tirsdag 1. juni 2021

Chris Patten: China's One-Way Diplomacy

Shultz told me that, in his long experience in business and government, Chinese communists always tried to define other countries’ relationship with them entirely on their own terms. They wanted the rest of us to regard our ties with China as the political equivalent of a beautiful and priceless Chinese vase. They would allow us to look at or even touch it, provided we didn’t risk dropping it by saying or doing anything that they believed should disqualify us from the honor of Middle Kingdom’s favor.

In my experience, that is a pretty fair summary of Chinese attitudes. But it is not how sovereign states usually conduct their relations with each other. Bilateral relationships are normally aggregates of the decisions that countries separately and jointly make to protect and advance their own interests. That includes the occasions when it suits each to accommodate the other side’s interests. There is sometimes a bit – or with friends, sometimes a lot – of give and take. 

Moreover, a mature sovereign state does not automatically cast others into outer darkness if they disagree with its narrative about its place in the world, vote in a different way at the United Nations, or criticize its domestic policies when they contravene international rules and standards. It does not threaten to stop trading with them, or instruct its ambassadors to spit insults. Nor does it say that it will stop tourists from visiting the other country or students from attending universities there. Such behavior demonstrates no comprehension of the essential quality of esteem that civilized, collaborative nation-states must display toward one another.

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