Monday, April 19, 2010

Walk, don't run

I can't help but be impressed with The Economist. We all know it's an excellent news source, but Kal certainly gets his point across very well with his latest piece. He nails it right on the head when China says there are no clear options in response to Iran's nuclear program. Why you ask?

The last thing China wants to do is support sanctions tough enough to bring down the Iranian government. After all, it was only last June when opposition protesters were shouting death to Russia and China. Beijing can work with the current regime in Tehran and doesn't want a change in management. Now some people are suggesting that China's commercial interests are dictating its position on Iran. I'm quite skeptical about economics playing significant a role, as trade in 2009 between China and Iran amounted to only $15 billion, while almost $1 trillion between the U.S. and EU combined. Those numbers alone would suggest China would be better off cooperating.

So does Beijing want Iran to have nuclear weapons? Not if it destabilizes the region. Saudi Arabia and the other countries in the region certainly don't want their Iranian neighbor to have nuclear weapons and would have little problem increasing deliveries to the West at China's expense if they felt it was to blame. The issue at hand though is China likes the status quo - it gets everything it needs from the world to focus on its domestic development. To agree to sanctions would disturb the balance China enjoys. As Kal's piece points out, there aren't any clear options for China that satisfies the West's demands and allow it to focus on development. Until such an option presents itself, the Chinese government will drag its feet.


The same bottom line can be applied to China's position on North Korea. The Chinese government would rather allow things to progress naturally rather than take any action that carries more risk than reward.

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