Date: Tue, 27 Apr 1999 22:58:50 -0500 (CDT)
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Rich Winkel)
Subject: CHINA: Stand on Yugoslavia Shows Shift in Foreign Policy
/** ips.english: 480.0 **/
** Topic: CHINA: Stand on Yugoslavia Shows Shift in Foreign Policy **
** Written 2:36 PM Apr 24, 1999 by newsdesk in cdp:ips.english **
BEIJING, Apr 21 (IPS) - China's reaction to the crisis in Yugoslavia marks a sea change in its foreign policy, whose basics were once dictated by ideology but these days are shaped by its preoccupation with territorial integrity.
In the 1950s, it was Albania that was a 'dear friend' when Chairman Mao Zedong and Albania's communist leader Enver Hoxha were brothers in arms fighting the imperialist West and revisionist Yugoslavia.
But these days, Belgrade is the city for whom the Chinese state media is singing songs of praise.
Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, largely demonised in other parts of the world, is being described as a folk hero.
China's state-sanctioned media imposed a blackout on the issue of ethnic Albanian refugees and the 'ethnic cleansing' of Kosovar Albanians for a whole week after US-led attacks by the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation began nearly a month ago.
Instead, Chinese media whipped up support for Milosevic's cause, presenting him as a leader determined resolutely to fight to protect his country's integrity.
Many newspapers here compared Milosevic's behaviour to that of late Marshal Josip Tito, who led a guerrilla war against the Nazi occupation. By contrast, the 'Yangcheng Evening News' presented US President Bill Clinton with a short Hitler mustache against a backdrop of fire and destruction.
In an outburst of political support for the Serbs, Beijing cinemas have been showing a series of movies called 'Yugoslavian heroes have come back'.
Chinese Central Television is showing World War II movies such as 'Protect Sarajevo' and 'The Bridge', about the heroic partisans of Marshal Tito.
Many young people say that if the war is not ended, they will stop
listening to Madonna and stop going to McDonald's and Kentucky Fried
Chicken, says professor Yang Dazhou, an expert on Yugoslavia with
the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences and translator of two books by
Mira Marcovic, communist ideologue and wife of President Milosevic.
The sympathy for the Yugoslavian government of Milosevic stands in sharp contrast to the old ideological ties between China and Albania.
Young Chinese of the 1990s do not remember that Albania was China's only loyal ally in the mid-1950s -- and that Albanian movies were the only foreign movies shown for more than a decade in the country under the rigid hand of Mao.
In those days, the Chinese were singing different songs, like 'Long live Chairman Mao, long live Enver Hoxha, long live the Communist Party, long live Beijing-Tirana'.
What united China and Albania in the 1950s was their communist leaders' unwavering adherence to the Stalinist line, their common fight against the imperialist West and resentment of revisionists like Soviet leader Nikita Krushchev and Yugoslav President Tito.
The Sino-Albanian friendly relationship became even firmer after the Albanians sponsored a resolution at the United Nations to give China a seat there and its permanent membership in the Security Council.
But these ties were to change dramatically after the late Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping came to power and started a new, more pragmatic approach to politics.
Ideology was buried in favour of a market-oriented economy and fostering new alliances with the West and the rest of the world.
Relations with Yugoslavia picked up after Tito made his first and only state visit to China in 1977, marking the normalisation of ties between the two Communist parties.
A new peak in bilateral ties was reached when Milosevic visited China in November 1997.
He was warmly received by Chinese President Jiang Zemin, who told him
respects the choices of the Yugoslav people, appreciates
the nation's independent domestic and foreign policies and admires the
indomitable spirit of its people.
The new, post-Mao generation grew up watching Yugoslav war movies, which now are being shown as part of mass political campaign to support the Serbs and condemn NATO.
The reason behind Beijing's sympathies for the Serbs is its fear that NATO is assuming a role of the 'world's policeman' with a mandate to intervene anywhere in the world in defense of human rights and democracy, as the group views it.
It is not difficult for China to envisage that one day a similar scenario of intervention could be repeated in Taiwan, which Beijing regards as a breakaway province, or in other provinces with brewing ethnic disputes like Xinjiang and Tibet.
Already, China's foreign affairs experts describe NATO's attacks as a new form of 'gunboat diplomacy', which was used by the Western powers in the last century to force imperial China to open its markets and cede five treaty ports.
Yang, the expert on the Balkans, lays the entire blame for the crisis on the United States and its aspiration to maintain its role of a 'world leader' in the 21st century.
Those European countries joining the US in the NATO attacks have
accepted the US role as world leader wholeheartedly, Yang says.
Yet for all its vigorous anti-NATO rhetoric and strong public support for Yugoslavia, Beijing has been careful to do nothing to actually help the victims of the Kosovo crisis. China has not offered any humanitarian aid to the Serbs or to the fleeing Kosovar Albanians.
This restraint is in flagrant contrast to Beijing's previous record of giving civilian aid to its ideological allies in the Mao Zedong's era.
Between 1956 and 1982, China gave 27 billion dollars worth of aid to Albania, North Korea, North Vietnam and Romania.
And whatever Beijing's criticism of NATO and the West, the business of ties in furtherance of economic interests continue.
Unlike Russian Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov who canceled his visit to the United States just as his plane was about to enter American air space to show disagreement with the NATO bombing, Chinese Premier Zhu Rongji went ahead with his first visit to the United States last week.
And while Kosovo had been expected to create further tension in already strained US-China ties, Zhu's visit was generally dominated by much more pragmatic issues like the country's difficult bid to join the World Trade Organisation.