I believe now that Musharraf has failed in the basic foreign policy test set forth by the Western democracies in recognizing Israel as a state, he is bound to try and charm China. Indeed in his first assassination of Ms Bhutto when the western press was challenging him eyeball to eyeball, he thundered at the journalists berating them for their gossip mongering and eulogized the Chinese journalists for reporting the truth. China and Pakistan, it must be remembered have stayed for long what qualifies in international relations as great pals. Indeed a number of Chinese friends invested their energies in learning Urdu when Pakistan was otherwise little known in the world for its culture. Chinese journalists naturally have been far more generous in their dealing with Pakistani matters than what they actually deserved. It was then the beginning of what should go down in history as Musharrafâ€™s desperate charm China policy. In short when you are strong you cannot see any city except Washington, yet when you start losing power you all of a sudden realize that you are sitting next to Beijing. I have no illusions that this new policy like the â€œrecognize Israelâ€ policy, in which he never recognized Israel but always used his meetings with the Israeli leadership to project an image of moderation in the west. (Read my previous post â€˜Should Pakistan Recognize Israel?â€™). Why do I believe it wonâ€™t succeed this time? Because I know that the Chinese leaders have enough vision and foresight not to associate them with a dying order which has only turned to China after being rejected from everywhere else and did nothing substantial for the country. China is very conscious about the sentiments of the Pakistani people and is aware of Musharrafâ€™s standing in Pakistan.
Musharrafâ€™s praise for the Chinese journalism should also be viewed through another angle. Musharraf remains a dictator to the core and hence believes in a controlled media as evident from his attitude during the recent martial law. Now we all know that there is a degree of media control in China for it is only emerging out of the communist control model. And when China is undergoing the birth pangs of transformation and integration into the global democratic order (believe me the Chinese know where they have to go and make no bones that their country has democracy deficit), instead of helping it in integrating into free market organizations if we are eulogizing that which has already change or is changing beyond trace we certainly do a disservice to the great nation. Why? Because it magnifies the countryâ€™s free media deficit rather giving hope to change. It is quite natural that whosoever stands with Musharraf would be badly bruised. Perhaps China should attend more heartily to the representatives of the countryâ€™s democratic order accompanying him namely the Foreign and the Defence Ministers of Pakistan for they represent the future not a bankrupt past.
Having said that let us now focus on an unfortunate phenomenon namely the Sinophobia. Thanks to the conservatives presence everywhere particularly in the west China is still being viewed as a hostile enemy and an energy dump. While in the past people used to talk of Chinaâ€™s fossil fuel consumption now they talk of its food and water consumption. Imagine it! It is clear that when the neocons realize that there is no longer meat in belligerence against Islam they turn to China and Russia. While we can treat Russia some other time let us talk of China here. While it is understandable that the human rights organizations that criticize Gitmo and Abu Ghraib with equal ferocity protest what happened in Tibet, what shocks me is that even the neocons are calling for the boycott of the Summer Olympics. Sirs wash your own stables first. My all time favorite paper the Economist on March 15th ran a cover on Chinaâ€™s energy consumption.
Let me first talk of Chinaâ€™s energy consumption and then weâ€™ll attend to the Olympics. As far as Chinaâ€™s food consumption is concerned let me point out that there is no zero sum game involved on the global level. Chinaâ€™s taste for food is far too different from that of the entire world. It essentially implies that what China eats can comfortably be produced on its own territory. If a limited class has taste for the foreign food and products then it happens everywhere in the world. Likewise it is time that the world leaders instead of bickering and warring on what remains of the fossil fuels reserves should actually explore the alternative energy sources. Also is it not time that the world leaders instead of complaining about the population growth or explosion should give thought to some serious space colonization ventures? We are living in a young universe brimming with energy and the entropy we fear is far far off.
Now let us discuss the Summer Olympics and Chinaâ€™s stature as a responsible state. As I have pointed out China sure has freedom, democracy and human rights deficits but it can also not be denied that the country is taking great pains in transforming into open society. The concept of three represents has already changed many dynamics on ground. It is true that it still has some touchy places like Tibet but as the country moves towards more representative government this would change. By hosting the Olympics this time it is signaling that it wants to embrace the world with openness. It is our choice whether we rebuff it or cuddle with it. If it is rebuffed, I am afraid, the west would be viewed as repeating the same mistake of supporting Chiang Kai-shek. China time and again has shown that it is a responsible power. From the issue of North Korea to the changing position on Myanmar it has proven that it takes its international commitments far seriously. And let me also ask where the US would have been had China and Japan not invested so heavily in the US dollar. China like the Muslims of the world is a reality of life folks. You cannot wipe it off the planet. Why not then should everyone engage it in a dialogue?
Similarly it is unfair to complain too dearly about Chinaâ€™s trade competitiveness. It is simply hypocritical that on one side we advocate the cause of free trade and on the other we fear China because it can produce things at far cheaper rates than us. Competition, no matter in economics, politics or sports, is always good. Perhaps it is time for a warm bear hug.
The author is a Pakistani television journalist, columnist and commentator on security, political and media affairs. He can be reached through his website www.pitafi.com