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December 2001 issue of
World Press Review
(VOL. 48, No. 12)
China, the New Ally
From Pariah to Friend
Lorenz, Der Spiegel (liberal newsmagazine), Hamburg,
Germany, Oct. 8, 2001.
China, the biggest
player on the Asian political stage, has indirectly approved
the American attack on its neighbor Afghanistan. However, Beijing
expected that the American military blows against terrorism
would be directed only at specific targets in order
to spare innocent civilians, the Foreign Ministry
emphasized. China condemns any form of terrorism and hopes that
peace can be re-established as quickly as possible,
the declaration added.
Just four weeks after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade
Center in New York and the Pentagon in Washington, the Chinese
government has thus clearly joined the international anti-terrorism
coalition. First, it wanted to permit military intervention
against a sovereign nation only with the agreement of the U.N.
Security Council, where China holds veto power. China still
holds open the possibility that it could distance itself from
the United States in case Afghan civilians are killed in the
The leadership in Beijing sees its stance with America in the
battle against terrorism as a chance to get away from its role
as a pariah on the world stage and establish itself as equal
partner. Head of state and Communist Party Chairman Jiang Zemin
has telephoned many heads of state in the last few days, carrying
on telephone diplomacy, which is a novelty for Beijing.
In addition, China, according to Western diplomats in Beijing,
negotiated behind the scenes between the United States and Pakistanwhich,
following the attacks on the United States, distanced itself
surprisingly from the Taliban. And Beijing also announced that
it will supply the Americans with information about suspicious
money transactions in which Chinese banks were involved in the
recent past. One of the suspected terrorists is believed to
have deposited US$3,000 via a Chinese bank branch in New York.
In Chinese Internet forums, however, postings were overwhelmingly
critical of the U.S. attacks. Who could guarantee, asked one
participant, that these blows of revenge would not create even
worse despots? People should, another wrote, equally denounce
President Bush for his attacks on Afghanistan as they denounce
the Taliban for their support for terrorists. Down with
the Americans! a third person wrote.
Meanwhile, the horrendous terrorist acts have had unexpected
consequences for the political landscape in Asia: There seems
to have been a softening in the difficult relations between
China and Japan. Japans Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi
paid a surprise visit to Beijing on Monday. He wanted to inform
the Chinese leadership personally about a proposed bill that
would allow Japanese forces to provide logistical support to
American troops in their fight against terrorists. His goal
was to clear away any Chinese concerns. Japans army is
prohibited, since its defeat in World War II, from becoming
active again. Officially, the soldiers in the land of the rising
sun are labeled as self-defense forces. After his
meeting with Koizumi, Chinas Prime Minister Zhu Rongji
spoke of Tokyos plans with reservations, but he did not
reject them. Japan should proceed with the re-valuation of its
military role wisely, warned the Chinese leader.