Thursday, June 24, 2010

China's role in Middle Earth

Middle Earth here meaning, roughly, "places that aren't rich & white, or Japan." Three data points.

1) Sometime in 2002-2003, African GDP started going rapidly upwards in a way it had not for some time. This is easily attributable to the commodity boom sparked by the Chinese economy. Whether this is an accurate attribution is another thing, but I think most leaders would perceive it that way.

2) China played a little-noticed, but vital, role in ending Sri Lanka's civil war on behalf of the Sinhalese. See especially this line:
Suddenly, thanks to China's diplomacy, the hectoring of the US and Europe didn't matter any more. After nearly 500 years under the thumb of the West, the immensely strategic little island in the Indian Ocean had a new sugar daddy...
Now, though this is far less direct, see the reports of Turkey becoming increasingly more independent of US wishes.
Turkey is seen increasingly in Washington as “running around the region doing things that are at cross-purposes to what the big powers in the region want,” said Steven A. Cook, a scholar with the Council on Foreign Relations. The question being asked, he said, is “How do we keep the Turks in their lane?”
One quote does not a foreign policy make, but the NYT quoting the CFR is really as close to a formal statement of policy as you need.

The point isn't that China is pulling strings in Ankara -- hell, the Chinese have a warmer relationship with Jerusalem. The point is that China's mere existence -- even outside of areas where it's acting directly -- creates space for other smaller powers to act independent of the US's wishes.

The example of Sri Lanka is interesting to me because it happened in the context of a decade of US efforts to improve relations with India -- the one bright spot in Dubya's foreign policy. What does that do? Does India value a calmer southern coast? Or are they more concerned about the possibility of a Chinese naval presence in "their" waters?

I don't know.

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