Previous Issues

   Book Review
   Guest Book
   Human Rights
   Kaowao Audio
  Migrant Watch
   Photo Gallery
   Readers front
Burma's exiled ethnic nationalities seminar held in North America

Online Commentary: Chinese Policy and the Moral Authority of the Security Council
The Dragon is Looking Askance
Kanbawza Win

America, a good friend of the Burmese people, if not the world, has decided again to put Burma on the agenda of the Security Council. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Eric G. John told the House of Representatives Sub-committee on Asia and the Pacific that the US remained “deeply concerned about the safety and welfare of Aung San Suu Kyi and other political prisoners,” in a new bid following a joint call by former Czech President Vaclav Havel and Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa, for immediate action. This welcoming news initiated by the two Nobel Peace laureates' rings like New Year bells to the entire people of Burma, in spite of the blocking by Russia and China last June. At least there is a flickering light of hope at the end of a long tunnel of a half-century under military boots.

But will that flickering light be blown out when the two permanent members, which have a long recorded history of dictatorial rule, say "Nay" and indirectly support the Junta to continue in power. That is everybody's question. Will the moral authority of these two Nobel Laureates who represent billions of people be able to sway the stone hearts of the leaders of Russia and China will soon be known in the coming October meeting of the United Nations Security Council?

Burma has 2,185 km of common border with China and the shadow of China is always keenly felt in Burma. An old fable says that if China spits Burma will drown. It seems that what Napoleon said has come to be true "Let the sleeping dragon lie if it awakens the world will be sorry." But let us see what China aspires to be. The outside world watches China with amazement, and often enough, too, with twinges of discomfort China has just launched a joint war games with its long time adversary Russia, in a show of military might that makes Uncle Sam nervous. The very basic, yet unanswered, questions are still to be answered. No matter how fast its economy grows, can a country make a successful transition to great-power status without real friendships, without associating itself meaningfully with any global ideal, or without bearing a more generous share of humanity's burdens?

Today, no nation of any import seems likely to copy China's model of government, despite its many successes. But that doesn't mean that any bid by Beijing for a larger mission in the world is merely a waste of time, much less that it is doomed to failure. At its most influential time, China has always represented an alternative to the West. Under Chairman Mao, many poor nations eagerly drew inspiration from this country based on a naïve appreciation of Chinese realities, but also because China was perceived as being on their side in their struggles against colonial rule and in their struggles for development in a global economy that appeared meanly skewed against the poor. Unless one is talking trade, with rare exception, China is absent from the lives of these countries today. The global rush, amid intense press scrutiny, to aid the victims of the Indian Ocean tsunami seemed to prod Beijing to action, perhaps not wanting to be absent from the lists of major countries making large donations. But if proof were needed that there has been no change in outlook, no new internationalist reflex formed, China has been largely invisible amid reports of famine that are devastating and threatening several other countries in West Africa. Previously, the Chinese construed that Africa is far away and shouldn't rank as a serious concern. Today, however, China's state companies are scouring the continent for business as they never have before, including Sudan in the midst of genocide, and if Africa looms large on the map for oil or trading profits, it stands to reason it should also count for something in more human terms.

Ultimately, the critical question in assessing China as a great power is how she behaves. What matters most is not so much the growth of Chinese power but how and for what purposes a rising China will actually wield its putative or actual power in the conduct of its international relations. Despite "realpolitik" in global institutions, a policy of multilateral integration coupled with multilateral containment is a more feasible and desirable option than a policy of bilateral engagement. Enmeshing China more fully in a global network of mutually interactive and beneficial multilateral regimes could more easily contain and even possibly transform from within China's unilateral free-riding or defective behavior.

