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China : Reactions to Iraq Elections

Dr. Raviprasad Narayanan was Associate Fellow at the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, New Delhi.
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  • February 15, 2005

    China has not issued any official statement on the recently concluded elections in Iraq. However, in a Press Conference on February1, 2005, to a question on the elections, the Foreign Ministry Spokesman Kong Quan said that:

    “We are pleased to see and welcome the election's being held as scheduled. Now the international community is looking forward to the results of the election. We deem the election an important step in the process of Iraq's reconstruction. We hope the election would be genuinely helpful to restore stability in Iraq, grant the wishes of the Iraqi people to master their own fate and promote the political and economic reconstruction in the country.”

    Earlier in November 2004, at the special conference on Iraq hosted by Egypt, which brought together representatives of over 20 countries and regional and international organizations, including Iraq's neighbouring countries, the G-8, China, the United Nations and the European Union, the Permanent Representative of the PRC at the United Nations Wang Guangya stated that:

    “The Chinese government hopes the upcoming elections in Iraq, which should be just, democratic and transparent, would lead to the formation of a transitional government which represents the majority of the Iraqi people and has its due authority.”

    The official media as reflected by commentaries and opinions on Iraq do identify four challenges faced by the newly elected Iraqi government, namely: the challenge posed by anti-US insurgents; the arduous task of reconstruction; the increasing schisms amongst religious groupings (sects); and, the continued presence of foreign troops in Iraq.

    From the perspective of the Chinese media, anti-US insurgents target US-led coalition troops and Iraqi security forces, governmental officials, foreigners and even the common people who support the interim government. These armed insurgents representing various organizations have launched attacks, explosions and suicide bomb attacks against targets.

    In reconstructing Iraq, the task gets complicated owing to the shortage of oil supply due to the severely damaged oil infrastructure in addition to the uninterrupted attacks and sabotage by anti-US insurgents. These economic losses are officially estimated at several billion US dollars. This goes a long way in disproving the US’ assumptions prior to the war that oil exports are sufficient to restore Iraq’s economy. China has been participating in the process of Iraq's reconstruction by training diplomats and professionals in the fields of economic management and energy development.

    Referring to public opinion polls held in the US, Europe and even Iraq, the Chinese media highlights the point that most Iraqis are disgusted with the presence of US-led coalition troops in their country though many of them also oppose anti-US insurgents. A majority of Iraqis, the People’s Daily felt, hopes for the early withdrawal of foreign troops from their country.

    The Chinese media emphasised the fact that the recently concluded elections were held under the continued presence of foreign troops. These elections, while determining Iraq's future state system, the nature of state power and the redistribution of political power, received universal attention from Iraq's neighbours, the Arab world and the international community. While China emphasizes the role and importance of the United Nations in any solution to the crisis, it repeatedly calls for the maintenance of Iraq’s independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity. Implicit in China’s calls for the establishment of a “broad representative authority” to safeguard the fundamental interests of the Iraqi people are the concerns it has for the security and stability of the entire region. It could well be argued from a Chinese perspective, that the Iraq crisis reflects the confusion and dilemma of the United Nations in preventing superpowers (read US) from acting alone.

    In a commentary that appeared in the People’s Daily prior to the elections in Iraq, and one that perhaps reflected China’s concerns regarding the presence of US troops in Iraq, it was mentioned that the elections were “…[A}merica's utmost effort at retrieving its image and creating conditions for its troops withdrawal from Iraq as soon as possible.” The same commentary also added that Iraq’s general election “is part of the "Greater Mid-east Plan" for the United States to carry out its democratic reform in the Middle East.”

    For many Chinese commentators and opinion makers, since the Sept. 11 attacks in 2001, the United States has restrained Arab countries and the Islamic world by the twin tactics of "counter-terrorism lineation" and "political reform". Over the past three years and more, through the two wars against Afghanistan and Iraq and the three general elections in Afghanistan, Palestine and Iraq, the United States has sounded the “winds of change” for it to begin transforming the political domains of the Middle East. This “democratization process,” it is felt strongly, will pave the way for Washington to strengthen its military presence in the Middle East and its strategy of political influence.

    It can be inferred that for China, Iraq's future should be determined by the Iraqi people and that the independence, sovereignty, national unity and territorial integrity of the country should not be issues that complicate the existing situation. While security concerns regarding Iraq demand a comprehensive political solution and efforts have to be made to improve the same, these should fall within the framework of the development of the political process in the country. On the role of the United Nations, China believes that the Iraq issue should be solved within the framework of the UN Charter and hopes the UN can have an important role in Iraq's reconstruction.