China’s rogue visitors
May is usually a pleasant time to visit China. This year, however, the month was one of the busiest in recent memory as numerous leaders of several of the world’s rogue states traveled to Beijing, one after another. The parade of leaders from states of concern created a scene reminiscent of the old imperial order where China was perceived as the center of the world and ultimate arbiter of international disputes and all other nations paid tribute or sought strategic support.
The procession began days after the raid that killed Osama bin Laden, with Pakistani Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani traveling to Beijing on May 17 for a visit that led to a sharply beefing up of the two countries’ defense and strategic alliance in a clear strategic message aimed at Washington.
The Gilani visit was followed on May 20 by the arrival in China of the world’s most secretive and dangerous dictator, Kim Jong-il of North Korea. Mr. Kim entered China for the third time this year for a strategic powwow with his Chinese overlords. The entire nine-member ruling Chinese Politburo Standing Committee, minus one member who was abroad, gave Mr. Kim a lavish welcome.
Upon returning to Pyongyang, Mr. Kim promptly set off yet another crisis by announcing North Korea would unilaterally and immediately cut off all communica- tions with South Korea. He warned ominously that Pyongyang is ready to deliver an “all-out military blow” to Seoul.
Then on May 24 Iran’s foreign minister Ali Akbar Salehi arrived in Beijing for yet another high-profile visit to discuss Iran’s worrying nuclear program and to invite China to send nuclear experts to visit Tehran’s nuclear facilities, much to Beijing’s delight. The visit represents a not so subtle rebuff by both states to the West’s credibility and efforts to deal with Iran’s rogue nuclear programs.
Meanwhile, China and Vietnam are squaring off again in the South China Sea over disputed isles. The confrontation coincided with a visit to China by members of the Burmese military dictatorship. The junta’s president Thein Sein, shunned by Burma’s ASEAN neighbors, went north the same week the Iranians were in Beijing to discuss “the situation in Southeast Asia.” China gave the Burmese dictator a red-carpet welcome. Chin’s courting of Burma is widely seen as Beijing’s efforts to build a diplomatic alliance aimed at strategically isolating Vietnam.
Shortly after the Iranians and the Burmese left the Chi- nese capital, China’s Syrian friends arrived in Beijing to discuss important issues of mutual concern in the Middle East. China remains one of the Bashar Assad regime’s strongest backers and has vociferously fought against United Nations Security Council resolutions condemning Syria for the ongoing bloody crackdown strongly condemned American and NATO military actions in Libya and refused to call for Libyan leader Col. Moammar Gadhafi to step down.
Among all major powers, only China and Russia avoided diplomatic contacts with Libya’s rebel government-in-waiting, the Libyan Transitional National Council.
The Russian about-face put China in the embarrassing position of being the only permanent member in the U.N. Security Council without diplomatic ties to the rebel organization. Some Chinese news outlets, reflecting official angst, cried about a Russian betrayal and the age-old Sino-Russo animosity appears suddenly on the rise again.
against Syrian protesters.