China, Please

China Please.jpg

This will have to be a super-quickie. The caption to the photo in this article reads, “Demonstrators gather outside of the Chinese Embassy in London, on February 12, calling on China to intervene in the Darfur crisis before the Olympic Games in Beijing.”

Expect to see a lot more images like this in the months ahead. The Darfur movement is picking up tremendous steam thanks to Spielberg’s unfortunate decision. (I encourage you to read an excellent new post about that decision over here.)

Finally, before I disappear again, I want to direct readers to an interesting article from Foreign Policy magazine that puts this issue into a slightly different perspective. Many indignant protesters lay all the blame on China. I lay a lot of the blame on China, too, but is it so black and white? What are America and its allies doing themselves to step up to the plate to create change in Sudan? Should the outrage be directed mainly at China and the 2008 Olympics?

I offer an extended excerpt from this thought-provoking piece, and then I have to get back to work.

After four years of tireless efforts, Darfur advocacy groups have had little success in pressuring the Bush administration or any other Western government to move decisively against the Sudanese government for its atrocities in Darfur. These groups are right to dismiss the Bush administration’s latest sanctions initiative as mere posturing; like all of the president’s efforts to date, it’s too limited in scope and lacks a wider, more holistic diplomatic strategy. These groups are focusing instead on the two C’s of humanitarian advocacy – China and celebrities – as a remedy for a crisis that has killed over 200,000 people and displaced more than 2.5 million. But in pointing the finger at China, proponents of stronger action on Darfur are merely helping the White House evade moral responsibility for a humanitarian disaster that it labels a ‘genocide.’

With its oil ties to the Sudanese regime and its resistance to U.N. Security Council resolutions condemning Khartoum, China is a convenient whipping boy, and a cast of celebrities has signed on eagerly to lead the whipping. Hollywood heavyweights Steven Spielberg, Mia Farrow, and George Clooney have come out in recent weeks to criticize the Chinese government for not responding to the cries of Darfur’s people, zeroing in on the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Earnest editorial writers have joined them enthusiastically.

The campaign has had some results. Beijing’s usual foreign policy approach – ‘non-interference’ in Sudan’s domestic affairs- has been evolving under the pressure. China has become more active in trying to persuade the Khartoum regime to cooperate with the international community. China is willing to pursue a peace settlement, and indeed President Hu Jintao pressured Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir on this issue and duly urged cooperation with the United Nations on his visit to Khartoum in February. Beijing has also appointed a full-time envoy tasked with assisting in resolving the Darfur crisis.

But threatening a ‘Genocide Olympics’ alone wi’l not bring peace (or peacekeepers) to that troubled region. No amount of criticism will convince Beijing to pursue a coercive strategy and a nonconsensual deployment of U.N. peacekeepers that Khartoum rejects. Yes, China has the economic leverage to gain the ear of President Bashir, but that hardly means it has the ability – or, more to the point, the will-to bully him into accepting a large U.N. peacekeeping contingent in Darfur. China’s multibillion dollar investments in Sudan’s petroleum industry are a much-needed source of energy for its mushrooming economy. Beijing may make tactical moves to pressure Sudan, but it will not choose human rights over oil, a matter of paramount national interest.

And, even if China were capable of delivering Bashir, the Sudanese government is not the only impediment to an effective peace process. Nowadays, more people may well be dying from tribal clashes than from marauding janjaweed or government forces. The infighting of fractured rebel groups and the sheer number of displaced people with no homes to return to are also immediate and significant obstacles to peace. But China has little influence over the rebel movements and is ill-positioned to act as a mediator between them.

No, China is not at all free of blame – it has used its power on the UN’s Security Council to protect Sudan’s government, and it has showered the murderous regime with gifts and guns. Is China, however, the one power that should be singled out, and were China to do all it could to stop the fighting would it make a serious difference? It’s at least something to think about as we continue our hand-wringing.


Richard Burger is the author of Behind the Red Door: Sex in China, an exploration of China's sexual revolution and its clash with traditional Chinese values.

The Discussion: 59 Comments


Thanks for the link.

I did see anywhere in the article that says China was still selling arms to Sudan AFTER the conflict started. Mr. Liu was defending the role of the existing Chinese weapons in the conflict. China never denied arms sales before the conflict.