The failure of Chinese leaders vision in such moments not only hurts the world's other weak nations but it also weakens the global system itself. It is also a proof that the Chinese do not attach any importance to international friendships. Whether at the individual level, or for the nation as a whole, getting rich quick, it seems, is all that matters. Perhaps that is why the Burmese named them Ta Yoke; directly translated means Mr. Mean. China is getting closer to and is opting for superpower status, but its rhetoric of "peaceful rise," and "harmonious society," seems to be just an empty-sounding slogan, "If things continue like this into the future, with no change, I don't think China will be able to become a real power, " commented Prof. Shi Yinghong from the Faculty of International Relations of the People's University of Beijing, "because its ideological and moral influence in the world will be quite limited."

The UN Security Council

Although the engagement of the ethno-democratic groups for stronger UN measures is nothing new, prominent figures have joined the cause thereby indicating the seriousness of the UN. In the meantime, the US is losing patience with the generals in Rangoon. The people of Burma do not harbor a single doubt over the good intentions of UN actions in the past, but from now on more effective and consistent planning and action are necessary. This time the onus has fallen on the UN Security Council. For the past one and half decade the UN have failed to bring reform to Burma. Two UN envoys on Burma, Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Paulo Sergio Pinheiro and the Secretary General’s own special envoy, Razali Ismail, have been effectively barred from visiting the country. Compared to the global poverty problem, the conflict in Western Darfur and North Korea’s nuclear threat, the Burma issue occupies only a sub-folder in world politics. That may be one of the reasons why the Russian Ambassador to the UN made the comment that Burma is a trivial matter to be put on the Security Council agenda as the Council was occupied with “matters of international peace and security”.

Now the Nobel Laureates had unraveled the hypocrisy of the UN Security Council. The have fortified that the problem of Burma is “far worse” than in countries where the Council had previously intervened. The whole world including the people of Burma as represented by the NLD and even the ASEAN Parliamentarian, has agreed that the country is a serious threat to international peace and security. We are wondering what lame excuses the representatives of the two dictatorial countries will give at the Council. We hope and pray that the scenario of the Korea crisis of the 50s will not be repeated, when the Russian ambassador withdrew from the Security Council paving the way for the Korean War. But again here nobody can under estimate the fraternity of the dictatorial regimes especially at a time when the dictatorial regimes of the world are dying one by one? This is the third time that democratic countries have tried to put Burma on the agenda and to every body's knowledge, the five factors for the UN Security Council's criteria to take actions are already in place. They are: -

the overthrow of the democratically elected government,

 conflict among government bodies and insurgent armies or armed ethnic groups,

widespread internal humanitarian or human rights violations,

substantial overflow of refugees, and

cross border problems such as drugs and human trafficking etc.

The short history of the Security Council indicates that in 1997 it took actions when Sierra Leone committed four offences (1 to 4), Afghanistan in 1996 for four beastly acts (2 to 4), Haiti, in 1993 for the breach of two only (2 & 3), in 1993, Rwanda for three bloody counts (2 to 5), Liberia in 1992 for two counts (2&4) and Cambodia one count only. But in the case of Burma all the above five factors are present viz. the overthrow of the democratically elected government was done in 1962 and again in 1990 when election results were not honoured. Conflict with the government and ethnic factions; has been going on for half a century with non-binding ceasefires and consistent fighting. Widespread Human Rights Violations are evident, such as destruction of villages, massive forced relocations, systematic rape, ethnic cleansing, forced labour and over 70,000 child soldiers breaking the records of any other countries. Outflow of refugees; can be clearly seen in the neighbouring countries. Officially there are 800,000 refugees while another 2 to 3 million are Internally Displaced Persons and numerous migrant workers in Thailand, India, Bangladesh, Malaysia, Laos and China. Drug Production, Human Trafficking and HIV/AIDs; are all well known. Next to Afghanistan, Burma is the biggest heroin and amphetamine stimulants producing country in the world.

The severity of these factors, compounded with the spread of HIV/AIDS and the failure of the regime to implement any reform or enable outside organizations to facilitate progress, makes the overall magnitude of the crises more threatening to international peace. Hence it has become a clear historical duty for the UN Security Council to restore Peace, Promote National Reconciliation and facilitate the return of Federal Democratic rule. Since Burma is one of the worst of all the problems ever tackled by the Security Council it would be inhuman for any permanent member to veto the UNSC resolution.

