Monday, March 30, 2009
A nation that freed itself from an apartheid government, South Africa would seem to have much in common with leading liberation figures like the Dalai Lama, who speaks for about 5.4 million Tibetans, who live under Chinese rule.But as a nation that depends heavily on Chinese markets for buying its rich natural resources, South Africa has given the appearance of having chosen commerce over principle. It's a decision that could cost South Africa its moral voice on the global stage.
Straight into the open arms of the Chinese, I would argue. Indeed, they must be quite pleased with themselves in Beijing, what with a growing number of countries wrapped around their finger - in Africa and beyond. While many countries are quick to pledge their allegiance to the Chinese for purely economic purposes, in some cases the reasoning is rooted in greater historical motivations, as appears to be the case in El Salvador:
The FMLN has never forgotten that ARENA founder Roberto D'Aubuisson, who organized and led the death squads which tortured and killed thousands of civilians and who directly ordered the assassination of Archbishop of San Salvador Monsignor Oscar Romero on March 24, 1980 that sparked the civil war, was trained in "police techniques" in Taiwan.
Moreover, unlike Nicaragua, Guatemala or Paraguay, Taiwan has been unable to develop solid political dialogue with the FMLN even under DPP President Chen Shui-bian.
Dual recognition appears to be out of the question for El Salvador, handing another diplomatic win (of sorts) to the Chinese. Indeed, it's important to recall that for the leaders in Beijing, national unity is of utmost importance, second only to economic growth. And for developing countries struggling to sustain their growth rates in the face of an ongoing economic crisis, acknowledging Chinese national integrity is a small price to pay for the goods handed in return. While scholars and policymakers alike sometimes tend to bypass the centrality of the "One China" principle, it remains a central tenet of Chinese foreign policy, not to be overlooked.
As for South Africa awarding Castro the Order of Companions of O.R. Tambo in Gold award... your guess is as good as mine.