When a US delegate once confronted a Chinese diplomat about Beijing's uncompromising support for Pakistan, the Chinese reportedly responded with a heavily-loaded sarcastic remark: "Pakistan is our Israel".
But judging by China's unrelenting support for some of its allies, including North Korea, Burma, Zimbabwe and Sudan, its protective arm around these countries is no different from the US and Western political embrace of Israel - right or wrong.
While China is battling the West over exchange rates, import tariffs and its territorial claims in the South China Sea, Beijing is also lobbying furiously to stall a Western- inspired proposal for a Commission of Inquiry on possible war crimes by the military junta in Burma (Myanmar).
"Such a commission should not be seen as a way to punish the government, but to prevent impunity and help prevent further abuse," says the UN Special Rapporteur on Myanmar, Tomas Ojea Quintana.
But China, which in January 2007 exercised its veto, along with Russia, to prevent Security Council sanctions against Burma, has not shown any willingness to back the proposal - even for a watered-down commission.
"Clearly," says one Asian diplomat, "China is trying to reassert its political clout at the United Nations as a counterweight to its defensive stand on currency and trade issues."
The New York Times newspaper said on Tuesday that the US administration is facing a "confrontational relationship" with an assertive China and is trying to respond to "a surge of Chinese triumphalism" by strengthening Washington's relationship with Japan and South Korea.
US President Barack Obama is planning to visit four Asian countries next month -
1. Japan (American colony, where baseball is the national sport)
2. Indonesia(defacto-American colony since 1965, after the Americans over threw Sukarno. The Americans have run the country through the Indonesian military. All Islamic Fundamentalists groups in Indonesia are controlled and run by the Indonesian military, including JI)
3. India (trying to make it more pro-American through a package of gimmicks, empty platitudes, and actual strategic help..civilian nuclear deal)
4. South Korea (American colony, where baseball is the national sport, and through law from the 1950's, America controls the Korean military and intelligence apparatus)
------- while bypassing China.
Meanwhile, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who needs China's support in the Security Council if he decides to run for a second term next year, is currently on his fourth trip to China, having visited the country in May and July 2008, and in July 2009.
In recent months, China has prevented a Security Council resolution against North Korea over the sinking of a South Korean ship and also tried to suppress a UN report alleging the use of Chinese-made bullets in attacks on UN peacekeepers in Darfur, Sudan.
"China sees value in promoting its image as the Security Council member defending the rights of the developing world, and China sees value in relying on the UN to counter US power," said Linda Jakobson, director of the programme on China and Global Security at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).
Jakobson, an in-house China expert at SIPRI, points out that Beijing also sees value in participating in UN peacekeeping operations "both because this enhances the image of China as a responsible power but also because it gives Chinese military experience".
Still, China relented to US and Western pressure in supporting four Security Council resolutions imposing sanctions against Iran, one of Beijing's staunchest political, economic and military allies.
The fourth round of sanctions, all of them aimed primarily at Iran's nuclear programme, was imposed in June this year.
Justifying his country's support for the resolution, Chinese Ambassador Li Baodong was quoted as saying that Beijing wanted to make sure that sanctions would not affect the Iranian people or its normal overseas trade.
Jakobson said that China agreed to these sanctions after much deliberation and on the condition that the energy sector was excluded.
"This can be seen as a compromise solution on China's part," she said. "The exclusion of the energy sector was crucial."
Jakobson also pointed out that China wants to protect the massive investments by Chinese energy companies already in Iran or under negotiation with Tehran, and China wants to ensure that its long-term strategic plans for energy security are not threatened.
In a detailed policy paper released last month, and titled "New Foreign Policy Actors in China", SIPRI said the increasing sway of large state-owned energy companies have an increasing influence on foreign policy deliberations in China.
Jakobson, who co-authored the report with Dean Knox, said this is one example of that sway though it is noteworthy that there are other foreign policy actors who presumably were not inclined to advocate China's support of the resolution.
On the other hand, she said, there were presumably actors who advocated China's support for the resolution because China supports non-proliferation and does not want to see Iran go nuclear.
"If China had not supported the resolution, it would reflect badly on China's image and undermine its efforts to portray itself as a responsible global power," Jakobson said.
She said China attaches great importance to the United Nations and would like to see the role of the UN strengthened - though Beijing is wary of many proposals that want to expand Security Council membership and/or give power to members other than the present five permanent members, the United States, Britain, France, Russia and China.
The SIPRI report argues that actors outside the traditional power structure are increasingly shaping China's foreign policy.
Influential new actors on the margins include Chinese state- owned enterprises, especially energy companies, which, due to their widespread international outreach, affect China's bilateral relationships and diplomacy at large.
The others include local governments, especially in border and coastal provinces, which seek more lucrative trade and foreign investment opportunities.
At the same time, there is growing importance of researchers, who serve as advisors to officials and media, and netizens, who constitute a new pressure group that China's leaders at times feel compelled to take into account, not least during international crises.
The findings also point to a fracturing of authority in foreign policy formulation.
Diversification outside China's official decision making apparatus - along with changes within it - means that foreigners can no longer expect to only deal with one government agency or Party organ but must take into account multiple actors that have both a stake and say in the decision-making processes.