Position of Strength

The excesses of the Burmese army over its own population have appalled human rights activists around the world. Many moral and responsible political leaders cannot understand how the situation in Burma has been allowed to deteriorate to such an extent for one and half decades. It is only now that there is some possibility of raising the issue at the Security Council and even then success depends on the whims and fancies of the representatives of China and Russia.

The international community has called for change in Burma and morally and financially supported the Burmese democracy movement. They have worked to change conditions in Burma through sanctions, and have embarked in international forums including the United Nations, ASEM, ASEAN, and networks of parliamentarians, politicians, and non-government organizations.

The current Burmese Junta has adopted a policy of betraying the very concept of truth not only to the people of Burma but also to the world. It will never negotiate unless from the position of strength with their adversaries. This has been clearly evident in their negotiations with the ethnic armed forces and most of the ceasefire groups, which were compelled to surrender or to become impotent. However, in the case of the democracy movement it has been different, for when the Junta realize that they are having an upper hand they would released Daw Aung San Suu Kyi to ease the international pressure but when they discovered that they are losing ground and that the mass of the people were following Daw Aung San Suu Kyi (NLD), they resorted to violence and assassinations as the "Depayin" episodes indicates.

So if the UN Security Council dealt the Burmese problem, there is every possibility that the Junta will seriously come to the negotiating table, for the UNSC is the only UN organization that has "teeth" with the ability to bite as the past history demonstrates.

Nowadays, any major international decisions are made by consensus. Unilateral decisions taken by any individual country, even if it is a super power are usually frowned upon. The classic examples are the American decision on Afghanistan and Iraq. Passing the UNSC resolutions means achieving the consensus. We are quite positive that the Burmese Junta will come to the negotiating table. Otherwise, it will have to suffer the consequences by being forcibly removed through international intervention or armed struggle from within with the help of the UN. In other words, the UN intervention is urgently needed in the Burmese case.

To most people, 'intervention' implies 'physical intervention by armed force'. Some Burmese have called for the USA to intervene in Burma a la Iraq. Others want a U.N. peacekeeping force. But the Burmese ethno-democrats, in general, want political intervention. They are not so much in favour of military intervention. The experience of external military intervention in the Asia region in recent times has not been good - Tibet (China), Korea (UN), Vietnam (USA), East Timor & Papua (Indonesia), Cambodia (Vietnam, USA & UN), Bangladesh (India), Sri Lanka (India), Afghanistan (USA), and Iraq (USA) - to name a few. 

If possible the Burmese ethno-democracy movement realize that military intervention by any external power should be avoided at all costs because it will undermine Burma as a nation and be detrimental to the people of Burma. The territorial integrity of Burma and its sovereignty must be upheld. Political intervention, however, is a different question. Burma is a member nation of ASEAN. When Burma affects the collective well being of ASEAN, it is the duty of all ASEAN members to help Burma resolve its internal problems. Helping does not mean 'intervention' by force or political coercion. Helping means to seriously investigate the problem and to suggest possible solutions that could be acceptable to all concerned parties. Now it is found that China, India and ASEAN have intervene economically on the side of the Junta marginalizing the ethno democracy forces and even winning some of the Burmese think tanks to their side by the appeasement theory.

Bangladesh, India, China, Laos Malaysia, Thailand and Singapore are close neighbors. Problems in Burma invariably affect them. Like ASEAN, it is in their own self-interest to help Burma to find a solution to its internal problems. Besides, Burma is also a member of the United Nations. When Burma affects the relationships of various regional groupings like ASEAN and the European Union or the Americas, the UN has a duty to try to help resolve the problem. This cannot be construed as "an intervention" but as the duty of the UNSC to solve the international problems. But if political intervention does not work than military intervention became a possibility. However, there is still time to make the political intervention if the neighboring countries of China and India choose to do.

