Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Editor's Introduction - August 2007

“How China's Support of Sudan Shields a Regime Called 'Genocidal'" by Danna Harman. Christian Science Monitor. June 26, 2006.

An Annotation:

Once the term “genocide” has been used to identify a conflict, responding in defense of civilians and working towards peaceful resolution requires identifying those obstacles to stability and respect for human rights. In the case of Darfur, there is no shortage of obstacles: the self-deluding administration in Khartoum; the complicit United States that depends on the Sudanese government for intelligence in combating the “war on terror;” the ineffective African Union; and the bureaucratically intractable United Nations—to name just a few of the most prominent players. Increasingly, activists are raising the issue of China’s role in supporting the genocide, as the rising superpower has crept-in under the radar as a business partner, political defender and weapons dealer for Sudan’s Omar al-Bashir regime.

“…[I]n its role as a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council, China has continuously blocked effective action against Sudan by arguing for the respect of Sudan’s sovereignty.”

The self-serving consequences of this diplomatic approach are clear: If sufficient precedent is set that domestic human rights violations are not the concern of the international community, then China has less to fear, in terms of future repercussions, for its own notorious domestic disregard for the human rights. In an attempt to defend human rights abuses, many nations appeal to sovereignty and self-determination. However, this is largely a smokescreen aimed at shifting focus away from human rights practices toward debates about the relevance of international norms and the relative nature of human rights. The longer these excuses are accepted as justification for human rights violations, the more difficult it will be for advocates to champion ideas about universal application of human rights standards.

“…China does not tie its aid or investment to conditions such as good governance, fighting corruption, or adopting reforms—the sort of conditions that have long been mainstays for the West and international institutions such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.”

The ability of China to outbid and under-restrict Western institutions for aid projects in the developing world threatens development and compromises attempts at democratization and advancing human rights. Despite the array of well-deserved criticism aimed at international financial organizations, at least moderate provisions for accountability and transparency, on the part of the recipient, accompany these investments. Termed by one commentator as “rogue aid,” this phenomenon skews the balance of power dramatically away from the West in favor of China, as well as any other nation that can afford to participate in this “auction” in which influence over the politics of developing countries can be bought and sold at the most competitive price.

“…[M]any critics say that China’s willingness to befriend, do business with, and diplomatically protect questionable regimes does not end with Sudan.”

The Cold War was replete with examples of superpowers propping up tyrannical regimes in the name of (questionable) security interests, as well as for ideological purposes (i.e., to prevent the spread of communism/liberal democracy). What we are witnessing with respect to the Chinese support of the genocidal regime in Sudan, as well as others in the region, is a strategy justified not even in the name of security or ideology, but merely by economics. At stake here is the future of the developing world, whose people are not well-served by the perpetuation of corrupt governance, political instability and dictatorial rule. Defenders of human rights must meet this challenge because failure to do so has dire consequences for the people of Africa, as well as those within China, who will only be further disenfranchised as its government increasingly operates outside of international normative frameworks.

These issues and many more are addressed in this month’s installment of Human Rights & Human Welfare’s Roundtable.

~ The Editors


Ending the Cold War is a Good Place to Start

by Judith Blau

“The reason many accounts in the U.S. media about China is that I feel that many American commentators and journalists [are] unaware of how complicit the U.S. is in the darkest and most grievous affairs around the world."

Recently, I told my daughter that the U.S. media had hyped the Chinese toy recall. “Just more rehashing of Cold War rhetoric,” I said. My two-year old daughter rebuked me: “Come on, Mom! You read politics into everything!” Then, after a moment or two of silence, she said, “Oh yes, I see what you mean. The Chinese toys with toxic paints could have been made in sweatshops owned by U.S. multinationals” (proud mom—politically aware daughter).

The reason I am so quick to discount many accounts in the U.S. media about China (and Russia, Cuba, Venezuela, “Old Europe,” Iran, etc.) is that I feel that many American commentators and journalists too easily fall for the official U.S. party line, unaware of how complicit the U.S. is in the darkest and most grievous affairs around the world. The easy path is to blame other countries, as Danna Harman blames China for inaction on behalf of Darfuri civilians in her Christian Science Monitor article—the focus of this month’s Roundtable.