A version of this article first appeared on the Inter Press Service News Agency.
By MIKE WHITNEY
Thank God for France. While American liberals tremble at the idea of sending an angry e mail to congress for fear that their name will appear on the State Department's list of terrorists, French workers are on the front lines choking on tear gas and fending off billyclubs in hand-to-hand combat with Sarkozy's Gendarmerie. That's because the French haven't forgotten their class roots. When the government gets too big for its britches, people pour out onto to the streets and Paris becomes a warzone replete with overturned Mercedes Benzs, smashed storefront windows, and stacks of smoldering tires issuing pillars of black smoke. This is what democracy looks like when it hasn't been emasculated by decades of propaganda and consumerism. Here's a blurp from the trenches:
"French Energy Sector Crippled by Nationwide Strike... French energy facilities are close to total disruption in the wake of nationwide strike against the raise of the retirement age.....France has been hit by numerous protests across the country against a controversial pension reform that would rise the retirement age to 62 from 60....On October 22 morning 80 protesters blockaded Grandpuits oil refinery outside Paris, key supplier for Charles de Gaulle and Orly international airport." (The Financial)
Shut 'em down.
Take note, Tea Party crybabies who moan about restoring "our freedoms" while stuffing the backyard bunker with seed corn and ammo. Glenn Beck won't save you from the "mean old" gov'mint. Liberty isn't free anymore. If you want it, get out of the barko-lounger and organize. The amount of freedom that any nation enjoys is directly proportionate to the amount of blood its people spilled fighting the state. No more, no less. The man who is willing to accept the blunt force of a cop's truncheon on his back is infinitely more praiseworthy than the leftist/rightist scribe crooning from the bleachers. The state isn't moved by lyrical editorials or prosaic manifestos. It responds to force alone, which is why it takes people who are willing to "throw themselves on the gears" of the apparatus and stop it from moving forward. Unfortunately, most of those people appear to live in France.
The resistance is steadily building in France. The budding rebellion is cropping up everywhere---"secondary schools, train stations, refineries and highways have been blockaded, there have been occupations of public buildings, workplaces, commercial centers, directed cuts of electricity, and ransacking of electoral institutions and town halls..." And the big unions are calling for more strikes, more agitation, more ferment.
For more than a week, transportation has been blocked across the France due to the protests by students and workers. Sarkozy's popularity has plummeted. 65% of people surveyed don't like the way the French president is handling the strikes. 79% of the people would like to see Sarkozy negotiate with the Union on terms and conditions, but he won't budge. Thus, the cauldron continues to boil while the prospect of violence rises.
"STRIKE, BLOCKADE, SABOTAGE"
This is from an anonymous striker:
"In each city, these actions are intensifying the power struggle and demonstrate that many are no longer satisfied with the order imposed by the union leadership. In the Paris region, amongst the blockades of train stations and secondary schools, the strikes in the primary schools, the workers pickets in front of the factories, people create inter-professional meetings and collectives of struggle are founded to destroy categorical isolation and separation. Their starting point: self-organization to meet the need to take ownership over our struggles without the mediation of those who claim to speak for workers.
We decided Saturday to occupy the Opera Bastille. This was to disturb a presentation that was live on radio, to play the trouble makers in a place where the cultural merchandise circulates and to organize an assembly there. So we met with more than a thousand people at the “place de la nation”, with banners stating “the bosses understand only one language: Strike, blockade, sabotage." (end of communique)
The action was met with predictable police violence and mass arrests.
The pension turmoil is not limited to France either. US pension funds are underfunded by nearly $3 trillion. Will US workers be as willing as their French counterparts to face the beatings (to defend "what's theirs") or will they throw up their hands and appeal to Obama for help?
There's no question that Washington elites have joined with Wall Street to offload the massive debts from the financial meltdown onto workers and retirees. Nor is their any doubt that they will invoke (what Slavoj Zizek calls) a "permanent state of economic emergency" to justify their actions. That will allow them to move ahead with so-called "austerity measures" that are designed to impoverish workers and strip popular government programs of their funding. The trend towards "belt-tightening" merely masks the ongoing class war which is aimed at restoring a feudal system of royalty and serfs.
This is from an article by economist Mark Weisbrot:
"If the French want to keep the retirement age as is, there are plenty of ways to finance future pension costs without necessarily raising the retirement age. One of them, which has support among the French left – and which Sarkozy claims to support at the international level -- would be a tax on financial transactions. Such a “speculation tax” could raise billions of dollars of revenue – as it currently does in the U.K. – while simultaneously discouraging speculative trading in financial assets and derivatives. The French unions and protesters are demanding that the government consider some of these more progressive alternatives."
But the retirement age is not really the issue at all. This is about union busting and "putting people in their place." It's about "who will call-the-shots" and in whose interests will society be run.
The French are fighting back against this "oligarchy of racketeers" and the ripoff system they represent, while, namby-pamby Americans are neutralized by signing their umpteenth petition or venting their spleen at a Palin rally.
Vive la France. Vive la Résistance.
Mike Whitney lives in Washington state and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org