Everybody knows that the reverse of 'Intervention' is 'Non-intervention', opportunistic exploitation, or benign neglect. These policies can be useful if the problem in Burma is short-term in nature or if the conflict partners can themselves find a solution. This is not the case in Burma. The conflict between the central government and the ethnic nationalities is entering its 6th decades. The conflict with the democracy advocates is now almost two decades old and Burma's economy is in a downward spiral and her problems are multiplying. Burma as a nation is now in a very weak state. Given more time, it could collapse on its own. Or external powers might be tempted to intervene. Either way, the results may not be beneficial to Burma's neighbors, ASEAN or the Asia region as a whole. Hence it is high time that the UN should intervene, spearheaded by the UNSC.

Sino-Burma Relations

The political landscape in Southeast Asia changed drastically when the Americans withdrew from the Philippines. This was accelerated rapidly as the People's Republic of China became a great regional power. China's economic and military capabilities have grown dramatically at a time when China's traditional security concern, Russia, has faded. Japan remains a long-term but not an immediate security problem for China. This has left China free, in geopolitical terms, to shift its attention to the South. The most striking manifestation of this development has been a very assertive policy toward the South China Sea; i.e., the entire sea and all the land outcroppings within it are claimed as Chinese sovereign territory. This has been accompanied by a number of statements from senior Chinese civilian and military officials that seem to presage a kind of Chinese Monroe Doctrine for Southeast Asia, a modern reprise of the historic preponderance of the Middle Kingdom. Compounded by China's resort to bare knuckled military intimidation aimed at Taiwan, have reinforced a growing perception in Southeast Asia of China as a major security factor-and perhaps a threat. The discovery of Chinese facilities on a reef near to, and claimed by, the Philippines did nothing to dispel these concerns.                   

Economically, China's presence, particularly in northern Burma, has exploded. In a decade, cross border trade went from $15 million to over $800 million and now is estimated to be a billion dollars. A flood of cheap Chinese goods now dominates the Burmese consumer market. Large numbers of Chinese traders and undocumented immigrants have changed the demographic profile of northern Burma. Today, Mandalay is described by people of Burma as second Beijing, a predominantly Chinese city dominated by Chinese money. Chinese construction crews are building and upgrading highways, bridges, and railroads through northern Burma to the sea, while Chinese officials describe Burma as a potentially lucrative outlet to the Indian Ocean for Chinese trade. Bertil Lintner reports: "Most alarming, from the perspective of ASEAN, was the fact that some of the equipment for the Burmese navy had to be installed and at least partially maintained by Chinese technicians. The Chinese had gained a toehold in the maritime region between India and Southeast Asia for the first time in the entire history."

From a geopolitical perspective, Burma's Military approach to its huge northern neighbor is anomalous. The obvious point is that Burma has developed increasingly close ties with the only country in the world that is in a position to seriously threaten its vital security interests. One and a half decade of autocratic rule, mismanagement and self-imposed isolation have turned Burma into one of the world's poorest countries. This, in turn, has made Burma vulnerable in terms of security. An economic relapse has the pernicious effect of reinforcing the Junta's siege mentality, exacerbating its tendency toward police state methods. Such an economically hard-pressed regime has increases its collaboration in the narcotics trade with the narco barons and began to turn to China. The end result is more cross border migration and increasing control of the economy by well-capitalized Chinese traders, both home grown and from China. More far-fetched, but not impossible, is an absorption of some of Burma's parts as happened in Tibet, for many ethnic nationality groups through their historical experience with the Chinese have found the Chinese option to be far better than the Burman. The de facto territorial integrity of a poor, weak, and divided nation cannot be taken for granted.