The U.S. is up to no good. The evidence is overwhelming that U.S. officials drastically exaggerate the obstructionist role that China is playing in the Sudanese genocide to divert attention from the obstructionist role that the U.S. is playing. Independent media outlets document why it is not in the interests of the U.S. to get tough with Omar al-Bashir, President of Sudan. All Africa News Service, Africa Action, Africa Resource Center, Sudan Net and Africa Speaks all provide comprehensive coverage of the Sudanese barbarism and the complicities of foreign governments in Sudanese affairs—including China and the United States. Although the U.S. has gone through some motions in the U.N. Security Council to pass a resolution that would deploy a large peacekeeping force in Sudan, inside observers say that the U.S.’s commercial and military interests are dominant and the U.S. is just dragging its feet, while attempting to maintain public appearances.

From the mid-1980s until September 11, 2001, the CIA relied on the Sudanese, chiefly Maj. Gen. Salah Abdallah Gosh, for intelligence about Osama bin Laden. Gosh supplied the CIA office in Khartoum with information, and occasionally was flown to Washington D.C. to report on bin Laden’s activities before bin Laden left for Afghanistan in 1996. After that, Gosh and others in the Sudanese government continued to supply the CIA with information on Arab Islamists traveling through African countries to the Middle East. In June 2003, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick acknowledged in Congressional testimony that the Bush Administration was still maintaining an intelligence-sharing partnership with the government of Sudan. What Zoellick did not disclose, but what African news sources report (also in The Los Angeles Times), is that the Sudanese government recruits and trains U.S. spies for deployment in both Iraq and Somalia. In a 2007 interview with an LA Times reporter, Sudan’s ambassador to the U.S., John Ukec Lueth Ukec, said that tougher sanctions would affect his country’s willingness to cooperate with the U.S. on matters of intelligence. Nat Hentoff published an article in Truth Out with the title, “CIA’s Close Relationship with Sudan’s Government Enables Genocide there to Continue,” referring to the U.S.-Sudan partnership on espionage and intelligence.

However, intelligence is not the only thing that the U.S. puts ahead of the lives of Darfuri civilians. Rich oil deposits and abundant water resources are something that the U.S. dearly covets—Chevron discovered major oil deposits in southern Sudan in 1979-80, estimating that Sudan had more oil than Iran and Saudi Arabia put together. Water is now viewed as a valuable commodity and the blue Nile and the White Nile meet in Sudan. America’s rival, China, now controls 40 percent of the Sudanese oil sector, with Pakistan, Malaysia, Russia and France controlling the rest. Although Fidelity recently divested from Sudan, other American investors remain, and Sudan continues to court more American and other foreign investors, still perfectly legal and actively encouraged by the World Bank. New laws also make it easier for companies to invest indirectly in Sudan through second and third parties, which Chevron now appears to be doing through Indonesia.

Toward a Better World?

Those of us who have attended any of the World Social Forums (WSF) know that the current geopolitical system that makes the Sudanese genocide possible cannot last. The people of the world will not put up with it, and the planet cannot sustain it. This seems like a remarkably naïve statement, except for the fact that the WSF is so incredibly multi-stranded, and is as much a part of local communities as it is embedded in interconnected, international networks. The brilliance of the Forum is that other than human rights and a commitment to deep forms of democracy, there is no substantive agenda except to make a “possible better world, an alternative world, a world for the people.”

WSF participants include international NGOs such as Via Campesina, Food First, ATTAC, ActionAid, Social Watch, Focus on the Global South, Africa Forum on Small Arms, and many, many others. They increase exponentially because of local-national-regional-global networks facilitated by the Internet.

But how can a peoples’ movement possibly deal with the immense power of the United States and China to dismantle dictatorial power in Sudan? Can it shatter the hold of economic elites of the IMF, World Bank, and WTO? Can it bring down the brutal, military dictatorship in Myanmar? Can it eradicate hunger and suffering in Haiti, Zambia, North Korea and everywhere else? I do not believe for a second that it is impossible. By emphasizing human rights principles of equality and self-determination, people’s movements can influence the type of change global superpowers fear.

Judith Blau has published three books on human rights with Alberto Moncada: Human Rights: Beyond the Liberal Vision (2005); Justice in the United States: Human Rights & the US Constitution (2006); and, Freedoms and Solidarities: In Pursuit of Human Rights (2007). She is Director of the Social and Economic Justice (interdisciplinary) Undergraduate Minor at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. Blau and Moncada are now working on a volume on human rights that will be published by Paradigm. Outside of her academic work, Blau also serves as President of Sociologists without Borders.


Integrating China into an International Human Rights Regime: The Case of Darfur

by Harry Kreisler

“Without the U.S...Chinese policy will drift...humanitarian intervention often involves strong words by the international community followed up with little action.”

