute bull”. Christopher Hitchens of Slate.com says “Burma’s foul regime depends on Beijing”. (Right we haven’t chosen the most heavyweight opinion leaders around, but you will find those views everywhere in the media and on the blogosphere.)
Is China really to blame for the mess that Burma’s military rulers have made of it? Okay, Shanghaiist is no political pundit but allow us to play devil’s advocate in asking the following questions that have lingered for a while in our little minds:
- Can and should China be expected to intervene in other states to spread freedom and democratic ideals with the same evangelistic fervour that the United States, for instance, possesses?
- So China’s quiet string-pulling behind the scenes hasn’t accomplished much, but what have sanctions accomplished apart from prolonging the pain of the longsuffering Burmese people?
- If China were expected to peddle its power and influence NOW to intervene in Burma, would it not be accused of bullying its way across Asia and the rest of the world when it finally did start to exert that same power and influence elsewhere (as it already has)?
Now, don’t get us wrong, we’re not saying that China doesn’t/shouldn’t have a part to play in resolving the crisis. But really people, are we alone in thinking that China would do a greater service to the world if it minded its own business and paid more attention to its own internal problems such as food safety and product quality? Blaming any one party is really just taking the easy (and lazy) way out.
China has many times sought to reassure its worried neighbours that it pursued a policy of harmonious development and peaceful rising. Should we not be a bit more thankful that the giant has not been totally made aware of the power that it possesses for now? In this instance, we might do well to exercise more care in what we wish for because we may just get it.
P.S.: In case you’re wondering, we’ve decided to drop “Myanmar” for “Burma” from now.
Previously on Shanghaiist
Bashing the China-bashing
NYPost: Myanmar mess: Blame Beijing
Slate.com: Maintained in China: Burma’s foul regime depends on Beijing
IHT: Myanmar: What next?
Telegraph Blogs: China and the Burmese regime
James Fallows: For once, I’m with Bush on a language issue: it’s Burma, not Myanmar
Beijing Newspeak: What the Chinese are reading about Burma
Guardian Unlimited: The Burmese blame game
Straits Times: Suspend Myanmar from ASEAN
Picture from renodiscontent.com