Burma was the first non-communist country to recognize the People Republic of China in 1949. She signed the Sino-Burmese border treaty in 1960 - the first border treaty signed after the Chinese civil war. The Burmese regime, ignoring the results of the 1990 election and being isolated from many sources of international credit, turned to her northern Burma, and China was the one nation willing to give economic, military, and advisory aid. In 1990 and 1994, the two countries signed arms sales agreements. Chinese investment in the country is grossly underestimated because the amount does not go through the National Investment Board. Chinese trade seems greatly under estimated and Chinese immigration into Burma has been extensive (estimates range from two to three million Chinese now in the country, compared to several hundred thousand before 1988). Beijing’s concept of "democratization" does not embrace an open acceptance of the vanguard of Burma’s democracy movement, the National League for Democracy. The Chinese Embassy in Rangoon, for instance, keeps a demonstrable distance from the NLD. Nor is there any open Chinese sympathy for the plight of its leader, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, held under house arrest at her home for most of the time. Yet Daw Suu ’s name often appears regularly in Chinese media reports on Burmese developments.

It can’t have escaped Beijing’s notice that Suu Kyi has never openly criticized China or its ties with Rangoon. Chinese foreign policy pundits must also be aware that Suu Kyi has also never expressed clearly pro-Western sentiments. Her aides describe her as a nationalist and maintain she would never, for instance, allow an American military presence in Burma—another source of comfort for Beijing. China’s vice prime minister, "iron lady" Wu Yi, told Junta chairman Than Shwe, that Beijing wanted to see Burma consolidate economic development—and at the same time achieve political stability and national harmony. For Burmese observers, this goes a long way towards explaining the success of Chinese economic policies and the miserable state of affairs in Burma.

The Chinese oil pipeline would connect Kunming, capital of China’s Southwestern Yunnan Province, and Akyab on the Burmese coast, cutting 1,200 km from the present sea route between the Persian Gulf and China’s Guangdong Province, via the Straits of Malacca. More than 60 percent of China’s oil travels this route. Hence the putting of the Burmese case at the UNSC, especially if additional American pressure can lead to a Chinese abstention in any UN Security Council vote on Burma, will definitely permit a new scenario to emerge in the Burmese political stalemate.

The regional economic integration that China needs to help boost its Southwestern provinces would be considerably enhanced if the Burmese economy were vigorous rather than the basket-case it is currently. Burma could buy more Chinese exports and provide fast transport networks to link the west of China with South Asian markets.  Foreign investment in Yunnan and the rest of the region would also rise. Such a scenario would be of huge benefit to all three nations (increased trade with India would also help assuage Sino-Indian security tensions). Burma, with its dilapidated rail and road systems, and inability to access international funding to upgrade them, constitutes a black hole in the fabric of the various Asian Development Bank-funded development programs in the region comprising Yunnan, Southeast Asia and South Asia. These include the Greater Mekong Subregion and various other regional triangles and quadrangles and wider projects such as the Trans-Asian Railway and the Asian Highway, designed to speed up the transport of goods within Asia and between Asia and Europe. There are a number of Track-2 projects to promote these networks that Burma takes part in, including the Kunming Initiative made up of Bangladesh, China, India and Burma and the Ganges-Mekong project. So far these have not progressed beyond the talking stage. In the meantime, Burma has been exporting its troubles to its neighbors to the effect that the situation has to be taken up by the UNSC. To change Burma requires a political process that is well beyond the capacity of Burma’s military regime, as was witnessed from the proceedings at the generals’ re-launching “National Convention” which they hoped would complete the “basic elements” for a new constitution, but which will fail to win national or international credibility.

An Appeal to Burmese Thinking

The Burmese tend too think of China as an obstacle to its objective of achieving democracy in Burma, and feel that China is supporting the military regime due to many factors. They think that the Chinese want to justify the suppression of democracy activists in Tien-An-Men square, the sale of 1.4 billion worth of arms, the non-tolerance of Burmese democratic activities on the Chinese border; the collapse of the Burmese Communist Party and the subsequent cease-fire agreements. But the most unkindest cut is the pressuring of the KIA ceasefire with the Junta coupled with the economic development aid given to the Junta especially at a time when the Burmese democrats were seeking international sanctions against the military and the non-reception of lobby delegations of the NCGUB. No Burmese could comprehend of how China's policy of peaceful cooperation through trade or the five principles of peaceful coexistence is being applied here.