Chinese leaders find themselves in unknown territory as they guide the Chinese state. Their unusual experiment combines Communist party rule with unbridled capitalism. Under these unique circumstances, a major challenge they face is to define their country’s global role as an emerging power. From what compass will they navigate their direction? If their guidance system is built for a world of international anarchy, national interest and power politics, then the direction of their course is clear. Because of U.S. neglect and indifference, Africa, rich in natural resources, is up for grabs. Flexing its muscles on the world stage with its “soft power,” China has the economic power to buy friends and win influence in Africa and withstand international pressure.

In their foreign policy, Chinese leaders are heavily influenced by domestic politics, the need for economic prosperity, and a desire for international prestige. They are not unmindful of the nationalist aspirations of the people of China. In Susan Shirk’s analysis, China is a “fragile superpower.” Having access to oil is a sine qua non of maintaining prosperity at home—a prosperity that keeps the party in power. By these metrics, Sudan is important and China’s relationship with the Sudanese regime must be protected; respecting Sudan’s sovereignty makes sense and concerns about human rights violations are secondary.

But there is another side to China’s dilemma. Chinese decision makers confront an interdependent world and the acceptance of the rule of international law cannot be rejected out of hand. In an era of globalization, China’s power is insured by its economic success. It holds reserves of a trillion dollars—three quarters of which is in U.S. bonds. But this strength is a double-edged sword. The world’s dependence on China goes with China’s dependence on the world as a market for its products. This relationship produces jobs guaranteeing a phenomenal growth rates averaging seven percent per year. Moreover, The intelligent use of its soft power creates the opportunity to convert its economic power into influence and ultimately consolidate its position through matching military capability.

In the meantime, China has to care about what the world thinks of its behavior. Therefore, for internal and external reasons, China needs recognition through events such as the 2008 Olympics.

A key variable in shaping Chinese behavior is the influence, prestige and goals of the world’s only superpower—the United States. In debating its Sudan policy, what should Chinese leaders learn from American action in Iraq? If the Iraq intervention had been successful, the spigot to control that oil would be in the hands of future American Dick Cheneys and Donald Rumsfelds.

China sees itself as respecting the sovereignty of Sudan and avoiding interference in Sudan’s internal affairs. It refuses to embrace openly international pronouncements concerning human rights violations. Chinese policy makers might ask themselves: How does this compare to what the U.S. is doing in Iraq? In Iraq, which international norms are the United States committed to enforcing?

So, in Sudan, as China attempts to navigate among national security concerns and the norms of international human rights law, the international community confronts its own dilemma. A rising power is learning how to assume its international responsibilities while protecting its national interest for oil resources. The dominant world power, the United States, addresses the crisis in Sudan with its role as moral leader compromised because of its irresponsible adventures in Iraq. Having sacrificed its moral authority and military power in the Iraq catastrophe, the U.S.’s pivotal role as moral leader is diminished. Without the U.S. in a position to move the emerging power toward concerns for humanitarian law, Chinese policy will drift, showing flexibility behind the scenes but refusing to endanger its strategic position. After all, humanitarian intervention often involves strong words by the international community followed up with little action. In this context, Chinese behavior will be contradictory—at times, China will use its influence to moderate Sudan’s policies and other times it will use its influence to stabilize the flow of oil to its booming economy.

In today’s nightmarish world, the people of Darfur are not the only victims. Sudan is emblematic of how much has been lost in the wake of the debacle in Iraq—greatly diminished is humanity’s hope for an international order that transcends power politics and embraces an international regime where crimes against humanity are prevented.

Harry Kreisler is Executive Director of the Institute of International Studies at the University of California at Berkeley. In that role, he shapes, administers, and implements interdisciplinary academic and public affairs programs that analyze global issues. He is also creator, executive producer and host of Conversations with History, an interview program, broadcast nationally every Thursday evening on sattelite television, and on cable throughout California. Conversations with History is also a critically acclaimed online archive containing more than 360 one-hour interviews with distinguished men and women from all over the world who talk about their lives and their work. Harry Kreisler is also Executive Producer of Connecting Students to the World, a World Wide Web -based program that introduces students and retirees to leading figures in international affairs through online curricula, preparatory workshops, and Internet conversations.


China's Africa Strategy: The Puzzle of Trade and Reform

by Mahmood Monshipouri

“This policy undermines the Western policy of demanding transparency, accountability, and respect for human rights.... China’s strategy clearly puts economic interests and civic work above concerns for basic freedoms.”

