Saturday, 9 January 2010

"For all we may smile, you can still smell us"

This quote from Shi Yinhong at Renmin University is a good one and represents China's method of diplomacy.

I like this article in the latest Economist. China's role in Africa is interesting - are African countries seeing through China's smile?

The economics behind the smile are also well written. China needs people to like them - they have spent a lot of money convincing us. The more we like China the more we will buy from them and invest in China and the happier the Chinese people will be. Happy Chinese means the Chinese communist party will remain in power. Is the smile beginning to fade and the real China come through?

Copenhagen is the obvious case. China is now getting the bad publicity it deserves and can be seen from my previous Copenhagen post. China is papering over the cracks but the damage has been done.

This article is well worth a read.

From the charm to the offensive [Economist]

IF A single impulse has defined Chinese diplomacy over the past decade, it is its smile: near and far, China has waged a charm offensive. With its land neighbours, India excepted, China has amicably settled nearly all border disputes; it has abjured force in dealing with South-East Asian neighbours over still unsettled maritime boundaries. On the economic front, the free-trade area launched on January 1st between China and the Association of South-East Asian Nations is the world’s biggest, by population. China’s smiling leaders promise it will spread prosperity.

Farther afield, China has scattered roads and football stadiums across Africa. By the hundreds, it has set up Confucius Institutes around the world to spread Chinese language and culture. More than anything, the Beijing Olympics were designed to showcase gentle President Hu Jintao’s notions of a “harmonious world”. In all this, the leaders appear not simply to want to make good a perceived deficit in China’s soft power around the world. A more brutal calculus prevails: without peace, prosperity and prestige abroad, China will have no peace and prosperity at home. And without that, the Chinese Communist Party is dust.


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But the message of harmony will ring hollow abroad if it is secured by muzzling voices at home. Besides, there is now less goodwill to go around. A smile is fresh at first, but loses its charm if held for too long. One problem with China’s smile diplomacy, says the man who coined the phrase, Shi Yinhong of Renmin University in Beijing, is that China’s global impact—its demand for resources, its capacity to pollute—is so much greater than a decade ago. “ For all we may smile, you can still smell us,” he says.

That even applies in places, such as Africa, where enthusiasm for China was once unbounded. China has more than a presentational problem. For instance, it sends Africa both destabilising arms and peacekeepers, the one generating demand for the other. China’s manufactures destroy local industries. Many Africans resent Chinese firms’ deals with their unpleasant leaders and blame them when leaders pocket the proceeds. China’s clout makes a mockery of two guiding tenets of its charm offensive: relations on the basis of equality; and non-interference.


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