The Burmese ethno-democratic hypotheses have worked well in the liberal democracies of the Western world but these have not worked well with the neighboring countries and China. The neighboring countries are themselves experiencing many difficulties in their developmental paths, and with the concept in China's external relations of the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence. The non-interference in the internal affairs of a nation has been a key principle that has been applied even in the UN. Cynics will reject this last statement and give examples where China and other powers have interfered in the internal affairs of various nations. While this is true for covert operations, it is not realistic to expect governments to change their basic policies just for the sake of Burma. This is especially so since, in their perception, there is no alternative governing body to the Burmese army (Balkanization theory).

The Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence were worked out by China, Burma and India in the early 1950's and became the basis for the Non-Aligned Movement. The basic aim was to counter colonialism and imperialism, and enable weaker nations to exist and collectively work out their own futures. Some of these principles are still sound and should not be discarded.

I would humbly like to remind my Burmese democrats not to approach China with the attitude that China's non-intervention policy towards Burma is wrong, when she has intervene economically on the side of the military regime. China also must not be approached as an obstacle to achieving democracy in Burma. Neither of these two assumptions is correct. Instead China's non-intervention policy should be encouraged and maintained. We must understand that China does not necessarily oppose democracy or support military rule. China itself is moving towards democratization and is opening up its economy to the world. The Burmese military leaders do not have the same policy and are obstructing economic development - especially access from Southwestern China to the Indian Ocean. China has voiced its support for democratization and national reconciliation in Burma. This should be nurtured; China is the main power in the region. Burmese democrats need to accept this reality and work out how their aspirations can benefit both the peoples of Burma and China. Burma cannot expect to survive in the long-term and grow if its policies contradict or run counter to regional trends. The whole region needs to develop in tandem.

We should also remember that China has indigenous Kachins, Lisu, Shans, Was, Palaung, Lahus living on its borders. Burmese policies that adversely affect these peoples in Burma have an effect on the population of China. These factors cannot be ignored if Burma wants good relations. Burmese democrats must develop policies that are 'friendly' towards Burma's neighbours.

The Benign Dragon

China is desirous to project itself as a benign dragon with lots of followers and admirers. Professor Johnson indicated that China is more open than many in the West recognize and that the responsibility for China's political future is in the hand of policymakers. Since the imperial period China has been extremely subject to its external environment and America's behavior toward China will make a great impact on the direction. With the mainland's ongoing modernization and its desire to project power abroad, many countries in Asia believe that China is becoming the dominant power in the region. While intra-regional trade continues to expand and integrate China with its neighbors, free trade zones in East Asia have been discussed, explicitly with non-U.S. involvement. Therefore, as dynamics in the region begin to change, Roy stated there is a strong desire not to polarize Asia again due U.S.-China conflicts. Thus maintaining stable relations is an important strategic component and is in the best interest for U.S national security. Though the U.S. is working with a flawed framework and there is bound to be further Sino-American crises, Roy asserted that sound reasoning and understanding how the Chinese system works will help to prevent misperceptions and miscalculations that could lead to confrontation.

The Asia Pacific Community Vision also has a much more benign prediction how China will affect the region. China’s decision during the Asian crisis not to devalue its currency demonstrated its commitment to the return of economic stability and growth to the region. Figures already show that the region is well on its way to a full recovery, and before long will be leading the world in economic growth. In this context, regional institutions will be strengthened and made more effective; institutional innovations are already being mooted with this purpose in mind. China’s growing interest in and commitment to regional institutions will continue. Interdependence with Afro-Asian countries will increasingly define China’s relationship with the Asia Pacific region. These forces will also begin to transform China and the Asia Pacific. Economic openness will be followed by political liberalization and the “demand for new institutions, social welfare structures, and a more predictable legal framework.” Generational change in leaderships will bring new political values into the government of China and that of the others. As interdependence breeds a sense of regional community, structures of sovereignty and rivalry will begin to be mitigated. This may eventually contribute to the resolution of the region’s most serious ongoing tensions, between China and Taiwan, on the Korean peninsula, and in the South China Sea.