China’s growing presence is certainly one of the most important developments in Africa since the end of the Cold War. The strategy of “trade and non-interference” is how the Chinese government describes its relations with Africa. Oil and metals, such as cobalt, iron ore, and manganese are what China’s manufacturing industry needs; while foreign direct investment and an increase in oil production are what some African governments—especially those in Angola, Congo, Nigeria, South Africa, Sudan, and Zimbabwe—seek.

Danna Harman’s article sets out to explain the sharp rise in Chinese interest in Africa. Trade between China and the African continent has reached a record volume of $55 billion. Chinese foreign direct investment exceeded $1.25 billion in 2006, with Sudan being its top recipient. Sudanese production of oil has risen from about 60,000 barrels per day in 1999 to more than 500,000 in 2006, largely due to Chinese investment. This policy undermines the Western policy of demanding transparency, accountability, and respect for human rights in return for access to trade and investment. China’s strategy clearly puts economic interests and civic work above concerns for basic freedoms.

Chinese leaders insist that they will not “interfere” in other countries’ domestic affairs. China’s aid, development programs, and debt relief have overtaken that of the World Bank and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). China will also build 30 hospitals and 30 clinics as part of its $37.5 million package to assist African countries to fight malaria. China has canceled more than $10 billion in debt for 31 African countries and has given $5.5 billion in development aid, with a pledge of a further $2.6 billion in 2007-2008.

China-Sudan relations, however, have been overshadowed by a seemingly intractable and annoying problem: Darfur’s four-year-long conflict. The Sudanese government continues to intensify this conflict by giving money and arms to various groups, but keeping those weapons under government control has become increasingly difficult. Khartoum’s involvement is more about politics than ethnic cleansing. The Sudanese government has in the past armed janjaweed militias to suppress a rebellion in South Sudan. But its failure to compensate tribes who lost fighters, along with the realization that they had been used, caused the militias to switch sides. The militia eventually joined the rebels, forcing the government to sign a peace agreement in November 2006, which calls for the deployment of international peacekeeping forces. Meanwhile, pressure is ratcheting up for U.N. sanctions, asset freezes, and criminal indictments. Some Sudanese officials and militia leaders have been charged by the International Criminal Court with numerous counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Given this genocidal state conduct, the neutral position adopted by the Chinese government is problematic at best. The real question is: Should China share responsibility for the genocidal killings of non-Arab Sudanese in Darfur? China has frequently opposed economic sanctions on Sudan. The Darfur crisis has killed more than 200,000 and displaced more than 2.5 million in Western Sudan.

Chinese investors in Sudan have found a secure place for their business opportunities. The amount of money transferred to the semiautonomous government of South Sudan, Harman writes, is left to the discretion of Khartoum. The production and sales figures all go directly to the Ministry of Mining and Energy from the Chinese-run Greater Nile Production Company, with little or no oversight regarding whether the estimates are accurate. In recent months, as Danna Harman points out, South Sudan’s share in oil revenues has sharply dropped from nearly $80 million in January to below $40 million in March. China buys 64 percent of the country’s oil and is a key partner in the consortiums extracting the oil. China’s National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) controls between 60 to 70 percent of Sudan’s total oil production. Additionally, it owns the largest single share (40 percent) of Sudan’s national oil company, Greater Nile Petroleum Operating Company.

China’s preference for quiet diplomacy appeared to have paid off when President Omar al-Bashir conceded to a deployment of 3,500 U.N. peacekeepers into Darfur. Yet China’s willingness to do business and maintain normal diplomatic relations with repressive regimes, such as Zimbabwe, is troubling. To condone human rights violations in Zimbabwe and other African countries is certain to undermine China’s international image as it prepares to host the 2008 Olympics.

The deleterious effects of China’s policy on Africans’ human rights and governance need to be balanced against the economic gains stemming from trade. Improving governance and tackling corruption are as crucial for creating an effective business environment, as are loans and investments. Disregarding this reality is much too risky for those Chinese companies, which are keen on using wise tactics to promote their brand, products, and images. Ultimately, the Chinese will find it contrary to their national interests to continue doing business as usual with repressive regimes. China’s reaction to such criticisms has been slow in coming, as it has appointed a Chinese special representative for Darfur and has vowed to enhance its humanitarian aid to Sudan, while sending in about 300 Chinese military engineers to help relieve an excessive burden placed on the African Union peacekeeping force in Darfur.

