Some Questions from China about Iraq

   Many Chinese have serious concerns about the U.

   Many Chinese have serious concerns about the U.S.-led war in Iraq.  First and foremost, what will happen to Saddam Hussein?  If he is killed, will Iraq be plunged into anarchy?  Or will he become a second bin Laden, disappearing without much trace? What are the true feelings of the Iraqi people--while the Iraqi media tells the world about how patriotic Iraqis are, American politicians and media provide a completely opposite view.  

What comes after Saddam?  If Iraq is the first member of the "axis of evil" that Bush wants to neutralize, who will be the next?   There are a number of countries such as Iran, North Korea, Syria, Libya, Cuba and Sudan that are on the "black list."  Will the United States use the same strategy it has applied to with Iraq against other "evil countries?" And what impact will all of this have on the war against international terrorism--will Saddam's removal be sufficient to stop international terrorist activities against the U.S. and Israel, since it is not clear if there is any practical connection between Iraq and bin Laden? Or will it contribute to its growth?  

Indeed, is this war a reflection of a new form of imperialism?  Is the United States seeking to have a hand in shaping the domestic policies of other countries?  How does this play out in the Middle East? Does the United States simply want to get rid of Saddam only to prevent the spread of weapons of mass destruction? Or is to advocate the "Westernization" of the Arab world (spreading Western-style democracy)?  The United States says it wants to end Saddam's tyranny yet turns a blind eye to Israel's repression of the Palestinians.  Is this war to create a Palestine that does not threaten Israel and the West, or to control the oil resources and strategic passage?  

One must also ask what precedent this sets for future international relations?  In the Iraq crisis, principles such as "sovereignty should not be infringed" or "all countries have the right to determine their own regime and leaders" were largely ignored. The questions raised were what, how, and when to intervene. Does this reflect a change in the principle of international relations?  It appears that the greatest challenge for international relations in the twenty-first century is how to maintain international strategic stability, promoting global democratization  but preventing any superpower from abusing its power unilaterally.  The Iraq crisis, in particular, reflects the confusion and dilemma of the UN. On the one hand, the United Nations is called upon to take on new missions in the realm of international politics and security. On the other hand, the UN cannot prevent superpowers from acting alone--ultimately, the UN still has its limitations.  

Finally, what will be the impact of this war on China?  Compared to other major countries, China's influence in the Gulf World and the Arab world is relatively small, and therefore China can be more flexible in determining its position in the war against Iraq. However, being a Security Council member and the country, which has the  most rapid economic growth in the world, China cannot  avoid this crisis. The aspects of national interest and  morality are opposite side of the same coin.   Overemphasizing one side will either harm our national interest (especially the economic interest) or diminish  our national image and authority in the international  arena. China should strike a balance between the two.   We need, in the end, to see this war as a learning process.  


Wang Yizhou is professor of international politics, senior fellow and deputy director at the Institute of World Economics and Politics (IWEP) of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS) at Beijing, and serves as editor in chief of the monthly World Economics and Politics.