There is little doubt that China’s regional strategy will be driven by its overriding rivalry with the US, leading it to seek accommodation with former great power rivals: Russia, India, possibly Japan. Asia Pacific states will have more options if their relations with the US become strained. On the other hand, the new imperative for the smaller states of the region will be to avoid being trampled in the course of great power competition. They will need to manage their relations with the great powers in such a way as to avoid being “chain ganged” by a larger ally into a conflict not of their making. They will also have an interest in maintaining stability and peace between the great powers in order to escape the devastating effect of what may possibly be a nuclear conflict. Regional tension spots such as Taiwan and the Korean Peninsula, will become possible conflict detonators, and are likely to attract great attention within the region.

In international politics, how a country rises often has more drastic consequences for the world than the rise itself. The speed, velocity, ideology, and most significantly, the impact it has on the international balance of power, cause other countries to harbor suspicion, caution, jealousy, and fear, and trigger antipathy among other reactions. The way Germany in the late 19th century and Japan at the beginning of the 20th century made remarkable advances sparked considerable reactions from established powers. "The rise of China" could also trigger all of the above. Many things in China are regarded as potential forces that could change the status quo and provoke anxiety: the size of its population; low wages; the "great leap forward" in economic growth; environmental destruction; Beijing's insistence on maintaining a one-party system; exclusionary nationalism; and eventual confrontation with the United States. But China itself is more aware of these dangers than anyone else. A researcher at a Beijing-based government-affiliated think tank commented: "China aims to grow and advance without upsetting existing orders. We are trying to rise in a way that benefits our neighbours." China wants to be seen as pursuing a process of "peaceful ascendancy" (heping jueqi). As for US relations, China has been faithfully following Deng Xiaoping's advice to "never act haughtily". For now, China is concentrating on domestic economic construction and refraining from projecting its power externally. However, this is because it is still in the development phase. The question is, once it surpasses a state of "relative comfort", will it become "haughty"?  The concept of "peaceful ascendancy" appears to imply a long-term strategy. A member of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference said: "How did historic empires and major powers rise and what reactions did they trigger? What should we do so as not to cause excessive wariness? This is what we are currently studying internally". A researcher at an influential Chinese think tank responded: "We are studying the origin of the US-Soviet Cold War. Why did it happen? Was there no way to prevent it? Some see that a US-China Cold War is inevitable. In addition to containing the "China threat" theory popular in some US political circles, it appears China's "peaceful ascendancy" concept is also aimed at laying the groundwork for its "major power diplomacy", such as hosting of the six-party talks over the North Korean nuclear and missile problem. The views of experts in Chinese foreign policy have commented that China should overcome its long-held "victim mentality" and adopt a "great power mentality" instead. These experts must be aware that there is no greater threat to the world than the emergence of a major power in possession of a victim mentality

Galon and Naga

Both the Galon bird and the Naga are mythical animals in the Burmese, or rather in Asian, mythology and according to Burmese fables is the Galon bird that always eats up the Naga dragon. In the modern concept it is an eagle (US) and the snake (China) where it is presumed that if there is ever a show down between the two eventually the eagle will carry off the snake in its claws.

China remains the world's leading proliferate of missile, nuclear and chemical weapons technology to state sponsors of terrorism, particularly in Iran, Libya, Syria and North Korea. Indeed, the research points out that China has made repeated oral and written commitments to the U.S. to cease this behavior, but has "not kept its word." China's behavior, the commission declares, is "an increasing threat to U.S. security interests, in the Middle East and Asia in particular." These conclusions are not ill considered. They are the product of a year of intensive research, including nine public hearings involving 115 witnesses by a top international research team.