Dr. Monshipouri is a Professor in the Department of International Relations at San Francisco State University and currently a visiting fellow at the Yale Center for International and Area Studies. Dr. Monshipouri's publications include Islamism, Secularism, and Human Rights in the Middle East (Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner Publishers, 1998), and, more recently, the volume Constructing Human Rights in the Age of Globalization (eds. Mahmood Monshipouri, Neil Englehart, Andrew J. Nathan, and Kavita Philip, Armonk, NY: M.E.Sharpe, 2003).


Countering Chinese Influence in Sudan

by Ali Wyne

“While I would hardly be so naïve as to suggest that a resolution to the ongoing crisis [in Darfur] can readily be achieved, it seems, once again, that the central impediment to one is political will.”

It is difficult to imagine a more poisonous symbiosis than that between China and Sudan. The former requires a continuous flow of low-cost oil imports to satisfy its soaring oil demand, and the latter requires sufficient economic support to immunize itself against international interventions and preempt potential internal uprisings. Sudan supplies 64 percent of its oil to China (meeting seven percent of the economic power’s demand in 2006), and China, for its part, has invested heavily in Paloich, one of the country’s central oil-producing areas.

China’s appeal to Sudan, a fellow authoritarian country, is manifest. Unfortunately, however, no democracies have challenged its influence in the country, a fact that becomes further disheartening when one recognizes that liberal states can actually offer the embattled state a far more appealing investment program. The absence of human rights conditionality, one of the prominent characteristics of China’s offer, is admittedly difficult to counter. However, China has invested almost exclusively in oil-related infrastructure. In order to compete, the West could propose a far more diversified package—to include investment in Sudan’s oil regions, to be sure, but also to include investment in irrigation technologies and high-yield crops (the country’s economy is largely agrarian)—conditioned on the regime’s making good-faith efforts to halt hostilities in the country. Short-term instability may prove advantageous to the Sudanese government insofar as it affords it a vacuum in which to consolidate its power, but as armed conflict envelops the countries that border Sudan, instability becomes increasingly costly.

Encouragingly, a “hybrid” force of the United Nations and African Union (A.U.) is primed to supplant the A.U. Mission in the Sudan. That unit, however, will likely meet the fate of its predecessor—which proved unable to establish a durable peace—unless it receives robust financial support. The imperative of provisioning such support takes on added urgency when one notes that the conflict in Sudan increasingly threatens Chad and the Central African Republic.

This new force, however, is not the only entity that requires attention. Humanitarian organizations must receive better protection; they have been the object of growing levels of violence and, not surprisingly, have begun to leave en masse. How can a civil society be expected to challenge the government if it is subject to daily terror and, more importantly, if it is unable to procure the basic necessities for survival: water; food; and shelter?

Although this war is, in part, racially motivated, it is also, perhaps more importantly, a resource war. Indeed, resource scarcity has been a root cause and sustainer of much of the violence that has plagued Sudan since it achieved independence in 1956. Britain’s Department for International Development offered the following assessment of the conflict: “It is largely a battle for resources, land, water and grazing rights together with a related struggle for power within the indigenous tribal administration structure.” In consideration of this fact, the discovery by Boston University researchers of “a huge underground lake in Sudan’s Darfur region” is especially encouraging. At a minimum, it introduces a new, and potentially powerful, element into the Darfur calculus. A comprehensive deal, the bare outline of which I proved earlier, should use this potentially important new resource as a point of departure.

There is a certain perversity to framing such unspeakable, unfolding horrors in practical terms. Unfortunately, however, as Samantha Power documented in her masterful account, A Problem from Hell, even the awareness that genocide is occurring rarely compels the necessary interventions on the part of those who can do the most to stop it. In Sudan, the world confronts yet another ghastly specter and yet another test of its will to preserve human dignity. While I would hardly be so naïve as to suggest that a resolution to the ongoing crisis therein can readily be achieved, it seems, once again, that the central impediment to one is political will. Chinese influence is formidable, but it can be challenged. What will the world do this time?

Ali Wyne is a senior at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he is pursuing dual degrees in Management and Political Science, as well as a minor in Economics. He serves as Vice-President of the Undergraduate Association, and as Editor-in-Chief of the MIT International Review, MIT’s first journal of international affairs. He will be contributing a chapter, “How World Opinion Challenges American Foreign Policy,” to a forthcoming volume, The Public Diplomacy Handbook (Routledge 2008). He maintains a blog on global problems and solutions, “The Struggle of Memory Against Forgetting.”