February 23, 2008 @ 9:54 pm | Comment



Thanks for the link.

I did NOT see anywhere in the article that says China was still selling arms to Sudan AFTER the conflict started. Mr. Liu was defending the role of the existing Chinese weapons in the conflict. China never denied arms sales before the conflict.

February 23, 2008 @ 9:55 pm | Comment


There is racism in every society. I think the root cause of racism is ignorance and fear. Ignorance and fear is also the cause of xenophobic (for example, “yellow peril”). There are simply too few black people in China to use their experiences to draw conclusion on the whole Chinese society. At least we Chinese never systematically discriminated against a certain group of people.

Again, racism in China can not prove that Chinese are not popular in Africa. There is a serious flaw in that logic.

February 23, 2008 @ 10:31 pm | Comment


“There is racism in every society.”

I agree.

February 23, 2008 @ 10:33 pm | Comment

According to the Chinese Foreign Ministry, China’s influence in Sudan is much exaggerated.

Specifically he points out (accurate?) that China accounts for only 8% of Sudan’s Arms Imports.

This article from Amnesty is over 3 years old, but it shows the sources of arms imports for Sudan. You will notice quite a few countries on that list.

Another point that the Chinese have raised is that the government isn’t the only actor that has precipated the crisis in Darfur. I think this is the most significant point that needs addressing in that everyone expects khartoum to capitulate to rebel demands but not the other way around. Many of the rebel leaders live abroad (the chief rebel warlord lives in exile naturally enough in Paris) and the West can bring even greater pressure on them than China can on the Sudanese government.

February 24, 2008 @ 7:32 am | Comment

I think it is 100% asinine to pull out over China’s involvement in Darfur, when the things China does closer to home are so much worse — sort of like divorcing a serial murderer because he slandered someone in a bar while on a business trip in a faraway city. Please note that personally I am highly conflicted over the ethics of involvement in China, and do not condemn anyone for working there. Or not working there.

Western double standards suck — but at least it is focusing attention on Darfur. So some good may come of it.


February 24, 2008 @ 12:12 pm | Comment

I might gently suggest that referring to the crisis in Darfur as ‘tribal’ could also be construed as a form of “subliminal paternalism.

Ridiculous. The Sudanese themselves try to define it as a tribal conflict.

February 24, 2008 @ 12:50 pm | Comment

Jeremiah, again. Purported Chinese racism against blacks is a non-issue. You are just the typical white who wants to deflect the major issue of white racism (50million colonial victims in 20th century alone) by refering to some hypothetical Chinese ‘racism.’
And I note that once bringing up some uncomfortable facts about the Wests past in another thread, one of these whites protested that the thread be immediately closed which it was.
At the moment there is a real feeling among whites that China is getting too powerful. So they are trying to use the Darfur issue to strangle China’s involvment in the region.

Darfur is an internal tribal matter for the Sudanese people themselves to settle. The Sudanese government had not asked for foreign intervention, so none should be provided. To put a force on the ground there when none is called for is obviously colonialism. But that is what these whites want. The West want conflict because they cannot stand to see a yellow man and a black man get together and do anything without first deferring to big daddy white man.

Well thank you Spielberg, thank you Mia Farrow. You have certainly united and made Chinese people everywhere aware the true agenda of the West – to strangle the rising China in its adolescence.

For the first time in history, a major power (China) is being singled out for the actions of a third party with which it has relations.

Do even the Islamic world single out countries for having a relationship with the UK or US, even though the UK and US are in Iraq? No.

Was the US boycotted in the 80s for supporting Saddam Hussein, the apartheid regime in South Africa and any other number of purportedly ‘loathsome’ regimes. NO

Thank you westerners. Thank you. You just make the job of arousing the Chinese nation so easy.
Now everyone, even Taiwanese friends of mine, can see through the wicked neo-colonial agenda of Western whites.

February 24, 2008 @ 1:04 pm | Comment

And with that profound and witty riposte no doubt worthy of the Algonquin Round Table, this dead horse of a thread pulls a Roberto Duran and says: ‘no mas.’

In the words of Bill Simmons…yep folks, these are our readers.

February 24, 2008 @ 1:45 pm | Comment

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