No wonder China's actions in Southeast Asia are often at odds with the US. Eric John said. "They are not there to promote democracies, human rights nor freedom of _expression and movement." Rep. Dana Rohrabacher added that China "is the unseen hand behind the dictatorship in Burma." Deputy Secretary of State Robert B. Zoellick said the United States has worked hard to bring China into the international system over the past three decades, and has focused on ensuring that China become as a responsible player on the world stage. It seems that the Bush administration entered office five years ago deeply suspicious of China. Those concerns were largely put aside after 9/11, and China, in the meantime, has emerged as an economic powerhouse, scouring the world for energy and raw materials to feed its growth. Among other points, Zoellick said: China should adjust its foreign policy to focus less on national interest and more on sustaining peaceful prosperity, including ensuring North Korea's compliance with an agreement to end its nuclear programs, supporting efforts to end Iran's nuclear programs, and pledging more money to Afghanistan and Iraq. China's dealings with Sudan, Burma and other "troublesome states indicates at best a blindness to consequences and at worst something more ominous,"

Looking at the Sino-US relations, there is particular concern about the Internet, where Anti-American sentiments run high. Anti-US expressions have become a source of considerable unease. For instance, a recent opinion poll reported that 90% of Chinese people believed the CIA planted SARS in China. This and similar conspiratory theories toward the US are now the rule of the day. On the other hand there is a considerable number of persons who suspect the Chinese are sitting pretty according to the theory of Mao Zedong's "protracted strategy" - waiting patiently for the US to burn out, even though Deng Xiaoping's directive of 1991 advised that China should "hide our capacities and bide our time" (taoguang yanghu).

It seems that China harbours two formidable challenges ahead. First, as part of its peaceful ascendancy strategy, China will have to learn to respect and observe the rule of law on the international stage. China also needs to accustom itself to treating others as equals, particularly other Asian countries. These are no longer the days of the Middle Kingdom, to which all others pay obeisance and send gifts. Another aspect is that China needs to tread a careful path in its policy towards the US. On my trip to China I was rather surprised to discover that there is a whole ministry led by the Chinese intelligence dedicated to the study of America.  Chinese leaders will have to be sensitive that it should not present a threat to America, but at the same time Washington also has to accept China's new directive and "peaceful ascendancy strategy". On these and other matters, China has already begun to take large strides forward. The fact that Chinese intellectuals have come to voice such views so frankly is in itself a major change and an important step in the right direction. Is this not also part of the "peaceful ascendancy" process?

Poor people living in developing countries like Burma always have feeling of insecurity, not knowing how they can earn their living tomorrow, becoming victims of natural disasters, or victims of corrupt governments like the current Junta and are facing many threats every day. But very lately another new aspect of insecurity is creeping in developed societies. The New Orleans experience had shown that developed countries are facing some of the risks thought only developing counties would face." The very concept of 'security' must include all these things. In face of all these things, the time has come for the Chinese to prove to the Burmese people that they are really "Paukpaw" brothers in blood, let the Burmese people choose their own government, and be willing to implement necessary measures so that the UN (UNSC) and the Junta may not come to a confrontation situation where force has to be involved. The people of Burma and the world would like to witness a benign dragon.
 Lac du Bonnet


Tel:  + 66 7 169-0971, + 66 1 561-0860 (Thailand)
Tel:  + 1- 403 - 248 2027 (Canada)
Online Burma Library --

Kaowao Newsgroup is committed to social justice, peace, and democracy in Burma. We hope to be able to provide more of an in-depth analysis that will help to promote lasting peace and change within Burma.
Editors, reporters, writers, and overseas volunteers are dedicated members of the Mon activist community based in Thailand.
Our motto is working together for lasting peace and change.


:: Home | To Top ::

Copyright © 2004-2005, Kao Wao News Group. All rights reserved. Suggestions or comments to the Editor. code by Webmaster