December 31, 2009
China has so far weathered the financial and economic storms remarkably well. Despite problems in Tibet and Xinjiang, the CCP remains in control and legitimate in the eyes of most Chinese. The country’s influence on the world stage steadily increases.
However, whatever the successes of China, its perception in the West is increasingly negative. Unlike the US, Europe is not in a geopolitical struggle with China, nor does it ‘fear’ China’s military and political rise. However, there is deep concern as to economic competition and the loss of jobs.
European media reporting is generally prejudiced against China. This is probably due to two main factors. First, bad news makes good news in the news world. Second, there are well-organized lobby groups hostile to China, namely Taiwan, Tibet and human rights, and also industrial sectors seeking protection from Chinese imports. There is no equivalent Chinese lobby and official communications are, more often than not, counter-productive. This situation cannot be changed in the short-term, but Beijing would do well to review the extent to which the country’s international image is important.
Having regard to its experience in the 19th and 20th centuries, it is understandable why the country is vehemently opposed to what it regards as foreign interference. Unfortunately, there is a fundamental difference between China and the West on what is foreign interference in domestic affairs. Western countries criticise, and sometimes use pressure on each other, but rarely is this regarded as interference.
The Chinese leadership should now feel confident enough not to regard foreign submissions as interference and non-respect of sovereignty. Beijing might also think about whether or not seeking to influence affairs in, say, Myanmar, Sudan and Zimbabwe amounts to foreign interference.
The death penalty is strongly opposed throughout Europe, but China is by no means the only country that still uses it – it is the practice in over 30 American states. However is the negative international impact of executing Akmal Shaikh a price worth paying? It is a valid argument that he received the same treatment a Chinese national, but would a different sentence really have mattered in enforcing domestic drug policy?
A poor international reputation can be damaging to China. Take, for example, the danger of protectionism. Although not connected, if protectionism increases, China’s poor international standing would encourage lobby groups and even influence decision-makers to act against Chinese exports. It may also make it more difficult to acquire European companies.Author : Stanley Crossick