China’s Vote On Libya Signals Possible Shift

The Wall Street Journal looks at China’s decision to support a UN resolution calling for sanctions against Libya, a move that is out of keeping with China’s usual refusal to criticize other countries’ treatment of their own people:

For decades, the Asian power has held as a central premise of its foreign policy that governments shouldn’t interfere in the “internal affairs” of other countries. A permanent member of the Security Council, Beijing has backed U.N. sanctions against North Korea and Iran several times in recent years, but the measures were targeted at the two nations’ nuclear efforts. By contrast, China has generally stymied efforts to target other governments such as Zimbabwe and Myanmar for human-rights violations—wielding its veto power, for example, to block sanctions efforts against Zimbabwe, Myanmar, and Sudan.

China’s policy is based in part on its ownown anger when foreign powers criticize it for human-rights issues, such as the widespreadspread condemnation of its bloody crackdown on pro-democracy protests in 1989. Mr. Gadhafi, in a speech on Libyan state TV on Feb 22, cited the Chinese government’s crackdown in justifying his government’s actions.

It’s unclear why exactly Beijing supported the sanctions against Mr. Gadhafi. China has been playing a somewhat more active international role as its clout has grown in recent years. The fact that Libya’s government has fragmented—its ambassador to the U.N. endorsed the sanctions— likely made the move more acceptable to Beijing.

February 28, 2011 2:59 PM
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