• Tue
  • Dec 23, 2014
  • Updated: 4:42am
My Take
PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 18 March, 2014, 4:39am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 18 March, 2014, 4:39am

Self-interest rules in China's stance on Ukraine crisis

In logic, there are paradoxes, weird statements that are false if true, and true if false.

China seems to be facing the diplomatic equivalent of a logical paradox over the crisis in Ukraine. A cornerstone of its diplomacy has been its much advertised principle of non-interference in other countries' affairs. So what should it do about Russia?

If it criticises Russia over its effective annexation of Crimea, it is, by its own standards, interfering in Moscow's affairs. But if it doesn't, it is allowing Russia to interfere with another sovereign state, an obvious violation of Beijing's own non-interference principle. The Economist, in its latest issue, picks up the latter criticism, that is, Beijing's failure to follow the Western lead to round on Russia. The article's writer accuses China of breaching its own diplomatic principle, of being hypocritical as well as guilty of double standards. He stops short of accusing Beijing of committing all the seven deadly sins.

So for China, it's damned if you do and damned if you don't. Or, is it? If China is to be accused of moral inconsistency one way or another, it naturally picks the option that best fits its own national interests. Right now, it's clear Ukraine is not its fight. Why join the West and its furious condemnations when Russia is, if not a formal ally, often a convenient and friendly counterweight to Western powers?

China is doing pretty much what other Asian countries such as Japan and India are doing over Ukraine. They are not supportive of Russia, but neither are they overly critical. China abstained rather than vote against a UN resolution condemning Crimea's referendum, engineered by Moscow, to rejoin Russia. Meanwhile India has said it realises Russia has legitimate interests in Crimea. Japan wants to avoid tougher sanctions against Russia. From the first rallies against ousted president Viktor Yanukovych, Ukraine's future has been a proxy fight between Russia and the European Union plus the US; it remains so today.

From the paradoxes, we know even in pure logic, there are no absolutes. In the real world, countries do what they do to further their interests. Beijing is just far less skilful than the West in dressing up self-interest in pious moral absolutes.


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This article is now closed to comments

For a country that decries "foreign interference" at the drop of a hat, this is a pretty lame response to an unambiguous act of foreign interference. But instead of calling a spade a spade, mr lo chooses instead to merely suggest that china is unskilled in framing it's self interest. Well, it seems mr lo is rather skilled in dressing up moral ambiguity, and can probably give Beijing lessons.
Formerly ******
Excellent point in your last paragraph. How shall China dress up Mao's murder of tens of millions of people?
And equally significant, what does China have to say about Crimea's referendum to secede from Ukraine?
A rather mealy mouthed abstention.
China may believe it is acting in its own self interest, by pretending to stand neutral, but to do so ignores its own history with Russia and the threat that Russia has shown towards China. Forgotten are the days when Russia consistently stole land from China, threatened China's borders, and amassed troops along the border.
China is growing and becoming an economic and military power. We all know that. Unfortunately for China, along with wealth and power comes responsibility. China is recognizing that in dealing with her own citizens as the pace of domestic reforms is impressive. It needs to be matched with international cooperation and the recognition of those "common interests" which Xi Jiping just recognized at the NPC.
David M. Ginsbeg
China's principle of non-interference in other countries' affairs is for China to observe. China could neither require other countries to observe China's principles nor have the ability to do so. Moreover, requiring other countries to observe China's principles is tantamount to interfering in other countries' internal affairs. The most China could do and has been doing is urging other countries which do not subscribe to the principle to share in the principle of non-interference in other countries' affairs.
Regarding acting in self-interest, China should have vetoed the UNSC draft resolution in protest against the US and her Western allies interfering in the internal affairs of Ukraine. At the same time, she would be showing solidarity with Russia, a strategic partner and member of the SCO.


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